Gravestone installed for first leader of Marines, Samuel Nicholas


In May we reported that the Philadelpia-area Smedley Butler chapter of the Marine Corps League had raised funds to buy a modest headstone for Maj. Samuel Nicholas, first leader of the Continental Marines. Nicholas, who was sworn in as the first commissioned officer in the Marine Corps on Nov. 5, 1775, is considered by some to be the de facto first commandant, although he never officially held the title.

After he succumbed to yellow fever in 1790, he was buried in Philadelphia, but his grave was left unmarked according to the Quaker tradition, which he observed. Only recently did the Quaker proprietors of the site approve the installation of a modest Colonial-style marker with Nicholas’s name on it, so that Marines and history buffs could find the site more easily.

The marker was officially installed in a June 1 ceremony with other Marine Corps League detachments and active and reserve Marines in attendance. And now we have pictures.

All images below courtesy of photographer Patrick J. Hughes. Visit his website to see more of his work at

The new gravestone of Maj. Samuel Nicholas.


Marine Corps League members and Marine officers salute Nicholas’s gravestone after laying a wreath at the site.

Neil Corley, Dept. of PA Commandant, Ben Cero National Judge Advocate, Dennis Tobin, Northeast Region Commandant, Col. John C. Church, USMCR, Lt. Col. Harry A. Detering, USMC Retired, Fred LeClair, Chester Co. Det. Commandant, Kay Kroll National Credential Officer and Earle Drake, Dept of PA District Vice Commandant.

More images of the ceremony available here.

Better late than never for the Marine who gave the Corps Tun Tavern and led Marines in their very first amphibious landing.



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