Posted By Norman Gasbarro on December 19, 2014
Robert H. Sinex Jr. died on 17 November 1910 in Hazleton, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. A brief obituary of him appeared in the Harrisburg Patriot on 19 November 1910. It contained the following interesting information:
SAW LINCOLN ASSASSINATED
Robert Sinex Also Took Part in The Capture of Booth.
Haxleton, 18 November 1910 — Robert Sinex, a Civil War veteran, who died at his home here early today, was among those who witnessed the assassination of President Lincoln in Ford’s Theatre, Washington, and later took part in the capture of J. Wilkes Booth. Sinex was a secret service agent of the government at the time.
The following information about Robert H. Sinex Jr. can be confirmed from his veteran’s cards available at the Pennsylvania Archives:
Sinex first entered military service at Philadelphia on 25 April 1861 as a Private in Company D of the 17th Pennsylvania Infantry and served the full term of enlistment of three months. He was honorably discharged on 2 August 1861. No personal information is on the index card.
His second term of enlistment also occurred at Philadelphia. On 24 September 1861, he was mustered into service as a Private in Company D of the 91st Pennsylvania Infantry. The only personal information appearing on the card is that he claimed he was 20 years old, a fact that can be verified from other sources. At some unknown date, he was promoted to 1st Sergeant. While participating in the Battle of Fredericksburg, Virginia, 13 December 1862, he was seriously wounded – enough to eventually result in his transfer to the 9th Veteran Reserve Corps, Company C. Other military records indicate that he was a Sergeant Major in the V.R.C.
No date of discharge is given from the V.R.C., but it is known that these reserve soldiers participated in the security of Washington, D.C., and if he was assigned there, it is possible that he was at or near Ford’s Theatre at the time of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. However, many times the number of people who could have possibly fit into Ford’s Theatre have claimed to have been there and witnessed the assassination, so some other confirmation is needed. Sinex was not one of the soldiers who claimed to help carry Lincoln across the street and as of this writing, no statement from Sinex has been seen that indicates what he was doing at the theatre and what he actually saw.
As to the claim that he was a “secret service agent of the government” at the time Booth was captured, this is unlikely. The Secret Service was not officially created until 5 July 1865, and its original mission was to investigate counterfeit currency. It was not until after the assassination of William McKinley in 1901, that the Secret service was charged with presidential protection. It is possible though that Sinex was employed in some capacity as as intelligence officer with the government. As of this writing, no statement has been seen from Sinex indicating specifically in what capacity he was at or near the farm where Booth was killed.
Three additional available documents give some further insight into the life of Robert H. Sinex Jr. The first is his official Pennsylvania Death Certificate:
The death certificate indicates that his occupation was “inspector” but it appears as if the words “carpenter and” were added later. He was married at the time of his death.
The second document is the Pension Index Card available from Fold3:
Robert H. Sinex Jr. applied for a invalid pension on 3 January 1873. The same military regiments and companies are found on this card that have been confirmed through the Pennsylvania Archives (above). The actual pension application file should tell of the nature of his wounds and the reason he applied for a pension in 1873. The widow applied on 26 November 1910 and collected benefits until her death.
In 1890, Robert H. Sinex Jr. was living in Hazleton and reported his date of discharge from the Veteran Reserve Corps as 17 November 1865, which means that for months following the Lincoln assassination, he was still officially in an army regiment. The only rank he gave to the census taker was “Sergeant Major” for the time he spent in the V.R.C. Under Civil War-related injuries, he included two wounds (one by sword, one by gunshot) and “hard of hearing left ear.”
Much more research needs to be done on this veteran. If any family members know of stories that have been passed down or specific evidence that could confirm his presence at both the Lincoln assassination and the capture of Booth, they are urged to come forward.
Robert H. Sinex Jr. is buried at the Vine Street Cemetery, Hazleton, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. There are pictures of his grave marker and some of the same information as in the obituary at his Findagrave Memorial.
The news clipping is from the on-line resources of the Free Library of Philadelphia.