1861-62: Robert Joseph Marks to Herman Marks

Robert J. Marks Tombstone

These two letters were written by Robert Joseph Marks (1845-1864) of Newtown, Queens county, New York. The inscription on his tombstone in Saint James Episcopal Church Cemetery in Elmhurst, New York, reads: “The honored resting place of Robert Joseph Marks, Corp., Co. B, 8th Pennsylvania Cavalry. A brave soldier and a faithful Christian who died on the 5th of September 1864 from the wounds he received in battle. Aged 19 years, 5 months, and 2 days. With the consent of the bereaved parents, his friends have dedicated this stone to his noble memory.” 

Robert enlisted on the 23 July 1861 and was in the following battles: New Kent Court House, Chickahominy, Seven Pines, Fair Oaks, Malvern Hill, Sugar Loaf Mt., Shepherdstown, Martinsburg, Philimont, Union Town, Upperville, Harbours Cross Roads, Amosville, Chancellorsville, Banks Ford, Thoroughfare Cap, Smithburg, Boomsboro, Jones Cross Roads, Sulphur Springs, Auburn, Mine Run. According to the Regimental History published by the State of Pennsylvania, Robert died on 17 July 1864 from wounds he received at Deep Bottom, Virginia, but his death was recorded erroneously as 5 September 1864 by a Philadelphia hospital.

Robert was the son of Henry A. Marks (1802-1870) and Anna Barbara Buchman (1819-1886) who immigrated to the United States sometime prior to 1843. According to the petition for Naturalization filed in New York City by Robert’s parents, their nationality was “Swiss” and their surname was “Maag.” The date of naturalization was recorded as 9 July 1852. In the U.S., the surname was variably spelled “Mark” or “Marks.” Robert wrote the letter to his younger brother, Herman Alex Mark (1847-1912).

In the 1860 Census, Robert’s father’s occupation is given as teacher.


December 31, 1861

Dear brother Herman,

Your kind letter of the 23rd I have received today, the contents of which it gave me great pleasure to receive read.

I have asked for a furlough and I think that I will once more see you all safe & sound. I think I can get home about the 10 or 12 of next month. I guess Newtown will look quite like a city in a short time.

If you see Harry Beadle, tell him he must write to me as soon as he can.

Next time I will write you more but we have just received orders to go scouting. Your picture of General Rosencranz [William Rosecrans] , I think, is very well made.

I remain your affectionate brother, — Robert



Camp on James River
July 12, 1862

Dear brother Herman,

I suppose you must be very angry with me for never writing to you but I hope will excuse me as I intend to write you very often after this. The weather here is dreadful hot, but we have a fine chance to cool ourselves by going in swimming in the James River. We have to go scouting nearly every day now and drive the Rebel pickets in every time, and very often taking several prisoners. Day before yesterday we captured two baggage wagons loaded with provisions — about $900 worth — and yesterday we had a little skirmish in which we took  lieutenant and a sergeant prisoners.

In the late flank movement of Gen. McClellan, we were engaged in destroying bridges, etc., and gathering the stray horses and mules. The last bridge we destroyed was long bridge which crosses the Chickahominy. We then made a raft and rafted all our arms across, then got on our horses and swam over. (I forgot to state that part of the bridge had been washed away. If it had not been, we would not have had to swim.) We then rode the rest of the day until late at night before we had a chance to dry our clothes. We started early next morning when it commenced to rain and the mud was soon up to our horses knees. We arrived where we are now encamped late in the afternoon. We soon had large fires burning and were soon dry and comfortable again.

I must now close as the mail goes in a few minutes. When you write, please tell me how Newtown looks and what you do everyday. Is Sarah Fowler your beau yet or have you got another girl.

Write soon to your affectionate brother, — Robert

P. S. Please tell whether Fake Throe ever came back from the three months’ service and where he now is. — R. J. M.



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