Joseph Hill Sinex was born in Delaware, the third child of Seneca and Sarah Hill Sinex. After moving to Philadelphia, Joseph married Mary C. Duffield at Salem Methodist Episcopal Church on October 29, 1848. Joseph and Mary would have seven children with four living to adulthood.
At the start of the Civil War in April, 1861 Joseph was a 41-year-old carpenter and the father of three, but he was mustered into service as Captain of Company D of the 17th Pennsylvania Infantry. Since it was thought the war might be short, so were the enlistments, so he left after his term expired on August 2. When recruiting began that fall for a new regiment, the 91st, Joseph signed up. They left in January of 1862 but the first major battle was at Fredericksburg that December, followed by Chancellorsville in the spring of 1863.
By the time they reached Gettysburg in July he had been promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. At six feet four inches, he must have been an imposing figure on the battlefield. He brought 258 men to help secure Little Round Top after other units fought off a Confederate advance earlier in the day. They improved fortifications and took prisoners after several other skirmishes, then pushed the Confederates back to into Maryland. At year’s end the majority of the regiment re-enlisted and returned to Philadelphia for furlough in January of 1864. After six weeks at home, Lt. Col. Sinex was again in command as his regiment returned to Virginia. He was one of 13,000 wounded during the battle of Spotsylvania Court House on May 12, 1864, and was discharged in July due to his disability.
Joseph promptly found a new career as a liquor dealer. He added to his business in the 1870s by building a restaurant at the corner of Grays Ferry Road and Washington Avenue. That soon expanded to include a hotel called the Washington House.
In 1889 veterans of the 91st Infantry held a reunion at Gettysburg. They posed for this photo by the monument they contributed to the battleground, placed at the exact spot where they held their position at Little Round Top. Joseph is easy to spot as the big man in the middle. State funds were made available later to erect a taller and more impressive monument. (The stone is emblazoned with the Maltese Cross, symbol of the Fifth Army Corps, of which the 91st was a part.)
Joseph died on October 6, 1892, just one day before his 73rd birthday. He left an extensive will outlining his plans to keep the restaurant and hotel business operating. The family plot is in the Circle of St. John where his three children who died in infancy were the first to be buried. Two sons later joined him and his wife in the Circle.