Richard Marine is fascinated by the Civil War. Whether it is restoring his 1855 wood frame house in Woodbury, New Jersey, remembering and honoring the black soldiers and sailors in blue, or collecting original anti-slavery newspapers and old books, Rick is a serious student-story teller of the era. “I love it and I live it. I have a passion for it.”
Born in Woodbury, Rick was in college when he joined the Navy. He spent six years on active duty (aviation), two additional years in the reserves (aviation), then returned to college to finish his degree. He then became employed with the U.S. Postal Service, where he eventually retired after 23 years.
Always interested in history, Rick bought in April 1978 the empty pre-Civil War house. With the exception of a kitchen added in the 30s or 40s, the 19th century treasure boasted its original design and hardware. Rick has painstakingly preserved the house for 44 years and has furnished it in period pieces. “There is something spiritual about my house. It is very comforting.”
Oddly enough, Rick’s house was marked for demolition – several other pre-Civil War houses all in a row nearby had been bulldozed by a car dealership – but he stood defiant. The business offered to buy the house; they even offered to move it. “I couldn’t sell it. To me, it’s a historic site. Camp Stockton was across the street. But that’s gone now too.”
Rick found out about the location of Camp Stockton after he found out that First Sergeant William S. Garwood was the first owner of his house. Garwood had enlisted in the 12th NJ Company A, which mustered into service at the Federal training camp in September 1862. Rick takes care of Garwood’s gravesite (some 4-5 miles away), and he has done the same for five other 12th NJ boys interred in the same cemetery.
A reenactor since 1979, Rick was surprised to discover that he belongs to the same regiment as Garwood. As a member of 12th NJ Company K and various other units, Rick educates and entertains the public to share his deep respect for American Civil War history. He has participated in the 125th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg with the 4th Texas Company B and the 125th anniversary of the Battle of Shiloh in southwestern Tennessee. One of Rick’s passions is doing living history events. “I’m just a soldier, a private. When I speak to the public, I cover some uncommon subjects that I have researched and, in some cases, personally experienced.” The subjects include the Pioneer Corps in both the Union and Confederate Armies; dogs and other animals that served as pets and regimental mascots; the grand assortment of tents and shelters of the War; and the role of the newspaper to expose the uncomfortable reality of slavery and give voice to the growing group of abolitionists.
Among the many places Rick presents is the Camp William Penn Museum in Cheltenham, PA. It sits on the grounds of what was Pennsylvania’s only training camp (established in 1863) for African American soldiers and the largest of 18 in the nation. Rick is determined that we honor the sacrifice of The United States Colored Troops. “I don’t understand why slavery was not denounced in America until the Civil War. You ask people if they know blacks fought and how many and they don’t know. Black soldiers should be acknowledged. They, like all American military veterans, must not be forgotten.”
Rick was invited to the museum’s La Mott Day commemoration last year to show his collection of original Civil War era anti-slavery newspapers – Garrison’s “The Liberator” and “Gazette of the United States” dated October 23, 1794, the first paper he ever bought, are among the many. “I wanted to know what Americans knew about what was destroying the country, if anything. I was looking for coverage of the important issues of the day that referenced slavery, like the Dred Scott trial, the Fugitive Slave Act, the House of Representative’s Gag Rule of 1836, etc.”
Inside Rick’s house, whose purchase in 1978 set all his historical discoveries into action, is a bookcase he made that holds his collection of old books. Some were written by soldiers coming out of the Civil War. One, the oldest, was published by George Washington in 1795.
*Rick, an Old Baldy member for 10 years, wishes to thank fellow member Don Wiles for his contribution long ago to Rick’s interest in dogs of the Civil War, when he acquired for Rick an image of Sallie, the mascot of the 11th Pennsylvania Infantry.
Profile written by Kim Weaver