Monday, June 29, 2009

Old Swedes Church

Those of you who have been following this blog will know Keith Bright. He graduated from Widener this year with a history degree and was commissioned in the U.S. Army. Keith has been doing some research for me and this past weekend he went to Old Swedes Church in Wilmington, DE. Robinett was baptized there so Keith went to find out more and boy did he.

He found burial records that indicate Harry MIGHT have been disinterred at Chalmette Cemetery in New Orleans and reburied on 28 March 1869 almost a year after his suicide. I am now searching for confirmation. Numerous other family members are buried there including his sister.

The church has a long and rich history. Established as a Swedish Lutheran Church, the church building was constructed in 1698-1699. The church was placed under the jurisdiction of the Protestant Episcopal Church in 1791. It flourishes today as the nation's oldest church building still standing as originally built. It is still in regular use for worship.
You can check out the church here:

Thanks Keith for another job well done!
Keep History Alive!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Robinett’s wounding at Corinth

Thanks to Vonnie Zullos of Horse Soldier Research, I have in my possession the first eyewitness to indicate Harry was wounded at Battery Robinett. In the National Tribune on May 23, 1901 in a piece entitled “Fighting Them Over. What the Veterans have to Say About Their Campaigns. Battle of Corinth.” Captain W.H.H. Minturn, 89th Ohio of the Ohio Brigade wrote this:

"Lieut. Robinett, of the battery, severely wounded in the head, fell senseless under one of his guns. At that most of his men ran to the rear.”

He continues with a sad event, “A moment later, some of the men of Co. A, of the 43rd, entered the battery, aided the few brave fellows who had stood their ground, to man the guns. The enemy was now retreating and in the excitement a little drummer boy passed directly before the battery and jumped upon a log to see the rebels run. A piece had just been aimed, and “ready-fire” followed before the little fellow was discovered. When the smoke cleared up we saw that both legs were torn off. Somehow there seemed a ting in the recollection that men of his own regiment had fired this shot.”

He also commented upon Col. Rogers, “I shall ever remember looking at the face of the rebel Col. Rogers, when not more than 30 paces, and noting the peculiar expression it had. He looked neither to the right nor left, neither at his own or our men, but with eyes partly closed, like one in a hail-storm, was marching slowly and steadily upon us.”

All in all much of my research could not have been accomplished without Vonnie. I could not afford the time nor money to travel to WDC to find these gems.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

New Questions Arise

At the beginning of this project, my students will recall I posted a series of questions to guide my research (and I strong urge you to do the same for your papers). Much has changed since then. I am no longer focusing upon James Rush Lincoln this year; I will save him for another time.

Some new and very interesting questions about Robinett keep running through my mind.

Why did he go to Sec. of War Stanton and ask for a commission rather than signing up with one of the volunteer units forming in Wilmington?

How did his DMA experiences shape his time in the military?

Did he plan on a military life and a career all along or was that decision made later in the war?

Why did he stay in the Army after the war?

How did his family react to the news of his suicide?

What prompted him to take his life when he did?

Where did his personal effects mentioned in a fellow officer’s letter end up?

Did he keep a diary? If so, does it survive?

Where did all his influence come to have his courts martial overturned?

How common was suicide for veterans still on active duty?

Is this really a case of PTSD?

And the big one: What kind of wound did he receive (if any) at Corinth?

I will spend most of time in the next two months trying to answer these questions.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

It’s time to starting putting it all together

June is my time to put all my research together and to see where there are gaps that need filling. I created a timeline of Robinett’s life including a timeline of DMA and one for the 1st US Infantry. Then I created another timeline for Corinth and one for Vicksburg. It takes a good while to input all the information I have collected. The one BIG missing link so far is his head wound at Corinth. He says he was wounded, his commander in his official report of the engagement says HCR was unconscious under one of his guns when the 2nd Texas overran the redoubt. I have yet to find an eye witness to verify anything. Captain Maloney was too far away to see what was happening in the redoubt so his account has to be considered second hand information. No medical records exist for HCR which is unusual if he was wounded. In addition, the doctor that performed his autopsy said there was no sign of and old head injury. So for now it is a mystery that I need to solve.

In the mean time, I am getting ready to get into Harry’s head. July I will be meeting with various experts on PTSD and military suicide to see if we can get a handle on that aspect of his life.

So, that is where it all stands right now.

Keep History Alive

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Corinth, Where it all Began

This is where it really all began for Henry C. Robinett and I intentionally saved it for last on my trip. In fact, you may have noticed I started where he died and then went backwards in time.
Corinth is a very interesting engagement. It had it all, personality conflicts; intense, vicious hand-to-hand combat; supreme bravery; and as always in combat, luck.
I am not going to detail the engagement here. Suffice it to say, the battle could have gone either way, numerous times. Jefferson Davis considered control of Corinth and its railroad crossroads critical to the war effort, but it was not to be after October ‘62. The defeat of the Rebels forced the end of Braxton Bragg’s Kentucky Campaign and opened the door for Grant and his Vicksburg Campaign.

I met the Park Ranger, Tom Parsons, on a damp, drizzly, and humid Memorial Day. I was here when the Corinth Civil War Interpretive Center first opened but was just passing through and didn’t stay long. It is one of the newer centers in the NPS system and very well done. Unlike Chalmette what few graves there are at the site had flags for Memorial Day.

Tom spent many hours with me; we walked the field and talked about Robinett’s role in the battle. They have a very nice research room and Tom provided me access to some excellent primary sources that will definitely help my research.

Tom also showed me the grave of BG Joseph L. Hogg
[]from Texas (Yes, he is an East Texas boy) and told me the “story” behind the removal of the redoubt. He died during the Union siege of Corinth in April and May of 1862. His most famous descendent?
Ima Hogg [] the "The First Lady of Texas."

Colonel William P. Rogers, commander of the 2nd Texas fell in the assault. In a remarkable tribute to Rogers's personal bravery, General Rosecrans ordered his burial attended with full military honors, a ceremony normally reserved only for Confederate general officers. In 1912 the United Daughters of the Confederacy together with several Rogers family descendants, dedicated a white marble obelisk to mark his gravesite atop a hill overlooking the battlefield.

I left Corinth with a much greater appreciation for the importance of the position of Battery Robinett and Harry’s role. Battery Robinett was the fulcrum of the rebel attack. The 2nd TX made a valiant attempt to take the position and, at one point, overran the works. Battery Williams (HCR’s commander) actually fired two rounds at the redoubt. One hit the works and another exploded above the works. HCR was “wounded” here and according to Captain Williams’ account he was lying unconscious during the counter-attack that drove the 2nd TX out and finished the Rebel chances. What kind of wound? Harry said it was a head wound; yet there was no sign of an old wound in the top of his head in his autopsy. Was he knocked unconscious in the hand-to-hand combat within the redoubt? Did this “wound” contribute to his suicide? One of his friends at Jackson Barracks felt harry “talked himself” into a head wound.

So far no answers.

Inside the Battery Robinett looking towards the Rebel approach

View from the Rebel approach towards the redoubt

Inside the redoubt looking towards the town

Inside the redoubt looking towards the Rebel approach

There was a covered way here back to the railroad.

A view from near the end of the covered railroad.

My final stop was downtown Corinth and the Rogers monument there.

The rest of this month I will be finishing my research; the plan for July is to get inside his head as best I can with all the available evidence and consulting with some PTSD experts from the Army.

Keep History Alive

Monday, June 1, 2009

Vicksburg on a Rainy Day

Robinett’s second major engagement was the siege of Vicksburg. Somewhere between Corinth and Vicksburg the 1st US Infantry gave up their 20 pound Parrotts for 30 pounders. I am not sure how/when/why yet. He received 2 Dahlgren 8" siege guns.

I spent Sunday at the battlefield trying to locate various positions. Harry was positioned with C Company across from today’s Visitor Center near Maloney Circle (his commander); Nothing there but here is where he was.

Railroad cut behind Robinett's position

This slab is where an artillery trail was positioned. Sometime in the past the guns were moved somehwere else. Most likely to Fort Donelson or Henry when they were established as national parks.

I was able to find where Maloney was stationed near “The Crater.” Here his unit participated in the assault the 3rd LA Redan. He had 30 pound Parrotts here as well.
According to the NPS site:
“Late in the siege, Union troops tunneled under the 3rd Louisiana Redan and packed the mine with 2,200 pounds of gunpowder. The explosion blew apart the Confederate lines on June 25, while an infantry attack made by troops from Logan's XVII Corps division, followed the blast. The 45th Illinois Regiment (known as the "Lead Mine Regiment"), under Col. Jasper A. Maltby, charged into the 40-foot (12 m) diameter, 12-foot (3.7 m) deep crater with ease, but were stopped by recovering Confederate infantry. The Union soldiers became pinned down while the defenders also rolled artillery shells with short fuses into the pit with deadly results. Union engineers worked to set up a casemate in the crater in order to extricate the infantry, and soon the soldiers fell back to a new defensive line. From the crater left by the explosion on June 25, Union miners worked to dig a new mine to the south. On July 1, this mine was detonated but no infantry attack followed. Pioneers worked throughout July 2 and July 3 to widen the initial crater large enough for an infantry column of four to pass through for future anticipated assaults. However, events the following day negated the need for any further assaults.”
It was raining and it took a good deal of effort to get to the position. Here it is:

Towards the crater & 3rd Louisiana Redan

3rd Louisiana Redan

The White House behind Logan's line.
This is a wartime view of Shirley House and bombproof shelters of the 45th Illinois

Finally, I found the 2nd Texas Lunette. Yes, the same unit that was decimated in the charge on Battery Robinett. Not much there now. As soon as I got there I recalled eating lunch at the tables there about ten years ago. Small world for both Robinett and myself.

Curiously enough, the NPS folks rotate the flags flown each day.

Guess whose flag was up for my visit?

Next post later in the week about my visit to Corinth.

Keep History Alive