Ancestor Update_James T. Robinson

In researching my wife’s genealogy I had hit a dead-end in regards to her great-grandfather, James T. Robinson.

I knew that James was born in Aberdeen, Scotland and was eighteen-years-old when he immigrated to America in 1851. I also knew that he served in the 42nd Wisconsin Infantry during the American Civil War and that he married Jessie Despins after the war in 1865. Together they raised a large family in Wisconsin.

I did not know with any degree of certainty who James’ parents were. I had circumstantial evidence that his father was also a James Robinson (or Robertson) and that his mother was named Mary, possibly Mary Thomson and they lived at one point in England rather than Scotland. It was all rather confusing since many James Robinson’s apparently were married to women named Mary!

Union Cavalry Corporal, dress uniform

I also did not know what James did or where he lived once he immigrated (arrived in New York) and what he did between 1851 and 1864 when he pops up in the 42nd Wisconsin. Now I have a further clue.

According to one of my wife’s 2nd cousins who found my first blog post on James, James lived in Kentucky and served for approximately a year in the 3rd Kentucky Cavalry (Union) during the Civil War.

Unknown Union Cavalry Sergeant

My first thought was that the James T. Robinson of the 42nd Wisconsin could not be the same James T. Robinson of the 3rd Kentucky.

I cannot prove it at this point but I can surmise it’s possible for the two men to be the same.

James T. Robinson enlisted in the 42nd Wisconsin in 1864 for a one year enlistment. Research shows that many men enlisted in 1864 to replace the three-year men who had enlisted in 1861 and whose terms expired. Abe Lincoln put out a further call for volunteers  and many men responded by enlisting in one-year regiments. Many of these one-year regiments, like the 42nd Wisconsin served in garrison or otherwise behind the main lines of the fighting that was still going on. In this way, the veteran regiments could carry on the war and the new regiments would serve a vital support role that freed the veteran regiments to do what they did best-fight.

It appears that the 3rd Kentucky Cavalry gained veteran status in 1864. Men who had served their enlistments would be eligible for discharge or for re-enlistment, either with their current regiment or with another. Since the Federal Government offered a bounty as did the individual States for re-enlistment it was not uncommon for veterans to “shop around” for the best deal when re-enlisting.

Another possibility and strictly conjecture is that James T. Robinson was a “bounty jumper.” A bounty jumper was one who would collect a bounty from one regiment for serving and then “jump” to another regiment (deserting the first) to collect a higher bounty or another. This was a problem especially in 1864 because the bounties were higher than they had been in 1861-62.

8th Wisconsin, Old Abe Regiment. Typical dress of Union Infantry that served in the Western Theater of the Civil War.

So, it is entirely possible that Corporal James T. Robinson of the 3rd Kentucky had served his term and in 1864 joined up as a private with a new regiment, the 42nd Wisconsin. As reported in an earlier post I noted that the 42nd served as a Provost Regiment in southern Illinois, not all that far from NW Kentucky where the 3rd Kentucky was recruited from. The dates and the geography seem to be compelling evidence that James T. Robinson had an interesting Civil War career, serving in the Union Infantry and Cavalry before settling down with Jessie Despins in the Oshkosh area of Wisconsin in 1865.

Soldiers were encouraged to enlist to gain a bounty, and thus avoid the unpopular draft of 1863.

My wife’s second cousin also told us that according to the marriage certificate (James and Jessie) that James’ parents are named as James and Maria Robinson thus giving me a further clue to chase down.

2 comments on “Ancestor Update_James T. Robinson

  1. Great fun. I’ve set up websites for my ggf and my wife’s gggf who both served in Iowa regiments: http://www.scriptoriumnovum.com

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