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Fayette County Civil War Soldiers
of the
Twenty-first Regiment Iowa Volunteer Infantry
by Carl Ingwalson
Historical information, notes & comments, in some cases correcting the record. Soldier biographies written by Carl Ingwalson.  Carl will do look-ups in his extensive records of the 21st Iowa and he is always willing to share what he has.
John J. Robinson was born in Richland County in upstate New York. By 1859 he was living in Colesburg, Iowa. A year later he was in .Buffalo Grove. In January 1862 he moved to Strawberry Point where, on August 13, 1862, he was enrolled by William Grannis in what would be Company D of the state's 21st regiment of volunteer infantry. The Muster -in Roll said he was a twenty-eight year old farmer with blue eyes, black hair and a dark complexion.

On August 22nd, the company was mustered in at Camp Franklin in Dubuque with a total complement of ninety-seven men (officers and enlisted). On September 9th, ten companies were mustered into federal service as a regiment and, on a rainy September 16th, those able to travel walked through town and, at the foot of Jones Street, boarded the side wheel steamer Henry Clay and two barges tied alongside and started south.

Downstream they transferred to the Hawkeye State and, about 10:00 a.m. on the 20th, they arrived in St. Louis where they spent one night at Benton Barracks before traveling by rail to Rolla. They camped most of the time a few miles southwest of town where there was good spring water, but on October 18th started the first of many long marches. The next day they arrived in Salem where, on the 31st, John was "sick in quarters." From Salem they walked to Houston and then Hartville where they were dependent on supplies brought by wagon train from the railhead in Rolla.

On November 24th, teamsters and guards taking supplies to Hartville camped for the night along Beaver Creek. That evening, some were tending to the horses, others were finishing dinner and some were foraging in the nearby woods when they were attacked and quickly overwhelmed. One man was shot in the chest and killed. Two others were mortally wounded. Sixteen men, three of whom had been wounded, were taken prisoner and paroled. Among the wounded was John Robinson who was one of the guards. John sustained a gunshot wound to "the left side of the crown of the head" (the "left parietal eminence") and was "rendered insensible." He was taken to the regimental hospital in Hartville where, said Strawberry Point's Joseph Baker, "I washed his wound and did all I could for him."

John was with the regiment when it moved back to the more secure confines of Houston, but was still convalescing and remained behind when the regiment started for West Plains on January 26th. Several weeks later he caught up but was sick "in quarters" at Iron Mountain and then hospitalized for '1ebris remittens" (malaria) and pneumonia. He returned to duty on July 19, 1863, during the brief siege at Jackson, Mississippi, and was with the regiment when it moved farther south and camped at Carrollton. There, on September 5th, he was granted a thirty-day medical furlough to go north. He reached his Clayton County home on the 18th, but was late returning to the regiment. "I left home Feb 3d 1864 to report to my Company and Reg't was detained at Dubuque Iowa five days waiting transportation which I received from Provost Marshal at Dubuque Iowa to report at Davenport Iowa where I arrived about the 9th of Feb 1864 and was detained there by order of Surgeon in Charge until the 12th Clay of March 1864, I there received transportation and reported to my Company March 26th 1864" at Matagorda Island, Texas. He said he had, for a long time, been "unable to travail and regularly forwarded Surgeon's certificates stating that such were the facts." Lieutenant William Grannis confirmed receipt of the certificates from Dr. Clark Rawson and John was reinstated without loss of pay or allowances.

John was able to maintain his health during the balance of the regiment's service on the Gulf Coast of Texas and, subsequently, in southwestern Louisiana, on the White River of Arkansas and in Memphis. On January 17, 1865, the regiment was camped near New Orleans on low ground at Oakland, the Kenner family's old sugar plantation, when George Brownell said he and John Robinson "took a walk back acrost the plantation to the woods distance two miles we got a lot of boards together and built a little raft and run it near camp and then got team to haul it up for us. we gave our officers the moste of it to build a flour up." On the 22nd, Emerson Reed joined them when they "took a long walk in the forenoon."

In February, they were transported down the Mississippi and eastward across the Gulf to Dauphin Island on the west side of the entrance to Mobile Bay. On March 19th, after crossing to Mobile Point, they started a very difficult movement north along the east side of the bay and, said Lieutenant Cooley, "the command suffered terribly from exposure, rain and mud." Already suffering from a "lame back," John was among thousands of men working, sometimes in torrential rain, to drag trees and logs through swamps and marshes to make many miles of corduroy roads. Often, said George Crooke, "the first trains passing over would bury the logs out of sight, and the process had to be repeated two or three times." John caught a severe cold and the hard work affected his lungs, but he continued on duty throughout the Mobile campaign and subsequent service along the Red River in Louisiana where George Brownell said he, John Robinson, Emerson Reed and Duane Grannis "went hunting for bees but did not have any luck."

They were mustered out of service at Baton Rouge on July 15, 1865, and discharged at Clinton on July 24th. Initially, John went to Brush Creek and lived with John and Mary Carothers "during the fall and winter and during the year 1866" and the men worked together "at the business of burning lime." John also worked as a farmer but, in 1870, he, Frank Billgham, and John and Mary Carothers moved to the Dakota Territory where they lived near Springfield. On December 15, 1873, John applied for a government pension. Pensions at that time required a veteran to show he was, to some extent, unable to perform manual labor due to a service-related disability. Saying he was a healthy man before the war, John referred to the head wound he sustained eleven years earlier and said he was now "frequently attacked with vertigo & partial loss of vision." John Carothers recalled that they had worked together "wood choping shoveling dirt and in the hearvest field" before the war, but now John was "troubled with lame back and lung and throat disease."  Surgeons in West Union found a scar and "some indentation of the bone" and felt John was entitled to a pension.

In an April 1874 affidavit, John declared "that he is married; that is wife's name was Clarinda Smith, to whom he was married at Taylorsville Iowa" and said he was now "almost wholly disabled from obtaining his subsistence from manual labor." In subsequent affidavits (all signed by mark), he said he also had a lame back and kidney problems due to a cold Missouri winter during the first year of his service. Several comrades signed supportive affidavits and Gilbert Cooley, then living in Strawberry Point, recalled the Beaver Creek attack aJ1d that during the winter John "became lame in his back with kidney affection." The Pension Office investigated the claim, but made no decision and, in July, 1877, John moved back to Brush Creek. In 1879, he again applied for a pension and, this time, also referred to the difficult Mobile campaign when he said he "contracted lung and throat disease from which he has never recovered." In an 1881 affidavit, John's father, Thomas Robinson, said John was healthy before the war ("always able to do any kind of hard labor: such as choping wood, working in the hearvest field, or working in the ground with a shovel"), but not after being discharged with a cough, shortness and lame back (when he was ul1able "to do hard manual labor and more than half the time has been unable to do any kind of labor more than light chores").

Subsequent to his discharge, John said "that he doctored himself, was poor, had no money to pay doctor bills, that his mother was living then, that she was a good nurse and made remedies in the shape 'of salves and liniments, that he used them for his lame back, cough, throat and lungs." In the Dakota Territory he was treated by Dr. Thomas Eagle and in Brush Creek by Dr. T. M. Sabin. Dr. Sabin said he had become the family physician soon after John returned from the Dakota Territory. Suffering from lumbago and chronic bronchitis "which almost totally disabled him," John was sometimes "confined to the house for several days."

A certificate of October 11, 1880, awarded $2.00 monthly, an amount later increased to $8.00, $12.00 and finally to $30.00 he was receiving when he died on January'18, 1904.   John Robinson is buried in Arlington (Groat) Cemetery in Fayette County as are John and Mary Carothers.
~ Compiled & Contributor: Carl Ingwalson
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