Friday, May 20, 2011

Solomon J. Wiginton - witness on behalf of John T. Robinson

Recently I came across information that indicated John Taylor Robinson, brother of my great-great grandfather George Emerson Robinson, had fought in the Civil War.  Not too surprising, you say, since John was born 1842, the perfect age for service in the war.  But the family story that has been handed down, at least through George's family as recounted by his grandsons, is that older brother John was sickly and therefore was unable to serve in the war.  The story is that George, who enlisted at the age of 18, was supposedly sent by his father in place of his older brother.

John T. Robinson, and later his widow Mahala Jane (Shotts, daughter of Lovid McKindry Shotts), drew a Civil War pension from the State of Alabama.  When I discovered information about this pension, I sent off to the Alabama Archives for detailed records.  Turns out, there was some truth to the family story.  An affidavit dated 1914 and signed by J. T. Robinson states that he "first joined the Confederate army in 1862, joining the infantry, but I was sickly then and the captain of the company allowed me to go back home, as I was unable to do service."   Unfortunately, the name of this early regimental unit and company is not given in the pension record.   John further states in his affidavit that he re-enlisted two years later at Smithville, Miss. in February, 1864, joining Company E, 10th Alabama Regiment.

So yes, John was sickly, but he did serve in the war.  Or did he? 

The pension record contains a notice dated 1913 that John T. Robinson was ineligible for a pension due to his name not being found on the rolls of any company of the 10th Alabama Regiment.    It was up to John to prove his service ... which he did by providing witnesses who could vouch for his war service.  Among others, Solomon J. Wiginton, of Itasca, Hill County, Texas!  The very same Solomon whose gravestone I recently photographed in the Itasca Cemetery!  How coincidental is that!

Before the Notary Public of Hill County, Texas, in October 1914,  Solomon J. "Saul" Wiginton stated that he was 69 years of age, residing at Itasca.  Saul said that he formerly lived in Marion Co., Alabama, and that he knew J. T. Robinson "who now lives in Marion County, Alabama, and knew him during the war.  Said J. T. Robinson and I were both in Company E of the 10th Alabama Cavalry, C.S.A., and I knew him in said company.    Said J. T. Robinson joined said Company E at Smithville, Mississippi, sometime in the early part of the year 1864." 

Another witness was W. J. Donham, a resident of Covington in Hill County, Texas, who stated on oath that he served with J. T. Robinson in Company E, 10th Alabama Cavalry.  William Jefferson Donham was a former resident of Marion County.   Zebulon Brooks Palmer also provided testimony that he served with J. T. Robinson in the 10th Alabama Cavalry.  Palmer said in his affidavit that he had known Robinson all of his life, "we were reared together" in Marion County, and that he remembered "very well" when John joined Company E, sometime "about the month of February, 1864, at Smithville, Mississippi, while we were encamped there, and he remained in the service in the said company until the close of war."

The proof provided by the affidavits of these three Civil War veterans was enough for the Board of Pension Examiners to grant John Taylor Robinson his pension, which he received until his death in 1920 at the age of 77 years, and which his widow received until her death in 1933.

More about John T. Robinson in another post.

Oh, and there is no proof that John's brother, George Emerson Robinson, was sent in his brother's place to fight in the war.   George was 18 years old in 1862 when he enlisted, certainly of age to volunteer on his own.  It wasn't until later in the war that a conscription draft was instituted, and pressure was put on non-enlisted, able-bodied men to enlist in the Confederate army. 

You can read more about George Emerson Robinson at these previous posts:
George Emerson Robinson
Charlotte A. Purnell, 1846-1873 (first wife of George E. Robinson) 
George E. Robinson - his second family
George Emerson Robinson - old homeplace

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