A Civil War Biography

John Cleveland Robinson

Robinson was born 10 April 1817 in Binghamton, New York. He entered West Point in 1835 but left in 1838, a year before graduating. Some sources claim he was dismissed for disciplinary reasons. He briefly studied the law before returning to the military in October of 1839 when he was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant in the 5th US infantry. He served with the occupation army in Texas, during the war with Mexico, against Indians in Texas and Florida, and took part in the 1858 Utah expedition.

When the war started Robinson was a captain commanding Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland. He was instrumental in preventing the fort from falling into the hands of Southern sympathizers. He next engaged in recruiting in Michigan and Ohio and in September 1861 was appointed colonel of the 1st Michigan volunteers. In February 1862 he was promoted to major in the regular army. He was commissioned a brigadier general of volunteers on 28 April 1862 and commanded a brigade at Newport News, Virginia. He commanded the 1st brigade, 3rd division, III Corps during the Peninsula campaign and at Second Bull Run. He commanded the 2nd division, I Corps at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, after which he was brevetted lieutenant colonel in the regular army. He commanded the 2nd division, V Corps at Mine Run, the Wilderness, and Spotsylvania Court House. He was brevetted colonel USA for his services at the Wilderness.

At Spotsylvania he led a charge on the enemy's breastworks and was wounded in the left knee necessitating amputation at the thigh. He was brevetted major general of volunteers on 24 June 1864. Unfit for further field duty, Robinson was assigned to command military districts in New York. He was brevetted brigadier general and major general of volunteers on 13 March 1865.

Following the war, in 1866 he served as military commander and commissioner of the Freedmen's Bureau in North Carolina and was promoted to colonel in the regular army. He was mustered out of the volunteer service on 1 September 1866. He commanded the Department of the South in 1867 then the Department of the Lakes in 1867 into 1868. He retired from the army on 6 May 1869 at the full rank of major general. In 1872 he was elected lieutenant governor of New York on the Republican ticket. He served from 1873 until 1874 with Governor John A. Dix. In 1877 and 1878 Robinson was chosen commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic. He was president of the Society of the Army of the Potomac in 1887. He was awarded the Medal of Honor on 28 March 1894 for his actions at Laurel Hill, Virginia on 8 May 1864. The citation reads, "Placed himself at the head of the leading brigade in a charge upon the enemy's breastworks; was severely wounded." Robinson died 18 February 1897 in Binghamton.

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