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Collection Title: Robinson (John Leroy "Lee") Papers

Collection Number: M301

Dates: 1861-1864, 1875, 1882

Volume: 27 Items

Provenance: Donated by Mrs Evelyn Childress Smalling of Columbia, Mississippi, on August 8, 1988.

Copyright: This collection may be protected from unauthorized copying by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code).

Biographical/Historical Sketch:

John Leroy "Lee" Robinson was born in 1837 in Sumter County, Alabama, the second son of Charles Edward Martin Robinson (b. November 15, 1804) and Sarah Jane Love Robinson (b.ca.1813). Originally from South Carolina, Charles and Sarah moved to Sumter County in 1835, finally settling in Kemper County, Mississippi, in 1844. Together, Charles and Sarah Robinson reared seven children -- two daughters and five sons.

Records indicate that during the American Civil War four of the Robinson sons served in the Confederacy -- John Leroy (Lee), J. Franklin (Frank), Richmond (Rich), and Charles (Bart). Lee Robinson and his younger brother, Frank, served in the 13th Infantry Regiment of Mississippi Volunteers throughout the Civil War. Lee held the rank of Private in Company F of the 13th Regiment, but following a reorganization of the companies in April 1862, he served in Company C. The regiment was involved in several major campaigns of the Civil War including First Manassas, Sharpsburg, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, Chickamauga, and the campaign against Knoxville during the winter of 1863-1864. While at Knoxville, Robinson was captured and imprisoned at Camp Chase, Tennessee. He was later transferred to a prison camp in Kentucky, and finally to Rock Island Prison, Illinois, on January 6, 1864. He remained at Rock Island for the rest of the war and was eventually released on June 19, 1865. Immediately thereafter, Robinson returned home to Kemper County, Mississippi. Records indicate that all four of the Robinson sons survived the war and returned home in 1865.

In October 1866, Lee Robinson married Octavia Swanson Marks. The couple settled in Kemper County and together they reared ten children -- seven daughters and three sons. In 1891 Lee Robinson and his family, along with his widowed father, Charles Robinson, moved to Rankin County, Mississippi. He remained there until his death in October 1910. His wife, Octavia, died in Washington, D.C. in 1930.

Scope and Content:

This collection contains 27 letters written by John Leroy "Lee" Robinson and his brothers, Frank, Rich, and Bart, during the Civil War and Reconstruction Era.

The letters were donated to the University of Southern Mississippi by Mrs. Evelyn Childress Smalling, who was John Leroy Robinson's granddaughter.

Arranged chronologically, the letters are dated 1861-1882, and are addressed to the Robinson brothers' older sisters, Martha and Mary. Handwritten in ink, several of the letters are brittle and discolored with some passages difficult to read. Also, a few items are torn, while others have pages missing. The handwriting in the first letter is quite faded, making it difficult to decipher. However, all of the letters have been deacidified and encapsulated between two sheets of mylar as preservation measures.

The majority of the letters revolve around the day-to-day experiences of the ordinary rank-and-file soldier during the four years of the American Civil War. The letters touch on such topics as major campaigns and characters of the War. Included are a summary of the Battle of Chancellorsville and details describing General Robert E. Lee and Major General Jubal Early. More mundane issues include the lack of rations and clothing supplies (the primary complaint of the soldier) and the problems of continuous ill health. The letters also provide insight into the intrigues of camp life, including the election of officers. In the letter dated April 28, 1862, John Lee Robinson describes in very colorful language his feelings about particular officers in the regiment. He also complains bitterly about the introduction of conscription in the Confederate forces. Other notable items include two letters dated April 29 and September 4, 1864, written by John Lee while in Rock Island Prison in Illinois.

The final six letters in the collection were written by Richmond and Charles Robinson, and deal with events that occurred after the war. Dated between April 1874 and October 1882, most were written from various locations in Texas and concern primarily family and business matters. Four of the letters are addressed "Dear Sister", and the other two were exchanged between Charles and Richmond.

This collection is of note to anyone interested in the American Civil War. The items in the collection contain a wealth of information on the day-to-day activities and innermost thoughts of the ordinary soldier. Also, the collection is of value to those interested in researching the regimental histories and military organizations of the state of Mississippi.


Created by: Bobs M. Tusa
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Revised: December 17, 2004