Son of Heman and Betsey Robinson, was born on the thirtieth of September, 1827, at Bennington, Vermont. Descended from Revolutionary sires, and surrounded by reminiscences and mementos of the battle of Bennington, his young mind was early imbued with a patriotic fervor and love for his country and its glorious flag, which caused him to be an early and earnest volunteer in its service, soon after the opening of the great rebellion. His early education was of the character at that time provided in the common schools and academies of his native town.
His mind partaking of the roving element, however, he confined himself to dry and tedious studies, and being an orphan, with no relative or guardian to oppose his wishes, he embarked, at the age of fourteen, as a common sailor, on board the good ship St. Nicholas, bound from New York to Havre, France. Too young to bear without disgust the roughness and privations of the life of a common seaman, he returned home at the end of a few months, and quietly settled down to the life of a farmer; not, however, without making several subsequent attempts to get to China or Valparaiso, which were only prevented by promises of an appointment to the United States Military Academy, upon the list of applicants for which his name was soon after placed by the Hon. Solomon Foot, Senator from Vermont. But, finding the list already large, Mr. Foot advised the acceptance of a cadetship at West Point, which was gratefully accepted, and at the age of eighteen Mr. Robinson received his appointment to that position.
By excessive and constant application to his studies, preparatory to entering the Military Academy, he brought on a severe, and apparently incurable, attack of dyspepsia, which obliged him to resign his appointment at the expiration of a few months, his family physician having decided, upon examination, that Mr. Robinson was not, and never would be, physically able to bear the severe mental and physical training of that institution. At West Point, under the daily drill of accomplished officers, Cadet Robinson soon excelled in all the duties of a soldier, so far as he had been instructed, frequently calling out the marked and public approval of his commander. Here he learned the soldierly lessons of obedience and attention to duty, and that those lessons were well learned is evidenced by the strictness with which he aimed to perform his duties as Adjutant of this Regiment.Leaving West Point in the fall of '46, broken in health and spirits, he returned to his native village, under the shadow of the Green Mountains, in hopes of recruiting his failing health, but to no purpose, and it was only after a long and distressing course of seasickness, on the fishing grounds, off the coast of New England, in the year 1849, that he finally mastered his complaint, and became able to attend to business. From this time until the breaking out of the rebellion, Mr. Robinson was variously engaged in mercantile pursuits, civil engineering, &c., being located most of the time at Cortland, N. Y.
At the breaking out of the rebellion, his domestic affairs precluded the possibility of carrying out his purpose of joining the army; but in the fall of 1861, his patriotic fervor was not to be withstood, and he entered with his whole soul into the organization of the Seventy-sixth Regiment. He acted as Adjutant until the fourth of October, 1861, when he was mustered into the service as First Lieutenant of Company A, being the first line officer mustered in the Regiment. He was immediately appointed Adjutant of the Regiment, and mustering officer, performing the former duty most of the time until the second day of January, 1863, when he resigned his commission, on account of disability, and left the service.
Whilst in the service, Adjutant Robinson contracted a chronic affection of the bowels, which will ever remain with him, as a reminder of his field service. He was with the Regiment during no engagement of any magnitude, except that at Fredericksburg, Va., December thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth, 1862.Entering the service purely from patriotic motives, and a sense of duty, although through physical disability exempt by law, it is due to him to say, that during his connection with the Regiment, he was evidently actuated by no personal ambition, and only sought, by precept and example, to instill into the minds and hearts of his comrades a due appreciation of the duties and obligations of a soldier, and the holiness of the cause in which the services of the Regiment were enlisted.
- From the Regimental History of the 76th New York
- Photo courtesy Conrad Bush
PRESENTATION OF A HORSE TO ADJUTANT ROBINSON
As our Cortland regiment were about leaving the depot yesterday morning for Albany, Mr. R. P. Randall of this village presented Adjutant Robinson a purse containing one hundred and sixty-five dollars, with the following address:
Adjutant Herman J. Robinson, 76th Regiment N.Y. Volunteers, Sir: I take this honor to present to you the contents of this purse for the purpose of purchasing a horse. The gift is that of a few friends who take this mode of testifying their respect for you as a man, and their devotion to the cause which calls you from their midst.
Adjutant Robinson, very much affected, replied as follows:
Sir:- This present is so totally unexpected to me that I hardly am able to express my thanks to you - to my friends. However unworthy I may be, I will do all in my power to merit this great kindness. I go to fight the battles of my country. I can say no more - my feelings are too much for me. God bless you all.
This present could not have been bestowed upon a more competent officer or a braver man. Adjutant Robinson is a gentleman eminently qualified for the arduous position which he occupies. The list of contributors comprises a large number of our most respected and esteemed citizens. And we have no doubt but that the conduct of the recipient of this gift will prove himself, both in the camp and upon the battle field, worthy of the confidence and generosity of the donors.
Transcribed by B. Conrad Bush from The Gazette and Banner taken from microfilm files at the Cortland Public Library, Cortland, NY.
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- Last Updated August 11, 2007