Harrison Robinson: soldier, businessman and klutz

1 year ago

Harrison H. Robinson was born on Aug. 11, 1840, at The Ledge, Charlotte County, New Brunswick, Canada, and came to the United States the next year.  At the end of 1861, Harrison enlisted as a soldier in the Civil War, serving in the 15th Regiment Maine Infantry.  He mustered out in 1866 having reached the rank of Sergeant. 

Presque Isle Historical Society is fortunate to have Robinson’s handwritten Civil War diary in our collection.  The diary details his travels, nights on guard duty and more.  It is truly a fascinating read, once you can get past the spidery, Victorian-style writing.  

One of the interesting items included in the diary is his notes on what the soldiers ate.  For instance, on Christmas of 1862, the breakfast meal consisted of beans, bread and cold potatoes, while for dinner they ate sweet potatoes, salt beef, squash and bread.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the military then was not like that of today.  These were truly citizen soldiers.  There was no boot camp.  These men had no previous military training and literally went from the field to the battle and learned with boots on the ground. This was also very evident from the writings of the diary as Robinson detailed the various drills the soldiers did daily from battalion drill firing to skirmish drill to bayonet exercise.  

After returning home from the war, Robinson married Martha Villroy Chadwick from the Augusta area.  The couple settled on Third Street and had one daughter named Lulu.  

Rather than going into the same trade as before the war (he was a millwright), Harrison started a jewelry, watch and book store with a fellow veteran, Benjamin Franklin Owen.  The store was located on Bridge Street, now known as State Street. This is an interesting coincidence because Robinson’s diary sits next to Owen’s sword in the Society’s Civil War exhibit.  Several advertisements for the store can be found in the local newspapers of the day.  

Apparently, Harrison was somewhat of a klutz.  In fact, his accidents and mishaps were detailed in the local newspapers as well.  The Jan. 1, 1891, Star-Herald reported how he was involved in a collision of sleighs that resulted in him going headfirst out of his conveyance into a snowbank.  Then again, on April 28, 1892, an article detailed him spending time searching for his horse, only to come home and find the horse in his stall quietly feeding.  

Harrison Robinson passed away on Sept. 27, 1905, from dysentery and is interred in Fairmount Cemetery.   He and fellow Presque Isle Civil War veteran William Sutter were remembered in a letter and poem written by fellow Civil War tent-mate S.S. Rideout of Spring Lake, Michigan, written on Oct. 18, 1905, entitled “Sutter Robinson & I,” both of which were subsequently published in The Star-Herald newspaper. 

Kimberly R. Smith is the secretary/treasurer of the Presque Isle Historical Society.