Col. George W. Robbins



COLONEL GEORGE W. ROBBINS, the present chairman of the Board of Selectmen of Avon, Mass., and a distinguished veteran of the late Civil War, was born in Avon [East Stoughton] on February 2, 1839 , son of Captain Samuel Virgin and Sally (Loring) Robbins. His ancestors, both paternal and maternal, were of English origin. His mother's parents were Jacob and Lydia (Tilson) Loring, her paternal grandfather's name being Ignatius Loring. Captain Robbins, the father, was a master mariner in the West Indian merchant service with Samuel P. Draper, of Boston , and was lost in the Gulf Stream with his vessel, the bark " Sharon ," being en route from Savannah to Hamburg , Germany , and only two days out from port.

George Washington Robbins, the subject of this sketch, who was only eight years old at the time of his father's death, was educated in the public schools of Avon, and later, having shown a natural aptitude for military tactics, was sent to Russell's Military Academy at New Haven, Conn. He was a student in that institution for about three years, and during the last two years held the rank of captain of the cadets. In 1858 he left the academy, and went to Dane County , Wisconsin , near Madison , and became superintendent of a farm of over thirteen hundred acres, which was owned by his brother, John V. Robbins. lie remained in this position until August 12, 1861, when be was commissioned as Lieutenant Colonel in the Eighth Regiment of Wisconsin Volunteers, better known as the Eagle Regiment. On the 14th of the following October the "Eagles" reached St. Louis, Mo., and were assigned to duty along the line of the Iron Mountain Railroad, which they kept guarded during that fall and the following winter. The first battle in which the regiment participated occurred on October 22, 1861 . During this winter the regiment was transferred to Cairo, Ill., and in the following spring crossed the river to Bird's Point, Ill., and opened up the Bird's Point & Sykeston Railroad in order that supplies could be dispatched to General Pope's army, then stationed at New Madrid and Island Number Ten. On April 7 and 8 engagements occurred at these two places; on May 8, 1862 , the battle of Farmington took place; and on the 28th of May the siege of Corinth was opened. September 14 and September 19 there were fights at Tuka , Miss. , and on October 3 and 4 at Corinth . In this last engagement the Eighth Wisconsin Regiment had twenty-one men killed, eighty-three wounded, and eighteen missing. Colonel Robbins was in all these engagements with his regiment, and was subsequently at Jackson , where his men were in the advance. On May 14, 1863, they were at Champion Hills, and on the 22d of the month, being then a part of the Second Brigade, Second Division of the Fifteenth Army Corps, they were engaged in the assault on Vicksburg, which was in the nature of a feint made with a view of absorbing the attention of the rebel commander, and thus preventing him from massing his troops against General McClernand of the Thirteenth Corps. Succeeding this the regiment fought in the battles of Mechanicsville on June 4 and Richmond on June 14, and was present at the surrender of Vicksburg on July 4, 1863 . On October 3, 1862 , at the battle of Corinth , Colonel Robbins was shot in the leg, and seriously injured; and on July 1, 1863 , while behind the levees oil the Louisiana side, he was again disabled, his horse falling on him, and injuring him so severely as to make it needful for him to give up his command. On September 1, 1863 , he was honorably discharged by order of General Grant, for injuries received in the service, holding the commission of Colonel, which had been granted him on December 20, 1862 .

After retiring from the service, Colonel Robbins came to Avon, remaining here until the spring of 1864, when he started for the Far West by overland stage route, In May he arrived in Austin, Nev., where he engaged in milling and mining for two years, and subsequently until 1870 ill managing a stage route and conducting a hotel at Pinto Creek, thirty‑two miles east of White Pine. In January, 1870, Colonel Robbins returned to Avon , and for a number of years engaged in the livery business, also running an express line between Avon and Boston . In 1875 and 1876, while in this business, be served as Selectman of tire town of Stoughton , of which Avon was then a part; and after the division of the towns he was chosen as a member of the first Board of Selectmen of Avon. He was again chosen Selectman in 1896-97, and in both years has been chairman of the board.

Colonel Robbins's wife was before marriage Miss Deborah T. Inglee, of Halifax , Mass. She has been the mother of four children, by name George W., Florence I. Grace A., and Helen T. The Colonel is a member of Fletcher Webster Post, No. 13, G. A. R., at Brockton , Mass. In politics he is a Republican. He has served the town of Avon as Superintendent of Streets, and his fellow townsmen hold him in highest esteem both as an official serving the public interests and as a man in private life. Naturally of exact and military habits and of unflinching courage, lie inspired the soldiers under his command with enthusiasm and bravery, and as an officer secured the most perfect discipline.

No allusion to the Eighth Wisconsin Regiment should be made without referring to "Old Abe," the eagle that was always carried into battle, and that has made the regiment so famous. "Old Abe" was captured in Wisconsin in 1861, when an eaglet, by a Chippewa Indian, who sold the bird for a bushel of corn. It was subsequently presented to the Eighth Wisconsin Regiment, christened "Old Abe" in honor of Abraham Lincoln, and became the pet and inspiration of the regiment. It was of the species known as the white-headed or bald-headed eagle, the American emblem. "Old Abe" was carried into battle; and it is said that when the fight raged most fiercely, and the enthusiasm of the soldiers was at its highest, then it was that he seemed to be in his own element. He flapped his wings in the midst of the furious storm, and, with head erect, faced the flying bullets and crashing shells, with no signs of fear." His presence became almost a prestige of victory, and at the battle of Corinth the rebel General Price, made every effort to capture him; but "Old Abe," as if conscious of his danger, soared aloft, and, though many shots were hurled after him, was soon out of reach of harm. One bullet just grazed his feathers, but did no serious injury. After this, it being feared that be might some time become lost, his tail and wing were cropped to prevent his flight, and for a time he lost his appearance of dignified royalty, he was again shot at Vicksburg , but was never injured in the flesh. He shared all the marches of the regiment, including Sherman 's great march and the Red River expedition, and was in twenty-five battles and as many skirmishes. After the war large sums of money were offered for him, the Barnum Circus management offering twenty thousand dollars; but it was decided by his "comrades" that he should be given to the State government of Wisconsin . He appeared at various reunions, was one of the features of interest at the Centennial at Philadelphia , and in the winter of 1878-79 was in Boston for a number of months. It is estimated that, merely by the sale of his pictures, at least one hundred thousand dollars was added to G.A.R. funds. "Old Abe" died in 1881, and through the art of the taxidermist has been preserved in lifelike attitude, and may be seen in the War Museum at Washington .

Source: Biographical Review - Volume XXV - Containing life sketches of leading citizens of Norfolk County Massachusetts . (Boston, Mass., Biographical Review Publishing Co., 1898), pgs. 564-567.

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