Well today I was trying to close some gaps in my research on a fellow who I knew earned a Medal of Honor. But I had little in the way of pre or post war history on him. After a few minutes the Internet metal detector started ringing for me also. It did not find what I wanted but it sure filled some of the gap.
Joseph Robinson was born in Montreal of 12 October 1847. From that date till his enlistment at Philadelphia in the 3rd US Cavalry on an unknown date seems to be a blur, like most of the time after he was released in April of 1879. And just a few lines are listed on the net about what he did on 17 June 1876 to earn a Medal of Honor.
He held the rank of First Sergeant when he was awarded his MOH so this suggest that he may have been in the service for some time pre his date of earning the MOH. Using the search engine Fold 3, I discovered a pension index card. These list a file number for any application for a pension and a file number if the application is successful. They also sometimes give other neat tidbits. They tell if it is the individual, or a widow, or a parent or a child that is applying for a pension as well. And sometimes it even lists his unit when he earned the medal but also any others he was in. And it may well also have his date of death and location at that time. When I found Robinson's card I discovered that he also served in the Civil War.
This is probably not known by a lot of MOH researchers. He served from 1863 to 1865, by being DRAFTED and enlisting in the 119th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. While nothing had been found of his activities throughout that time, he was sworn in at Philadelphia and served as a private when the regiment was in many of the most famous battles of the war. He must have been in no less that 20 major battles and perhaps as many skirmishes on that period of time. These would include Gettysburg, the Mine Run, The Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, Weldon Railway, Siege of Petersburg, Fort Fisher, Appomattox and was on hand when General Lee surrendered his army. As the war was coming to an end he was transferred with most of his unit over to another for releasing purposes and it would be from here, in the 82nd Pa Volunteer infantry that he would be finally released at Halls' Farm Virginia on 13 July 1865.
He would soon be drawn into the fray between the white man and the natives. For years the military and the native Indians were having clash after clash. As the white man moved farther and farther to the West they were affecting the way of life of the Indian who was losing his hunting and fishing grounds and slowly being rounded up from tradition homes for the centuries and being pushed were the white man best thought the native needed to be put. After many battles, in 1866 the Treaty of Laramie was signed by the Indian leaders and General William T Sherman at Fort Laramie Wyoming, as pictured above. In effect this ended one of the Indian wars by coming to an agreement with those in battle to lay down there arms. The white man would guarantee the Indians would be left alone if they moved into what would be later called the Great Sioux Reservation. The Whites were forbidden on it and the Natives had to stay there. All agreed and all was well... for a few years. (The area is outlined above in pink and is in what is now Montana.
But then the White man reneged. President Grant decided to send the troops into part of the native lands around the Black Hills. This of course violated the agreement but little did it seem the white man cared. Then the unthinkable happened. Gold was discovered. Soon the area was swamped with gold miners who couldn't give a hoot who owned the lands they decided they were going to mine. So the natives decided to create havoc for the miners. They too also decided it was high time they challenged being forbidden from leaving the reservation. Many under famed Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse and others took thousands out to start hunting for Buffalo in the plains. And the white man sent in the Cavalry to push them back into the reservation. Adding insult to injury they told the Natives that anyone found outside of the reservation would be treated as hostile and hunted down.
Three columns of Cavalry were sent on the march to deal with the buffalo hunters and were to come at them from three different sides. It would be the 3rd US Cavalry, with First Sergeant Joseph Robinson, who would come to combat first.
In the battle known as Rosebud Creek The cavalry would be stunned to discover that for the first time ever the Indians meant business in a new way. They would not hit and run, but would fight till the end. Their numbers were well over a thousand, as were the Cavalry and such an opposition was much unexpected by the white men. In fact so was a battle that was to last for almost six hours.
It started for the 3rd Cavalry with a forced march of over 35 miles with the men having to carry and extra four days rations and 100 rounds per man of ammunition and other supplies. (The supply wagons had to be left behind because they could not make the rough territory.) Finally a halt was called and the men got a little rest. But they were woken up and started off again at 3 a.m.
The Indians had planned to stop the Cavalry's advance and by the end of the battle they had succeeded. The natives were driven back a few miles but by that time they started to disperse. The white man also decided to take the same tactic. They had run out of supplies and had fired over 25,000 rounds so far. They had to retreat to get resupplied and that meant a move backwards over 50 MILES. On arrival at their fort they would remain for about 7 weeks for more reinforcements to arrive.
But the natives had no such break. Within another week many of them would meet up with another Cavalryman. His name was George Custer and you know how that one turned out. It would become known as Custer's Last Stand.
On 23 January 1880, 3 First Sergeants and one Trumpeter would be awarded Medals of Honor for action at Rosebud Creek. Joseph Robinson would be one of these. His citation simply reads... Discharged his duties while in charge of the skirmish line under fire with judgement and great coolness and brought up the lead horses at a critical moment.
After the war Joseph moved to Leavenworth Texas and passed away there in December of 1919. There are 15 MOH recipients buried at the cemetery where he rests and one of these is none other than Thomas Custer, a Civil War double Medal of Honor recipient. In the next grave over is his brother-in-law, also a MOH recipient.
The Battle at Rosebud Creek took place on 17 June 1876... 137 years ago Monday of this week.