First Lieutenant William Wallace Robinson, Jr, Adjutant, 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry

They turned like a flash of lightning almost, throwing off their blankets, all of them grasping their rifles, and fired a volley into the men to the direction of the battery.

First Lieutenant William W. Robinson, Jr., at target range camp at the Fort Riley, Kansas in 1888.

First Lieutenant William W. Robinson, Jr., at target range camp at the Fort Riley, Kansas in 1888.

At forty-four years of age, First Lieutenant William W. Robinson, Jr., was the oldest of the lieutenants in the 7th Cavalry.  He had been with the regiment for over fourteen years since being transferred from the 3rd Cavalry as a second lieutenant the day after the Little Bighorn battle.  This put him in the awkward position of being junior to a number of newly promoted 7th Cavalry first lieutenants who graduated from the Military Academy several years after him.  He was promoted to first lieutenant two months after his transfer and assigned to D Troop. Lieutenant Robinson’s troop commander, Captain Edward S. Godfrey, graduated from West Point just two years prior to Robinson but had been advanced to captain fourteen years sooner than would Robinson due to the effect Little Bighorn had on the army’s regimental promotion system within the 7th Cavalry.

In late November 1890 as the regiment prepared to deploy to Pine Ridge, Lieutenant Robinson had been commanding D Troop for almost two years, as Captain Godfrey was on detached service at Fort Leavenworth.  Robinson was deeply chagrined when Godfrey was released from his service with the Tactical Board and caught up with the regiment at Pine Ridge on 6 December to assume command of the troop.  The awkward situation did not escape notice of the regiment’s commander, as Colonel James W. Forsyth commented the same day in a letter to his daughter, “Robinson is disgusted because the arrival of Godfrey leaves him without a troop.”  Forsyth solved the dilemma by appointing Robinson the acting adjutant of his 2nd Battalion commanded by Captain Charles S. Ilsley.[1]

Lieutenant Robinson was the fourth officer called to testify on 9 January 1891, the third day of Major General Miles’s investigation into the Wounded Knee affair.  After being duly sworn, Robinson provided the following statement concerning his personal observations at Wounded Knee.

The Battalion of which I was Acting Adjutant was ordered to deploy mounted so as to form a cordon of troops in connection with the 1st Battalion around Big Foot’s band of Indians.  E Troop, commanded by Captain Ilsley, who was also Battalion Commander, is correctly located on the map (handed to him), as are also the rest of the troops.  After watching this disposition for a time, the Battalion being adjusted, and I having no particular duties to perform, of my own accord I rode down among the Indian tepees and volunteered to assist Captain Varnum in searching the tepees.  While receiving and carrying away the arms that were found, we found two bucks in one of the tepees, who refused to come out, in disobedience of the order that had been given.   I took both of them and conducted them out, placing them inside of the interior guard that had been placed about the other bucks.

Inset of Lieut. S. A. Cloman’s map of Wounded Knee depicting the scene of the fight with Big Foot’s Band, December 29, 1890.

Inset of Lieut. S. A. Cloman’s map of Wounded Knee depicting the scene of the fight with Big Foot’s Band, December 29, 1890.

This guard consisted, as I observed, of Troops K and B, drawn up something in the form of a V, with the apex of the angle towards the Hotchkiss gun.  The apex at that time was not open, but was covered by men in dispersed order about from 2 to 3 feet apart.  As I placed the two Indians inside, a sergeant of the 7th Cavalry called out to me “Lieut. Robinson,” pointing to one of the bucks in the crowd that had not up to this time been disarmed, “that buck or that Indian has a rifle concealed under his blanket.”  I called the sergeant to come up to me, and immediately reported this fact to Major Whitside, who was at the time within a few feet of me.  He told me to have the sergeant identify the Indian.  I called the sergeant up to me.  He endeavored to identify him, but was unable to do so, as he was lost in the crowd.
Just at this moment, the man, who seemed to be most conspicuous, a ghost dancer, and dressed in that costume, commenced his chant or incantation and immediately after, turned and started deliberately to the rear, that is away from the direction of the battery, followed at first by about 8 or 10 of the bucks.  I immediately realized that they were trying to make a break away from the troops, but not even then anticipated firing from their guns.  I put spurs to my horse, had my bridle in my right hand, but did not draw my pistol, anticipating no firing from them.  I rode hastily to within 3 or 4 feet of this ghost dancer, with my left hand motioned them back to where they belonged.  They turned like a flash of lightning almost, throwing off their blankets, all of them grasping their rifles, and fired a volley into the men to the direction of the battery.  The instant I saw them draw their rifles I called to the men on my right, I being between the men and the Indians, “Look out, men, they are going to fire.”  Lieut. Mann was on my left at this time and gave the same order about the same instant.  I dashed through the line of men, realizing that it was no position for a mounted man, passed around in rear of this interior guard, and galloped up the hill to the rear of the battery and was a careful observer of all that occurred until the end of the engagement, dismounting and going to the crest of the hill.
I observed especially that the bucks, who escaped being killed or wounded ran at once towards their tepees, among their women and children. Before the firing had commenced, I had observed the children, of all ages especially, playing among the tepees, and had commented upon it as a favorable indication, saying that it was a proof to me that there was no hostile intent on the part of the Indians.  When I saw these bucks running into their own village, it occurred to me that the fire, which was directed towards them, must necessarily be fatal to a great many of their women and children, as even from my position, with all the experience I have had with Indian affairs, and I have been associated with them since I was 8 years old, I could not possibly at 3 or 400 yards tell a squaw from a buck when running.
During the fight at different times I heard officers several times caution their men not to fire upon women or children or in any manner injure the wounded bucks, and rode down once myself and cautioned the men on that point.
It is asserted, I understand, that a Hotchkiss gun was fired before our men had had an opportunity to clear the ground.  I know positively that this was not true because I placed myself immediately in rear of the left gun on the line as soon as I could dismount and get to the crest.  I heard Captain Capron give the order to the man who was holding the lanyard to remove the friction primer, evidently fearing that the man might get nervous and discharge the gun before he had orders; and no Hotchkiss gun was fired until our men, whom had been around the Indians, had had ample time to get out of the way.
I observed no firing on the part of any of our men, which I considered endangered the lives of other men of the command, and I believe our dead were killed and wounded by Indian bullets, and after what I observed on the part of the Indians and their magazine guns I was not at all surprised at our loss, except that it was not greater than it was.[2]

Lieutenant Robinson’s fifteen-year-old son, Edward Winsor, accompanied his father on the campaign to the Pine Ridge Agency, and, unbeknownst to the lieutenant, his son followed the 2nd Battalion to Wounded Knee on the evening of 28 December.  This made him an unlikely participant during hostilities the following morning and certainly the youngest combatant on the side of the government.  The Salt Lake Herald highlighted this extraordinary occurrence in an article three weeks later.

Lieutenant Robinson, of the Seventh cavalry, has his little boy of sixteen years with him.  At Wounded Knee the boy was in the thickest of the mess and not being armed, he quickly ran to where a soldier had fallen, grabbed his gun and fought like a tiger to the end.  After that his place has ever been on the skirmish line and the lad’s coolness and nerve under fire shows him a born soldier.[3]

Writing less than a year later, Captain Allyn Capron, commander of Light Battery E, 1st Artillery, whose Hotchkiss steel mountain rifles wreaked havoc on the Lakota in the Indian village and the ravine at Wounded Knee, provided additional detail of young Edward Robinson’s role at the Wounded Knee and Drexel Mission fights.

He was in the thickest of the fight and advanced, carbine in hand, with the dismounted cavalry, coolly delivering his fire and setting an example worthy of emulation. Again at Drexel Mission, S.D., on December 30, 1891 [sic: 1890], my attention was called to the lad who, with a number of cavalrymen, had taken a position on the reverse side of a slight rise, where they were firing against the Indians, who were advancing. A greater part of the men in his immediate vicinity had fallen back, while he, with a few, maintained their position until the line was reformed. His conduct was superb and worthy of the highest praise.[4]

Concerning Lieutenant Robinson’s actions at the Drexel Mission fight, Major Guy V. Henry in his official report recorded, “Horses of the 7th Cavalry were met south of the Mission Building rushing to the rear.  Lieutenant Robinson of the 7th was endeavoring to stop them.”  In this same action, Captain Godfrey recorded that, “One private horse the property of 1st Lieut. W. W. Robinson, Jr., 7th Cavalry [was] wounded.”[5]

A month after the regiment returned from the campaign Colonel Forsyth recommended Lieutenant Robinson and four other lieutenants be given honorable mention from the Adjutant General of the Army for their actions in both battles; he was not accorded such honors when Major General Schofield recognized many officers and troopers from that winter’s campaign.[6]

San Francisco, California.
March 1st., 1896.

Brigadier-General James W. Forsyth,
United States Army.

Referring to our recent conversation relative to the operations of the 7th Cavalry, then under your immediate command at Drexel Mission on the 30th day of December 1890, I regretfully submit for your use, if desired, the following statement of the incidents which fell under my personal observation that day, viz:
While halted at Drexel Mission, I chanced to observe several of the half-breed scouts, who were standing in front of the Mission, engaged in what seemed an excited conversation. I asked them the cause, and one said to me, (the others confirming it), that they had heard several shots which seemed like cannonading to the north of us, and in the general direction of the trend of the valley of the creek towards White River. I listened for a moment but heard nothing. Then seeing that you had mounted and was riding towards the command, I hastily mounted my horse and joined you. You will no doubt recollect that I reported to you what had been told me by the scouts, and you replied that one or more officers had already informed you that they had heard cannonading to the north. You appeared to reflect for a moment or more as to the cause of the same, and according to my recollection, concluded that it must be either Carr’s command or the Leavenworth Battalion under Col. Sanford, and that they had met the Indians of Two Strikes, Little Wound and Red Cloud’s bands, who had as we then knew, left the agency the day before and “taken the war path”, as was evident from the fact of their having made an attack upon Major Guy V. Henry’s wagon train early that morning, and having fired and burned the school house near the Mission, (the school taught by the wife of Interpreter Philip Wells, who was with our command and wounded the day before at Wounded Knee).
After reflection, you decided that it was your duty to move forward and reconnoitre, and for this purpose, you first ordered Capt. Miles Moylan to take his own troop and advance down the valley. This order he started to obey when you added another troop, and directed Major Whitside to follow, and support him with the other two troops of the 1st Battalion, saying at the same time, that you would follow the movement with the 2nd Battalion, Capt. Ilsley commanding, and of which I was acting Battalion Adjutant. Accordingly we moved out in that order, the 2nd Battalion following at a distance of about 300 to 400 yards.
Following down White Clay creek, we reached a crossing thereof at a distance of about one and one half miles from the Mission. The 1st Battalion crossed it, and defiled somewhat to the left, up a rather deep cut ravine. As our horses were suffering for water, and it was thought there might be hard work before us, Capt. Ilsley gave the order “to water”. The first platoon of the leading troop was in the creek, when quite a brisk musketry fire was heard to our front and slightly to the left. We at once moved forward at a gallop and deployed right front into line of skirmishers, having dismounted and left our led horses under cover. We thus took position on the crest of a ridge and the valley of the creek to the north and north east. We were thus in echelon with the 1st Battalion to our left and front, but I did at no time in this part of the engagement, see the details of the deployment of that Battalion.
We held this position for a long time, just how long I am not able to say, but until all firing had ceased in front of us and for some time after, I had cautioned the gunner of the Hotchkiss piece of Capron’s Battery, which that day was also with our Battalion, not to fire at objects in the distance, unless I ordered him to, saying “it is simple waste of ammunition and making unnecessary noise which may call out all the Indians back at the agency”, as I was aware of the fact that it was not intended or desired to bring on a general engagement. About this time as I was moving along the ridge, In rear of and near our skirmish line, I met the Rev. Mr. Cook, of Pine Ridge, whose acquaintance I had made at the agency, and asked him “what in the world are you doing here?” He replied, “I am trying to stop this unholy war”. I passed him and saw no more of him that day.
From our position on the crest of the ridge referred to, I could see across the creek to the right and right front, and well to our right rear as also to the summit of the slope to our left rear. Sometime after the engagement opened, I observed groups of mounted Indians riding in from that direction, and concluded then, and am yet of the opinion that those to our front were considerably re-inforced by young warriors from the agency. Under this belief and to prevent any surprise from our left rear, I suggested to Capt. Ilsley the posting of a picket on a knob of a high hill a few yards in rear of the left flank of the 2nd Battalion, and he sent Lieut. Sickel there with a detachment of troop E. Shortly after this you will remember that you came down along our skirmish line accompanied by Lieut. McCormick, and I invited your attention to this picket, and also said to you that I thought “it was all over in that quarter, as I had not seen an effective shot fired in the last half hour”. No shots had been received from our right, right front from across the creek, or right rear, and all that I had witnessed thus far had come either from another ridge to the north of our left flank or from the brush in the bottoms of the creek about opposite our center. I arrived at the conclusion which seemed logical, viz:- that there had been a mistake made regarding the reported cannonading of the morning, and that we were simply being opposed by Two Strikes, Little Wound and Red Cloud’s bands, somewhat re-inforced as before stated, and that it was the interposition of the warriors of these bands to prevent our further approach down the valley upon their encampment and their women and children. I remember that you and Capt. Ilsley, Adjutant McCormick and I discussed this matter for some moments, while standing near the Hotchkiss gun before referred to, and that you then and there gave the order to Adjt. McCormick to withdraw the 1st Battalion, at the same time directing Capt. Ilsley to hold his position and cover the first until it had retired, and then quietly retire to a position to be selected later. This was done and the led horses of the 2nd Battalion were sent back through the ravine, following the wagon road by which we had marched up to a position in rear of that taken by the 1st Battalion, and on the north side of White Clay creek, near the crossing before referred to.
It seems now that the retirement of the 1st Battalion encouraged the Indians in the belief of their strength, and caused them as the 2nd was about to retire, to make quite a vigorous attack upon its left flank. Just as I mounted my horse to retire with the line, I found myself quite fully exposed to the fire of, as I judged, about a dozen Indians on the hills to our left and front, and by one of these shots, Private Clette [sic: Franceschetti] of troop G was killed about ten feet from me.  Several comrades were near him attending him, and one of them handed me his carbine. I could perhaps have brought the body off on my horse without being hit, if I had thought of it, and should certainly have tried it if I had realized then that otherwise it would be abandoned, but I regret to say it did not occur to me to do so. He was dead before I left, and in riding down through the ravine, I was exposed to an enfilading fire to which the dismounted command was not, and it is somewhat doubtful if I could have gone slowly through there encumbered with this dead body. However I have never forgiven myself for not making the effort, nor shall I ask you to do so.
The 2nd Battalion retired quietly and in good order, repelling the attack as it came, and taking up its second position on the outer edge of the plateau overlooking the creek bottom, and on the right of the 1st Battalion. A short time after taking this position, I looked for the led horses of our Battalion, and seeing that they were in rear of our line and yet north of the creek, I rode down to see if the creek could be easily crossed between the regular crossing near the old and partly dilapidated bridge not safe to use. I found that it had cut banks on either side from five to seven feet high all along between the bridge and the bluff which it washed, and that the only practicable crossing was at the ford below the bridge, where we had with some crowding, been able to cross in sets of fours on our way up, and the water frozen over and of uncertain depth. I therefore reported this fact to you as I chanced to meet you before seeing Capt. Ilsley, but you told me then, as I recollect, not to sent the horses over yet. A few moments later however, we observed that they had crossed over, and the column was proceeding farther to the rear than necessary, and rather more rapidly, and you directed me to bring them back and put them in their proper position, but on the south side of the creek. This I proceeded to do as promptly as I could, but I was riding the same horse that I had ridden from early morning till late at night of the day before, and he seemed to move as if he was nearly exhausted. I spurred him vigorously and overtook the column of led horses, at a distance, I should judge, of about one mile; in the meantime meeting Major Henry’s command just before I overtook the led horses. I remember that the head of his column was announced and I saw it approaching before I left the line. In riding over this ground I encountered no Indians, nor saw or heard any signs of them on the east side of the creek. Had there been any there, it seems to me it would have been natural for them to fire upon the led horses and their holders or at me. I do not believe there was an Indian in that locality, no matter what fantastic theories may be, or may have been indulged in by critics who were not there at all.
I would state that when I overtook the column of led horses, I had no trouble in countermarching them, as soon as I could make my orders understood, and that in returning, I moved back at a trot, my orders promptly and cheerfully obeyed by the men. A sergeant was with them whose name I am not now able to recall, but who gave the orders, if any one, to retire to that distance, I have never known.
To assert that the command was surrounded by Indians, as I understand has been done, would be, it seems to me, to assert the falsity of my preceding statements, but my statements are not based on theories, but facts as I witnessed them, and I will venture to say, would be supported under oath by those who were witnesses to the facts referred to.
Between the first position and the second, I rode three times (thro’ the ravine) between the time the order was given to retire, and with the exception of the enfilading shots that were fired from the left front of the first position, no obstacle was interposed.
I would state further that I have read your statement of this days [sic] operations, and regard it as clear and correct, and moreover, I saw and observed carefully, a map said to have been produced by Col. Heyl, Inspector General, and found it to be grossly incorrect in my opinion, and almost criminally defective, in failing to show accurately all of our positions, of showing ground to be occupied by Indians which were never so occupied, and details evidently obtained by ex-parte statements what did not exist in fact.
Furthermore, in closing, I would say that while I have not now, and never have had any desire to detract from the good record of the Battalion of the 9th Cavalry, which came so promptly to our support when ordered to do so, must add that I saw them file off to the right and left of our second position, taking possession of the high ridges, yet I did not see them dismount, or hear or see them fire a shot.
I would state further, that when the command was first ordered to retire, I had no idea whatever that we had been forced to do so, or that there would occur thereby any danger of a disaster. I regarded the reconnaissance as terminated, and the withdrawal as wholly justified by the desire not to prolong a useless, or bring on a general engagement with the Indians in front of us, and perhaps thereby bring out to the fight those who were yet encamped near the agency, viz: several thousand friendly Ogallalas.

I am General, respectfully,
{signed} W. W. Robinson, Jr.
Capt. & Asst. Quartermaster, U. S. Army.[7]

Born on 2 April 1846 at Amherst, Ohio, William Wallace Robinson, Jr., was the third of five children of William Wallace and Sarah Jane (Fisk) Robinson. She was the daughter of Daniel and Sarah (Bowen) Fisk, and he the son of John and Rebecca (Merritt) Robinson.  Together William and Sarah had five children, three that survived to adulthood: Edward Lorenzo, who died at the age of eight in 1851; Leonora Calista, born in 1844 and later married to Brevet Brigadier General Hollon Richardson; William Wallace, the subject of this post; Herbert Fisk, born in 1857; and Inez Euseba, who died in 1864 three weeks shy of her fourth birthday.[8]

The senior William W. Robinson, educated at Norwich University Military College, was serving as a professor and co-founder of the Cleveland High School and Academy at the time of his name sake’s birth. Shortly thereafter the elder William enlisted in the Ohio volunteers when President Polk and Congress declared war with Mexico in May 1846.  He was following in the footsteps of his father, John Robinson, who had served as a lieutenant during the War of 1812, had fought at Sackets Harbor and Plattsburg, and had been severely wounded at Stone Mill.  William Robinson was quickly elected an officer in company G, Third Ohio Volunteers, and served as the unit’s captain through the campaigns of Matamoras, Carmargo, Monterey and Buena Vista.  After the war, William returned to life as a civilian and relocated the family variously to California, Minnesota, and ultimately settled in Sparta, Wisconsin.  At the onset of the Civil War the elder Robinson was appointed the lieutenant colonel of the 7th Wisconsin Infantry, and went on to command the regiment and later the Iron Brigade with distinction.  He led his regiment at Ganesville, where he was wounded, and at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, and commanded the brigade at Gettysburg and periodically during General Grant’s Overland Campaign including battles at the Wilderness, Spottsylvania and Cold Harbor. Wallace resigned in July, 1864, due to weariness and the effects of his earlier wounds. Later in civil life he served as the U.S. Consul to Madagascar under the Grant administration.[9]

Cadet William W. Robinson, Jr., at West Point circa 1868.[10]

Declining a brevet promotion to brigadier general, the elder Robinson instead was able to secure an appointment for his son to the United States Military Academy.  The younger Robinson entered West Point in July 1864, but left six months later so as to see action before the end of the Civil War.  Eager to follow in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, eighteen-year-old William Robinson enlisted, with his parents permission, in his father’s old 7th Wisconsin Regiment in March 1865 and saw action as a private in Company E at Gravelly Run, White Oak Road, Five Forks and Appomattox.  The younger Robinson mustered out of the volunteers in July 1865 in time to return to West Point that same summer.  Graduating thirty-second of thirty-nine from the class of 1869, Robinson was commissioned a second lieutenant in the 3rd Cavalry.[11]

Heading west to join his regiment, Robinson saw duty against Apache Indians from posts like Fort Seldon, New Mexico, and Camps Goodwin and Grant in the Arizona Territory. Writing in September 1871 to the Indian Commissioner, Second Lieutenant Robinson provided his opinion of the Aravapa Apaches that had been involved in a recent outbreak near Camp Grant.  “The general reputation for honesty of the Apache tribe is poor; but these people, as I have before stated, gave no cause of complaint until their final outbreak, the causes of which it would, perhaps, be well to consider before condemning all.” Robinson went on to write, “I do not consider the statements of a few citizens that some of these Indians had committed depredations a sufficient proof to warrant the indiscriminate murder of a whole band….”  Some critics of Wounded Knee might consider the young lieutenant’s words an ironic foreshadowing of the actions of the 7th Cavalry two decades later.[12]

Robinson’s service with the 3rd Cavalry saw him posted to Wyoming, the Dakotas and Nebraska at Forts Russell and McPherson and Camps Robinson and Collins. He was involved in excursions against Ute and Sioux Indians during this time and was in the field in the summer of 1876 with General Crook’s Rosebud campaign before being transferred to the 7th Cavalry and promoted to first lieutenant that August when he joined his new regiment at Bismarck.  He was active in campaigning with the 7th Cavalry in the Dakota territories for the next eleven years taking station at Forts Lincoln, Abercrombie, Totten, Bufford, and Meade before the regiment located to Fort Riley, Kansas, in 1887.[13]

While serving with the 7th Cavalry in the Dakota territories, Robinson served as the Regiment’s Quartermaster from 1883 to 1887, a position that provided him the equivalent pay of a captain, and would form the bases for the later half of his military career. Five months after Wounded Knee, Robinson requested and received an appointment to Captain and Assistant Quartermaster, which took him out of the regimental army and placed him under the Quartermaster Bureau where he served for the next two decades. In this capacity, he served at various posts across the country from Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, to Fort Sam Houston, Texas, from Denver, Colorado, to Buffalo, New York, and from the Presidio at San Francisco, California, to Fort Lawton near Seattle, Washington.[14]

Colonel William W. Robinson, Jr., U.S. Army Quartermaster Department.

Colonel William W. Robinson, Jr., U.S. Army Quartermaster Department.

From the west coast Robinson oversaw the U.S. Army Transport Service from 1896 to 1901, providing the movement of cargo during the Spanish-American War.  Despite his requests to be sent to the front during the war, his position in Seattle overseeing transport to Alaska and the Philippines was too crucial to afford his reassignment.  Promoted to Major in 1900, Robinson was next assigned to Honolulu, Hawaii, until finally being sent to the Philippines in 1902, where he served the campaigning army supplying almost two hundred military outposts.  Robinson returned to the United States in 1904 when he was promoted to lieutenant colonel and served as the Chief Quartermaster for the Department of Dakota and later the Department of the Great Lakes.  His final active duty promotion came February 1910, at which rank he served for two months as Assistant Quartermaster General before retiring in April at the age of 64.[15]

In 1904, Congress authorized the President to promote all retiring Civil War veterans to the next highest rank from which they last served on active duty.  Because of his service as a private in company E, 7th Wisconsin Infantry, at the close of that war, Robinson was promoted to brigadier general on the day of his retirement.[16]

Within two months of graduation from the academy, Robinson married his Sparta hometown sweetheart, Miss Ella Lucina Winsor, the twenty-one-year-old step-daughter of Henry M. Harrington.  Bearing the hardships of an army wife in the frontier, she bore him three children: Ella Nora, born in 1873 at Fort Laramie, Wyoming territory; Edward Winsor, born in 1875 at Sparta, Wisconsin; and Mae Josephine, born in 1880, also at Sparta.  Through Robinson’s many assignments across the west, Ella remained in Sparta more often than not, and the marriage did not last.  William and Ella divorced sometime during the 1880s.  The 1900 census records Ella Robinson living with her two daughters.  The son, Edward, a child-veteran of the battles of Wounded Knee and Drexel Mission, was at that time serving as a captain in the Philippines in the U.S. Volunteers’ 35th Infantry Regiment.[17]

William Robinson married in August 1887 Miss Minnie Lane TenEyck, the thirty-seven-year-old daughter of Brevet Major Tendor and Martha (Hascall) TenEyck.  William and Minnie spent the remainder of their lives together residing at their retirement home in Seattle.  They had no children.[18]

News article from the 28 October El Paso Herald detailing the funeral cortege of Captain Edward W. Robinson.

News article from the 28 October El Paso Herald detailing the funeral cortege of Captain Edward W. Robinson.

In 1912, the retired general received the devastating news that his son, Captain Edward W. Robinson of the 13th U.S. Cavalry Regiment, and the fourth generation of Robinson men to serve his country in uniform, died of a ruptured appendix while on duty at Fort Bliss, Texas.  His body was returned by train to his father in Seattle with all the pomp and circumstance that only a military cortege can provide.  In addition to his parents and sisters, Edward was survived by his widow, Mrs. Elizabeth Crowell Robinson, ten-year-old daughter Catherine May, and seven-year-old son Edward Gordon.[19]

Ella Winsor Robinson, William’s first wife, died in 1916 in her hometown of Sparta having never remarried.  Their eldest daughter, Ella Nora or “Nellie” had a son, Roland, out of wed-lock, and by 1910 was an inmate in the Monroe County Insane Asylum in Sparta.  Her son died in 1923 and she in 1959.  The Robinson’s youngest daughter, Mae Josephine, married Jason P. Williams, and lived for decades in Juneau, Alaska, where he worked for the U.S. Forestry service.  They had two sons, Donald and Dean Williams.  Mae’s husband died in 1954 and she in 1966.[20]

Headstone of Brigadier General William Wallace Robinson, Jr., and his wife, Minnie Lane Ten Eyck, at Arlington National Cemetery.[22]

With the coming of America’s entry into the Great War in 1917, at the age of seventy, the retired general returned to Washington, D. C., to offer his services to the War Department; while there he fell ill.  Brigadier General, retired, William Wallace Robinson, Jr., died in Walter Reed Army Hospital on 24 March 1917 and was buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery three days later.  His second wife, Minie TenEyck Robinson joined him in death six years later and was buried by his side.[21]

[1] General Forsyth’s Diary, 4.
[2] Jacob F. Kent and Frank D. Baldwin, “Report of Investigation into the Battle at Wounded Knee Creek, South Dakota, Fought December 29th 1890,” in Reports and Correspondence Related to the Army Investigations of the Battle at Wounded Knee and to the Sioux Campaign of 1890–1891, the National Archives Microfilm Publications (Washington: The National Archives and Records Service, General Services Administration, 1975), Roll 1, Target 3, Jan. 1891, 692-695.
[3] J. G. Warren, Salt Lake Herald, “Capt. Allyn Capron,” (Salt Lake City: January 19, 1891), 2.
[4] Allyn Capron, in letter dated 23 Dec 1891 quoted in The Sparta Herald, “Sparta Boy’s Promotion,” (Sparta, Wis.: March 20, 1899), 2.
[5] NARA, Army Investigations of the Battle at Wounded Knee, 1792; Adjutant General’s Officer, “7th Cavalry, Troop D, Jan. 1885 – Dec. 1897,” Muster Rolls of Regular Army Organizations, 1784 –  Oct. 31, 1912, Record Group 94, (Washington: National Archives Record Administration); George W. Collum, Biographical Register of the Officers and Graduates of the United States Military Academy at West Point, N. Y., vol. 3, (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1891), 140.
[6] James W. Forsyth, James W. Forsyth Papers, 1865-1932, Series I. Correspondence, Box 1, Folder 1 – Box 2, Folder 49, The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Libraray, Yale University Library.
[7] William W. Robinson, Jr., to Brigadier General James W. Forsyth dated 1 March 1896, James W. Forsyth Papers, 1865-1932, Series I. Correspondence, Box 1, Folder 1 – Box 2, Folder 49, The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Libraray, Yale University Library.
[8] Frederick Clifton Pierce, “Fiske and Fisk Family: Being the Record of the Descendants of Symond Fiske, Lord of the Manor of Stadhaugh, Suffolk County, England, from the time of Henvy IV. to Date, including all the American Members of the Family.” (Chicago: Press of W. E. Conkey Company, 1896), 427-428.
[9] H. O. Brown and M. A. W. Brown, Soldiers and citizens’ album of biographical record [of Wisconsin] containing personal sketches of army men and citizens prominent in loyalty to the Union. Also a chronological and statistical history of the civil war and a history of the Grand Army of the Republic; with portraits of soldiers and prominent citizens. (Chicago: Grand Army Publishing Company, 1890), 553-556.
[10] Paul Johnson, “Gen. William W. Robinson, Jr.,” Johnson Family War Veterans ( accessed 23 Sep 2014.
[11] United States Military Academy Association of Graduates, Forty-eighth Annual Report of the Association of Graduates at West Point, New York, June 12th, 1917 (Saginaw, Mich.: Seamann & Peters, Inc., Printers and Binders, 1917), 111.
[12] Ibid.; W. W. Robinson, Jr., letter dated 10 Sep 1871, as recorded in the Board of Indian Commissioner’s Peace with Apaches of New Mexico and Arizona, Report of Vincent Colyer, ( accessed 23 Sep 2014.
[13] USMA AOG, Forty-eighth Annual Report, 112.
[14] Ibid., 112-113.
[15] Ibid., 113-114.
[16] Ibid.
[17] Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services, Wisconsin Vital Record Index, pre-1907, Madison, WI, USA: Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services Vital Records Division, vol. 2, page 9;, United States Federal Census [database on-line], Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2009, Year: 1860, Census Place: Sparta, Monroe, Wisconsin, Roll: M653_1424, Page: 171, Image: 177, Family History Library Film: 805424; Year: 1870, Census Place: Sparta, Monroe, Wisconsin, Roll: M593_1729, Page: 170A, Image: 343, Family History Library Film: 553228; Year: 1880, Census Place: Sparta, Monroe, Wisconsin, Roll: 1439, Family History Film: 1255439, Page: 78B, Enumeration District: 028; Year: 1900, Census Place: Sparta, Monroe, Wisconsin, Roll: 1808, Page: 8B, Enumeration District: 0108, FHL microfilm: 1241808; ; Jerome A. Watrous, The Minneapolis Journal, “Soldiers Thru Three Generations,” (Minneapolis: October 31, 1903), 11.
[18], United States Federal Census [database on-line], Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2009, Year: 1880, Census Place: Chicago, Cook, Illinois, Roll: 185, Family History Film: 1254185, Page: 461B, Enumeration District: 017, Image: 0317; Year: 1900, Census Place: Seattle Ward 8, King, Washington, Roll: 1745, Page: 8A, Enumeration District: 0115, FHL microfilm: 1241745; Year: 1910, Census Place: Chicago Ward 7, Cook, Illinois, Roll: T624_247, Page: 3A, Enumeration District: 0398, FHL microfilm: 1374260.
[19] El Paso Herald, “Capt. Robinson Dies at the Post,” 25 Oct 1912; El Paso Herald, “Son of Gen. W. W. Robinson Dies,” 26 Oct 1912; El Paso Herald, “Shriner Parade Waits Upon Funeral Cortege,” 28 Oct 1912.
[20], United States Federal Census [database on-line], Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2009, Year: 1910, Census Place: Sparta, Monroe, Wisconsin, Roll: T624_1729, Page: 2A, Enumeration District: 0142, FHL microfilm: 1375742; Year: 1930, Census Place: Juneau, First Judicial District, Alaska Territory, Roll: 2626, Page: 13B, Enumeration District: 0020, Image: 652.0, FHL microfilm: 2342360;, Washington, Deaths, 1883-1960 [database on-line], Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2008;, Wisconsin Death Index, 1959-1997 [database on-line], Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2007;, Oregon, Death Index, 1898-2008 [database on-line], Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2000, Oregon State Library, Oregon Death Index 1931-1941, Reel Title: Oregon Death Index L-Z, Year Range: 1951-1960, certificates 481 and 5299.
[21] Interment Control Forms, 1928–1962, Interment Control Forms, A1 2110-B, Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, 1774–1985, Record Group 92, The National Archives at College Park, College Park, Maryland; The Washington Post, “To Have Military Burial,” 26 Mar 1917.
[22] Paul Johnson, “Gen. William W. Robinson, Jr.,” Johnson Family War Veterans ( accessed 24 Sep 2014.

Citation for this article: Samuel L. Russell, “First Lieutenant William Wallace Robinson, Jr, Acting Adjutant, 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry,” Army at Wounded Knee (Sumter, SC: Russell Martial Research, 2013-2015,, posted 10 Oct 2014, accessed date __________.

About Sam Russell

I am a fifth-generation retired Army officer with twenty-nine years of commissioned service. I have been researching the frontier Army for over eighteen years and am interested in documenting the lives of the soldiers that participated in the battle of Wounded Knee using primarily official reports, diaries, letters, newspaper articles and other primary source documents. My interest in Wounded Knee stems from my kinship to one of the principal participants. I am the great-great-grandson of Samuel M. Whitside, who was a major and battalion commander at the battle. I welcome and encourage comments on posts and pages and am always interested in any new primary sources. If you have copies of letters, diaries, etc, from participants and are willing to share, please contact me. Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog are strictly my own, and should in no way be construed as official Army or U.S. Government positons.
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4 Responses to First Lieutenant William Wallace Robinson, Jr, Adjutant, 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry

  1. Sam Russell says:

    In reviewing some of my primary source documents that I have on microfilm from the Forsyth Papers held at the Beinecke Rare Book Room at Yale, I re-discovered a letter written by W. W. Robinson, Jr. to Brig. Gen. Forsyth in March of 1896. At that time, Forsyth was undertaking to set the 7th Cavalry Regiment’s record straight concerning the fight along White Clay Creek, commonly referred to the Drexel Mission fight or just the Mission fight. Forsyth, through his aide-de-camp, Lieut. J. Franklin Bell, queried the officers present at the Mission fight for their version of events. Robinson responded with a seven page typed letter. I have updated Robinson’s post with that letter.


  2. Pingback: The Immortal 17: Civil War Veterans on the Active Army List in 1909, Part 1 | Emerging Civil War

  3. Thomas Taylor says:

    I am a descendant of the Robinson family, one of the great-grandsons of Captain Edward Winsor Robinson. I am honored to have inherited a number of documents relating to his service in the U.S. Cavalry. My family has some of the photographs of my great-great and great-great-great grandfathers shown in these archives. I’m happy to share if there is interest.

    Liked by 1 person

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