To honor those who fought on the battlefields during the War between the States on this 150th anniversary of the battles of Gettysburg and Vicksburg, I share with you a story of one branch of my family brought forth by a gift I received. For Liberty! Deo Vindice
I received an old pocket size New Testament bible that was given to my great grand uncle, Samuel Hollingsworth Robins while he served the Confederacy in the War Between the States. This bible was purchased at a swap meet back in 1981 as it had long been lost from my family’s ownership. The gentleman who purchased the bible only sought out to give this Civil War era ephemera as a gift to his son who was a Civil War buff. The bible was tattered and missing its cover. The pages were stained and worn from years of use and neglect. This bible had a page of a still visible inscription, that proudly showed the owner of this bible to be:
Samuel H. Robins
Phillip’s Ga. Legion
Longstreets 1st Army
A N Virginia.
Outside of this inscription, this bible was nothing other than an old beat up bible. With the inscription and my earlier knowledge of Samuels’ history, this bible was priceless. The gift of this bible allowed me to hold onto a piece of my family’s history that saw many facets of life including the ugliness of war. This gift has inspired me to build what I had gathered on Samuel and his life, but I never took the time to piece it all together, until now.
Samuel was the first born son of William Albert Robins and Mary’Polly” Robins (nee Allred). He was born on a farm near Dalton, Georgia which was home to his Robins and related families since before the American Revolution. Sam was one of six known children to survive to adulthood. His father William was a veteran of the Florida Wars and had lived closely with the Cherokee. He would pass through their lands to Tennessee with an Indian passport on his person guaranteeing his parties safe passage to visit with his Uncle’s who had found there way west via the Tennessee River.
Samuel’s family farm was not far from Hollingsworth Fort which was built by Sam’s grandfather, Jacob Hollingsworth in 1793 to protect his family from Indian attacks (what’s left of the fort stands today as a historical site). The nearby region where Samuel grew up had been settled by his relatives and was now his personal playground. The fertile clay soil that blanketed their farm was as much a part of Samuel as was his upbringing in the Methodist faith. I’m sure it was quite difficult for Sam and his siblings to miss a single Sunday service. Their father was a farmer and businessman in the local timber industry, and a lay minister with the local church. It was written by Samuel’s sister , Mary Louisa Robins (a frequent writer with the Atlanta Constitution), that their father, William Albert, died peacefully while reading his bible to one of his grandkids when he was “taken home” to Jesus in May of 1874.
The Civil War was the first time that many young men would find themselves more than a few miles from home; especially the men who served the South. I could not imagine what went through the minds of the men during the conflict as the battles were waged and the massive loss of life took its toll on their psyche. I can only hope that Sam’s bible gave him comfort and allowed himself to find guidance in his spiritual growth as the world around him and his compatriots was full of uncertainties and death. Samuel and his brothers managed to survive the war unscathed fighting with the Northern Virginia Army in the battles of Second Manassas, Boonsboro, Sharpsburg, Fredericksburg, Chancellorville, Brick Church, Gettysburg, Chickmauga, Knoxville and the Wilderness. At the Wilderness Samuel’s luck ran out. He was gunshot in the left knee and spent the next seven months recuperating. I would have to believe that his New Testament bible was close to his heart as he lay recuperating in a field hospital not knowing if his wound would become infected or if he would be able to walk normal again.
Samuel returned home and embarked in the timber business in Tilton, Georgia. While back at home Samuel finished his education and then married Mary Osborn, a native Tennessean on October 21, 1866 in Tilton, Georgia. Their marriage produced six children; two of which, Arthur and Ettie who survived to adulthood; Edgar, Olin, Lula and Ella died in their childhood from various childhood and water-born illnesses. Losing a child is probably the most emotionally painful event that a grieving parent will go through. Seeing the condition of Samuels’s bible as it is now, all worn and tattered, gives me hope that his bible was once again used as a source of comfort to his aching soul.
In 1872, Samuel and his young family emigrated to North Western Arkansas and settled in Johnson County not far from his brother William’s family. Sam taught school and managed his 123 acres of land, 50 of which that was cultivated. He built his own home with the assistance of his carpenter brother William; he had 3 acres of orchard and four acres of fine meadows. He seemed to finally have found a new start away from the scars of war that had impacted his family’s home in Georgia. Mary and Sam became earnest members of the Methodist Episcopal Church South and raised his children in that faith. I can imagine him sharing his little New Testament bible with his children, reading and teaching his children the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I don’t know much more about Sam’s next 20 or so years. I do know that he moved to Claremore Oklahoma about the time that his younger brother, William had moved to Ft. Smith Arkansas in about 1905. It seemed that the Robins family was attracted to the riches of the Oklahoma Territory that had been opened to settlement. Sam became a Justice of the Peace and held unto that job until his death at 80 years of age. He applied for a Confederate Veterans pension in 1918. On his pension application he clearly wrote that he “enlisted to shoot and shoot until the job was done”. The application did help resolve some confusion over him and his dead brother Henry Robins. It also showed me what kind of man he was and gave me a glimpse of this 77 year old man’s life.
Samuel and Mary stayed in Claremore until their deaths in 1921 and 1926 respectably. Their son Arthur, and daughter Ettie, both married and produced children that this author has not found to have survived to adulthood. It seems that Samuel’s twig of the Robins family tree had stopped growing.
Since I have been researching my Robins kin, I found this quote describing my Robins family members in a local Arkansas publication printed in the late 1870’s. It imparted: The Robins are of English-Norman and Irish blood, fearless and frank in speaking what they believe to be the truth and zealous in any undertaking. No matter their employment, they love the farm and a book… their religious creed is equally divided between the Methodist and Baptist faith. They will not sacrifice principle for friendship or popularity. From what I have learned about my Robins kin, I would have to say that quote was incredibly accurate. With what I know about myself, it is without a doubt that I have this blood in my veins.
So it is my humble opinion that it was a fitting new page for the adventure of Samuel’s bible to somehow find its way back to the bloodline that had held onto it for more than 100 years. Sam’s bible most likely was passed onto either his son or daughter after their parents deaths. Then after they had passed away, this bible, worn, torn and tattered; missing its cover and yellowed with age ended up at a flea market in northeast Texas. It’s only value was its living proof of civil war history. So a caring buyer saved this bible as a unique gift for his son through his purchase. The receiver of that gift, Sam’s bible, kept the bible with his other War Between the States collectables until late last November, when he felt the need to repatriate the bible to the survivors of the bible’s inscribed owner’s family. That’s how I came to be holding Samuel’s bible.
I’m sure there is so much more that this bible can share with us that I will never know. It is what I do know and have learned about the bible’s original owner that makes this bible and gift that will keep Samuel’s history alive for generations to come.