Artifact of the Month

John Henry Robinson's Saddlebag
Donated by John P. Robinson

Union Infantry Saddlebag

According to family tradition, this saddlebag belonged to John Henry Robinson (b. 1838) of Madison County. Only one side of the saddlebag remains, as half of it was cut up and used to repair shoes. Family lore says that the saddlebag was used by Robinson during his time as a Union soldier in the Civil War. However, the good folks at Border State Leatherworks, who are experts in historic military leather goods, provided us with the following information:

"This is a 1904 saddlebag. In 1902 the cavalry started using brown leather instead of black. The shape and size is similar to the 1885 bag with a few differences. The color, the size, and the three straps indicate the 1904 model. The Civil War era Union saddle bag is nothing like this saddlebag. The Civil War saddle bag is much smaller and has a pouch inside for a horseshoe. The Civil War bags would have black iron hardware, not brass."

While the facts associated with this saddlebag and the family tradition are at odds, we do know that in October 1863, John Henry Robinson joined Co. B, First Regiment, Arkansas Infantry (Union), in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Pvt. Robinson's enlistment papers show that the 25-year-old had blue eyes, black hair, a dark complexion, and stood 5'8" tall. He gave his occupation as "farmer."

During Robinson's tour of duty, the First Arkansas Infantry was involved in the following military actions in Arkansas:

1863
Nov. 13. Mt. Ida
December 2-7. Scout from Waldron to Mt. Ida, Caddo Gap and Dallas

1864
March 23- May 3. Steele's Expedition to Camden
April 9-13. Prairie D'Ann
April 13. Moscow
April 15-18. Camden
April 30. Jenkins' Ferry, Saline River
May 1-16. March to Fort Smith
Garrison duty at Fort Smith and escort and duty on the Frontier till August, 1865
November 2. Skirmish, Bates Township
November 15. Newton County

(In March and April 1865, Robinson was listed as "absent, sick in hospital." In May and June, he was in the convalescent camp at Fort Smith. In July and August, he returned to duty as the company cook.)

1865
August 10. Mustered out

After the war, John Henry Robinson returned to Madison County to farm and raise a family with his wife, Sarah Catherine Carter Robinson. He died in 1900, and is buried in the Aurora Cemetery.

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