Item #7177 Memorandum Book… E. Whittier Robbins 1st Lieut. 33rd U.S.C. Troops May 3rd 1864… Capt. Co. “E” 33rd U.S.C.T. [manuscript title]. Enoch W. Robbins.
Memorandum Book… E. Whittier Robbins 1st Lieut. 33rd U.S.C. Troops May 3rd 1864… Capt. Co. “E” 33rd U.S.C.T. [manuscript title].
Memorandum Book… E. Whittier Robbins 1st Lieut. 33rd U.S.C. Troops May 3rd 1864… Capt. Co. “E” 33rd U.S.C.T. [manuscript title].
Memorandum Book… E. Whittier Robbins 1st Lieut. 33rd U.S.C. Troops May 3rd 1864… Capt. Co. “E” 33rd U.S.C.T. [manuscript title].

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Memorandum Book… E. Whittier Robbins 1st Lieut. 33rd U.S.C. Troops May 3rd 1864… Capt. Co. “E” 33rd U.S.C.T. [manuscript title].

South Carolina, Maine, and other locales, 1863–1870. 8vo (8.5” x 7”), original half black leather and patterned black paper over boards. 127 pp. manuscript in ink. CONDITION: Good, leather split along top and bottom third of spine, head and foot of spine chipped, extremities worn; occasional minor staining, no losses to the text.

A rare journal kept by a white officer partly documenting his two years of service with the 33rd U.S. Colored Infantry Regiment with references to the activities of other African American regiments as well.

Born in Maine, Enoch Whittier Robbins (1827–1907) lived in Searsport before being mustered into the Union Army in Sept. 1861. Robbins fought with Company H of the 8th Maine Infantry, taking part in an expedition to Port Royal, South Carolina in Oct. 1861. After reaching South Carolina, the 8th undertook an expedition to Jacksonville, Florida but until 1864 primarily remained in South Carolina. In 1864, Robbins was transferred to the 33rd U.S. Colored Infantry Regiment, ultimately becoming a Captain. The 33rd was reorganized in Feb. 1864 from the 1st South Carolina Infantry, which was established in 1862 and composed of all black soldiers led by white officers. The 33rd/1st consisted of liberated slaves predominately from South Carolina who were freed in 1861 when Port Royal fell to Union forces. (Some 5,000 from South Carolina volunteered to serve in the U.S. Colored Troops.) Between 1862 and 1864, before becoming the 33rd, the 1st undertook expeditions in South Carolina and Florida, freed slaves, and conducted raids along the east coast. Notable figures involved with the 1st/33rd included Harriet Tubman as well as Susie King Taylor (then a 14-year-old runaway slave), both of whom served as nurses. (Taylor later married a soldier of the 1st, and became the only black woman to publish a Civil War memoir). In 1864, the 33rd participated in the Battle of Honey Hill and the capture of a fort on James Island, where they sustained casualties. During its last year of service (from Feb. 1865 to Feb. 1866), the regiment was employed in provost and picket duty. The 33rd was mustered out at Fort Wagner in Feb. 1866.

Consisting mainly of brief entries, with occasional longer notes, Robbins’s journal commences on 5 June 1863 at Port Royal Island, South Carolina. Robbins seems to have taken particular interest in the participation of African Americans in the war. He first mentions them on 19 July 1863: “News of the fight for [Fort] Wagginer [sic] by the 54th Mass. Vols (Colored).” Several months later, on 6 Sept., Robbins writes: “Went as bearer to the burial of Lt. Alden of the 54 Mass. Regt. Colored.” On 1 Jan. 1864, Robbins’s regiment marches “to Beaufort and act[s] as escort for the procession for the celebration of the anniversary of the proclamation of freedom of the colored people of the United States.” In early 1864 Robbins joins the 33rd U.S. Colored Troops, and in April is examined for promotion to 1st Lieut. After over three years of service, he returns home to Searsport, Maine in 1864 to visit his family and friends for a month. He leaves Maine on 8 Nov., returning to South Carolina. On 4 Nov. 1865, he becomes a Captain of the 33rd, and on 31 Jan. 1866 his service with the 33rd ends.

Robbins’s entries record company drills and movements; engagement with the enemy; guard duty; attending religious services; executions of deserters; activity on islands off the coast of South Carolina; buying arms; correspondence with his wife, news from other theaters of the war, etc. He records disciplining soldiers (for theft, absence, etc.), including a case of a man who was tied to a tree and had his head shaved. By March 1866, Robbins is back in Searsport, Maine, where he begins to farm. The rest of the journal documents Robbins’s post-war life and ends in June 1870. He was married to Eliza A. Nickerson (1832–1903) of Maine, with whom he had three children.


23–26 Nov. 1863 “Started on an expedition with 65 men Capt. Burgent[?] of the 8th Maine in command, Capt Whitney and Heasley kept concealed on Hall Island all day. At night carried boat across the island to transport men to the mainland. I had command of the reserve. At 5 AM rapid firing went across to the mainland and took off the forces. At 6 AM get them all off. Went with Capt. Heasley and 3 men and brought off 7 men who were concealed in the marsh under the bluff on the enemy’s side. At night went with 10 men on Hall Is. took a boat and went on the enemy’s side looking for a man that was missing from Co. K. Could not find him. At night went with 10 men the same as before. Found Josiah Jensen of Co. K who had been in the water since the morning of the 24 inst. And brought him to camp nearly exhausted. Went with 10 men and brought away the boats used on the expedition.”

15–16 Feb. 1864 “Capt. Thorndike received orders to break camp at daylight tomorrow for an expedition to Florida.”

30 Mar. “Reviewed by Genl. Burney Regiment changed denomination now called 33rd United States Colored Troops.”

19 April “Examined by the board for 1st Lieutenant in 33rd USCTs.”

30 June–2 July “Received marching orders. Men to be furnished with 100 rounds ammunition and 3 days rations…Left camp and marched to Coles Is. returned same night. Left camp and marched to Tiger Island and bivouacked. Took up the line of march across the swamp and bog between Tiger & James Is. where many of our men had great difficulty in crossing, when nearly across was fired upon by rebel pickets who soon retreated a battery of 3 guns was now opened on us. The 53th Mass. (Colored) then charged on the batteries and took it. We then advanced within mile of Fort La Mar and entrenched. Heavy shelling all day. At 8 O'clock retreated 2 miles and entrenched.”

8 July “… Lieut. Child wounded in the arm by buckshot Lieut. Parker of Co. B. wounded in foot by accidental discharge of pistol.”

13–14 July “Went on Coles Is. for Picket for 3 days with Capt. Thibadou[?]. Fired on rebel pickets from the fort. Killed a number.”

26 July “Went to Johns Is[land]. in company with Capt. Whiting, Lt. Selvage and 150 men of the 33rd U.S. C.T.s and tore down buildings for lumber.”

28 July “In camp in the evening the band of the 55 Mass. Vols. (Col’d) serenaded.”

19-20 Dec. “Detailed to command fatigue party of 50 men to throw up entrenchments. Regt. received marching orders at 10 PM, broke camp and marched to Grahams Neck at 3 PM. 300 of my Regt. went to reconnoiter were attacked by the enemy about 3 miles from Pocotaligo and after a sharp skirmish of 20 minutes drove them and returned camp. Lost in killed 2 wounded 6.”

14 Mar. 1865 “At 9 AM Recruits for the Regt. came on board and we got under way for Savannah Ga. went by way of Skull Creek at 5 PM arrived to Savannah and marched outside the town.”

2 Sept. “Administer a large quantity of oaths. Much complaint from freedmen.”

5 Sept. “Made a speech to the negro servants.”

8 Sept. “At 6 AM. A citizen was shot by order of Col. Trowbridge for murder of a soldier.”

4 Nov. “Went to Charleston S.C. and got mustered as Captain of 33rd U.S.C. Troops to date from Nov. 1st assigned to Co. E.”

A rare document of service with an African American unit during the Civil War.

REFERENCES: Bradley, Anders. “The First South Carolina Volunteer Infantry Regiment (1862–1866)” at BlackPast online; “History of the 33rd United States Colored Troops (USCT) 33rd USCT” at Lowcountry Africana online.

Item #7177


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