History & Tourism

Richland Roots: Introducing Mansfielder General James S. Robinson

13 Jan , 2019  

Throughout its history, Richland County has produced or been the home to a wide variety of individuals that have made important contributions to the world. 1812Blockhouse has been sharing their stories in a series we started last year called “Richland Roots.” For other Richland Roots stories, click here.

Richland County has produced leaders in business, the arts, the military, education, politics, and civic life over its 200-plus years. Occasionally, that includes someone whose life story includes noteworthy activity in several of those areas. Such is the case with native Richland Countian James Sidney Robinson.

Robinson was born near Mansfield on October 14, 1827, the son of Francis and Jane Dickens Robinson, both of whom are buried in Zeiter Cemetery on Sheets Drive just north of Mansfield Lahm Airport. As a young man, James learned the printing trade while working for the Richland Bugle and Mansfield Jeffersonian, and on reaching adulthood moved to Kenton where he edited and published the Kenton Republican.

It was during this period that Robinson began what was to become a career-long stint in politics, serving as Chief Clerk of the Ohio House of Representatives in 1856 and as Secretary of Ohio’s first-ever Republican Convention. It was during his tenure in his state office that the Ohio Statehouse opened to the public on January 7, 1857.

General James Sidney Robinson

Like many early civic and political leaders, Robinson heeded President Lincoln’s call for volunteers to fight with the Union Army; he enlisted in the Fourth Ohio Infantry in April 1861 and rapidly began to advance in rank. By October, he had achieved the rank of Major, and by April of the following year he became a Lieutenant Colonel. Battles during this period in which he was involved included the Second Battle of Bull Run and Chancellorsville.

It was at the infamous Battle of Gettyburg that Robinson received an injury which, by some accounts, resulted in his death almost 30 years later. Leading his troops into town on the first day of the three-day battle, he was severely wounded in his chest.

After recovery, Robinson returned to service and was a part of the famous “Sherman’s March to the Sea.” He was commissioned as Brigadier General of Volunteers shortly before the end of the war; a year or so later, he was appointed to the position of Brevet Major General.

At this point, Robinson’s political career resumed. After service on the Republican State Executive Committee of Ohio, he was appointed as Commissioner of Railroads and Telegraphs in 1880. In 1881, he was elected to the 47th and 48th United State Congress, and then served as Ohio Secretary of State from 1885 to 1889.

General James S. Robinson died in Kenton on January 14, 1892 and is buried there. The attending physician’s affidavit stated as follows: “Immediate cause of death was heart disease or heart failure, the result of wounds received at the Battle of Gettysburg.”

Sources: Wikipedia, Find-A-Grave

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