Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Memoir Sheds Light on Loyal Union Man

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Memoir Sheds Light on Loyal Union Man

Article excerpt

Byline: Charlie Patton, Times-Union columnist

As a child, Ann Clancy would look at the portrait of her great-grandfather, Calvin L. Robinson, and wonder why he "looked so sad."

Eventually she found her answer in a handwritten memoir that had been passed through several generations of Robinson's descendants. As she explained recently during a small ceremony at the Jacksonville University Library, to which she has donated Robinson's papers, he was a "Yankee in a Confederate town." That, in fact, will be the title of a book by Clancy that will be published next year by Sarasota's Pineapple Press.

Part of Robinson's memoirs was already housed at JU in a transcribed manuscript that was donated to the Jacksonville Historical Society by the late Judge Harold Clark, who was another of Robinson's great-grandchildren.

Robinson, born June 3, 1828, in Vermont, moved his wife and two young sons south to Jacksonville in 1857 because of health problems. The former teacher and engineer soon prospered as a merchant, acquiring land, a sawmill, a warehouse that backed up to the St. Johns River and two brick general stores along Bay Street.

But, while many of his neighbors favored secession, Robinson remained passionately loyal to what he called "the Old Flag." The situation for a Union man began to rapidly deteriorate after Florida seceded from the Union in January 1862. A quasi-militia group called the Vigilant Committee began threatening suspected Northern sympathizers, in some cases extorting payments.

Robinson, who had estimated his holdings at more than $70,000 before the war, took to stuffing greenback dollars into wine bottles. He buried about a dozen, filled with about $12,000, beneath a transplanted apple tree.

In March 1862, Union gunboats captured Fernandina Beach and Confederate troops pulled back toward Lake City, as did most of the city's residents. …

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