“If these signatures could talk…”: Aquia Church Graffiti, Part 1a

From Eric Mink:

After the previous post (here) focusing on Confederate graffiti at Aquia Church, a closer look revealed yet another carving. The work of this vandal can also be attributed to a member of the 5th Texas Infantry.

“GJR Co A 5Tex-------“

George Julian Robinson was a rather unique soldier in the 5th Texas. Robinson was in fact a native of Delaware. Born in 1838, young George lived in Georgetown, Delaware with his parents and siblings. According to one source, Robinson spent the 1850s working as an engineer on the Delaware Railroad. The 1860 Census, however, lists his occupation at that time as “Student of Dentistry.” (Photos identified as Robinson can be found here)

Why Robinson chose to support the Confederacy is a bit of mystery. Delaware historian Dr. John A. Munroe, in an undated sketch of Robinson, claims that George and a relative were determined to join the Confederates. They slipped through the front lines and traveled to Virginia’s Eastern Shore in the fall of 1861, eventually making their way to Yorktown. Picked up as northern spies, the two men were sent to Richmond. Through the assistance of friends, they obtained their release.

George enlisted in Company A, 5th Texas Infantry on October 24, 1861 in Richmond. His service records note that he served on special duty as a “guerilla” from November 22 through December 30, 1861, while the regiment camped at Dumfries. On June 27, 1862, George received a slight wound in the Battle of Gaines’ Mill, northeast of Richmond. Promotions came quickly for Robinson, moving up to the rank corporal in August, sergeant during the winter of 1862-1863, and acting sergeant major during September and October 1863.  Except for the slight wound at Gaines’ Mill, Robinson managed to survive untouched the fierce fighting at Second Manassas, Antietam, Gettysburg, Chickamauga, and Knoxville.

Robert Campbell, also a member of Company A, left this account of Robinson’s involvement on the picket line at the Second Battle of Manassas:

“Jule Robinson – one of our company – a brave young Delawarian, and Dempsy Walker, crawled upon their all fours to within 200 yards of the Yankee pickets – and laying down behind little corn hills – began to interfere with ‘our friends’ across the way, to a considerable extent. They could not hold their ‘corn hills’ long, for a few Yanks, more daring than the rest, had climbed trees, and in return, interfered with Messers Robinson and Walker to such an extent, that they were forced to return to the company.” – George Skoch and Mark W. Perkins, eds. Lone Star Confederate: A Gallant and Good Soldier of the Fifth Texas (College Station, Tex.: Texas A&M University Press, 2003) p. 73

Robinson’s luck ran out, however, on May 6, 1864 in the Wilderness of Spotsylvania County, Va. On that day, in the fields of the Widow Tapp, Robinson took a bullet through the mouth, apparently shattering his jaw and nearly severing his tongue. After months in the hospitals of Richmond, Robinson received a discharge from Howard’s Grove General Hospital on December 2, thus ending his military career.

Robinson is supposed to have settled in Texas after the war, before returning home to Delaware in the early 1880s. His death certificate lists his date of death as May 7, 1897 in Georgetown, Sussex County, Delaware. He is buried at St. George’s Chapel, where in 2006 the Sons of Confederate Veterans placed a marker over his grave.

Due to follow, a couple posts will document the Union soldiers who left their names on the walls of Aquia Church.

Eric J. Mink


4 thoughts on ““If these signatures could talk…”: Aquia Church Graffiti, Part 1a

  1. Really good work, Eric! I love the posts on this blog. You and the park historians really bring history to life with these posts. Thanks.

  2. In the late 1970s through late 1980s I worked in the Delaware Historic Preservation Office and with the State museum and knew descendant Rob Robinson and his wife, Battle, through history activities. The story handed down was that the protagonist’s Confederate jacket was, after return from the war, folded and placed in the bottom of an heirloom tall case clock in the ancestral home. It was later discovered, quite moth eaten, and similar to worn flag protocol, was taken to the side yard and and burned. I suggested to the Robinsons a metal detector survey to perhaps locate the buttons, but do not know if that ever occurred.

  3. Eric: Very good article—I have 2 pics of the aforementioned “etchings” at Aquia Church, taken in 2005, with the sun just right. Noel Harrison, your cohort, has seen them and strongly agreed when I suggested I send them to you. Please check your email next week and feel free to post them as adjuncts to your pics.
    Warm regards..!

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