Pathway to Hell: A Tragedy of the Civil War


The Battle of Fredericksburg, 13 December 1862. From an early draft of
Pathway to Hell: A Tragedy of the Civil War:

Charlie Robbins [of the 13th Pennsylvania Reserves, the “Fighting Bucktails”] ran harder than he ever had in his life and tried to spring over one of those ditches. It was too wide, and he thumped hard into the ditch. Stunned and bruised, he looked back and saw the enemy swarming toward him. Running was useless now. He hunkered in the ditch and awaited inevitable capture. Others had beaten him to this exposed hiding place and more leaped in. To his amazement, some of them were Rebels he assumed were trying to desert. Charlie braved another glance over the top of the ditch, and saw Angelo [Crapsey] running toward him. “He was completely done out,” Robbins recalled, “and could not run as the rest did to get away from the rebels.” Miraculously, Robbins escaped capture to report Angelo’s “wounding.” Angelo must have been wounded, Charlie assumed. Angelo would never give up no matter how stacked the odds against him.

But he had. The lad who vowed never to compromise threw up his hands and shouted, “I surrender!” A bullet would have been more merciful. At least then Angelo Crapsey would have died gloriously.


Source: Crapsey, Angelo. Photograph. C. 1863. Digital copy from the Faces of the Pennsylvania Reserves website [http://www.pareserves.com/PRVCGALLERY/details.php?image_id=559]. Original photograph’s whereabouts unknown. 2008.

Angelo M. CRAPSEY was the stepson of my 4th-great-grandmother, Lura Ann (JACKSON) PECK CRAPSEY. He was raised with Viola Gertrude (PECK) ROBBINS, my 3rd-great-grandmother, and served in Company I of the 42nd Pennsylvania Infantry, later the 13th Pennsylvania Reserves with his childhood friend, Charles H. ROBBINS, who would become my 3rd-great-grandfather. Known as the “Fighting Bucktails” because of their reputation as sharpshooters, the 13th Reserves were often attached to other regiments in some of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War, including Gettysburg, Antietam, and Fredericksburg. Angelo was interred in the infamous Libby Prison, and was released before the end of the war. His incarceration horribly affected him, and for the rest of his short life, he engaged in one suicide attempt after another, finally succeeding on 4 August 1864, at the age of 21.

While researching the the intriguing story of Angelo Crapsey, Dennis W. Brandt read the many letters Angelo wrote during his war days, along with educating himself about the 42nd Pennsylvania Infantry/13th Pennsylvania Reserves and the Pennsylvania communities of Roulette, Potter County and Smethport, McKean County. I am indebted to him for his research on the Robbins, Peck, and Jackson families, which he generously shared with me. He is also the author of From Home Guards to Heroes: The 87th Pennsylvania And Its Civil War Community (2006, University of Missouri Press; the Shades of Blue and Gray Series).

Pathway to Hell: A Tragedy of the Civil War has been recently published by Lehigh University Press and is available for pre-order at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

My Sister Calls the Shots!

This weekend, family history was made. My sister, who earned her RN degree in June from Spokane Community College’s Nursing Program, took her state board exams on Friday. Sometime this weekend (I can’t recall exactly when, since my post-surgery pain meds have me acting a tad more loopy than normal!) I called her to find out if she had gotten her results. At that time, she was frustrated because she was having Internet or computer problems and couldn’t access the website where the information was posted. Today I got the e-mail that all her friends and family members have been waiting the past few years to hear: “I passed!”

We couldn’t be prouder of her! She has overcome so many obstacles that life has thrown her way. She attended school full time, worked full time, and single-handedly parented three active little boys. She’s failed, gotten back up, dusted herself off, tried again, and succeeded. I’m blessed to have this woman as my sister and as a role model for my daughter. Congratulations, Kat! I love you!

Sixty-Eight Years Ago Today

Source: “50th Anniversary Sampler of Robert and Jeanne (Holst) Robbins”, created 1990 by Miriam (Robbins) Midkiff. Photographed and privately held by Miriam (Robbins) Midkiff, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Spokane, Washington. 2008.

I created this cross-stitch sampler 18 years ago in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the marriage of my paternal grandparents. My parents attended the celebration, which was held at my grandparents’ church in Polkton Twp., Ottawa Co., Michigan, just outside the town of Coopersville where my grandparents and their children lived for many years. I had taught myself cross-stitch three years earlier, after admiring the work my husband’s sister-in-law did. This particular sampler was difficult to do as some of it required working with gold metallic thread, which broke easily and was flat versus the round cotton threads used in conjunction with it. Clicking on the image above will bring you to my Picasa photo album, where you can zoom in to view the glints the gold threads make.

My grandfather passed away 28 December 2003, after being married 63 years to his “Jeannie with the light brown hair.” My grandmother now lives with my uncle and his wife in Michigan due to her advancing age and Alzheimer’s. When one of my aunts cleaned out my grandparents’ retirement home in Texas a couple of years ago, she came across the sampler and returned it to me. I haven’t done cross-stitch in years, but seeing it again has inspired me. Perhaps someday I’ll create some sort of heritage or family tree piece.

The Wedding Portrait of Lloyd Ray ROBBINS and Josephine Rebecca HUFF



Source: Robbins, Josephine Rebecca (Huff) and Lloyd Ray. Photograph. 1 Jan 1920. Original in the possession of Bryan Robbins [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Colville, Washington. 2008

This lovely young couple is the brother and sister-in-law of my paternal great-grandfather, William Bryan ROBBINS, about whose exploits in Russia in World War I I’ve written quite frequently. Lloyd was Bryan’s older brother, and the oldest child in the family after their eldest brother, Floyd, tragically died of pneumonia (or was it from accidentally eating poisonous mushrooms? the debate rages!). Lloyd also served in the U.S. Army during WWI, in the 32nd (“Red Arrow”) Division; unlike Bryan, he served in the trenches in France. When the war was over and everyone finally came home, there were two weddings in one week for the Robbins family to celebrate: my great-grandparents (Bryan and his sweetheart, Marie LEWIS) were married Christmas Day 1919, and Lloyd and Josephine were married New Years Day 1920.

Lloyd was 25 and Jo was 21 on their wedding day, which took place in Grand Rapids, Kent Co., Michigan, although they first lived in Muskegon Heights, Muskegon County, where Lloyd continued his carpenter work. By 1930, they lived in Paris Township in Kent County. The Depression did not seem to be hurting them any, as they lived in a fine house, worth $3500, at 320 Montrose Street. Lloyd was working in the construction industry, still as a carpenter.

This couple never had any children of their own. Perhaps to keep herself occupied, Jo began to research her Huff family tree, as well as Lloyd’s. She was the first Robbins Family Researcher in our family, and I’m proud to carry on her research. She was also an active member of the Western Michigan Genealogical Society, of which I am a past member.

Lloyd and Jo were married for 58 years before he passed away in 1978 at the age of 83. Jo lived another nine years. They are buried in Plainfield Township Cemetery in Kent County, Michigan.

Wordless Wednesday: The Wedding Portrait of Lloyd Ray ROBBINS and Josephine Rebecca HUFF



Source: Robbins, Josephine Rebecca (Huff) and Lloyd Ray. Photograph. 1 Jan 1920. Original in the possession of Bryan Robbins [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Colville, Washington. 2008

Pygmy Goats in Alaska

This was taken from the Fall 1976 edition of the National Pygmy Goat Association’s Memo, and was written by my father, Bryan H. Robbins, from our home in Klawock, Alaska.  A while ago, I invited my mother to write about her education as part of the 48th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy.  I thought it would be interesting to share my dad’s writings with my readers, too!

In the remote rural villages of Alaska, milk comes only in a box or can, unless of course you have a homestead and can raise goats.  Our 3/4 acre family homestead in a coastal village in southeast Alaska had some small livestock, but no fresh milk supply for our children.  I was convinced that goats were the perfect answer for our place.  The goats we needed had to be very efficient milkers or very small   and not eat very much as dairy-mixed grain (or any feed) cost about $16.00 per hundred plus an additional nickel a pound freight to Klawock.  High Alaskan prices are usually attributed to the high cost of freight.  No live freight though, could be shipped on our weekly freighter.  Whatever type of goat we got had to be small enough to put aboard a small airplane that is our lifeline to the outside world.  In fact, all of our farm animals [chickens, ducks, geese, rabbits, and pigs] to date have been flown to our homestead.

Countryside & Small Stock Journal’s pygmy goat news and pygmy goat advertisers started me thinking, investigating, and writing about pygmy goats.  The pygmy seemed an answer to our small milking needs.  The pygmy, being small, could browse efficiently on our rainforest brush, needing only small amounts of daily grain.  Best of all, adult animals could be shipped by air, thus saving us a year of growing out a kid of dairy breed.

We soon found our girl: a beautiful, full-belted, two-year-old doe named Fatima.  She was shipped to us from the Kings Valley Animal Family in Oregon, but we would have to wait until spring before our own “herd sire” would come to Alaska.

Our goat experiences began with a good laugh over a panic-stricken pilot who flew our pygmy from the Ketchikan airport to Klawock.  The pilot had never heard a goat bleat and after taking off for Klawock, our goat started to cry.  The poor man thought her crying was the stall warning of the aircraft signaling an imminent crash landing.

Having only one goat on the homestead can be a real problem too.  Fatima would cry by the hour for company.  A five foot fence didn’t contain her, except when her horns were caught in it, which was nearly all the time.  She also thought that she was a person and shuld live in our house with us.  Whenever she got out of her pen, she would butt the front door wanting to come in for a visit.  If we weren’t home, she would go next door to the neighbors and cry on their porch.  When they opened their door, she would run inside and sit on their couch.  We had to get her proper company before the following Spring.   Soon, we were able to locate another two-year-old doe and arranged to have her bred before being shipped to us.  The second doe, Graycie, flew in by mail plane a short time later.  Soon things began to settle down at the homestead and stay in the barnyard.

Graycie was a beautiful agouti and definitely in a family way when she arrived.  She continued to grow in size as her term progressed, to the point of reminding us of a burro with a full pack.  One of the neighbors said he was going to make her a “wide load” sign to wear.  There was good reason for that wide load she was carrying.  In August, she presented us with four fo the cutest little kids we had ever seen.  She had a perfect set: two does and two bucks.

Oh! now we had fresh milk, too, not much, but so fresh.  It was sweet and nutty in flavor and not at all like what comes out of a box or a can.  It was our children’s first whole fresh milk too.

Two months later our buck arrived and our doe was rebred.  I continued milking her for a total of five months until she got down to a cup of milk per milking.  Then she was dried off to prepare for her next kidding.  I was only expecting twins this time, but when her time arrived I sat with her all day and night because she had such a difficult delivery before.  I sat with her around the clock; since there were no further symptoms, I went to bed.   She delivered again–four kids.   But alas, without assistance, two were lost.  With Graycie’s multiple births, it won’t be long before we have a large herd of pygmies in Alaska.

Does the pygmy have a place on a modern homestead?  Yes, I believe she does – in a greater capacity than just a pet.  A year and a half has not been sufficient time to make an accurate evaluation of the pygmy in comparison to other goats; but for us, the pygmy has filled a void that no other animal could  have provided.  They pygmy has given us milkk and companionship, and the hope for a future cash crop to aid our homestead economics.  I’m sure that isolated Alaskans and other homesteaders could take advantage of the cutest, most affectionate and newest goat there is…The American Pygmy Goat.

© Bryan H. Robbins, April 1976
Used with permission.
Submitted for the 53rd Carnival of Genealogy.

Pygmy Goats in Alaska

This was taken from the Fall 1976 edition of the National Pygmy Goat Association’s Memo, and was written by my father, Bryan H. Robbins, from our home in Klawock, Alaska. A while ago, I invited my mother to write about her education as part of the 48th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy. I thought it would be interesting to share my dad’s writings with my readers, too!

In the remote rural villages of Alaska, milk comes only in a box or can, unless of course you have a homestead and can raise goats. Our 3/4 acre family homestead in a coastal village in southeast Alaska had some small livestock, but no fresh milk supply for our children. I was convinced that goats were the perfect answer for our place. The goats we needed had to be very efficient milkers or very small and not eat very much as dairy-mixed grain (or any feed) cost about $16.00 per hundred plus an additional nickel a pound freight to Klawock. High Alaskan prices are usually attributed to the high cost of freight. No live freight though, could be shipped on our weekly freighter. Whatever type of goat we got had to be small enough to put aboard a small airplane that is our lifeline to the outside world. In fact, all of our farm animals [chickens, ducks, geese, rabbits, and pigs] to date have been flown to our homestead.

Countryside & Small Stock Journal’s pygmy goat news and pygmy goat advertisers started me thinking, investigating, and writing about pygmy goats. The pygmy seemed an answer to our small milking needs. The pygmy, being small, could browse efficiently on our rainforest brush, needing only small amounts of daily grain. Best of all, adult animals could be shipped by air, thus saving us a year of growing out a kid of dairy breed.

We soon found our girl: a beautiful, full-belted, two-year-old doe named Fatima. She was shipped to us from the Kings Valley Animal Family in Oregon, but we would have to wait until spring before our own “herd sire” would come to Alaska.

Our goat experiences began with a good laugh over a panic-stricken pilot who flew our pygmy from the Ketchikan airport to Klawock. The pilot had never heard a goat bleat and after taking off for Klawock, our goat started to cry. The poor man thought her crying was the stall warning of the aircraft signaling an imminent crash landing.

Having only one goat on the homestead can be a real problem too. Fatima would cry by the hour for company. A five foot fence didn’t contain her, except when her horns were caught in it, which was nearly all the time. She also thought that she was a person and shuld live in our house with us. Whenever she got out of her pen, she would butt the front door wanting to come in for a visit. If we weren’t home, she would go next door to the neighbors and cry on their porch. When they opened their door, she would run inside and sit on their couch. We had to get her proper company before the following Spring. Soon, we were able to locate another two-year-old doe and arranged to have her bred before being shipped to us. The second doe, Graycie, flew in by mail plane a short time later. Soon things began to settle down at the homestead and stay in the barnyard.

Graycie was a beautiful agouti and definitely in a family way when she arrived. She continued to grow in size as her term progressed, to the point of reminding us of a burro with a full pack. One of the neighbors said he was going to make her a “wide load” sign to wear. There was good reason for that wide load she was carrying. In August, she presented us with four fo the cutest little kids we had ever seen. She had a perfect set: two does and two bucks.

Oh! now we had fresh milk, too, not much, but so fresh. It was sweet and nutty in flavor and not at all like what comes out of a box or a can. It was our children’s first whole fresh milk too.

Two months later our buck arrived and our doe was rebred. I continued milking her for a total of five months until she got down to a cup of milk per milking. Then she was dried off to prepare for her next kidding. I was only expecting twins this time, but when her time arrived I sat with her all day and night because she had such a difficult delivery before. I sat with her around the clock; since there were no further symptoms, I went to bed. She delivered again–four kids. But alas, without assistance, two were lost. With Graycie’s multiple births, it won’t be long before we have a large herd of pygmies in Alaska.

Does the pygmy have a place on a modern homestead? Yes, I believe she does – in a greater capacity than just a pet. A year and a half has not been sufficient time to make an accurate evaluation of the pygmy in comparison to other goats; but for us, the pygmy has filled a void that no other animal could have provided. They pygmy has given us milkk and companionship, and the hope for a future cash crop to aid our homestead economics. I’m sure that isolated Alaskans and other homesteaders could take advantage of the cutest, most affectionate and newest goat there is…The American Pygmy Goat.

© Bryan H. Robbins, April 1976
Used with permission.
Submitted for the 53rd Carnival of Genealogy.