PVT James “Old Father Robinson” Robinson

PVT James “Old Father Robinson” Robinson

Maryland, USA
Death 27 Mar 1868 (aged 115)
Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan, USA
Burial Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan, USA
Plot Section F, Lot 61
Memorial ID 7316970 View Source
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Wife: Curtilda
Children: Alexander and Wesley Sr.

Many Michiganders are probably unaware that one of if not the most distinguished African American Veterans of the Revolutionary War the Rev. PVT. James Robinson lived and died in Detroit. He moved to Detroit and appears in the 1860 U.S. Census and is buried in Elmwood Cemetery. According to an interview he gave in 1868 he was married several times with many children from those marriages while he was a slave.

The Rev. PVT. James Robinson was born a slave on the Eastern Shore of Maryland in 1753 and his master Francis De Shields whom was a Colonel had him serve in a light infantry regiment under the General Lafayette and he fought at the battles of Brandywine, White Haven, Roanoke River, Ragged Point, on Dorset County River, Vienna Ferry, and Cambridge and at Yorktown. He distinguished himself at the Battle of Yorktown, which was the final battle of the war by leading a charge up a British rampart and fighting three men at once killing them and taking the rampart. General Marques de Lafayette personally awarded him a Gold Medal of Valor under the authority granted to him by King Louis XVI of France for that act. The promise of freedom for him was not kept after the war and he was eventually sold in the Deep South in New Orleans and went on to fight at the Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812. In that battle one of his fingers was shot off. General Andrew Jackson had promised the slaves in the area freedom if they fought, after the battle he told the slaves including Robinson that the promise would not be honored despite the victory. Robinson says in his book he thought about taking his rifle and shooting Jackson but decided not to. Years later he was manumitted according to an interview he gave to a newspaper. In the 1840 and 1850 U.S. Census he was free in Ohio so he must have been freed in the 1830s. He then earned a living as a Preacher. When he died he was the oldest living American and the last known living African American veteran of the Revolutionary War. He is the oldest person buried in Elmwood.


1753 - 1868

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