(7/1/1840 – 7/18/1930)
Milton Robinson was born a slave in Kentucky in 1840. During the Civil War, he fled from his Kentucky enslaver with the help of Indiana troops who had invaded the region. One of the officers let Robinson ride behind him on his horse, and he made his way to Indianapolis where he enlisted in the Union Army on May 13, 1863. After being sent to Massachusetts, Robinson became a member of the well-known 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry led by Colonel Robert Gould Shaw. He served with this regiment until he mustered out on August 20, 1865, at Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.
The 54th Massachusetts was organized during the Civil War, the second regiment of African American troops, then known as Colored Troops, and was portrayed in the 1989 movie Glory. The regiment is best remembered for leading a failed assault on Battery Wagner, a Confederate earthwork fortification on Morris Island, South Carolina on July 18, 1863. Though they lost the battle, their bravery against great odds while suffering extensive casualties inspired an increasing number of Black enlistments. Almost 200,000 Black soldiers served during the Civil War, roughly 10 percent of the Union Army.
Robinson returned to Indianapolis, where he worked as a gardener and laborer. As a member of the Grand Army of the Republic, a fraternal organization composed of veterans of the Union Army, he occasionally sat for photographs wearing his uniform. His 1930 obituary says that he died at age 90, overcome by heat, at his home at 532 Fulton Street.
A book of interest that tells the story of Col. Robert Shaw and his 54th Massachusetts troops, including Milton Robinson, is When the Tide Turned in the Civil War by Martha McCay. She began her research and writing in the late 1800s, but the book wasn’t published until 1929.
Location: Section 9, Lot 1774; GPS (39.8175823,-86.1723231)