Santa Cruz County History - People

Old Soldiers: Santa Cruz County Civil War Veterans
by Robert L. Nelson


Santa Cruz Surf (April 25, 1895)

The funeral of the late Col. Thomas P. Robb was attended today from the Calvary Episcopal Church, the Pioneers and Veterans of the Grand Army and a large concourse of citizens being present. [Editor's Note: Thomas Robb died April 18, 1895.] H.D.C. Barnhart, R.C. Kirby and H.F. Parsons in behalf of the Pioneers. The funeral cortege was preceded by the music and fife and drum, recalling far more vividly than any words the days in which the deceased and the lingering survivors of “early days" and "War Times" were comrades and partners in a common cause.

The Board of Supervisors adjourned and flags were placed at half mast. The body was temporarily deposited in the undertaking parlors of Scott & Ely and will be taken next week by his son, Thomas P. Robb, to Chicago for interment in the family burial plot.

Thomas Patten Robb was born in Bath Maine, September 29, 1819....Early in life he had the good fortune to attract the favorable notice and later to inspire the lasting friendship of such me as Governor Levi Lincoln of Massachusetts, Daniel Webster and Stephen A. Douglas, whose judicious counsel and practical aid in the way of letter of introduction, etc. gained for him an acquaintance with leading men of affairs in several States of the Union.. Early in the forties he went to Illinois, and erected the first residence house ever built on North Clark Street tin Chicago.... Colonel Robb said:

I had the honor of a personal acquaintance with General Taylor and his family, and was in New Orleans in 1847 when the Six Months Volunteers returned from Mexico, and saw much of the General, his wife and daughter Bet, afterwards Mrs. Col. Bliss. A kinder hearted man than Taylor never lived. He was simple in manner, generous to a fault, and detested everything like display among his staff officers, or by his family, when in later years he was President of the United States.

Of his coming to the Pacific Coast, Colonel Robb said in his manuscript reminiscences: "I was in the wholesale grocery business in Chicago in 1849 when the California fever became epidemic there, and my partner caught it. He and James A. McDougall and my brother's partner with a party of friends, got together a splendid and expensive outfit and started across the plains. I had purchased my partner's interest in our store, and, not to be outdone, after he and his companions had gone, I closed out the business in June, 1850, and concluded that I, too would go to California, but by the Isthmus of Darien route."

After a journey of more than usual interest and excitement Mr. Robb arrived in San Francisco. His meeting with James A., afterwards United States Senator McDougall, who was hauling baggage in a wheel barrow up the hill to Parker's tent hotel, was one of the characteristic incidents of the early days at the Golden Gate. Mr. Robb soon proceeded to Sacramento and established himself in business. His interest in public affairs led him to purchase an interest in one of the daily papers. He was elected a member of the City Council; was appointed chairman of the police committee and judge ordinary; and during the (troubling) period his efforts were always if directed toward substituting judicial trial for the operations of Judge Lynch- many time, of course without avail. The experience of Mr. Robb in California in the early days were of sufficient interest to fill a good size volume. The friend of Fremont and General Sutter, and the companion of Kit Carson on more than one of his adventurous trips, he also had a series of remarkable encounters with the bandit Joaquin Murietta.

Before the outbreak of the Civil War Mr. Robb found himself once more in Chicago, and he was soon at the Illinois Capitol. His unflinching loyalty was well known, not only among his immediate friends, but to the leading men of the State. Governor Yates appointed him on his staff commissioned Inspector General of Illinois volunteers with the rank of Colonel.

The following statement on pages 646-7 of the History of Illinois by John Moses, private secretary of Governor Yates throws an interesting light on Grant's first meeting with the war governor, and the part Colonel Robb played in it.

Among those who found their way to Springfield at this time (early in 1861), was Captain U.S. Grant, late of the regular army. He came from Galena, bringing with him a letter of recommendation from Hon. E.B. Washburne. Major, afterwards Colonel, Thomas P Robb of the governor's staff, having observed Grant waiting with others strangers in the governor's ante room, apparently for an interview, and learning from him that he was desirous of offering his service to the State, introduced him to His Excellency. Robb was impressed with the modest deportment of the visitor, and when the routine reply to Grant's offer that he knew of no opening just them, that every place was filled, and appealed to Robb to confirm his statement. The latter replied that he believed they were short of help in the adjutant general's office, and proposed that Grant should be given a desk there for the time being. The governor readily consented and Grant was accordingly set at work under Colonel Mather arranging, filing and copying papers. One morning a few days afterward, Governor Yates informed Major Robb that the services of a regular army officer had become indispensable in the camp of rendezvous to perfect organization and keep down insubordination; and ordered him to proceed to Cincinnati to procure the service of a captain of the regular army then there; Captain John Pope, who had been stationed at Camp Yates, having been ordered to St. Louis . To this order Captain Grant, who had quietly entered the room, was a listener. He reminded the governor of his military training and former experience in the army, which seemed to have been overlooked, and suggested that he could be made much more useful in the service than in occupying a subordinate clerical position. Yates replied: "Why Captain, you are just the man we want!" and on that day Grant was installed as commandant of Camp Yates. This was a critical time in Grant's career; he never forgot the kindly service rendered him by Colonel Robb, and was ever afterward his steadfast friend.

Santa Cruz Sentinel (April 26, 1896)

The funeral of the late Col. Thos P. Robb was observed Thursday morning. In honor of his memory the flag on the Lower Plaza floated at half mast, and the Board of Supervisors adjourned until the afternoon. The funeral was under the auspices of the Pioneers and Grand Army. R.C. Kirby, J.F. Cunningham, Senator Burke, H.F. Parsons, G.K. Mead and H.D.C. Barnhart were Pall bearers. The remains were escorted to Calvary Episcopal Church...The casket was draped with the flag... and covered with magnificent floral pieces. After the Episcopal F.A. Hihn, for the Pioneers, made a brief address in which he told of the struggles of the Pioneers, and how they are being called hence one by one. He spoke in eulogistic terms of the deceased...the pall bearers with the casket, Pioneers and veterans, and the many in attendance, filed out of the church and again took up the line of march to the music of the fife and drum.. The Grand Army service was performed.

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