Robert and George Whitcomb papers  1862-1867
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Biography

Whitcomb, Robert, b. ca. 1834

Rank : Private, Wagoner, Q.M. Sergeant (1864 August 7); 2nd Lieutenant (Bvt., 1866 September 21)

Regiment : 169th New York Infantry Regiment, Co. D (1862-1865)

Service : 1862 August 8-1865 July 19

Whitcomb, George M., ca. 1840-1864

Rank : Corporal; Sergeant (1863 April 7)

Regiment : 169th New York Infantry Regiment, Co. D (1862-1865)

Service : 1862 August 8-1864 July 30

In August, 1862, when Company D of the 169th New York Infantry was forming near Glens Falls, its recruits included two brothers from Sandy Hill (now Hudson Falls, New York), Robert and George Whitcomb. Robert was a 28-year old farmer with a wife and young daughter. George, who was 6 years younger, married Caroline Duers in August 1861 and had one daughter, Georgianna (b. 1862). The two were soon given responsibility as non-commissioned officers, Robert becoming Wagoner, working with the regimental quartermaster, and George, who mustered in as a Corporal, becoming 5th sergeant of Co. D.

After serving in the defenses of Washington through their first winter, the 169th took part in the siege of Suffolk, Va., in April and May, 1863, and in operations on the Peninsula later that summer. In August, they were attached to the Department of the South and ordered to Folly Island, S.C., and it was there that the brothers experienced their first separation. In February, 1864, George was sent as part of an expedition to Jacksonville, Fla., while Robert remained behind with the regimental stores, suffering both from grief over the separation and guilt over seeing his younger brother and friends in jeopardy while he remained safe. The Whitcomb family appears to have been very close, particularly Robert and George, but they did suffer from their share of family problems. A letter of 1863 April 7 suggests that at one time Robert had had a drinking problem. A brother, Silas, seems to have been associating with questionable women. Another brother, Melvin, attempted to avoid military service first by claiming that he was under 18 years of age, and then, when he was drafted, by refusing at accept service in the 98th Infantry. In both efforts he was unsuccessful. There is no official record of Melvin Whitcomb with his regiment after being wounded at Cold Harbor, but it appears that he may have deserted and escaped to Ohio to live with cousins. After the war, he returned to New York and moved in, at least on a temporary basis, with Robert.

The 169th Regiment was ordered to return to Virginia to participate in the summer campaigns of 1864, and was present at Cedar Creek, Drewry's Bluff, Cold Harbor and Petersburg. At the Battle of the Crater on July 30th, the greatest action the regiment had ever seen, according to Robert, George was killed in action. Robert continued with the 169th through Dutch Gap and Chaffin's Farm and their transfer to North Carolina. The regiment was engaged during both assaults on Fort Fisher, and was at Raleigh, N.C., when the Confederacy fell. He mustered out of the service, receiving a brevet 2nd Lieutenancy for meritorious wartime service, and settled with his wife and child on a farm at Bald Mountain.