McKibbin, Robert (Private)

Alternate Spellings of Surname: McKebbin, McKibben, McKibbin
Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania sometime around 1846, Robert McKibbin was the son of Robert and Isabella W. McKibbin. His father was born in Scotland sometime around 1808. His mother, born in New Jersey in 1831, would later remarry after being widowed, becoming Isabella Eckley of Sigourney, Iowa, and then, in the new century, a resident of Brooklyn, New York after being widowed a second time and returning to the East Coast to live with another of her sons, Joseph McKibbin.

In 1850, five-year-old Robert McKibbin resided in South Philadelphia’s Moyamensing section (Philadelphia’s 3rd Ward) with his parents and siblings: John (aged 13), Margaret (aged 9), and James (aged 1). His father supported the family on a tailor’s wages, and his mother was also employed – as a “tailorest,” according to the 1850 federal census.

In 1860, 14-year-old Robert McKibbin resided in Philadelphia’s 19th Ward with his parents and siblings: Margaret, James, Joseph (aged 3), and Jane (aged 1). Five years later, as the Civil War ground on into its final year, the younger Robert McKibbin had grown to become a 19-year-old resident of Philadelphia, and was employed as an upholsterer.

Civil War Military Service

As a 19-year-old, Robert McKibbin enrolled for military service and mustered in as a Private with Company H, 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry on 11 February 1865 at Frankfort, Pennsylvania. Military records at the time described him as being 5’7¼” tall with light hair gray eyes and a light complexion. He was also a member of the Protestant faith. He connected with his regiment as it was being ordered from Virginia back to the Union soil of the nation’s capital and, as a result of his enlistment’s timing, was in the fortuitous position of becoming an eyewitness to history.

Assigned first to the Provisional Division of the 2nd Brigade of the Army of the Shenandoah in February, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers moved, via Winchester and Kernstown, to Washington, D.C. Beginning 19 April 1965, the 47th Pennsylvanians were responsible for helping to defend the nation’s capital – following the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. Encamped near Fort Stevens, they received new uniforms and were otherwise resupplied.

Matthew Brady's photograph of spectators massing for the Grand Review of the Armies, 23-24 May 1865, at the side of the crepe-draped U.S. Capitol, flag at half mast following the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. (Library of Congress: Public domain.)

Matthew Brady’s photograph of spectators massing for the Grand Review of the Armies, 23-24 May 1865, at the side of the crepe-draped U.S. Capitol, flag at half mast following President Lincoln’s assassination. (Library of Congress: Public domain.)

Letters home and later newspaper interviews with survivors of the 47th Pennsylvania indicate that at least one 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer was given the high honor of guarding President Lincoln’s funeral train while others may have guarded the Lincoln assassination conspirators during their trial or imprisonment.

As part of Dwight’s Division of the 2nd Brigade of the Department of Washington’s 22nd Corps, the 47th Pennsylvania also participated in the Union’s Grand Review of the Armies on 23-24 May. It was also during this phase of duty that Captain Levi Stuber, the commanding officer of I Company was promoted to the rank of Major with the regiment’s central command staff.

Following the Grand Review, Company H and their fellow 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were ordered to the Deep South, and served in Savannah, Georgia from 31 May to 4 June. Again in Dwight’s Division, this time they were with the 3rd Brigade, Department of the South.

Ruins seen from the Circular Church, Charleston, SC, 1865. Source: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (111-B-4667, public domain).

Ruins of Charleston, South Carolina as seen from the Circular Church, 1865. Source: U.S. National Archives (111-B-4667, public domain).

Relieving the 165th New York Volunteers in July, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers quartered in the former mansion of the Confederate Secretary of the Treasury at Charleston, South Carolina. While there, disease stalked the 47th as men, many of whom had survived the worst in battle, were felled by fevers, tropical diseases and dysentery. Many of those who died during this phase of service were initially interred in Charleston’s Magnolia Cemetery before being exhumed and reinterred later at the Beaufort National Cemetery; others still rest in unidentified graves.

Duties during this period were largely Provost (military police) and Reconstruction-related (repairing railroads and other key elements of the region’s infrastructure which had been damaged or destroyed during the long war).

Finally, beginning on Christmas day of that year, the majority of the men of Company H, 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers, including Private Robert McKibbin, began to honorably muster out at Charleston, South Carolina – a process which continued through early January. Following a stormy voyage home, the 47th Pennsylvanians disembarked in New York City. The weary men were then shipped to Philadelphia by train where, at Camp Cadwalader on 9 January 1866, the 47th Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers were officially given their discharge papers.

Return to Civilian Life

After receiving his honorable discharge papers at Camp Cadwalader in Philadelphia during the opening weeks of 1866, it was a short trip for Robert McKibbin to return to his old stomping grounds. His older sister, Margaret McKibbin had taken up the family trade of tailoress, and was residing on Dauphin Street. Philadelphia city directories from that year and the year prior also show a Robert McKibbin residing with her while employed as a weaver, indicating that Robert’s father was still possibly alive at this time.

Two days after Christmas in 1867, Robert McKibbin’s older sister, Margaret, died from consumption (tuberculosis). According to the burial ledgers of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, she was interred at the Franklin Cemetery in Philadelphia, which is now a defunct burial ground. The remains of all of those interred at Franklin were reportedly exhumed and reinterred at the Evergreen Memorial Park (also known as Rosedale Memorial Park) in Bensalem, Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

The elder Robert McKibbin had clearly passed on before the decade of the 1870s was out because, at the age of 48, Robert McKibbin’s mother, Isabella W. McKibbin, married Ohio native, Peter L. Eckley, in Sigourney, Keokuk County, Iowa on 21 May 1879. A veteran of the Civil War, 2nd Lieutenant Eckley had fought with Company F, 8th Iowa Infantry in the Battle of Shiloh and Siege of Corinth (Spring of 1862), and was severely wounded during the Battle of Corinth, Mississippi on 4 October 1862.

This marriage, however, was a brief one. In 1884, Peter Eckley widowed Robert McKibbin’s mother, Isabella, and by 1900, Isabella W. Eckley was back on the East Coast living with her other son, Joseph, and his family in Brooklyn, New York. She remained there until her own passing in Brooklyn on 28 May 1901. Probate records for her estate confirm that she resided with her son, Joseph McKibbin, at the time of her death from natural causes, that she had left no will, and had only roughly $2,500 in total assets. This paperwork also confirms the following about her sons:

That the names of the husband or widow, and the next of kin of the deceased, adopted child or children, as far as they are known to your Petitioner [Joseph McKibbin], or can be ascertained by him by due diligence, are as follows:

Robert McKibbin, son of decedent, who resides at the National Home, Dayton, Ohio.

Joseph McKibbin, your Petitioner and a son of decedent, who resides at No. 445 Miller Avenue, Brooklyn-New York.

That said Robert McKibbin, brother of petitioner and son of decedent has renounced all right to Letters of Administration on the goods, chattels and credits which were of said deceased, as appears by his renunciation hereto attached…..

I, Robert McKibbin, of Dayton, Ohio, a son and one of the next of kin of ISABELLA W. ECKLEY (formerly Isabella W. McKibbin), late of the County of King, State of New York, deceased, do hereby renounce all right to Letters of Administration on the goods, chattels and credits which were of said deceased.

Dated the 31st day of May 1901. [Followed by handwritten signature of Robert McKibbin.]

The life of Isabella Eckley’s son, Robert McKibbin, also became increasingly challenging. Suffering from the post-injury symptoms of a fractured and dislocated right arm (ulna) and loss of the thumb on his left hand, as well as other significant health problems (chronic bronchitis, heart disease), Robert McKibbin was admitted repeatedly later in life to various branches of the U.S. National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers. Those admissions included:

  • Central Branch/Dayton, Ohio (1st admission: 12 December 1892; discharged 5 August 1896; readmitted 22 April 1897; discharged 19 February 1902);
  • Pacific Branch/Sawtelle/Los Angeles, California (admitted 9 August 1902; transferred to Mountain Branch in Tennessee on 2 September 1904);
  • Mountain Branch/Johnson City, Tennessee or Marion Branch/Marion, Indiana (admitted 2 September 1904; discharged at his request on 3 February 1905; readmitted on 28 June 1905; discharged on 6 October 1905);
  • Pacific Branch/Sawtelle/Los Angeles, California (readmitted 5 May 1906; discharged 24 March 1909);
  • Mountain Branch/Johnson City, Tennessee or Marion Branch/Marion, Indiana (readmitted 10 August 1909; discharged 28 May 1910); and
  • Pacific Branch/Sawtelle/Los Angeles, California (readmitted on 5 September 1922).

Death and Interment

A bachelor all of his life who was in increasingly frail health, Robert McKibbin eventually succumbed to the effects of chronic interstitial nephritis and arteriosclerosis at the Sawtelle Branch, U.S. National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers in Los Angeles, California on 23 January 1924. He was subsequently interred at the Los Angeles National Cemetery (44, D/21).

His possessions were sold by the soldiers’ home for $34.75 at a public sale on 16 December 1924. An additional $130.70 in cash in his possession at the time of his death brought his total personal effects to $165.45.


1. Bates, Samuel P. History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5. Harrisburg: 1869.

2. Burial Ledger, The National Cemetery Administration and U.S. Departments of Veterans Affairs (Record Group 15), Defense, and Army (Office of the Quartermaster General; Record Group 92). Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C., 1924.

3. California Death Index (Robert McKibben), in California Vital Records. Sacramento: California Department of Health and Welfare, 1924.

4. Margaret McKibbin (death certificate) in Philadelphia City Death Certificates. Philadelphia: Philadelphia City Archives (Death Records), 1867.

5. Miss Margaret McKibben, in Burial Ledgers of St. John’s Episcopal Church, in Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Records (Reel 848). Philadelphia: Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

6. Robert McKibben, in Historical Register of National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers (Central Branch/Dayton, Ohio; Marion Branch/Marion, Indiana; Mountain Branch/Johnson City, Tennessee; Sawtelle Branch/Los Angeles, California), U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (Record Group 15). Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (Microfilm M1749), Washington, D.C.

7. Iowa Marriage Records (Isabella W. McKibbin and P.L. Eckley, FHL Film No.: 1005840, Reference ID: 2:2BWXP9V). Salt Lake City: Family History Library, 1879.

8. Margaret and Robert McKibbin, in Philadelphia City Directory for 1866. Philadelphia: A. McElroy, 1866.

9. Deaths Reported in 1901, Borough of Brooklyn (Certificate No. 9650: Isabella W. Eckley), in Deaths Reported in the City of New York, 1888-1965. New York: New York Department of Health, 1901.

10. Probate Administration Records of Isabella W. Eckley, in New York, Kings County, Probate Administration Records. New York: Surrogate’s Court (Kings County), 1901.

11. Schmidt, Lewis. A Civil War History of the 47th Regiment of Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers. Allentown: Self-published, 1986.

12. U.S. Census (1880: Peter L. and Isabella W. Eckley; Sigourney, Keokuk Iowa; 1900: Isabella Eckley and Joseph McKibbin, Brooklyn, Kings County, New York). Washington, D.C., California, Iowa, Pennsylvania and New York: 1850, 1860, 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920.

13. U.S. Civil War Pension Index: a.) Robert McKibben: Application No.: 1137.815, Certificate No: 885.395, filed from Pennsylvania by the veteran and his attorney, J.W. Van Natta, on 11 November 1892; b.) Peter Eckley: Application No: 313239, Certificate No.: 208146, filed from Iowa by the veteran’s widow, Isabella W. Eckley, on 26 February 1884). Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, 1884-1892.