Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Two Brothers, One Face



Recently, I was reading “Dear Pa—and So it Goes,” a collection of letters edited by Gertrude K. Johnston. It’s an old book, known by a few Civil War scholars as the collected letters of the Pardee family, a family of wealthy coal mine owners centered in Hazleton, Pennsylvania. In my personal opinion, it’s a wonderful collection, especially because  it contains plenty of material written by the daughters of the family. (Letters written by Civil War women are, of course, rare finds.)

Anyway, the collection also contains letters from two brothers, Lt. James Boyd Robison and Lt. Isaiah Robison. (These letters are in the collection because the Robisons’ older sister, Anna, married Ario Pardee, Sr., the family patriarch.) Army of the Potomac enthusiasts might recognize the Robison boys because they served in some of the army’s famous campaigns. James Boyd Robison (b. 1838) served with Company G, 10th Pennsylvania Reserve Infantry from 1861 to 1862. He was wounded in the hand at Second Manassas. The younger of the two, Isaiah Robison (b. 1840), served in Company A, 28th Pennsylvania, until he was killed-in-action at the Battle of Peach Tree Creek, July 20, 1864. Both brothers served as officers in their respective units.

I was looking at the images of the two men and I noticed something odd.

This is J. Boyd Robison:

This is (purportedly) Lt. James Boyd Robison, Co. G, 10th Pennsylvania Reserve Infantry.



This is Isaiah Robison:

This is (purportedly) Lt. Isaiah Robison, Co. A, 28th Pennsylvania Infantry.
 

The faces of these men look identical.

What’s going on?

Obviously, there are several options to explain this:

1)      The first (and most likely) possibility is that these images depict only one of the two brothers, not both. Someone must have mislabeled one of the images and since then all subsequent historians have perpetuated the error.
 
2)      The second possibility is that the two men are identical twins. All evidence suggests that they were born two years apart, so unless someone recorded their birthdays incorrectly, this possibility is not likely.

3)      It’s also possible that the two brothers looked really, really alike, but I can’t imagine that two men born of the same parents two years apart could appear so identical in facial structure.

Anyway, which of the brothers are we looking at in these two images, Boyd or Isaiah? It is a mystery.

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