United States vs. 3rd Asst. Engineer Levi Robbins, USS Rodolph

Robbins' sentence was set aside by Gideon Welles in General Order No 52, issued 15 April 1865:

"Levi Robbins, acting third assistant engineer, USS Rodolph, tried by order of Com. Palmer, W. G. B. Squadron, January 4, 1865, guilty of 'drunkenness,' 'assaulting another person in the Navy,' and 'treating with contempt his superior officer.' Sentence 'to be confined for six months in any penitentiary the Secretary of the Navy may select, without pay, and to be dishonorably discharged from the Navy at the expiration of his term of confinement.' This is another of the cases where the sentence is to the penitentiary for an offense not capital. Sentence set aside."

The 1866 edition of the Register of Commissioned and Volunteer Officers shows that Levi Robbins received a honorable discharge on 1 November 1865 as a Acting 3rd Assistant Engineer.

US Ship Potomac
Pensacola Bay
January 4th, 1864

The Court having postponed further action in the case of Acting 1st Asst. Eng. John Wilson, proceeded to take up that of Levi Robbins, an acting Third Assistant Engineer in the US Navy, attached the USS Rodolph.

The accused was brought in.

The Court having been called to order, the Judge Advocate read the precept in obedience to which this Court was assembled, a copy of which is hereto appended and marked A and which is in the words and figures following:

US Naval Headquarters
New Orleans, La.
December, 1864

By virtue of authority in me vested, a Naval General Court Martial is hereby ordered to convene on board the US Ship Potomac, Pensacola Bay, Fla, on the second day of January one thousand eight hundred and sixty five, or as soon after as practicable for the trail of John Wilson, an Acting First Assistant Engineer in the US Navy, attached to the US Iron Clad Steamer Winnebago, and such other as may be legally brought before it.

The Court will be composed of the following named officers, any five of whom are empowred to act, viz:

Commander A. Gibson
Commander William E. LeRoy
Lieut Com. T. Abbott
Lieut. Com. Henry Erben
Chief Engineer Jas. M. Adams and
Edmund du Grandval is hereby appointed Judge Advocate.

J. S. Palmer
Commanding W. G. B. Squadron

The Accused was asked by the Judge Advocate if he had any objection to any member of the Court. He replied that he had not. The oath prescribe by law was now administered by the Senior Member of the Court to the Judge Advocate, and by the Judge Advocate to the members of the Court, in presence of the accused.

The accused was then asked by the Judge Advocate if he wished for Counsel, to which he replied that he did not.

Being asked if he had been furnished with a copy of the charges and specifications, the accused said he had.

The accused was asked by the Judge Advocate if he was ready for trial. He replied that he was.

The charges and specifications hereto appended and marked B, of which the following is a copy were then read aloud by the Judge Advocate.

Charges and specification of charges preferred by Commodore Jas. S. Palmer, Commanding the West Gulf Blockading Squadron against Levi Robbins, an acting Third Assistant Engineer in the US Navy, attached to the USS Rodolph.

Charge First: Drunkenness

Specification: In this, that on or about the twenty-eighth day of November, one thousand eight hundred and sixty four, the said Levi Robbins, an acting Third Assistant Engineer in the US Navy, attached to the USS Rodolph, then lying in Mobile Bay, Ala, was drunk.

Charge Second: Assaulting another person in the Navy.

Specification First: In this, that on or about the twenty-eight day of November, one thousand eight hundred and sixty four, the said Acting Third Assistant Engineer Levi Robbins, took a loaded revolver and advanced towards James Johnson, Coal Heaver, and said, pointing it at him, "I am bound to shoot that damned nigger" or words to that effect.

Specification Second: In this, that on or about the twenty-eight day of November, one thousand eight hundred and sixty four, the said Acting Third Assistant Engineer Levi Robbins, after the conduct mentioned in the first specification, did again take a revolver, and start as if on search of someone, saying "I am bound to find that nigger somewhere" or words to that effect, and when William Rogers, a first class fireman, tried to persuade him to desist, did assault the said William Rogers.

Charge Third: Treating with contempt his superior officer

Specification: In this, that at on or about the twenty eight day of November, one thousand eight hundred and sixty four, the said Acting Third Assistant Engineer Levi Robbins, being in the act of assaulting First Class Fireman William Rogers, did use abusive and contemptuous language toward Acting Second Assistant Engineer J. H. Smith who was endeavoring to prevent him.

J. S. Palmer
Commanding West Gulf Blockading Squadron

Acting Ensign H. S. Thompson
Acting 2nd Assistant Engineer J. H. Smith
Acting Masters Mate A. B. Hinkley
William Rogers, First Class Fireman
James Johnson, Coal Heaver

The Judge Advocate then said "accused, you have heard the reading of the charges preferred against you, how say you, guilty or not guilty." The accused plead guilty.

The Judge Advocate asked the accused if he had any statement to make to the Court. He replied that he had, and produced the written statement hereto appended and marked C, which was read aloud by the Judge Advocate.

The accused asked and received permission to provide testimony as to his character.

James W. Smith, an Acting Chief Engineer in the US Navy, attached to the USS Rodolph, a witness on the part of the defense was called and being duly sworn in presence of the accused, deposed as follows:

"Levi Robbins, the accused has been with me on the Tallahatchie as a second class fireman since about April last. When I Was transfered to the No 48 Tin Clad, I had him transfered with me, and had him rated First Class Fireman, and also recommended him as a Third Assistant Engineer. He was a very trusty man, attended to his duties punctually, but when he drinks rum he gets out of his head or is crazy. Outside of that I do not want a more trustworthy man.

Question by the Court: Is this the first time you have had trouble of this kind with the accused?

Answer: No I have had it once before.

There being no other questions by the Court or the accused, the testimony was read over to witness, by him pronounced correct and he was permitted to retire.

There being no other testimony to be taken, and the statements of the parties being thus in possession of the Court, the Court was cleared for deliberation, and after mature consideration of the evidence adduced, do find, the accused Levi Robbins, an Acting Third Assistant Engineer in the US Navy:

Of the Charges: Guilty, by plea of Guilty
Of the Specifications: Proven by plea of Guilty

And the Court do sentence the accused to be confined for six months, in any penitentiary that the Secretary of the Navy may direct, without pay, and to be dishonorably discharged from the Navy on the expiration of his term of confinement. This sentence to be read on the Quarter Deck of all the vessels of the W. G. B. Squadron at General Muster.

A. Gibson, Commander and Senior Member
Wm. LeRoy, Commander
T. Abbott, Lt Commander
H. Erben, Lt. Commander
James M. Adams, Acting Chief Engineer

Jas. S. Palmer
Commanding W.G.B.S.

The Court having disposed of Levi Robbins, adjourned until 10 o'clock tomorrow, the 5th day of January 1865

Ed du Grandval
Judge Advocate

The accused, Levi Robbins, Acting 3rd Asst. Eng. attached on Temporary Service on the USS Rodolph enters a plea of guilty to the charge and specifications of drunkenness, also pleads guilty to the other charges, as no doubt under the effect of liquor, he was guilty of them.

The accused, throws himself entirely onto the mercy of the Court and with the following extenuating remarks, offered to the Honorable President and members of this Court Martial, he leaves his case to their favorable consideration, assured that their decision will be alike honorable to themselves as impartial to him.

The accused, in pleading guilty to the charge of drunkenness would remark that he had no intention deliberately thus to disgrace himself and bring contempt on the position he had the honor to hold in the US Navy, but that after being relived from duty in the engine room, he drank some liquor which was so promiscuous that it had the effect of making him perfectly insane for the time being.

This liquor was drunk in no immodest quantity, certainly not in sufficient quantity to produce intoxication had it been pure and free from poisonous ingredients. But its effects were soon felt in the transformation of a sober sensible man to one "infuriate and insensible." The deplorable after occurrence will sufficiently prove this. Far be it from the accused to try to cover up gross breaches of Naval discipline by the plea of intoxication, neither is it his desire to gloss over the nature of the charged brought against him. Yet let him not be understood as pleading guilty to charges deliberately and willfully committed. The accused unhesitatingly acknowledges that in his then unfortunate slate he was incapable of acting with judgment or reason and the gross charges to which he is now compelled by a conviction of their truth to plead guilty fill him with amazement and mortification.

The accused would examine the charges as they come up against him, and 1st that of being drunk. To this charge he might go farther and say he was not only guilty but mad. Whatever the nature of the compound he foolishly swallowed it had an electric effect in depriving him of his senses., so that in reality he was poisoned to the extend of loosing control of his feelings and senses. Never before has the accused experienced such results in connection with liquor. Doubtless it was some of that compound sold by unprincipled men to our noble sailors and which has the effect approaching the most unaccountable results. The accused unaware of its character, drank some of this and the result is precisely identical in other cases. Without cause or reason he deliberately insults and treats with disrespect his superior officer with whom he has hitherto been on terms of intimacy and warm personal respect. He attacks or feigns to attack one of the Coal Heavers and further he has an altercation with a fireman.

Gentlemen of this Court Martial I am sensible of the gravity of these charges. I am also sensible tat they place in me in a very critical condition. I do not conceal myself that my danger is extreme and when I represent that all this serious complications have resulted from incautiously drinking pernicious liquor it has the effect to mortify and humble me. Had I reflected that such results could arise from so undesigning event had I thought for one moment that I would be rendered incapable of self-control as to act thus. Had I dreamed for but one moment that the fluid which I drank was of so noxious a character - it is superfluous for me to say that my lips would have closed in disgust against it - but incautiously I drank it and I am today confronted with the evidence of my folly and all I can say or assert is that I extenuate my conduct by the foregoing explanations and without further occupying the time or wearying the patience of this court, I throw myself upon the generosity of its members, praying them, with the explanations I have given to account for my conduct, that they will view this case in a spirit of lenience in as much as it was not the rational man who offended so much the nature as the nature of the compound he incautiously drank.

Levi Robbins
Acting 3rd Asst. Engineer
USS Rodolph #48
December 1864

PS. The threatening language made use of by me towards J. Johnson I can only account for in one way and that is from information I received afterwards to this effect.

That Patrick Manning a 1st Class Fireman complained to me about the way in which the two coal heavers, Jack Johnson and Leonard Harvey were turning the coal in the bunkers and when I told them to turn away their coal and stop grumbling, and one of them said he would not do anything for a damned old white face son of a bitch.