After interviewing Capt. Riddell, Special Examiner MacBride returned to Cincinnati and immediately penned a letter to Albert Corbin. MacBride had good reason to want to talk to Albert. Finally, he had found someone who actually served in the Mexican War alongside Randolph Corbin. And according to Capt. Riddell, Albert reportedly knew the circumstances of Randolph’s death.
Was Albert really a member of Company D of the 3rd Kentucky Volunteer regiment? Indeed he was, and we find him listed among the first of four Corbins who served (list available from the the Kenton County Public Library). Notice that he was a “fifer”. It’s curious that they were still using fifes at this time in our history. I understand that they may have still been used as a form of battlefield communication.
Albert Corbin lived at “Grant Post Office” in Boone County. The surrounding community is known as Belleview, but the area in the immediate vicinity of the post office was known as Grant. Today, the Grant Post Office (shown above) is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Getting from Cincinnati to Grant was a difficult trip, and MacBride was anxious to get information right away. He penned the following letter to Albert:
Cincinnati, Oh, Oct 4th 1893
Mr. Albert Corbin
Grant P.O., Boone Co. Ky
Dear Sir, please return this letter with your reply stating whether you know when Randolph B. Corbin (who was in Capt. J.A. Pritchard’s Co., War with Mexico) departed this life, and if so, please give date. Do you know where he was buried, or of what he died? Do you know, or did you ever know Benjamin F. Black who died in AUgust 1891 in Kenton Co., Ky near Walton, Ky? Was Black a Mexican War soldier? Did Randolph Corbin at any time assume the name of Benjamin F. Black?
What kin, if any, were you to the late Randolph B. Corbin? Is Randolph Corbin’s grave marked by a headstone or tombstone? If so, do you know what inscription is on it? You were referred to by Capt. James M. Riddell of Williamstown, Ky who thought you could give me the necessary information.
It is very important. Please reply promptly and place reply in the enclosed envelope (which does not require any postage stamp) and mail the same to me at an early date, and you will very much oblige.
Thomas H. MacBride
U.S. Special Pension Examiner
Are you at your place of business nearly every day? What dat do you expect next to be in Burlington, Florence, Union or Erlanger?
Were you a member of Capt. Pritchard’s Co.? If so, was Benj. F. Black a member of that Company?
Albert was eager to comply with this request. His reply is dated October 9, only five days after MacBride wrote his letter. I imagine that was probably about the time it took for the letter to be delivered.
He wrote the letter on the letterhead of his business. An interesting mix of products offered – wouldn’t you have loved to browse through his store?
Oct 9th 1893
Thos. H. MacBride Esq.
Yours in reference to Randolph B. Corbin rec’d. In reply will say that I knew him as Randal B. Corbin. He came to my Uncle Henry B. Corbin’s in Boone Co., Ky in March 1849 sick with Chronic Diarrhea which was contracted in Mexico, and remained there under the care of Dr. Trummell of Boone Co. until the time of his death which occurred June 24th 1849. Was buried on a the farm now owned by a man by the name of Searlight about one mile south of Florence, Boone Co., Ky. His grave is marked with a head-stone which contains the date of this birth & death together with the following verse composed by a lady friend by the name of Polly Bristo.
The Burning Sands of Mexico
They weary foot hath trod
But now thy gallant head lies low
Beneath Kentucky sod.
He never did assume the name of Black or any other name to my knowledge. According to my father’s statement, he and I were third cousins.
I knew Benj. F. Black who volunteered in the same Co. with Randal Corbin & myself and went as far as Louisville Ky and after being sworn in there and drilling about two weeks, he with a man by the name of Samuel Lampton deserted the company. As soon as these facts were made known they were burned in effigy on a pole in our camp.
I was a member of Co. D. commanded by Capt. Jas. A. Pritchard.
I am at my place of business most every day except the 1st Saturday in each month, at which time I am at Union, Ky. I expect to be at Burlington the 1st Monday in November which is Co. court day.
Okay, wow – a few items of note in this letter!
- Notice that Albert also knew him as “Randal” – the same name that Benjamin used in his initial pension application. That’s interesting.
- Albert and Randolph are indeed related – they were third cousins.
- It seems that poor Randolph left behind a girlfriend who composed a sweet rhyming epitaph. Doesn’t that just break your heart?
- Randolph was not buried in a cemetery but on a farm. It sounds like he had no immediate family. The grave location – a farm that’s one mile south of Florence in Boone County – is dense with retail and commercial development. I’m sure his grave is gone. This letter may be the only remaining evidence of his death and burial.
- Benjamin deserted from training camp! And was burned in effigy! I’ve looked high and low and cannot find any newspaper accounts of this event (recall that Capt. Riddell said he read about this in the newspaper). I also can find no evidence of his actual enlistment. He apparently deserted before he was officially enrolled into the Company.
At this point, MacBride felt like the case was closed. In the next installment, we’ll look at his final report.