Monday, February 8, 2021

Black History Month Personality Spotlight: 1st Sgt. Robert Pinn, 5th USCI, Medal of Honor Recepient

One of four African American soldiers in the 5th USCI who received the Medal of Honor for heroism at the Battle of New Market Heights, 1st Sgt. Robert A. Pinn lived his life as an agent of change for the better.

Born on March 1, 1843, in Stark County, Ohio, to a free man of color father who was born enslaved in Virginia and a mother born in Pennsylvania, Robert came of age in a farming household, the only boy among four sisters. He enlisted in Company I of the 5th USCI on September 5, 1863 in Massillon, Ohio. A quick promotion to sergeant came about a month later. During the summer of 1864 he served for a time as acting sergeant major. An official promotion to Company I’s 1st sergeant brought additional responsibilities just about a month before he displayed his leadership abilities at the Battle of New Market Heights.

On September 29, 1864, as the 5th USCI led a second assault wave against the Confederate breastworks just north of Deep Bottom, a high casualty rate among the officers of the 5th required the company non-commissioned officers like 1st Sgt. Pinn to take over. He did so unflinchingly. His Medal of Honor citation reads: “Took command of his company after all the officers had been killed or wounded and gallantly led it in battle.”

Despite the heroism of Pinn and his comrades at New Market Heights, they received the call to engage some of the same Confederates later in the day at Fort Gilmer, closer to Richmond. It was at Fort Gilmer that Pinn received a severe wound to his right shoulder. Sent to heal at Lovell General Hospital at Portsmouth Grove, Rhode Island, the injury incapacitated Pinn for several months. He eventually returned to duty and mustered out with the 5th USCI on September 20, 1865.

After the war Pinn returned to Ohio, attended Oberlin College, taught school, and then studied law. He became a member of the Ohio bar in 1879. A recipient himself of a pension for his service and disability, Pinn helped other black veterans gain benefits with his chosen profession and working for the U.S. Pension Bureau. An active member of both the Republican Party and the Grand Army of the Republic, Pinn served as commander of Massillon’s Hart Post 134 GAR. Pinn died on January 1, 1911, at age 67. He rests in peace in Massillon City Cemetery in his native Stark County, Ohio. We remember, and we thank you for your service!  

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