Posted By Norman Gasbarro on August 1, 2016
Robert B. Kepner was born in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, about 1825, the son of Benjamin Kepner (1800-1846) and Margaret [Bowes] Kepner (1803-1836). He died in Washington, D.C., on 17 February 1879. He is buried at the Halifax United Methodist Church Cemetery in Halifax, Dauphin County. Above is shown the index card from the data base, “Headstones Provided for Deceased Union Civil War Veterans,” which notes the date of death, and the regiment and company of service, namely, the 8th Pennsylvania Cavalry, Company A.
The name R. B. Kepner was found in the Halifax Bicentennial Book, with burial information given as the Halifax Cemetery. No regiment or company was given in that list. When Civil War burials at that same cemetery were posted on this blog, the Kepner stone was not pictured, because when the cemetery was photographed, it was not seen. In Findagrave, an entry was found for a “P. B. Kepner,” who served in the 8th Pennsylvania Cavalry, but the stone was not pictured.
The Pennsylvania Veterans’ File Card, shown above from the Pennsylvania Archives, shows that Robert B. Kepner enrolled in the 8th Pennsylvania Cavalry, on 28 August 1861, at Philadelphia. He was mustered into service at the same place and the same date. The only personal information on the card was his age of 35. No rank is stated on the card nor is a discharge date. In the remarks section, are the words “Deserted 17 May 1862.”
On 30 June 1879, as shown on the above Pension Index Card, the widow Elizabeth Kepner, applied for pension benefits based on her husband’s service. Lacking any mention that Robert B. Kepner had himself applied, it can be assumed that this was first application based on the 8th Pennsylvania Cavalry, Company A, service of Robert B. Kepner. However, the fact that Mrs. Kepner actually received a pension conflicts with the comment on the Pennsylvania Veterans’ File Card that he was a deserter, as well as the fact that he was “awarded” a government issue gravestone, which could have only been done if he had an honorable discharge.
The answer is probably found on the General Index Card, shown above from Fold3. Robert B. Kepner started his service at the rank of Corporal and concluded it at the rank of Private. Furthermore, he also had service in the Veteran Reserve Corps, something that was not noted on either the Pennsylvania Veterans’ Card File, or on the Pension Index Card. The transfer was probably not properly recorded in the records of the 8th Pennsylvania Cavalry and he was reported a “not accounted for” at muster out.
One of three General Index Cards for Kepner’s service in the Veteran Reserve Corps is shown above. This card gives the specific regiment and company in the V.R.C., and also gives the rank of bugler. Why this service was not reported in at least the pension application is not known.
In 1860, Robert B. Kepner was living in Philadelphia, and was working as a bookkeeper. In his household were his wife and his three month old son Robert B. Kepner Jr.
In 1870, Robert B. Kepner was living in Washington, D.C., and was working as a clerk to the Postmaster General of the United States. In addition to his wife Elizabeth, the family also consisted of 3 children.
Robert B. Kepner died in Washington, D.C., as per information found on the Pension Index Card from Fold3 (not pictured here). His remains were returned to his hometown of Halifax for burial.
Eliza [Waller] Kepner remained in Washington, D.C., collecting a widow’s pension until her death on 18 December 1903 as reported in the Washington Evening Star:
KEPNER. On Friday, 18 December 1903,at 8:45 o’clock a.m., at her residence, 16 S Street Northwest, ELIZABETH, wife of the late Robert B. Kepner Sr. Funeral from late residence Monday, 21 December at 2 o’clock p.m. Interment private. Philadelphia papers please copy.
This blog post does not answer all the possible questions about this veteran. It is a beginning of research on Robert B. Kepner who served in the 8th Pennsylvania Cavalry and who is buried at the Halifax United Methodist Church Cemetery. Additional information can be found in his military record and widow’s pension application, both of which are available at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.
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