Some of us spend the late days of summer mourning the impending passing of another warm season. The parents among us also look ahead with hopes of a successful school year for our children.
But for the Robbins family, of Lowell, the end of one particular summer gave way to mourning the loss of two soldier sons.
Their story is a reminder of the deep loss suffered by so many in the building and preservation of our region and nation.
For the past couple of years, I've thought about this south Lake County farming family as I've watched my two sons, now 11, head off to school at summer's dusk.
Hiram and Louisa Robbins suffered their first heartbreak in mid July of their summer of nightmares. Word came that their oldest son, Stillman, a private and staff clerk in the Army, died while serving his country far from home.
It was a fever-induced brain hemorrhage, not enemy gunfire, that killed Stillman at age 22.
Army Lt. Charles Ball, another region serviceman who knew and served with Stillman, eulogized his younger comrade in a most eloquent letter after the young soldier passed.
Ball, who grew up with and attended school with Stillman in Cedar Lake, remembered his friend as a once "bright little boy" often found "stealing away by himself with his favorite books, treasuring with care a neglected Sunday-school library."
In young adulthood, Stillman had become quite the scholar and aspiring engineer. But he put aside his studies in answering his nation's call to arms — a nation that found his talents better suited for a more cerebral part of the Army.
Stillman was a source of great pride to his farmer parents and an idol to his younger brother Albert, who at 18 followed his brother into service.
Albert became a combat soldier in the heart of some of the heaviest fighting in our nation's history.
On Aug. 6 of the same year as Stillman's passing, Albert died from a wound sustained in battle. He was 19.
What was left of Hiram and Louisa's hearts must have been ground into dust when word came of Albert's death.
The great loss of the Robbins family — two sons dead in the service of their country — follows a story line from so many sad eras in our history. Their story could have been written in the wake of our modern wars.
But Charles Ball, brother of famed 19th century Lake County historian Timothy Ball, picked up his pen to eulogize Stillman — and reference Albert's death — in August 1864. You see, the Robbins brothers died 150 years ago this summer while serving in separate federal army units during America's Civil War.
Parents, think not just of the Robbins brothers, but also of their parents as you watch your children head off to region schools — an exercise made possible by the often heart-shattering sacrifices of those who came before us.
"His loss was deeply felt by all the regiment ...," Ball wrote of Stillman's death while serving in the 12th Indiana Cavalry. "But who shall speak of the loss to those parents who had given up their two brave boys, their all, without a murmur, to their country?"