Robert B. McKee received his medical training at Pennsylvania Medical College in 1859. Leaving his hometown of Middletown, Delaware, in 1861, McKee volunteered to serve as a surgeon in the Civil War. He worked as a hospital steward and an assistant surgeon for most of the war in Company B of the 1st Delaware Volunteer Cavalry in various areas of Virginia and Maryland.
Napoleon B. Knight, with whom McKee seems to have shared a close friendship (see the letters of March 1865), organized the 1st Delaware Volunteer Cavalry on August 13, 1862. Following his release from active duty in the summer of 1865, McKee returned temporarily to Middletown before moving to Delaware City, Delaware.
McKee was married to Anna M. McKee, who received a widow’s pension in 1901 for the service her husband rendered his country during the Civil War.
Scharf, Thomas J. History of Delaware. (Philadelphia: L. J. Richards & Co., 1888), 371, 507.
Index to compiled service records of volunteer Union soldiers who served in organizations from the state of Delaware. (Washington: National Archives and Records Service, 1964, microform).
Historical and biographical information obtained from the collection.
The Robert B. McKee papers consist of correspondence, military orders, medical supply inventories, casualty reports, and other material related to his service as a surgeon in the 1st Delaware Calvary regiment during the Civil War.
The papers, dated from 1861 to 1865, plus one item dated in 1901, comprise sixty-six items, including correspondence, military orders, medical supply inventories, casualty reports, military passes, circulars, newspapers, and personal essays.
The first sixty-five items, arranged chronologically, are related to McKee’s experience in the Civil War, spent primarily as an assistant surgeon with the 1st Delaware Volunteer Cavalry. The final document is a widow’s pension certificate which his wife, Anna M. McKee, received July 15, 1901.
With the recommendations of several associates from his hometown of Middletown, Delaware, including the doctor who trained him, McKee enlisted in the U.S. Army with the hope of serving his country by providing his medical skills as a surgeon. Many of the documents reveal the bureaucratic side of waging a war: supply inventories, lists of sick and wounded, requisition orders, medical transfers, and responses to requests for reports. McKee served at Drummondtown, Virginia, as well as at Baltimore, Monrovia, and Relay House, all in Maryland.
About half of the documents reveal the logistical requirements of providing medical attention for army personnel. The other half of the documents relate to McKee’s struggle to receive his final pay after some supplies under his care were either lost or damaged. Internal evidence suggests that the surgeon who served previously to McKee may have caused this problem that plagued McKee for some time after his release from service. The widow benefits McKee’s wife eventually received indicate that the problem was resolved.
Two other documents of particular interest are a newspaper, The Regimental Flag, published by the 2nd Regiment of Delaware Volunteers and an unsigned, undated essay believed to have been authored by McKee.