Robert W. Starke

Robert W. Starke was born around 1828 in Hanover County, Virginia, to Joseph and M. T. Starke. His father was a Baptist minister and farmer who owned at least five slaves. Robert attended the College of William and Mary from 1846 to 1847 before enrolling at the University of Virginia in 1848. He spent the next year studying medicine, chemistry, anatomy, and surgery. While at UVA, Starke was frequently absent from class, and his professors formally admonished him for his behavior. He transferred to Hampden-Sydney College in 1849 and earned his medical degree the following year.

Starke returned to Hanover County, Virginia, where he began working as a physician. His father died in 1853, and the family sold his personal estate in December 1854. Starke enlisted in the United States Army as a hospital steward on January 1, 1857, in Richmond, Virginia. His enlistment records describe him as 6 feet tall, with blue eyes and black hair.

While serving in the Wyoming Territory, he was court martialed for drunkenness on duty, disobedience of orders, and breach of arrest, and he was dishonorably discharged on December 22, 1858.

He spent the next few years practicing medicine in Oregon and California. He married Nancy Jane Speer on June 27, 1860, and their son Solon Robert Starke was born the following year. The couple, however, divorced soon after, and Nancy remarried in 1864. Starke enlisted in the navy on June 3, 1864, and served aboard the USS Narragansett. That December, while sailing through the Straits of Magellan, “his eye sight suddenly failed,” and for three days “he could not see to read.” He was discharged on March 25, 1865. Five days later, he enlisted as a musician in Company B of the 191st New York Infantry in New York City. For some reason, Starke claimed he was born in London, England. He became a private in the regiment on April 28, and he was discharged five days later, on May 3, 1865.

After the war, Starke settled in Richmond, Virginia, where he worked as an apothecary and was repeatedly cited for drunkenness. On one occasion, in December 1865, the mayor required him to “give security to keep the peace for twelve months.” On November 23, 1868, Starke enlisted in the United States Army under the name “Miles White.” He served as a private in Company F of the 11th U.S. Infantry, which was eventually consolidated with the 16th U.S. Infantry. He was discharged on April 10, 1870 at Vicksburg, Mississippi.

Starke’s health deteriorated during the 1870s, and by 1879 he was unable to work. The following year, he was admitted to the city hospital in Charleston, South Carolina. On August 24, 1889, he was admitted to the National Home for Disabled Soldiers in Hampton, Virginia. He was suffering from rheumatism, heart disease, piles, and a lingering hand injury. He began receiving a $12 per month pension in 1890. He died six years later, on February 1, 1896, of pneumonia and edema of the lungs, and was buried at Hampton National Cemetery in Virginia.

Name:Starke, Robert W.
Alternative names:
  • White, Miles (alternative name)
  • Sailor
  • UVA (Union)
  • Soldier
U.S.S. Narragansett
191st Regiment New York Volunteer InfantryB
16th Regiment U.S. InfantryF
11th Regiment U.S. InfantryG
Branch of service:Navy
Enlistment1857-01-01Richmond, VA
Muster Out1858-12-22WyomingDishonorably Discharged
Muster Out1865-03-25Brooklyn, NYMustered Out
Enlistment1865-03-30New York, NY
Muster Out1865-05-03Hart's Island, NYDishonorably Discharged
Enlistment1868-11-23Richmond, VA
Muster Out1870-04-10Vicksburg, MSDischarged for Disability
Residence at UVA:Caroline County, VA
UVA Begin Year:1848
UVA End Year:1849
Residence at enlistment:
Rank In:Hospital Steward, Surgeon's Steward
Rank Out:Private, Surgeon's Steward
Highest rank achieved:Private
Person 1Person 2NumberRelation Type
Starke, Robert W.Starke, Robert W.15652application-invalid
Starke, Robert W.noneapplication-minor
Starke, Robert W.noneapplication-parent
Starke, Robert W.noneapplication-widow
Starke, Robert W.Starke, Robert W.8043certificate-invalid
Birth date:1828
Birth date certainty:about
Birth place:Hanover County, VA
Death date:1896-02-01
Death place:Southern Branch National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers Hampton, VA
Causes of death:
Person 1Relation TypePerson 2
Starke, Robert W.parent ofStarke, Solon Robert R.
Starke, Nancy Janewife ofStarke, Robert W.

Compiled Service Records for Robert W. Starke, RG 94, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.; Pension records for Robert W. Starke, RG 15, National Archives and Records Administration; United States Census, 1850, 1860, 1870, and 1880;  United States Veterans’ Census, 1890; U.S. National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, 1866-1938; U.S. School Catalogs, 1765-1935 for Robert W. Starke, accessed through; U.S. Army, Register of Enlistments, 1798-1914, accessed through