A Civil War Biography

William Paul Roberts

Roberts was born 11 July 1841 in Gates County, North Carolina. In 1861, at the age of 19, he enlisted in the 19th North Carolina, the 2nd North Carolina cavalry. He was promoted to third lieutenant on 30 August 1861 and served with distinction during the operations of the regiment in North Carolina.

Roberts was promoted to 1st lieutenant on 13 September 1862. The regiment was transferred to Virginia early that fall and fought at Fredericksburg, Suffolk and Brandy Station. Roberts was promoted to Captain on 19 November 1863 then Major shortly thereafter. He fought through the spring of 1864 in the North Carolina brigade in W.H.F. Lee's division then was promoted to colonel in June 1864 and given command of the regiment during the Petersburg campaign. At Reams Station on 25 August 1864 Roberts led a dismounted charge against Union breastworks carrying their rifle pits and capturing many prisoners. He was officially named brigadier general on 23 February 1865, to date from the 21st, making him, at 23, the youngest Confederate general.

As the story goes General Robert E. Lee presented Roberts with his gauntlets as a mark of Robert's distinguished gallantry. He would continue to command his brigade avoiding capture at Five Forks before being surrendered at Appomattox. He returned to North Carolina after the war and worked to restore the state. In 1875 he represented Gates County at the state constitutional convention. He served in the state legislature in 1876 and 1877. In 1880 and again in 1884, he was elected auditor of the state. He died on 28 March 1910 in Norfolk, Virginia.

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