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Paroles of the Army of Northern Virginia. Statement of Brigadier General W. P. Roberts as to his staff and command.

The Editor has pleasure in publishing the following letter, which is inspired by a highly worthy motive. It is his desire to give place in the Papers to all proper representations regarding the surrender at Appomattox Courthouse; everything incidental thereto, and any personal explanation under signature of any soldier or officer who was of the Army of Northern Virginia.

The embarrassment experienced in the preparation of Volume XV of the Southern Historical Society Papers is stated in the Introduction thereto. ‘W. P. Roberts, Brigadier-General,’ was paroled singly, and the parole was without further information or explanation. Brigadier-General W. P. Roberts is said to have been the youngest officer of his rank in the Confederate States Army. His is a noble record. He ‘entered the army in June, 1861, at the age of nineteen years as a Sergeant in the Second North Carolina Cavalry; was appointed Second Lieutenant in September following; promoted First Lieutenant in August, 1862, Captain in October, 1863, Major in May, 1864, Colonel in August, 1864, and Brigadier-General in February, 1865, being then in the thirty-third year of his age. He had received no military training before entering the army, and had not finished his education.’

Gatesville, N. C., July 7, 1891.
dear Sir:

Volume XV of the Southern Historical Papers is wholly taken up with the names of paroled prisoners, Army of Northern Virginia, who surrendered at Appomattox, and the name of ‘W. P. Roberts, Brigadier-General,’ appears among or next to a list of ordnance officers, without naming his arm of the service, and without a word said about his command or staff. I do not care about the matter so far as I am personally concerned, but in all human probability some of these days the volume will be quoted as evidence that the names contained in it were the only men who fought at Appomattox, and as I know better, I desire to make the correction, so far as my own brigade was concerned. [387] The brigade was a part of Major-General W. H. F. Lee's division of cavalry, and was made up of the Fourth North Carolina, a part of the Eighth Georgia and the Sixteenth North Carolina battalion. I remember well that on that memorable morning the command was promptly upon the field of Appomattox, and with it a remnant of Barringer's North Carolina cavalry, which had been assigned to it a few days previous. Early thereafter this command charged and captured four Napolean guns, the last, I am sure, captured by the Army of Northern Virginia and immediately after which I received orders to withdraw from the field and march towards Buckingham Courthouse. Subsequently the command was halted about two miles from Appomattox to await the arrival of General Fitz Lee, and when he came up, it was by his orders that I directed my Acting Adjutant-General, Captain Theodore S. Garnett of Virginia, to disband the men, and advise them to make their way to their homes in North Carolina and Georgia.

Shortly thereafter I traveled South, accompanied by one of my men, but upon reflection I felt it my duty to return to Appomattox, which I did, and surrendered to the officer in command, General Gibbon.

I had with me on the 9th only one staff officer, Captain Theo. S. Garnett. My ordnance officer, Captain Webb, a gallant young soldier from Alabama, being in charge of the ordnance train, had passed the courthouse on the evening of the 8th; Captain Coaghenson of North Carolina, my Inspector-General, had been dangerously wounded on the 5th near me, and while gallantly doing his duty, and my Aide-de-Camp, Lieutenant Holcombe, of Virginia, reported that he had been disabled by a collision with a trooper in a charge at Dr. Boisseau's near Petersburg, which occurred on the 4th of April. My couriers were all killed or wounded, save Private Forbes of the Fourth regiment, who remained by my side to the end. My Acting Adjutant-General, Captain Garnett, than whom no commander ever had a more faithful or gallant lieutenant, was always by my side, and was among the last to leave when the command was ordered from the field.

The reason, therefore, that these gallant officers and men of my command were not paroled at Appomattox was because they obeyed orders to disband and shift for themselves.

I have written this much in justice to that little band of heroic men who ever responded with promptness and gallantry to every command [388] on that never-to-be-forgotten retreat from Petersburg to Appomattox; who saved a part of the cavalry from a shameful stampede at Namazine Creek; who met and successfully resisted the charging columns of General Custer near Amelia Courthouse, saving, in all probability, the great Lee from capture; who, as before mentioned, captured the last guns at Appomattox, and having remained faithful and loyal to the last, I beg that you will give this a place in your forthcoming volume, to the end that their devotion to duty and a proof of their heroic valor may be preserved and transmitted to those who are to come after them.

Very respectfully,

W. P. Roberts, Late Brigadier-General C. S. A. R. A. Brock, Esq., Secretary Southern Historical Society, Richmond, Va.

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W. P. Roberts (5)
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