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R.B. Roberts

R.B. Roberts

Federal (USV)


Richard Biddle Roberts

(1825 - 1886)

Home State: Pennsylvania

Command Billet: Commanding Regiment

Branch of Service: Infantry

Unit: 1st Pennsylvania Reserves


see his Battle Report

Before Antietam

He graduated from High School in Washington County, Pennsylvania, which was where his family lived. His grandfather was the chief justice of the Western District, including Washington County, and his father was the clerk there. He was himself admitted to the bar in Allegheny County (PA) in 1850 and was elected District Attorney for that County (1853-56). He was appointed U. S. District Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania in 1857 and remained in that post til the beginning of the War.1

He had had some pre-war experience as 1st Lieutenant in a Militia company called the Duquesne Grays, organized a Company of the 12th PA (90-day regiment) and served as Lt Colonel on Governor Curtin's staff in the Spring of 1861.2 "On 9 June 1861 the 1st Regiment, Pennsylvania Reserve Corps was organized with R. Biddle Roberts, of Pittsburgh, appointed Colonel". He led the regiment to the defenses of Washington in 1861, on the Peninsula in mid-1862 - with particular distinction at Mechanicsville on 27 June - and on the Manassas Campaign. 3

On the Campaign

He commanded the Regiment in the successful assault on Turner's Gap on the afternoon of 14 September, and led them in combat near the East Woods at Antietam on the 17th. He was made Brigade commander as senior Colonel after Gen Hooker was wounded, and was relieved in command of the Regiment by Captain Talley, Company F.

The rest of the War

In late October 1862, Governor Curtin (PA) requested Colonel Roberts join his staff in Harrisburg. Colonel Biddle may have taken that post because he felt he had been unfairly denied promotion to Brigadier General of US Volunteers for political reasons. In any case, he was there til the end of the War.1

After the War

He returned to the practice of Law in Pittsburg (to 1869) then in Chicago, Illinois. He specialized in Railroad business, including representation of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company and the Fort Wayne Railroad. He was a Mason, active in veterans affairs, and president of the Bar Association and of the St. Andrew's Society (1882).1

References & notes

Personal details from family genealogists and the US Census of 1860. His gravesite is on Findagrave. His picture from a photograph in Hunt. Thanks to Steve Manganiello for the corrected details of his family and youth.


08/25/1825; Pittsburgh, PA


04/19/1886; Chicago, IL; burial in Allegheny Cemetery, Pittsburgh, PA


1   Compiled from "several sources at the Chicago Historical Society".
Rethford, Elaine, webmaster, and Illinois Saint Andrew Society, Famous, Infamous and Not-So-Famous Scottish Americans, The Illinois St. Andrew Society, Published c. 2003, first accessed 22 June 2005, <>, Source page: /Names-R.htm  [AotW citation 102]

2   Sypher, Josiah Rhinehart, History of the Pennsylvania Reserve Corps, Lancaster, PA: Elias Barr and Company, 1865, pp. 65-66  [AotW citation 104]

3   Bates, Samuel Penniman, History of the Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-65, Harrisburg: State of Pennsylvania, 1868-1871  [AotW citation 103]

4   Hunt, Roger D., Colonels in Blue: Union Army Colonels of the Civil War - Mid Atlantic States, Mechanicsburg (PA): Stackpole Books, 2007  [AotW citation 29394]