When the wars of our country are studied, names come up that we all know. Ones we learned about in school or on the History Channel. There are also names we should know about and may never hear.
You’ll find a very special headstone among those in the Roberson Cemetery, along NC Highway 171, in the Farm Life Community. The front of the stone remembers Prudence Roberson who died in 1913. On the back you’ll find the only mention of her husband, Alfred Roberson.
Served Mexican War
Husband of Prudence Roberson
Killed by a Shell
Fort Anderson 1865
A soldier who died in defense of his state
But his story of service began long before the War Between the States. Alfred was the son of Harmon and Elizabeth Roberson of Griffins Township in Martin County. At about 24 years of age, this farmer was among the Martin County men who signed on to serve in the War with Mexico. Roberson, also listed as Robason or Robinson in various records, was listed as a corporal in Company E of the First Regiment – North Carolina Volunteers, commanded by Captain William S. Duggan. The regiment was led by Colonel Robert T. Paine of Edenton. His first sergeant was neighbor, friend and German immigrant - John Getsinger. The company was organized in Tarboro during December 1846. The group of farmers and laborers were called into service at Wilmington on January 15, 1847.
In a letter to his family, written from Smithville (now Southport) North Carolina on January 26, 1847, Roberson told his parents about leaving out of Williamston in sleet and snow to begin their adventure. On the second day out of Williamston, Roberson describes their welcome at Tarboro. “There the citizens met us at the foot of the bridge with music and firing of cannon and marches us to the best tavern and gave us the finest dinner you ever saw.” After a train ride from Rocky Mount to Wilmington, they took a steamboat to Smithville.
“Dear Father, I have seen a great deal already and expect to see a great deal more,” Alfred wrote. Little did he know how much he would see, and that his father would pass away while he was gone. He survived the campaign to be honorably discharged at Fort Monroe, Virginia on July 28, 1848.
The 1850 Census shows Alfred back home and farming. He was listed at 27 years old in the household with his mother, sister and three brothers. In 1854, he married Prudence Peal.
Alfred was not long married with young children when the country’s tide changed and the call to service came for defense of the South. Alfred and his brothers answered.
James Benjamin Roberson, the middle brother, was the first in the family to enlist - joining Company H of the 61st Hill Guards, in November 1861. Younger brother Harmon Thomas joined up in the fall of 1862. In August of 1863, Alfred – then nearly 41 – returned to New Hanover County to once again enlist. This time it was as a member of the 3rd Artillery, Company B of the 40th Regiment. Brother Harmon also enlisted.
Letters remain of Roberson’s time served defending the Confederacy. One of the most memorable correspondences was from Alfred to his wife, Prudence, from Fort Holmes, Smith(s) Island – now Bald Head Island. His July 17, 1864 letter noted action around Petersburg, Washington City and Baltimore. The close of his letter paints a picture of the heartache of war and separation. (Original spellings included)
“ . . and at last Dear Wife, I want you to be sure to except a good portion your Housbon’s best love for your self and the children and if we should meat no more in this world of sorrow, O ma we meat in Heven whear parting will be no mor is the Prear (prayer) of you Loving Housband until Death. Alfred Roberson”
While Alfred was serving between Fort Anderson and Fort Holmes, James Benjamin was captured at Fort Harrison, Virginia and confined to Point Lookout Prison, Maryland on October 5, 1864. He survived the prison camp to be release at war’s end. But he would never see Alfred again.
Just before 4 p.m. on February 3, 1865, The Tacony – a Union gunboat – powered up the Cape Fear River following the fall of Fort Fisher. The second shot fired on Fort Anderson tore through a barrack of the Company B, 40th North Carolina. Upon the shell’s impact, Pvt. Alfred Roberson was “torn up” by shrapnel. He would die two days later. There would be no homecoming or fanfare like when he arrived at Tarboro - just a remembrance on a stone.