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Civil War Blog

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John E. Roberts – Killed in Virginia, 1862

Posted By on June 6, 2017


The name John Roberts appears on the Lykens G.A.R. Monument as a Civil War soldier who was killed in action.  At first, it was difficult to identify him, but recently, a Pennsylvania Veterans’ File Card was located for a John E. Roberts, who lived in Dauphin County at the time of his enlistment.

An 18 year old John E. Roberts, by trade a painter, enrolled on 12 June 1861 at Union County, Pennsylvania, in the 5th Pennsylvania Reserve Infantry (34th Pennsylvania Infantry), Company D, as a Private.  He was mustered into service on 21 June 1861 at Camp Tennally, Washington, District of Columbia.  At the time of his enrollment he was 5 foot 5 inches tall, had a fair complexion, dark hair and brown eyes.  The card notes that he was killed in action on 30 June 1862, which was during the Seven Days Battle in Virginia.

Previously, it was known that a Joseph Roberts, born about 1835, enrolled at Lykens, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, in the 10th Pennsylvania Infantry, Company F, as a Private.  At the time, Joseph was a blacksmith.

In the 1850 census for Wiconisco Township, a Joseph Roberts, born about 1805 in Wales, was the head of a family that included a Joseph, born about 1835, and a John, born about 1843.  It was possible that this was the same family, and that John was a brother of Joseph.

In the 1860 census, the older Joseph, with his wife Mary, had moved to Harrisburg, where he was still working as a blacksmith.  In that same household was John, born about 1843.

No widow ever applied for a pension for John E. Roberts.  However, the mother of John applied on 10 April 1879, and received benefits.  In 1880, a Mary Roberts, a widow, was living in Harrisburg with her daughter Annie [Roberts] Fenn.  Most likely this Mary Roberts was the mother of John E. Roberts who died in the war, as Annie appears in the 1860 census for Harrisburg, born about 1846, as the daughter of Mary and the older Joseph.

One strange record (above, from Ancestry.com) still needs to be resolved.  If John E. Roberts was killed in the war in June 1862, when was the family notified of his death?  In the 1863 United States Civil War Draft Registration, someone in Harrisburg registered John E. Roberts for the draft, but indicated that he was then serving in the 5th Pennsylvania Reserve – hardly possible for him to be a draft registrant if he was dead!

So, does this confirm that the Joseph Roberts who was killed in the war is the same Joseph E. Roberts mentioned in this blog post?  Additional evidence must be seen in order to be absolutely certain, but it appears from what has been reviewed, that it is the same person.

Blog readers are invited to present their thoughts.


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