By the summer of 1863, most of the mothers and fathers of Beaver County, Pennsylvania, were ardent spectators of the Civil War. There was a good reason for this; their sons were being sacrificed all across the battlefields. It is safe to assert that the gray, cannon-smoke winds of Gettysburg were being blown right into the Ohio River valley and choking the residents with its stench of death.The church bells always annunciated the passions that could be heard chiming all along 3rd Street in downtown Beaver, Pennsylvania. The date of July 2nd, 1863, was a just cause for concern. The folks were in despair; they had lost a friend, a gentleman, a lawyer, but most of all, a patriot.The man was Richard P. Roberts, commander of the 140th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment.
News of the battle had spread to Beaver County quickly. Col.Roberts, before his entry into battle, spent a number of months recruiting and advocating a regiment to be in place, fully trained and equipped, and prepared to enter into service immediately should it be requested to do so; he personally made sure of this and the citizens of Beaver County knew that he had participated in a major role in developing this new regiment; after all, many had volunteered their service and requested to be placed under his command. For Col.Roberts, this was a splendid achievement and quite a personal one. In order to enter into military service and implement this operation, he abandoned his law practice in Beaver, PA and enlisted in the Union Army. His rank (because of his legal education) permitted him a high standard of excellence (as well as EARNING it) among his colleagues; he almost became a leader from the beginning. Just only a few months after all this careful preparation, he found himself in command of this magnificent regiment at Gettysburg. However, fate shows no mercy upon the altar of sacrifice. Col.Roberts had one regret, he had to leave his only daughter behind. (His wife had died some years earlier.)
News of the colonel’s death was splattered across the Beaver County newspapers. Shapeless crowds gathered around the county courthouse to retrieve reports of other fallen brethren. As the names were read, one has to imagine hearing his name, the local neighbor, and friend of many; the one who had orphaned his only daughter; the one who had promised his colleagues and friends that he would help preserve the Union and their way of life; the one who had defended his friends in the courts of law that employed him; the one who swore to uphold the Constitution and Flag; the one who said all of this, and did just that.
The Battle of Gettysburg inhaled the largest amount of casualties of any battle in the Civil War with a little over 51,000. It also produced 63 Medals of Honor. (That is an unprecedented statistic!) Today, on July 2nd, 2014, I pay homage to one of those fallen soldiers, who sacrificed his life and spirit in pursuit of the noblest of truths, Patriotism. Your dance on the battlefield is over, you can rest now, most HONORABLE sir. This post, I hope, is your preservation for the ages to share. Let the forth-coming generations of Beaver County, PA, know this: you cannot pin any medal onto the chest of death unless you are Col. Richard P. Roberts.
(For more information on the 140th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment, please visit this website: http://www.pacivilwar.com/regiment/140th.html)