Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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ROBERTS, Benjamin Stone, soldier, born in Manchester, Vermont, in 1811 ; died in Washington, D. C., 29 January, 1875. He was graduated at the United States military academy in 1835, and assigned to the 1st dragoons, but after several years of frontier service he resigned on 28 January, 1839, and as principal engineer built the Champlain and Ogdensburg railroad. He was assistant geologist of New York in 1841, and in 1842 aided Lieutenant George W. Whistler in constructing the Russian system of railways. He then returned to the United States, was admitted to the bar, and in 1843 began to practise in Iowa. He became lieutenant-colonel of state militia in 1844, and on 27 May. 1846, was reappointed in the United States army as a 1st lieutenant of mounted rifles, becoming captain, 16 February, 1847. During the war with Mexico he served at Vera Cruz, Cerro Gordo, Contreras, Churubusco, where he led an advance party of stormers and for which he was brevetted major, and the capture of the city of Mexico. He then took part in the actions at Matamoras and the Galajara pass against guerillas, and was brevetted lieutenant-colonel. At the close of the war he received, 15 January, 1849, a sword of honor from the legislature of Iowa. From this time till the civil war he served on the southwestern frontier and on bureau duty at Washington, with frequent leaves of absence on account of feeble health. At the beginning of the civil war he was in New Mexico, and after his promotion to major, on 13 May, 1861, he was assigned to the command first of the northern and then of the southern district of that territory, being engaged in the defence of Fort Craig against the Texan forces under General Henry H. Sibley in 1862, the action at Valverde in the same year, where he was brevetted colonel for gallantry, and the combats at Albuquerque and Peralta. On 1 June, 1861, he was ordered to Washington, and on 16 July he was commissioned brigadier-general of volunteers, and assigned as chief of cavalry to General John Pope, with whose Army of Virginia he served during its campaign in 1862, acting also as inspector-general. In the latter part of the year he was acting inspector-general of the northwestern department, and led an expedition against the Chippewa Indians, and in 1863 he was in command first of the upper defences of Washington and then of an independent brigade in West Virginia and Iowa. In 1864, after leading a division of the 19th corps in Louisiana, he was chief of cavalry of the Gulf department, till he was ordered, early in 1865, to the charge of a cavalry division in western Tennessee. At the close of the war he was brevetted brigadier-general in the regular army for services at Cedar Mountain, and major-general of volunteers for that action and the second battle of Bull Run. He became lieutenant-colonel of the 3d cavalry on 28 July, 1866, served on frontier and recruiting service till 1868, and then as professor of military science at Yale till his retirement from active service on 15 December, 1870. He was the inventor of the Roberts breech-loading rifle, to the perfection and introduction of which he devoted many years of his life. In 1870 he formed a company for its manufacture, which finally failed, though General Roberts had secured a contract in Europe.
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