William Roberts of the Coleman Scouts

January 13, 2022, research by Carol Robertson White

Members of the legendary group of heroes known as “Coleman’s Scouts”, the eyes and ears of the Army of Tennessee, assemble secretly in Nashville in 1866 for their one and only reunion. Pictured above, seated from left to right, are W.M. Roberts, Sam Roberts, Capt. Henry B. Shaw (alias Coleman), J. M. Shute, and George D. Hughes. Standing, also from left to right, are W. H. Porch, John G. Davis, Robert F. Cotton. Present only in spirit were their many comrades who perished during the late war, including the martyred Sam Davis and Dewitt Smith Jobe. Less than a year after this photograph was taken both Henry B. Shaw and John G. Davis (Sam Davis’ older half-brother) would also be gone, killed in the February, 1867 explosion of the steamer “David White” on the Mississippi River.

William Roberts enlisted in the 2nd Tennessee Cavalry in Hayes Blackman’s Company of McCann’s Gunners in 1861. Roberts soon became a Coleman Scout under Captain Henry Shaw of Smyrna. His main duty was to follow enemy movement and interrupt communications, operating in the rear of the enemy lines. Robert’s battalion led the advance of Wheeler’s Raid around Major Gen. William Rosecrans’ army in 1862 and in the expedition of the Lower Cumberland in 1863. Roberts was also engaged in action at both Snow Hill (DeKalb County) and McMinnville, Tennessee.

He later became a part of Duke’s Brigade and joined John Hunt Morgan’s dangerous raid into Kentucky. Amazingly Roberts was never injured or captured.

After the Civil War, he wed Mary Watkins and moved to a farm near Christiana (then called Jordan’s Valley or Jordan’s Crossroads) near John’s Mill on the Shelbyville Pike.

His wife Mary was known to be an eccentric and free spirit in the community. She was once seen in the Walnut Grove Church clad in Roberts’ hat and overcoat.

William Roberts died in April, 1927 at 88 years of age.

Comments are closed.