William Paul Roberts, Confederate soldier, legislator, and state auditor, was born in Gates County, the son of John Smith and Jane Gatling Boyt Roberts. He received little formal education other than in local schools a few months out of each year and one year at a small private school at Harrellsville. At the outbreak of the Civil War he was teaching in a small local school, and on June 10, 1861, he enlisted for the duration of the war in Company C, Nineteenth North Carolina (First Cavalry) Regiment, as orderly sergeant. Roberts quickly rose to the rank of second lieutenant on September 30, 1861, then was promoted captain in August the following year.
Roberts fought in the Battle of Brandy Station, the Gettysburg campaign, and the Wilderness campaigns of 1864. On Feb. 18, 1864, he was commissioned major of the Nineteenth North Carolina, and later, in August, Roberts was commissioned colonel of the regiment. He continued to command the regiment until, on Feb. 23, 1865, in recognition of his bravery and distinctive leadership, he was commissioned brigadier general and was even personally presented the gauntlets of General Robert E. Lee. At age twenty-three, he had the additional distinction of being the youngest commissioned general officer of the Confederacy.
After four years of fighting in [the] war, Gen. William Paul Roberts returned to his home in Gates County, married Eliza Roberts, daughter of Mills and Margaret Bond Roberts, and engaged in farming. He entered state politics as the representative for Gates County at the Constitutional Conventions of 1868 and 1875. In 1876 he was elected to the state legislature. In 1880, he was elected state auditor and served in that capacity until 1888. Roberts died March 28, 1910 and was buried in his home county at Gatesville.