On June 8, 1861, at the age of 19, Robert enlisted as a private with Company "B", Captain R. Stuart Wier's Company (Enterprise Guards), 14th Regiment, Mississippi Infantry at Corinth, Alcorn County, Mississippi. They were nicknamed the "Quitman invincibles" under General William Edwin Baldwin, who on February 19, 1864, while visiting his troops, the stirrup on his saddle broke and he fell, suffering fatal injuries as a result.
The Fourteenth Mississippi Infantry participated in a number of various type engagements during its career. on November 21, 1861, it saw action at Rockcastle Hill, KY, and then on February 12-16, 1862, there was investment, battle and then their capture at Ft. Donelson, KY. The company was ultimately imprisoned at Camp Douglas, Chicago, Illinois. Camp Douglas was notoriously known as a death camp. Many prisoners did not survive this camp. Robert was a prisoner of war for 5 1/2 months before he and his unit were exchanged September 2, 1862, at Vicksburg, Mississippi. When the regiment reorganized, he was appointed Corporal, October 20, 1862.
There were many skirmishes and battles throughout Mississippi at such places as "Water Valley Station," "Newton Station," Jackson," "Champion's Hill," and "Big Black River Bridge." Between may 18 and July 4, 1863, Vicksburg was under siege. The major part of the unit succeeded in avoiding the encirclement and only a detachment was included in the surrender of that city.
On July 16, 1863, Robert was sent to Enterprise Hospital about 15 miles south of Meridian, and again September 12, 1863, by special orders of General Johnston (M175). he appears on a report of persons in the employ of serveral Staff Departments and of the Provost Marshals in the 4th District of Mississippi date "Meridian Mississippi, April 22, 1864." Nothing is on record as to why he was in the hospital. On April 30, 1864, he was returned to his company for duty, just in time for the great "Atlanta Campaign." It consisted of a battle at Resaca, combats near Kingston, operations on the line of Pumpkin Vine Creek, battles about Dallas, New Hope Chruch and Allatoona Hills. Skirmishes at Lost Mountain, operations about Marietta and against Kenesaw Mountain, operations on the line of Nickajack Creek and Chattahoochee River. On the 22nd of July, 1864, the battle of Atlanta began, and the siege lasted for more than a month. The 14th Mississippi saw action throughout Northern Georgia and Northern Alabama; then on November 30, 1864, engaged the Yankees at Franklin, Tennessee, Alabama, December 17-28. There were skirmishes about Columbia, South Carolina February 16-17, 1865, battles at Averysborough, and Bentonville, North Carolina, March 16-21, 1865. Then the final surrender was at Bennett's House, Durham Station, North Carolina, April 26, 1865.
Note: An unofficial report has been found that indicates that when the unit finally surrendered, it contained fewer than forty enlisted men, and no officers. The unit was under command of its first-sergeant at that time.
On June 3, 1865, Robert signed "The Oath of Allegiance" swearing not to bear arms against the United States. A description of him was also on the document saying that he was five feet, eight inches tall, with brown hair, bule eyes and of fair skin.