3rd Sergeant Robert Watson was born September 9th, 1834 at Ragged Island, Bahamas. His family relocated to Key West, Florida in 1847. Prior to the war, he was a carpenter.
Late in 1861 he, along with Alfred Lowe, Marcus Oliveri, and William Sawyer circumvented Federal authorities and departed Key West as stowaways aboard an English schooner bound for Nassau. After reaching that port they got a vessel to land them at Cape Florida, and walked from there to Jupiter Light, and there got a small boat and went to New Smyrna. Thence they walked to Enterprise where they took the steamer Darlington to Jacksonville, and continued their journey until they reached Tampa.
Watson was mustered into service as a “Mate” December 1st, 1861 with Captain Henry Mulrenan’s Florida Volunteer Coast Guards. He remained in this unit until mustered into Confederate service on April 25th, 1862 when was enlisted as a 3rd Sergeant in Captain Smith’s Company (Key West Avengers), 7th Regiment Florida Infantry by Major R. B. Thomas at Tampa, Florida for a period of 3 years or the war.
He is reported present for the period March 25th, 1862 through June 1862 and due $50 bounty and clothing money. On the Company Muster Roll for April 30th to November 14th, 1862, he is documented as promoted 1st Sergeant on August 8th, 1862 (likely as a result of the vacancy caused by 1st Sergeant Charles Berry’s transfer to the C.S. Navy on the same date).
On September 2, ill with fever, Watson was captured and paroled by Union troops at Boston, Kentucky. On an undated Company Muster Roll for February 7 - 28, 1863, he is reported absent on 40 days sick furlough since January 1st 1863 at Tampa, Florida. He returned to his unit in March 1863. The Roll for March and April, 1863 document him as being absent without leave from March 15th to April 3rd, 1862.
According to his diary, Watson was examined by the military physician, a Dr. Lively, at Tampa on December 12th, 1862. He was informed by post from Lieut. Maloney dated January 16th, 1863 that he was officially exchanged. Watson was experiencing recurrent relapses of respiratory illness, and reported to to Doctor Lively on January 16th to inform hi that he was ordered to return to Tennessee. Upon examination, Doctor Lively extended Watson’s furlough another 60 days; Watson records that he sent notification to Captain Smith.
Watson departed Tampa on March 14th, 1863 for Tennessee; due to the nature of transportation, he and several other members of the company did not arrive at Knoxville until the morning of April 3rd, and rejoined his company stationed at the Wataugh (Watauga) Bridge some 110 miles to the east on April 4th.
He is reported present on all further muster rolls through February, 1864. He was transferred to the C.S. Navy on February 24th, 1864. He served aboard the C.S.S. Savannah until December of that year, when, upon the evacuation of Savannah, the ship was scuttled to prevent it from falling into Union hands.
Watson was briefly sent to Charleston, South Carolina; then to Fort Fisher, near Wilmington, North Carolina. Following the fall of Fort Fisher in January 1865, Watson traveled by rail to Richmond, Virginia, assisting in the defense of the James River. Watson accompanied Lee's Army of Northern Virginia when it evacuated the Confederate capital. He was captured as a member of Admiral Semmes' naval brigade near Appomattox by Federal forces on April 8, 1865, one day before the surrender at Appomattox. He was paroled April 14th, 1865, although he refused to take the oath.
After the war, Watson returned to Key West, Florida and resumed his profession as a carpenter. He drew a Confederate Pension, and died at Key West on April 6th, 1911.