Friday, September 21, 2012

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain "The Hero of Gettysburg" and Robert Hester Wicker, my 4th cousin 4x removed

According to family lore my 4th cousin 4x removed, Lieutenant Robert Hester Wicker, could have very well changed the tide of Gettysburg by himself.  On the 2nd day of fighting, when the action was extremely hot on Little Round Top, Wicker came face to face with the "Hero of Gettysburg" himself,  Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain.  The events that transpired that balmy July 2nd afternoon could very well have changed the outcome of the battle. 

Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain

Robert Hester Wicker was born in Pike County, Alabama on May 14, 1838.  He enlisted as a Lieutenant in Company L, Alabama 15th Infantry Regiment in March of 1862.  He was 24 years old.  His enlistment was for 3 years or the duration of the war.

Robert's 1st Muster Roll

Following his enlistment, Robert was ordered to report to the seat of war in Virginia.  In Virginia his regiment participated in the the Valley Campaign, The Seven Days Battle, Second Manassas and First Fredericksburg.  Robert would escape these campaigns unscathed.  At the Battle of Gettysburg, this would change.

After the first day of fighting, the battle could have gone either way.  The Confederate forces enjoyed early success.  Union forces were recovering from initial defeats and organizing themselves into defensive positions on a line of the hills south of town.  One of these hills was the infamous Little Round Top.  The 20th Maine, commanded by Col. Chamberlain, along with the 83rd Pennsylvania, the 44th New York and the 16th Michigan had settled into a defensive position on top of Little Round Top.  

Brigadier General Evander Law's Brigade was tasked with the taking of Little Round Top.  This Brigade consisted of the 4th, 15th, and 47th Alabama, and the 4th and 5th Texas Infantry Regiments.   Law ordered his men to take the hill.   After marching 20 miles earlier in the day, the brigade was exhausted.  The first volley of Union fire initially repulsed the brigade and forced the men to withdraw and regroup.  Col. William C. Oates of the Alabama 15th repositioned his men further right in an attempt to locate the Union left flank.

Confederate Forces initial assault
The Union left flank consisted of 358 men from the 20th Maine and 83rd Pennsylvania Infantry Regiments.  Observing that the Confederates were shifting around his flank, Chamberlain initially stretched his line to where his men were in a single file line, then ordered the southernmost half of his line to swing back during a lull following another Confederate charge.  Chamberlain's men then formed an angle to the main line in an attempt to prevent the Confederate flanking maneuver.  Despite suffering heavy casualties, the 20th Maine held tight, repulsing 2 additional attacks from the 15th Alabama. 

Confederate Forces final assault

Chamberlain now faced a final assault by the Confederate forces.  Knowing his men were nearly out of ammunition, he ordered his left flank to "fix bayonets" in a "right-wheel forward" maneuver.  As soon as they were in line with the rest of the regiment, the remainder of the regiment charged.  This charge effectively acted as a door swinging shut on the charging Confederates.  The simultaneous frontal assault and flanking maneuver was a success, capturing a good portion of the 15th Alabama Infantry Regiment. 

It was during this brilliant move by Chamberlain that he would come face to face with Lieutenant Robert Hester Wicker.  According to family legend:

"The deadly struggle for Little Round Top was nearing an end when Colonel Chamberlain "rushed up" to Lieutenant Wicker demanding his surrender.  However, Wicker was not yet ready to yield to defeat.  He "calmly aimed his pistol at Chamberlain's head" and fired.  Luckily for Chamberlain, Wicker's last shot of the war missed. After that, the dogged Confederate officer surrendered to the Federal commander."

The conflict was over for Robert Hester Wicker.   He would spend the remainder of the war in various prison camps before finally taking the oath of allegiance and being released from Fort Delaware on June 12, 1865.  Chamberlain's war, on the other hand, was just getting started.   He was nearly killed when a bullet passed through his hip and groin at the Siege of Petersburg.  The wound was considered mortal by the division's surgeon, who predicted he would succumb to the wound.  Chamberlain's death was incorrectly recorded and was reported in the Maine newspapers.  Following this injury and reported death, Lieutenant General U. S. Grant gave Chamberlain a battlefield promotion to the rank of brigadier general.  In all, Chamberlain served in 20 battles and numerous skirmishes, was cited for bravery four times, had six horses shot from under him, and was wounded six times.  Thirty years after his heroic actions at Gettysburg, Chamberlain was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.  

Following his capture at Gettysburg, Robert was sent on a wild goose chase of prison camps.  First Robert was sent to Fort McHenry, Maryland.

POW at Fort McHenry

Robert didn't stay at Fort McHenry for very long.   He was sent to Fort Delaware by way of Point Lookout, Maryland.   Robert arrived at Fort Delaware on April 28, 1865.

POW Roll showing transfer from Point Lookout to Fort Delaware

Robert was released from Fort Delaware on June 12, 1865 after taking the Oath of Allegiance to the United States.

Robert's Oath of Allegiance

He would only live an additional 12 years after the Civil War.   Robert Hester Wicker died in Henrietta, Clay County, Texas on February 22, 1877.  He was 39 years old.  He is buried in the Hope Cemetery in Clay County, Texas. 

Robert Hester Wicker's grave

Here's my relation to Robert:

Robert Hester Wicker (1838 - 1877)
is your 4th cousin 4x removed
George Washington Wicker (1812 - 1876)
Father of Robert Hester
William Wicker (1760 - 1852)
Father of George Washington
Robert Hester Wicker (1738 - 1821)
Father of William
Thomas Oscar Wicker Sr. (1717 - 1784)
Father of Robert Hester
Benjamin Wicker (1695 - 1773)
Father of Thomas Oscar
Jemima Wicker (1739 - 1826)
Daughter of Benjamin
Abigail Crews (1775 - 1822)
Daughter of Jemima
L. Chesley Daniel (1806 - 1882)
Son of Abigail
William Henry "Buck" Daniel (1827 - 1896)
Son of L. Chesley
Phebe Lucy Daniel (1862 - 1946)
Daughter of William Henry "Buck"
Valeria Lee Moss (1890 - 1968)
Daughter of Phebe Lucy
Phebe Teresa Wheeler Lewis (1918 - 1977)
Daughter of Valeria Lee
Joyce Elaine Lewis (1948 - )
Daughter of Phebe Teresa
Chip Stokes
You are the son of Joyce

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