The Medal of Honor symbolizes the ideals of patriotism, courage, sacrifice, and integrity and is the highest award presented for military valor in action. Those recipients have shown bravery in combat, going above and beyond the call of duty, risking – and often sacrificing – their lives for the welfare of others.
First introduced for the Department of the Navy in 1861, the Medal of Honor would be created for the Department of the Army’s Medal of Honor in 1862. The Department of the Air Force, which originally used the same Medal as the Department of the Army, introduced their own Medal of Honor in 1965. Since its inception during the U.S. Civil War, more than 3500 recipients have been honored with the Medal of Honor.
This is the story of a Medal of Honor recipient.
It had been years since I last passed through the community of McAlisterville and as the sun was beginning to set, I decided to make the detour off Route 322 to visit a cemetery at the edge of the community. I entered town via Route 35, turned onto Musser Road at the western edge of town and the grounds of Lost Creek Presbyterian Cemetery soon appeared before me.
After parking near the maintenance shed, I stepped out of the vehicle into the cool evening air. As I scanned the grounds, I could see the American flag flapping lazily in the breeze in the corner of the cemetery, near the spot where I was told the grave was located. I slowly made my way up the hillside, pausing at the graves of other military veterans along my walk to thank them for their service. I paused at the top of the small hill at the family plot of the Ammerman family. The larger monument listed Robert and his wife, Leah, on it and to the right of the monument were two smaller stones marking their resting places. Resting on this peacefully hillside, Robert Ammerman fought in the U.S. Civil War and would be honored with the Medal of Honor.
Note: Robert’s mother, Rachel, is listed on the Ammerman family stone, but she is buried at the Milesburg Cemetery, Milesburg.
Robert Wesley Ammerman was born June 7, 1841 near Fleming (Unionville) in Centre County. Robert was the son of William and Rachel Ammerman and records of his service show him as going by either “R. W.” or “R. Wesley.” On August 12, 1862 he enlisted at Milesburg and on August 29 was mustered into the army as a private in Company B of the 148th Pennsylvania Infantry. Company B would be comprised of men from Centre County, mostly from Milesburg and Bald Eagle Valley.
The 148th Pennsylvania Infantry would participate in the Battles at Chancellorsville, Gettysburg and the Wilderness. In May of 1864, the regiment would find themselves in the midst of the Battle of Spotsylvania.
After a long march the day before, the regiment marched into position in the dark hours of May 12. After a brief rest, the regiment attacked the Confederate lines. The regiment was supposed to have been a part of the organized attacked on the Confederate defenses known as “The Mule Shoe” or more commonly as “The Bloody Angle.” However, it became more of a mob rush as the Union Army threw itself against the Confederate line.
Ammerman was at the front of the assault upon the Confederate defenses and despite being wounded in the leg, he managed to capture the flag of the Eighth North Carolina. He presented the flag to Colonel Beaver before being removed from the battle due to his wound. Ammerman would have the shattered leg amputated at the hip at the U.S. General Hospital in Washington, D.C., ending his military service..
For the capture of the enemy flag, Ammerman received the Medal of Honor on January 31. 1865. The citation for Ammerman’s Medal of Honor reads: “The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Private Robert Wesley Ammerman, United States Army, for extraordinary heroism on 12 May 1864, while serving with Company B, 148th Pennsylvania Infantry, in action at Spotsylvania, Virginia, for capture of battle flag of 8th North Carolina (Confederate States of America), being one of the foremost in the assault.”
Ammerman was honorably discharged on May 30, 1865 and returned to Central Pennsylvania. On August 12, 1868, Ammerman married Leah Emenhizer and the couple settled in the McAlisterville area, where he worked as a shoemaker. He resided there until his death, at the age of sixty-six, on September 30, 1907 and was placed to rest in the Lost Creek Presbyterian Cemetery.
I finished honoring Ammerman for his bravery and service as a hush blanketed the evening air. The sound of crickets filled the air and their music a fitting end of my visit to remember the Medal of Honor Recipient.
Note: Ammerman was one of four men from the 148th Pennsylvania Infantry soldiers to be awarded the Medal of Honor. The four men were: Captain Jeremiah Z. Brown, Private George W. Harris, Private Robert Ammerman, and Private Josiah Phillips.