Robert Wickliffe Cooper (October 19, 1831 – June 8, 1867) was a United States Army officer and cavalry commander of the American Civil War. He rarely used his real first name and thus appears in most documents as Wickliffe Cooper.
Cooper enlisted in the army as a private at Louisville, Kentucky in 1861 at the outbreak of the Civil War.He was made a Sergeant on November 15, 1861 and was commissioned as second lieutenant in the 20th Kentucky Infantry on January 24, 1862. From February to July 1862 he was the Acting aide-de-camp(ADC) and Acting Assistant Adjutant general (AAG) in the Army of the Ohio for the 22 Brigade of the 4th Division. At the Battle of Corinth he said to have "exhibited bravery even to rashness" in an official report by Colonel Thomas D. Sedgewick. In a report that Sedgewick made earlier the same month, he said of Cooper: "Asst. Adjt. Gen. Wickliffe Cooper, as on all occasions before, exhibited the greatest bravery. The coolness and precision with which he made the several reconnaissances ordered by me amid the greatest danger merit the highest praise." In July 1862 he was made the ADC to Maj. General William Nelson. At the Battle of Richmond (August 1862), he was singled out for honors by a Union Army general. He was taken prisoner and paroled on August 30, 1862 in Richmond, Kentucky, as part of a prisoner exchange.
Cooper was recommissioned as lieutenant-colonel of the 4th Cavalry Regiment in March 26, 1863 and became a colonel on April 5, 1863. He became the commander of the 4th Kentucky Cavalry (Union) on April 14, 1863 following the resignation of Col. Bayles.[nb 1] On June 4, 1863, Cooper was injured when a horse fell on him in Franklin, Tennessee. He commanded a regiment at the Battle of Chickamauga in September 1864. Cooper returned to Lexington, Kentucky in 1864 for sick leave. Cooper, commander of the 4th Kentucky Calvary, commanded local forces against John Hunt Morgan's forces. He refused Morgan's demands for the surrender of Lexington on June 9, 1864 and repulsed his troops. In April 1865 he commanded the post of Montgomery, Alabama and in May and July 1865 commanded the post of Albany, Georgia. He was honorably mustered out on August 21, 1865 at Macon, Georgia. He received battle honors for his service at Shiloh, Corinth, Richmond, Chickamauga, Morgan's Raid into Kentucky, Battle of Resaca and Wilson's Raid on Montgomery. He was promoted to Brevet Lt Colonel and then Brevet Colonel on March 2, 1867, for gallant and meritorious services at the Battle of Resaca in Georgia and in the capture of Montgomery, Alabama.
In 1866 Wickliffe Cooper was appointed Major of the 7th Cavalry where he served on the western frontier under General George Armstrong Custer. He was the second in command at Fort McPherson, Nebraska, but by the time he received this position he was deeply affected by alcoholism. During an expedition against the Cheyenne and the Sioux, Cooper ran out of whiskey. This apparently caused him to experience serious withdrawal symptoms. He died from a self-inflicted gunshot "while in a fit of delirium tremens" on June 8, 1867 at a Medicine Lake Creek encampment, about 50 miles southeast of Fort McPherson, Nebraska. Gen. Custer wrote, "But for the intemperance Col. Cooper would have been a useful and accomplished officer, a brilliant and most companionable gentleman. He leaves a young wife, shortly to become a mother." His death was initially ruled suicide, but the cause of death was later changed to "died by hand of person or persons unknown, while in the line of his duty as an officer of the army" by the United States War Department in 1885, so his widow could receive his pension.