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Robert Hale Merriman
Born 1908
Died 1938 (aged 29–30)
Cause of death Killed in action or executed
Education University of Nevada, Reno
Occupation Economics
Known for Abraham Lincoln Brigade
Title Professor

Robert Hale Merriman (1908 – 1938) was an American professor of economics at the University of California. He joined the Republican forces in Spain during the Spanish Civil War and commanded the Abraham Lincoln Battalion of the International Brigades.


Early years

The son of a lumberjack, Merriman worked various odd jobs in order to make his way through the University of Nevada. To earn some extra money at school, he joined the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) where he received basic training with arms. A member of left-wing groups at the University of California and friend of Robert Oppenheimer, he was chosen to lead the volunteers in Spain.[citation needed]


Merriman moved to Spain together with his wife early in 1937 and joined the International Brigades at their training camp in Albacete. As few volunteers had any military experience, Merriman's ROTC experience meant he took over the training of the 428-man strong[1] Lincoln Battalion and, in late January, he became battalion commander.[2] He held the rank of Captain of the Spanish Republic.[citation needed]

The Lincoln Battalion first saw action at the Battle of Jarama (6–27 February). They were one of the four battalions comprising the XV International Brigade.[3] Their role was to prevent Nationalist forces taking the main Madrid-Valencia road. The Lincolns took appalling casualties, particularly in the assault of Pingarrón, which became known as Suicide Hill.[4] Merriman himself was seriously wounded and spent time as Chief of XV Brigade Staff.[5] His place as battalion commander was taken by Martin Hourihan (a US Army veteran).

The depleted Lincolns next went into action at the Battle of Brunete. Together with the depleted British Battalion, and an understrength second US battalion (the George Washington Battalion, commanded by African-American Oliver Law), they formed one regiment[6] of the XV International Brigade. Of the 2,500 men of the XV who went into battle, only 1,000 effective soldiers remained.[7]

The Americans ... were cut to pieces. The Washingtons sustained fifty percent casualties and the Lincolns were heavily depleted as well. Of the eight hundred Americans in the Lincoln and Washington Battalions at the start of the Brunete offensive on 6 July, only five hundred effectives remained.[Clarification needed][7]


Merriman led the battalion again during the Battle of Teruel in Aragon. Under heavy attack by Nationalist tanks and aircraft, the battalion was forced to retreat in the only available direction, Catalonia and its boundary, the river Ebro. On April 2, 1938, around the vineyards of Corbera d'Ebre, near the key city of Gandesa, twenty kilometers before the river, Merriman and his lieutenant, Edgar James Cody, were either killed in action or captured and executed some hours later.[citation needed]


The battalion, now commanded by Milton Wolff, returned to the same ground during the Battle of the Ebro on 26 July of the same year, while trying to recapture Gandesa.


  1. Coleman, Some Men Put In Their Lives p 41
  2. Coleman, Some Men Put In Their Lives p. 42
  3. 15th Bn Sixth February (Franco-Belgian); 16th Bn British; 17th Bn Lincoln (mostly American); 18th Bn Dimitrov (Balkan). Source: Antony Beevor, The Battle for Spain, p 210.
  4. "Of the 400-some men who had begun the attack, between 80 and 100 effectives remained at nightfall." Coleman, Some Men Put In Their Lives p. 44
  5. File: Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
  6. The second regiment was remnants of the Dimitrov Battalion and Sixth February Battalion and a Spanish battalion (Volontario 24) Source: Hugh Thomas, The Spanish Civil War, pp 460-461.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Coleman, Some Men Put In Their Lives p. 88


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