Joseph Wheeler (September
10, 1836 â€“ January 25, 1906) was an American military
commander and politician.
He has the rare distinction of
serving as a general
during war time
for two opposing forces: first as a noted cavalry
general in the Confederate States Army
in the 1860s
during the American Civil War
and later as a general in the United
during both the Spanish-American War
and Philippine-American War
turn of the century. For much of the Civil War he served as the
senior cavalry general in the Army of
and fought in most of its battles in the Western
the Civil War and the Spanish-American War, Wheeler served multiple
terms as a United
States Representative from the state of Alabama.
England ancestry, Joseph Wheeler was born near Augusta, Georgia and spent most of his early life growing up with
relatives in Connecticut.Dupuy, pp. 793-94. However, he was
appointed to the United States Military Academy at West Point from the state of Georgia and always considered
himself a Georgian and Southerner.
Wheeler entered West Point in July 1854, barely meeting the height
requirement at the time for entry. He graduated on July 1, 1859,
placing 19th out of 22 cadets, and was commissioned a brevet second lieutenant
in the 1st
U.S. Dragoons. He attended the U.S. Army Cavalry
School located in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and upon completion was transferred on June 26,
1860, to the Regiment of Mounted
Rifles stationed in the New
It was while stationed in New Mexico and fighting in a skirmish
that Joseph Wheeler picked up the nickname "Fighting Joe." On
September 1, 1860, he was promoted to the rank of second
start of the Civil War, Wheeler entered the Confederate Army on March 16 as a
serving in the Georgia state militia artillery, and then was
assigned to Fort
Barrancas off of
Florida, reporting to Maj. Gen. Braxton
. His resignation from the U.S. Army was accepted on April
22, 1861. He was ordered to Huntsville, Alabama, to take
command of the newly formed 19th Alabama Infantry Regiment. and was
promoted to colonel on September
and the 19th Alabama fought well under Bragg at the Battle of
Shiloh in April 1862. During the Siege of
Corinth in April and May, Wheeler's men on picket duty
clashed repeatedly with Union patrols. Serving as acting
brigade commander, Wheeler burned the bridges over the Tuscumbia River to cover the Confederate
withdrawal to Tupelo,
Wheeler transferred to the cavalry branch and commanded the 2nd
Cavalry Brigade of the Left Wing in the Army of Mississippi
from September to
October. During the Kentucky Campaign
aggressively maintained contact with the enemy. He began to suffer
from poor relations with the Confederacy's arguably greatest
cavalryman, Nathan Bedford
Forrest, when Bragg reassigned most of Forrest's men to
Wheeler, sending Forrest to Murfreesboro to recruit a new brigade. Wheeler fought at the
Perryville in October and after the fight performed an
excellent rearguard action protecting the army's withdrawal.
He was promoted to brigadier
on October 30 and led the cavalry belonging to the
Army of Tennessee
from November to
December. During action at La Vergne,
Tennessee, on November 27, Wheeler was wounded by an
artillery shell that exploded near him.
December 1862, the Union Army of
the Cumberland began to advance from Nashville against Bragg's army and Wheeler, now commanding
all of the Army of Tennessee's cavalry, skirmished aggressively to
delay their advance.
He drove into the rear of the Union
army, destroying hundreds of wagons and capturing more than 700
prisoners. After the Battle of Stones River, as Bragg's army withdrew to the Duck River line, Wheeler struck the
Union supply lines at Harpeth Shoals on January 12-13, burning
three steamboats and capturing more than 400 prisoners.
Bragg recommended that Wheeler be promoted as a "just reward" and
he became a major general
Wheeler led the army's Cavalry Corps from January to November 24,
then again from December to November 15, 1864. For his actions on
January 12-13, 1863, Wheeler and his troopers received the Thanks
of the Confederate
on May 1, 1863.
February, Wheeler and Forrest attacked Fort Donelson at Dover,
Tennessee, but they were repulsed by the small Union
Forrest angrily told Wheeler "Tell [General Bragg]
that I will be in my coffin before I will fight again under your
command." Bragg dealt with this rivalry in the
Campaign by assigning Wheeler to guard the army's right
flank while Forrest guarded the left. A Union cavalry
advance on Shelbyville on June 27 trapped Wheeler and 50 of his men on the
north side of the Duck River, forcing Wheeler to plunge his horse
over a 15 foot embankment and escape through the rain-swollen
Chickamauga and Chattanooga
and his troopers guarded the army's left flank at Chickamauga in September 1863, and after the routed Union Army
collected in Chattanooga, Gen.
Joseph Wheeler during the Civil
Bragg sent Wheeler's men into central
Tennessee to destroy railroads and Federal supply lines in a
. On October 2
his raid at Anderson's Cross Roads (also known as Powell's
Crossroads) destroyed more than 700 Union supply wagons, tightening
the Confederates siege on Chattanooga. Pursued by his Union
counterparts, Wheeler advanced to McMinnville and captured its
600-man garrison. There were more actions at Murfreesboro and
Farmington, but by October 9 Wheeler had safely crossed the
Tennessee River at Muscle Shoals, Alabama. The extensive raid caused the mounted arm of
the army to miss the battles for Chattanooga (November 23-25). Wheeler covered
Bragg's retreat from Chattanooga following the Union breakthrough
Ridge on November 25 and received a wound in his foot as
his cavalry and Maj.
Cleburne's infantry fought at the Battle of
Ringgold Gap on November 27.
Wheeler and his men also
supported Lt. Gen. James
Longstreet's ultimately unsuccessful efforts during the
Campaign from November 4 to December 23, 1863.
Georgia and the Carolinas
During Union Maj. Gen. William T.
Sherman's Atlanta Campaign Wheeler's cavalry corps screened the flanks of the
Army of Tennessee as Gen. Joseph E. Johnston
drew back from several positions
toward Atlanta. In July, Sherman sent two large cavalry columns to
destroy the railroads supplying the defenders of Atlanta. With
fewer than 5,000 cavalrymen, Wheeler defeated the enemy raids,
resulting in the capture of one of the two commanding generals,
Maj. Gen. George Stoneman
August, Wheeler's corps crossed the Chattahoochee River
in an attempt to
destroy the railroad Sherman was using to supply his force from
Chattanooga. Wheeler's men captured the town of Dalton, but he was
unable to defeat the Union garrison protected in a nearby
Wheeler then took his men into East Tennessee,
crossing the Tennessee River above Knoxville. His raid continued to
the west, causing minor interruptions in the Nashville and Chattanooga
Railroad and then continued south through Franklin until he recrossed the Tennessee at Tuscumbia.
Wheeler's raid was described by historian
as a "Confederate disaster"
because it caused minimum damage to the Union while denying Gen.
John Bell Hood
, now in command of the
Army of Tennessee, the direct support of his cavalry arm. Without
accurate intelligence of Sherman's dispositions, Hood was beaten at
and forced to
evacuate Atlanta. Wheeler rendezvoused with Hood's army in early
October after destroying the railroad bridge at Resaca.
1864, Wheeler's cavalry did not accompany Hood on his Franklin-Nashville Campaign back
into Tennessee and was virtually the only effective Confederate
force to oppose Sherman's
March to the Sea to Savannah.
However, his resistance to Sherman did
little to comfort Georgia civilians and lax discipline within his
command caused great dissatisfaction. Robert Toombs
was quoted as saying, "I hope to
God he will never get back to Georgia." Maj. Gen. D. H. Hill
wrote that "the whole of Georgia is full of
bitter complaints of Wheeler's cavalry."
Wheeler and his men continue to attempt to stop Sherman in the 1865
. He defeated a
Union cavalry force under Brig. Gen. Judson Kilpatrick at Aiken, South
Carolina, February 11.
He was replaced as cavalry
chief by Lt. Gen. Wade Hampton
fought under him at the Battle of
on March 19â€“20, 1865. While attempting to cover
President Jefferson Davis
flight south and west in May, Wheeler was captured at Conyer's Station
just east of
Atlanta. He had intended to reach the Trans-Mississippi and Gen.
Edmund Kirby Smith
resisting out west, and had with him three officers from his staff
and 11 privates when he was taken. Wheeler was imprisoned for two months,
first at Fort
Monroe and then in solitary confinement at Fort Delaware, where he was paroled on June 8.
During his career in the Confederate States Army, Wheeler was
wounded three times, lost 36 staff officers to combat, and a total
of 16 horses were shot from under him. Military historian Ezra J.
Warner believed that Wheeler's actions leading cavalry in the
conflict "were second only to those of Bedford Forrest
war, Wheeler became a planter and a lawyer near Courtland,
Alabama, where he married and raised a family.
Spring, in an area now known as Wheeler,
Alabama, is a historic site owned by the Alabama Historical
In 1880, Wheeler was elected from Alabama as a Democrat
to the United States House of
. Wheeler's opponent, Greenback
incumbent William M. Lowe
, contested the election, and after a
contentious legal battle which lasted over a year, Lowe was
declared the winner and assumed the seat on June 3, 1882. Lowe,
however, served only four months before dying of tuberculosis
. Wheeler won a special election to
return and serve out the remaining weeks of the term.
Wheeler supported the election of Luke
in 1882 and did not run for reelection, but was elected
again in 1884, and re-elected to seven subsequent terms before
resigning in 1900. While in Congress, Wheeler strove to heal the
breach between the North and the South and championed economic
policies that would help rebuild the southern states.
In 1898, Wheeler volunteered for the Spanish-American war,
receiving an appointment to major general
of volunteers by
U.S. President William McKinley
. He assumed command of the
cavalry division, which included Theodore Roosevelt
's Rough Riders
, and was nominally
second-in-command of the V Corps. He sailed for Cuba and led his
dismounted troopers at the Battle
of Las Guasimas on June 24, the first major engagement of the
During the excitement of the battle, Wheeler supposedly
called out "Let's go, boys! We've got the damn Yankees on the run
again!" with the old general confusing his wars. He fell seriously
ill during the campaign and turned over command of the division to
Brig. Gen. Samuel S. Sumner
Wheeler was still incapacitated in July when the Battle of San Juan Hill
once he heard the sound of guns, the "War Child" returned to the
front despite his illness. Being the senior officer present at the
front he first issued orders to the 1st Division, under Jacob F. Kent
before returning to his own command. Upon taking the heights,
Wheeler assured General William
that the position
could be held against a possible counterattack. He led the division
through the Siege of Santiago
was a senior member of the peace commission.
Wheeler's youngest son died shortly after his return from serving
in Cuba; he drowned while swimming in the ocean. When back in the
United States, Wheeler commanded the convalescent camp of the army
Point, now a state park in New York.
sailed for the Philippines to fight in the Philippine-American War, arriving in
He commanded the First Brigade in Arthur MacArthur
's Second Division
during the Philippine-American
until January 1900. During this period, Wheeler was
mustered out of the volunteer service and commissioned a brigadier general
, both on
June 16, 1900. After hostilities he commanded the Department of the Lakes
retirement on September 10, 1900, and moved to New York.
Supposedly while serving in the Philippines, Wheeler encountered an
infantryman who was complaining about the heat and being tired.
Wheeler promptly dismounted, took the man's rifle and pack, told
him to mount his horse, and marched the rest of the way with the
Wheeler in later life
Wheeler was the author of several books on military history and
strategy, as well as about civil subjects. His first was A
Revised System of Cavalry Tactics, for the Use of the Cavalry and
Mounted Infantry, C.S.A.
in 1863, a manual that saw use by the
Confederacy. His other works include: Fitz-John Porter
1883, The Santiago Campaign
in 1898, Confederate
Military History: Alabama
in 1899, and Report on the
Island of Guam
in 1900. Wheeler also co-wrote several more
books throughout the rest of his life, the last of which, The
New America and the Far East: A Pictureque and Historic Description
of These Land and Peoples
, was published in 1907, after his
Wheeler also appeared in an early film called Surrender of General Toral
(1898) with William Rufus Shafter.
While attending the hundredth anniversary celebration of the U.S.
Military Academy (West Point, New York) in 1902, Wheeler approached
the old West Point hotel, where his Confederate comrades James Longstreet
and Edward Porter Alexander
on the porch. At the festivities Wheeler wore his dress uniform of
his most recent rank, that of a general in the U.S. Army.
Longstreet recognized him coming near, and reportedly said, "Joe, I
hope that Almighty God takes me before he does you, for I want to
be within the gates of hell to hear Jubal Early
cuss you in the blue
long illness, Wheeler died in Brooklyn, New York
City and is one of the few former Confederate officers
to be buried within Arlington National Cemetery.
Wheeler Family and Pond Spring
Wheeler Plantation, previously known as Pond Spring, is located in
Currently owned by the Alabama Historical
Commission, the house is undergoing major restoration and
preservation to take it back to the 1920s condition. Joseph Wheeler
married into the property which was owned by his wife Daniella (b.
20 Aug 1841 m.8 Feb 1866 d.1895). Daniella had inherited the
property when her previous husband, Benjamin Sherrod died. The
Sherrod's had bought the property from the Hickman family and
expanded and added several buildings, including the two story
dogtrot log cabin that came to be known as the Sherrod House. The
Wheelers built their own house right next to the Sherrod house and
occupied both houses while Daniella and Joe were alive.
The Men lived in the older Sherrod House, while the Women lived in
the newer 3 story Wheeler House. The Second floor of the Wheeler
House has four bedrooms, one for each daughter, while their
governess lived in the 3rd story attic. Daniella occupied a room
downstairs, which was equipped with its own door knocker. The two
houses were, and still are, connected outside through a covered
later on the upstairs of the Wheeler home was shared by Joe Jr. and
his older sister Annie, until their deaths.
Children of Joseph and Daniella Wheeler
Eldest of the Siblings. Unmarried. Died 1924.
Born 31 July 1868, Annie Wheeler was the second child of the
General. She would grow up to volunteer for the American Red Cross
and would follow her
Father into many different skirmishes and battles. She was known as
the 'Angel of Santiago' for her work in the Spanish-American War
. She also served
during World War I
in England and
France. Annie was a well known in many places and held
correspondences with many people. She was even presented to the
Queen of England. Annie outlived all of her siblings, dying in 1955
after suffering an injury after a fall.
The first son, Joe Jr. was born in 1872. He attended West Point and graduated in 1895.
He joined the Army
and was stationed at the Washington Barracks D.C.. After training
at the Artillery School at Ft. Monroe in Virginia. Joe Jr. then was
a Mathematics instructor at West Point before the Spanish-American
War broke out. At the start of the War Joe Jr. was made an aide on
his father's staff and sailed for Cuba on June 1898. The following
year he was made a Major of the 34th infantry, US volunteers and
left in September 1899 for the Philippines. He served in many
different areas after this, finally retiring in Feb 1927. He died 6
Died young, little known about her.
Married William J. Harris
, US Senator from North
Married Gordon Buck
Born 7 March 1881, Thomas was the youngest of the children.
Influenced by both his father and brother,
at the age of 16 Thomas chose to enroll at the United
States Naval Academy at Annapolis.
One year into his training the
Spanish American War
Thomas was adamant about participating in the war. Though his
father, older brother, and oldest sister were all going themselves
the General refused to help Thomas find a position aboard a ship.
Thomas did not give up, and instead posted a letter to the
Secretary of the Navy, John D. Long
. Long helped him find a position aboard
the USS Columbia
, Which would turn out
to be Thomas's first and last assignment. Although the Columbia did
participate in the invasion of Puerto Rico, it was a very short and
easy victory due to the Spanish not showing up. On the 7th of
September 1898, Thomas and some friends were surf bathing at
One of his cadet friends was pulled under
the water and was struggling. In an effort to save his friend
Thomas dove in after him, but despite his efforts both boys
drowned. Thomas's body was retrieved and brought to his Alabama
home to be buried.
the state of Alabama donated a
bronze statue of Joseph Wheeler to the National Statuary Hall
Collection at the United States Capitol. Additionally, several locations in Alabama
are named after Wheeler including Joe Wheeler State Park, Wheeler Lake
and Dam, and the Wheeler
National Wildlife Refuge. Also, Joseph Wheeler High School in Marietta, Georgia, and Wheeler County, Georgia are named after him.
During World War II
, the United States Navy
named a Liberty Ship
in honor of Wheeler. Wheeler Road, a main
thoroughfare through west Augusta is named
after him as well.
Furthermore, Joe Wheeler Electric
Cooperative in northwest Alabama also honors him. Also Camp Wheeler
, near Macon, Georgia (which served
as an army base during both World Wars) was named for Wheeler.
Wheeler Mountain, just south of Tuscumbia, in northwest Alabama, is
named for him and is a foothill of the Appalacchians. Fort Jackson
has a street named after him.While
preaching a revival meeting in Alabama, Dr. Dolphus Price met Gen.
Wheeler's daughter, Annie, and was given a tour of their famous
Flower Garden. Later Dr. Price preached a sermon called "God's
Flower Garden", inspired by that tour. It became one of his most
famous sermons. General Wheeler was a childhood hero of Dr.
In popular media
Wheeler was portrayed in the television film Rough Riders
by actor Gary Busey
, although Busey is much taller than
Wheeler was, and had only a mustache instead of a full beard. The
film portrays him as an "unreconstructed" Confederate, and oddly
has him cite Bedford Forrest (who hated Wheeler) as his "old
- Dupuy, Trevor N., Johnson, Curt, and Bongard, David L.,
Harper Encyclopedia of Military Biography, Castle Books,
1992, 1st Ed., ISBN 0-7858-0437-4.
- Bearss, Edwin C., "Joseph Wheeler",
The Confederate General, Vol. 6, Davis, William C., and Julie
Hoffman (eds.), National Historical Society, 1991, ISBN
- Eicher, John H., and Eicher, David
J., Civil War High Commands, Stanford Univ. Press,
2001, ISBN 0-8047-3641-3.
- Evans, Clement A., ed.,
Confederate Military History: A Library of Confederate States
History, Atlanta: Confederate Publishing Company, 1899.
- Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative:
Vol. III Red River to Appomattox, Vintage Books,
1986, ISBN 0-394-74622-8.
- Lawley, Jim. "Gen. Joe Wheeler was entangled in recount." The
Decatur Daily, December 10, 2000, online edition (retrieved
July 14, 2001).
- Longacre, Edward G., A Soldier to the Last: Maj.
Gen. Joseph Wheeler in Blue and Gray, Potomac
Books, 2006, ISBN 1-57466-591-X
- Warner, Ezra, Generals in Gray: The Lives of the
Confederate Commanders, Louisiana State University Press,
1959, ISBN 0-8071-3150-3.
- Wert, Jeffry D., General
James Longstreet: The Confederacy's Most Controversial Soldier: A
Biography, Simon & Schuster, 1993, ISBN
- Retrieved on 2008-10-18
- Eicher, p. 563.
- Dupuy, pp. 793-94; Bearss, p. 125.
- Alabama State Archives link
- Dupuy, p. 793. ..."serving under Gen. Braxton Bragg, Wheeler
distinguished himself at Shiloh (April 6-7, 1862) and soon rose to
command a brigade..."
- Bearss, p. 125.
- Dupuy, p. 793. "... fought at Perryville (October 8); after
this battle, he commanded the cavalry rearguard and allowed the
Confederates forces to escape without loss of a single wagon or gun
- Bearss, p. 126.
- Eicher, p. 563. "... for his daring and successful attacks on
the enemy's gunboats and transports on the Cumberland River
- Bearss, pp. 126-27.
- Dupuy, p. 794. "... during Sherman's March to the Sea was the
only organized Confederate force to offer resistance, and so
confined the destruction to a relatively narrow swath ..."
- Bearss, p. 127.
- Foote, p. 1012.
- Bears, p. 127; Dupuy, pp. 793-94; Eicher, p. 563.
- Warner, p. 333.
- Lawley, Jim, "Gen. Joe Wheeler was entangled in
- Dupuy, pp. 794.
- Wert, pp. 425-26.
- National Park Service link