Joseph Wheeler

Joseph Wheeler

Infobox Military Person
name= Joseph Wheeler
born= Birth date|1836|9|10
died= January 25 1906
placeofbirth= Augusta, Georgia
placeofdeath= New York City, New York

caption= Joseph Wheeler in Conf. general uniform;
taken between 1862 and 1865
nickname= Fighting Joe, War Child
allegiance= United States of America
Confederate States of America
serviceyears= 1859-61 (USA)
1861-65 (CSA)
1898-1900 (USA)
rank= Second Lieutenant (USA)
Major General (CSA)
Major General (USA)
American Civil War
* Battle of Shiloh
* Battle of Perryville
* Battle of Stones River
* Battle of Chickamauga
* Battle of Bentonville
Spanish-American War
* Battle of Las Guasimas
Philippine-American War

Joseph Wheeler (September 10 1836January 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 general in the Confederate States Army in the 1860's during the American Civil War, and later as a general in the United States Army during both the Spanish-American War and Philippine-American War near the turn of the century.

Between the Civil War and the Spanish-American War, Wheeler served multiple terms as a United States Representative from the state of Alabama.

Early life

Although of New England ancestry, Joseph Wheeler was born near Augusta, Georgia and spent most of his early life growing up with relatives in Connecticut.Dupuy, pp. 793-4.] However, he was appointed to the United States Military Academy at West Point from the state of Georgia and would always considered himself a Georgian and Southern.

Wheeler entered the 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.Eicher, p. 563.] Wheeler attended the U.S. Army Cavalry School located in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and upon completion was transferred on June 26, 1860 to the Mounted Rifles stationed in the New Mexico Territory.

It was while stationed out in New Mexico and fighting in a skirmish with Indians that Joseph Wheeler picked up the nickname "Fighting Joe." On September 1, 1860 he was promoted to the rank of second lieutenant.

Civil War service

At the start of the American Civil War, Wheeler resigned from the U.S. Army on April 22, 1861. He entered the Confederate Army on March 16 as a first lieutenant serving in the Georgia state militia artillery, and then was assigned to Fort Barrancas off of Pensacola, Florida. He was ordered to Huntsville, Alabama to take command of the newly formed 19th Alabama Infantry Regiment. [ [ Alabama State Archives link] ] and was promoted to colonel on September 4.

Wheeler and the 19th Alabama fought well under Gen. Braxton Bragg at the Battle of Shiloh in April 1862. [Dupuy, p. 793. ..."serving under Gen. Braxton Bragg, Wheeler distinguished himself at Shiloh (April 6-7, 1862) and soon rose to command a brigade..."] He transferred to the cavalry branch and commanded the 2nd Cavalry Brigade of the left wing in the Army of Mississippi from September to October. He fought at the Battle of Perryville in October and after the fight performed an excellent rearguard action protecting the army's withdrawal. [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..."] Wheeler was promoted to brigadier general on October 30 and led the cavalry belonging to the second corps of 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.

Before 1862 was out Wheeler commanded all of the Army of Tennessee's cavalry and was promoted (at first temporarily) to major general on January 20, 1863. Two days later the army's cavalry was officially grouped into corps formation, and Wheeler led it 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 Congress on May 1, 1863. [Eicher, p. 563. "...for his daring and successful attacks on the enemy's gunboats and transports on the Cumberland River..."]

Wheeler and his troopers fought at Chickamauga in September 1863, and after the routed Union Army collected in Chattanooga, Gen. Bragg sent Wheeler's men into central Tennessee to destroy railroads and Federal supply depots in a major raid, causing the mounted arm of the army to miss the Third Battle of Chattanooga. He covered Bragg's retreat from Chattanooga following the Union breakthrough at Missionary Ridge on November 25. Wheeler and his men also supported Lt. Gen. James Longstreet's ultimately unsuccessful efforts during the Knoxville Campaign from November 4 to December 23, 1863, and received a wound in his foot in action near Ringgold, Georgia on November 27.

Wheeler and his troopers saw action with the Army of Tennessee, now under John Bell Hood, in many of the 1864 campaigns, including opposing William T. Sherman's advance on Atlanta. In late 1864 Wheeler's cavalry was virtually the only effective Confederates to oppose Sherman's March to the Sea throughout the rest of the year. [Dupuy, p. 794. "...during Sherman's March to the Sea was the only organized Confederate force to offer resistance, and so confine the destruction to a relatively narrow swath..."] Wheeler (now possibly a lieutenant general, but highly debatable) [Dupuy, p. 794. "promoted to Lieutenant General (February, 1865)..." however this rank was never confirmed by the Confederate Congress. Historians Eicher/Eicher, Warner, as well as Foote make no mention of this promotion occurring. Warner openly refutes it.] and is men were then added to Lt. Gen. Wade Hampton's troopers in 1865, and fought at the Battle of Bentonville on March 19-20, 1865. While attempting to cover Jefferson Davis' flight south and west in May, Wheeler was captured at Conyer's Station just east of Atlanta and imprisoned for two months. He had intended to reach the Transmississippi and Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith, still resisting out west, and had with him three officers from his staff and 11 privates when he was taken.Foote, p. 1012.] Wheeler was paroled from confinement at Fort Delaware on June 8.

Wheeler was considered by Gen. Robert E. Lee to be one of the two most outstanding Confederate cavalry leaders.Fact|date=July 2008

U.S. Congress

After the war, Wheeler became a planter and a lawyer near Courtland, Alabama, where he married and raised a family. His home, Pond Spring, in an area now known as Wheeler, Alabama, is a historic site of the Alabama Historical Commission.

In 1880, Wheeler was elected from Alabama as a Democrat to the United States House of Representatives. 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. [Lawley, Jim, [ "Gen. Joe Wheeler was entangled in recount."] ]

Wheeler supported the election of Luke Pryor 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.

panish-American War

Roosevelt on right, Leonard Wood is next to him and former Civil War Confederate general, Joseph Wheeler is next to Wood. Taylor MacDonald is on the far left and Major Alexander Oswald Brodie next to him.] 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 war. 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.Dupuy, pp. 794.] 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 began but 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 R. Shafter that the position could be held against a possible counterattack. He led the division through the Siege of Santiago and 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 at Montauk Point, now a state park in New York.

Philippine-American War

Wheeler sailed for the Philippines to fight in the Philippine-American War, arriving in August 1899. He commanded the First Brigade in Arthur MacArthur's Second Division during the Philippine-American War until January 1900. During this period, Wheeler was mustered out of the volunteer service and commissioned a brigadier general in the regular army, both on June 16, 1900. After hostilities he commanded the Department of the Lakes until his 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 infantry.Fact|date=July 2008

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" in 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 death.

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 Longstreet and E. Porter Alexander were seated 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 uniform." [Wert, pp. 425-6.]

After 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.

In Memory

In 1925, the state of Alabama donated a bronze statue of Joseph Wheeler to the U.S. Capitol's National Statuary Hall Collection. 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, Ga. (which served as an army base during both World Wars) was named for Wheeler. [ [ National Park Service link] ]

In popular media

Wheeler was portrayed in the TV film Rough Riders by American actor Gary Busey, although Busey is much taller than Wheeler was, and had a moustache only instead of a full beard.

ee also

* Slavery and State's Rights (speech by Wheeler in 1894)


* Dupuy, Trevor N., Johnson, Curt, and Bongard, David L., "Harper Encyclopedia of Military Biography", Castle Books, 1992, 1st Ed., ISBN 0-7858-0437-4.
* Eicher, John H., and Eicher, David J., "Civil War High Commands", Stanford Univ. Press, 2001, ISBN 0-8047-3641-3.
* Foote, Shelby, ": 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).
* Wert, Jeffry D., "General James Longstreet: The Confederacy's Most Controversial Soldier: A Biography", Simon & Schuster, 1993, ISBN 0-671-70921-6.


External links

* [ Biographical sketch]
* [ NSHC biography]
* [ Pond Spring, Home of General Joe Wheeler]
* [ General Joseph "Fightin Joe" Wheeler @ The Sam Huston Museum]

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Look at other dictionaries:

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