Portrait of Joseph Wheeler

Plundering by Joseph Wheeler’s Confederate soldiers during William T. Sherman’s March to the Sea reached the point that the citizens of Georgia came to see little difference between “Sherman’s bummers” and “Wheeler’s robbers.” [Wikimedia Commons]

Joseph Wheeler, Jr. - Facts

September 10, 1836 - June 16, 1906

Key facts about General Joseph Wheeler, a prominent Confederate cavalry commander during the American Civil War, who also represented Alabama in the U.S. House of Representatives for nine terms, and led U.S. forces during the Spanish-American War and the Philippine-American Insurrection.

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Full Name:

  • Joseph Wheeler, Jr.

Birth Date:

  • September 10, 1836

Birth Location:

  • Near Augusta, Georgia

Parents:

  • Joseph Wheeler, Sr. and Julia (Hull) Wheeler

Education:

  • United States Military Academy (1859)

Occupation:

  • Military officer

Career Summary:

  • Brigadier General (USA)
  • Major General (CSA)
  • U.S. Congressman

Spouse:

  • Daniella Jones Sherrod (1866)

Nickname(s):

  • Fighting Joe

Place of Death:

  • Brooklyn, New York

Date of Death:

  • June 16, 1906

Place of Burial:

  • Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia

Significance:

  • Joseph Wheeler was the youngest of New England natives Joseph Wheeler, Sr. and Julia (Hull) Wheeler’s four children.
  • When Joseph Wheeler’s mother died in 1842, his family returned to Connecticut.
  • Joseph Wheeler attended local schools before entering the Episcopal Academy in Cheshire, Connecticut.
  • In 1854, Joseph Wheeler was admitted to the United States Military Academy at the age of seventeen.
  • Joseph Wheeler attended the United States Military Academy from July 1, 1854, to July 1, 1859, when he graduated nineteenth in his class of twenty-two cadets.
  • On July 1, 1859, Joseph Wheeler was brevetted to Second Lieutenant of Dragoons and assigned to Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania for training.
  • Joseph Wheeler earned the nickname “Fighting Joe” while campaigning against American Indians in New Mexico.
  • Joseph Wheeler was promoted to the full rank of second lieutenant on September 1, 1860.
  • On March 16, 1861, Joseph Wheeler received an appointment as a first lieutenant in the Georgia state militia.
  • On April 22, 1861, Joseph Wheeler resigned his commission with the U.S. Army.
  • Joseph Wheeler was promoted to colonel in command of the 19th Alabama Infantry on September 4, 1861.
  • Joseph Wheeler’s regiment served as the rearguard that covered General P. G. T. Beauregard’s retreat after the Union victory at the Battle of Shiloh (April 6 – 7, 1862).
  • In May 1862, Joseph Wheeler’s served as the rearguard that covered General P. G. T. Beauregard’s retreat to Tupelo, Mississippi following the Siege of Corinth.
  • Joseph Wheeler was promoted to brigade commander in July 1862.
  • On September 14, 1862, General Braxton Bragg appointed Wheeler to command the 2nd Cavalry Brigade of Left Wing of the Army of Mississippi (later the Army of Tennessee).
  • Joseph Wheeler’s brigade served as the rearguard that covered Braxton Bragg’s retreat to Tennessee following the Battle of Perryville (October 8, 1862).
  • On October 30, 1862, Wheeler was promoted to brigadier general and given command of the Army of Tennessee’s cavalry, which comprised one division divided into four brigades.
  • Joseph Wheeler’s brigade served as the rearguard that covered the Army of Tennessee’s retreat
  • to Tullahoma, Tennessee after the Battle of Stones River (December 31, 1862–January 2, 1863).
  • Joseph Wheeler earned the thanks of the Confederate Congress for leading a controversial attack against a Union supply base at Harpeth Shoals, Tennessee on January 12–13, 1863
  • Joseph Wheeler was promoted to major general and placed in command of one of the Army of Tennessee’s two cavalry corps on January 20, 1863.
  • In January 1863 Joseph Wheeler joined forces with Brigadier General Nathan Bedford Forrest and led an expedition to recapture Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River.
  • After Joseph Wheeler’s failure to recapture Fort Donelson in 1863, Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest vowed that he would never again serve under Wheeler.
  • During the Tullahoma Campaign (June 24–July 3, 1863) and at the Battle of Chickamauga (September 19, 1863 – September 20, 1863), Joseph Wheeler’s corps covered the Army of Tennessee’s left flank.
  • After the Battle of Chickamauga, Joseph Wheeler was placed in charge of all the Army of Tennessee’s cavalry.
  • In support of General Braxton Bragg’s investment of Chattanooga, Joseph Wheeler started a highly successful raid into Middle Tennessee in October 1863.
  • Joseph Wheeler’s corps supported General James Longstreet’s Knoxville Campaign (November 4 – December 14, 1863).
  • During the early phases of the Atlanta Campaign, Joseph Wheeler’s cavalry supported the flanks of the Army of Tennessee as it withdrew south under incessant pressure from Sherman.
  • When Confederate General John Bell Hood moved west into Alabama and then north into Tennessee during his Franklin-Nashville Campaign (September 18 – December 27, 1864) he left Joseph Wheeler’s cavalry behind to oppose Sherman’s March to the Sea.
  • Georgia civilians criticized Joseph Wheeler for his inability to halt Sherman’s March to the Sea, but in reality, his small force, which never amounted to over 13,000 troopers, was no match for Sherman’s 62,000 soldiers.
  • Plundering by Joseph Wheeler’s Confederate soldiers during William T. Sherman’s March to the Sea reached the point that the citizens of Georgia came to see little difference between “Sherman’s bummers” and “Wheeler’s robbers.”
  • Joseph Wheeler’s out-manned cavalry was no contest for Union General William T. Sherman’s army during the Carolinas Campaign.
  • In February 1865, Wheeler may have been promoted to the rank of lieutenant general, however, debate exists whether the Confederate Congress ever confirmed the promotion.
  • During the Carolinas Campaign, alleged plundering by Joseph Wheeler’s men reached the point that department commander P. G. T. Beauregard ordered an investigation that concluded that the allegations were exaggerated, but that Wheeler was guilty of “excessive leniency” as a commander.
  • During the early spring of 1865, Lieutenant General Wade Hampton replaced Joseph Wheeler as the Army of Tennessee’s Chief of Cavalry.
  • Joseph Wheeler took part in the Confederate defeat at the Battle of Bentonville (March 19, 1865–March 21, 1865).
  • After Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston surrendered his army to Union General William T. Sherman on April 26, 1865, Joseph Wheeler fled west, hoping to continue resistance in Texas.
  • Union soldiers captured Joseph Wheeler near Conyer’s Station, Georgia, just east of Atlanta, on May 9 while attempting to join Confederate President Jefferson Davis and continue resistance in Texas.
  • Toward the end of the Civil War, Joseph Wheeler was imprisoned at Fort Monroe, near Hampton, Virginia, and then Fort Delaware, on Pea Patch Island in the Delaware River, until he was paroled on June 8, 1865.
  • Joseph Wheeler married Daniella Jones Sherrod on February 8, 1866.
  • By 1880, Joseph Wheeler unified Democrats in his seven-county Congressional district and get elected to the United States House of Representatives in a hotly contested election of 1880.
  • In 1884 voters of Alabama’s 8th Congressional District elected Joseph Wheeler to the United States House of Representatives. Wheeler went on to serve in the 49th through 56th Congresses from March 4, 1885 through April 20, 1900.
  • When Congress declared war against Spain on April 25, 1898, Joseph Wheeler volunteered for military services.
  • President William McKinley commissioned Joseph Wheeler as a major general of volunteers on May 8, 1898.
  • Despite orders not to engage the enemy, Joseph Wheeler started the Battle of Guasimas (June 24, 1898), paving the way for an assault on the main Spanish defenses at Santiago.
  • Although stricken with fever, Joseph Wheeler left his sickbed to lead his men to victory at the Battle of San Juan Hill (July 1, 1898).
  • Joseph Wheeler served as a member of the commission that negotiated the surrender of the Spanish army and city of Santiago at the end of the Spanish-American War.
  • On April 12, 1899, President McKinley promoted Joseph Wheeler to the rank of brigadier general in the regular army.
  • In 1899, while still a member of Congress, Joseph Wheeler was dispatched to the Philippines to serve in the Philippine–American War (June 2, 1899–July 4, 1902).
  • On April 20, 1900, Joseph Wheeler resigned his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
  • On September 10, 1900, Joseph Wheeler resigned his army commission at the age of 64.
  • At the time of his retirement, Wheeler was one of only two men to serve as generals in both the armies of the Confederate States of America and the United States of America. The other was Fitzhugh Lee, nephew of General Robert E. Lee.
  • Joseph Wheeler died at the home of his sister in Brooklyn, New York on June 16, 1906, of complications from pneumonia.
  • Joseph Wheeler was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery, one of only a few Confederate officers to be interred there.
  • In 1925, the citizens of Alabama selected Joseph Wheeler to represent their state in Statuary Hall, Washington, D.C.
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Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Joseph Wheeler, Jr. - Facts
  • Coverage September 10, 1836 - June 16, 1906
  • Author
  • Keywords Joseph Wheeler, Jr.
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date July 27, 2021
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update April 29, 2021
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