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Fine Images and Documents
21059 Confederate General Joseph Wheeler An 1859 West Point saltprint of
Wheeler 8 ¼ X 11 ¼”. $850
Wheeler entered West Point in July 1854 and he graduated on July 1, 1859 and was
commissioned a brevet second lieutenant in the 1st U.S. Dragoons. It was while
stationed 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.
At the start of the Civil War Wheeler entered the Confederacy. 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 Congress on May 1, 1863.
In February 1863, Wheeler and Forrest attacked Fort Donelson at Dover,
Tennessee, but they were repulsed by the small Union garrison. 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 Tullahoma 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 river.
Wheeler covered Bragg's retreat from Chattanooga following the Union
breakthrough at Missionary Ridge on November 25 and received a wound in his
foot as his cavalry and Maj. Gen. Patrick Cleburne's infantry fought at the Battle of
Ringgold Gap on November 27.
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".
In 1898, Wheeler, now aged 61, volunteered for the Spanish–American War,
receiving an appointment to major general of volunteers from 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 Fifth Army
After long illness, Wheeler died in Brooklyn on January 25, 1906, at the age of 69.
He is one of the few former Confederate officers to be buried within Arlington
Photo on the verso of the Wheeler