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This Day in Georgia History

January 25, 1906

Joseph Wheeler Died

To view an image of Joseph Wheeler, see the Digital Library of Georgia.

Former Confederate general Joseph “Fightin’ Joe” Wheeler died in Brooklyn, New York. Joseph Wheeler, Jr. was born in Augusta, Georgia on Sept. 10, 1836. After his mother died in 1842, his father took the family to Connecticut, where he owned part interest in a textile mill. After graduating from West Point in 1859, Wheeler was assigned to the New Mexico Territory in 1860. Here, during an encounter with hostile Indians, he earned the nickname “Fightin’ Joe”–perhaps a particular compliment as he was only 5’5” tall and weighed 120 pounds. In April 1861, Wheeler resigned from the U.S. Army to accept a commission as a lieutenant in a Georgia artillery unit. In Sept. 1861, he was named a colonel in the 19th Alabama. In July 1862, he became commander of a cavalry division. After several key actions, he was promoted to brigadier general in October 1862 and to major general in 1863. During his service to the Confederacy – which included the Battle of Chickamauga, the Atlanta Campaign, and Sherman’s March to the Sea, Wheeler had 16 horses shot out from under him. After the Civil War, he moved to Alabama, where in 1880 he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. Wheeler re-entered military service in the U.S. Army during the Spanish-American War as chief of cavalry for the Fifth Army Corps. During that conflict, he participated in several battles in Cuba–including San Juan Hill. Wheeler died in January 1906 while visiting his sister in Brooklyn, New York. Because of his role as a major general in the Spanish-American War, Wheeler is one of the few Confederate officers buried in Arlington National Cemetery.