The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Lifestyle

September 11, 2007

Who was Gen. Joe Wheeler?

Gen. Joe Wheeler loved his state so much that when he was given a horse after the Spanish-American War, he named it Alabama. Suitably, many things are named for Wheeler throughout Alabama, but that is because of his service to the state and country and extraneous to the horse.

In North Alabama alone, there is Joe Wheeler State Park in Rogersville complete with Wheeler Lake and campgrounds that extend out into Florence, Wheeler Dam, Joe Wheeler Electric Membership Corporation, the town of Wheeler, Ala., and Wheeler Basin Regional Library in Decatur.

In Georgia, where Wheeler was born, there is Joseph Wheeler High School and Joseph Wheeler Highway.

Wheeler’s name is usually synonymous with the Confederate Army but his service to the United States reaches far beyond his Confederate background.

According to the Wheeler Plantations Web site, Wheeler was born in Augusta, Ga., Sept. 10, 1836. His mother died and his father lost the family fortune and moved the family to his home state of Connecticut. He received schooling at the Episcopal Academy in Cheshire, Conn., and then went on to West Point where he graduated in 1859. He served as Confederate Major General of Cavalry in the Army of Tennessee during the Civil War and, at age 26, was one of the youngest Confederate generals.

During his service in the Civil War, Wheeler met widow Daniella Sherrod. They married in 1866 and built their home at Pond Spring during the 1870s.

Wheeler also passed the Alabama Bar exam in the 1870s and became an attorney for the Tuscumbia, Courtland and Decatur Railroad.

He was elected to Congress in 1880, where he represented the northern district of Alabama for 19 years. He took a leave from Congress in 1898 at the beginning of the Spanish-American War, where he was commissioned by President McKinley to serve as an Army Major General of Volunteers in Cuba during the war.

Wheeler died in 1906 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Pond Spring and the Wheeler home were listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1977 and Wheeler’s descendants donated Pond Springs to the state of Alabama and the Alabama Historical Commission in 1993.

Learn more about Wheeler and his family by visiting www.wheelerplantation.org.

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