Marker Monday: Wheeler County

Image Credit: David Seibert

This week’s #MarkerMonday looks at the Wheeler County historical marker to explore the history of the county’s namesake, Brigadier General Joseph “Fighting Joe” Wheeler. Although he served as a brigadier general for the Confederate cavalry of Tennessee during the Civil War and later became a congressman from Alabama after the war, he was born in Augusta, Georgia, in 1836. After promoting the start of the Spanish-American War in Congress, he enlisted with the United States Army when the war began in 1898.

The sinking of the USS Maine in Havana harbor on February 15, 1898, increased growing tensions with Spain, because Americans were led to believe Spain was responsible for the explosion. The destruction of the Maine was one of several incidents that preceded US intervention in the Cuban struggle for independence from Spain, which had begun in 1895. In April 1898, President McKinley requested from Congress the ability to use military force against Spain if it did not acknowledge Cuba’s independence. When Spain rejected the resolution, McKinley organized a blockade around Cuba and requested American military volunteers. Spain responded by declaring war on the United States.

(Front row, right to left): Theodore Roosevelt, Leonard Wood and former Civil War Confederate General, Joseph Wheeler. (Back row, right to left): Chaplain Henry A. Brown, Major Alexander Oswald Brodie and Major George Dunn.
Underwood & Underwood, photographer. Staff of the 1st US Volunteer Regiment, the “Rough Riders” in Tampa, ca. 1898, photograph, Tampa, Florida.

After the war began, President McKinley appointed Joseph Wheeler to the rank of major general of volunteers on May 4. He was responsible for leading his division, including Theodore Roosevelt’s Rough Riders, into Cuba. They landed near Daiquiri on June 20, and Wheeler’s division cleared the coast for additional landings and forced the Spanish to retreat to Santiago. After the war, Wheeler was promoted to brigadier general of the Regular Army. After assuming this rank, Wheeler became the only Confederate general to hold the same rank in the United States Army as he had in the Confederate Army. He is also one of only two Confederate generals buried in Arlington National Cemetery, the other being Brigadier General Marcus Joseph Wright.

Explore the links below to learn more:

Full Marker Text

Today in Georgia History – September 10, 1836

Encyclopedia of Alabama – Joseph Wheeler

New Georgia Encyclopedia – Wheeler County

Library of Congress – The War of 1898: The Spanish-American War

National Museum of the United States Army – BG Joseph Wheeler, USA

Office of the Historian – The Spanish-American War, 1898

Library of Congress – Staff of the 1st US Volunteer Regiment, the “Rough Riders” in Tampa

GHS houses several collections related to Joseph Wheeler.

122nd Ordnance Company, Camp Wheeler (Ga.) photograph, MS 2375

Base Hospital Detachment, Camp Wheeler (Ga.) photograph, MS 2529

Bust, 1906. From the GHS Artifacts Collection, A-1361-269.

Jones family papers, MS 0440

Joseph Frederick Waring II papers, MS 1275