Tag Archive | Nelson miles

The real end of the Civil War, as told in a snapshot

Via the Wegman Collection.

Here we see two senior officers who once fought across from each other, then were blended back into the same service, and are now buried in the same rows.

They are a group of U.S. officers in the Spanish American War, including Maj. Gen. (of Volunteers) Joseph “Fighting Joe” Wheeler (3rd from left, seated) next to U.S. Army Maj. Gen.Nelson Appleton Miles, MOH, (4th), along with their respective staff, in front of officers quarters on Picnic Island: Port Tampa City, Fla (Camp Tampa) May 1898.

Note the mix of Union blue and early khaki uniforms, truly an Army on the divide of the 19th and 20th Centuries…

As for the men:

Massachusetts-born Miles was working as a clerk when he volunteered in Sept. 1861 for Mr. Lincoln’s new and greatly expanded Army. Commissioned first a 2nd Lt. in the 22nd Massachusetts, by early 1862 he was a 23-year-old Lt. Col. in the 60th New York. After picking up four wounds and fighting like a lion at Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville (where he earned the Medal of Honor), and later in the Appomattox Campaign, Miles finished the Civil War as a brevet Maj. Gen. of Volunteers, which by 1866 translated into a full colonel in the regular peacetime Army. During the Indian Wars, he fought the Apache, Cheyenne, Comanche, Kiowa, Lakota and Nez Pierce Perce (thanks, Sam). His legacy was tarnished by commanding the overall department of forces that “fought” at Wounded Knee in 1890, though he was critical of the actions of the ground commander on the scene that day–Col. James W. Forsyth. One of the most senior officers in the Army, Miles led the Puerto Rican Campaign during the Span-Am War, for which the later President Teddy Roosevelt would refer to the Civil War veteran as a “brave peacock.” He retired from the Army in 1903 after 42 years on active duty and later ran for president as a Democrat, though he did not win his party’s nomination, then volunteered for service in WWI, which was declined. He is buried at Arlington.

Wheeler, like myself an Augusta, Ga boy, graduated from West Point in 1859 (19 of 22) and served in the Regiment of Mounted Rifles as a somewhat noted cavalryman on the Frontier. Resigning his commission in 1861 and casting his lot with the South, he joined the 19th Alabama Infantry and fought at Shiloh and Corinth before (logically) being given command of a body of horsemen. He wrote the Confederate cavalry tactics manual and soon proved his worth. His cavalry corps later grew into a fire brigade of sorts that roamed around the Western Theater and, though he could not stop Sherman, it wasn’t for lack of trying. Wheeler had no less than 16 of his horses shot out from under him and picked up three wounds during the war. The former Confederate Lt. Gen. and U.S. Army 2nd Lt. finished the conflict as a Union prisoner, captured just outside of Atlanta. At age 61 in 1898, he volunteered for the Span-Am War and was subsequently made a Maj. Gen then placed in charge of the V Corps cavalry– including TR’s “Rough Riders” as a subordinate unit. Following the war, he went on to fight in the Philippines and retired a Brig. Gen. in the regular Army. He was one of only three ex-Confederate generals to go on to serve as a general in the U.S. Army, along with Fitzhugh Lee and Thomas Lafayette “Tex” Rosser, who likewise sought volunteer commissions in 1898 that were granted by President William McKinley (who ironically was a Union officer during the Civil War). Wheeler later attended the 100th anniversary of West Point in 1902 in a Union blue uniform. Like Miles, he is buried at Arlington, is of course the former home of Robert E. Lee. Wheeler is only one of two former greycoat generals, the other being Brig. Gen. Marcus Joseph Wright, buried at the National Cemetery.

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