September 5, 2015 (by Jimmy) – Angela and I went to Florence, Alabama, today to visit with our son Nathaniel. While we were there, we decided to take a trip about 30 minutes south-east to visit the home of General Joe Wheeler. Gen. Wheeler was a Confederate Major General during the Civil War.
He graduated from West Point in 1859, making him one of the youngest Generals of the Civil war. He barely met the height requirements to attend; General Wheeler was 5 ft. 2 in. tall and weighed 128 lbs. He had an appreciation for Napoleon Bonaparte, having a bust of him in the study and a picture of himself on one of the walls with his hand inside his jacket Napoleon style. I’m guessing he was paying courtesy to a fellow short general.
He served well, but after the war was over, he headed to Alabama instead of Georgia (which is where he was raised). He went to Pond Spring Plantation to see the widow Daniella Sherrod (her husband, a Colonel, died in the war). They married soon after, and General Wheeler became – you guessed it – a lawyer and farmer.
In 1884, General Joe became Congressman Joe when he ran and won election to the US House of Representatives from Alabama. He served in this capacity for 17 terms bowing out in 1900.
In 1898, at the age of 61 General Wheeler volunteered to serve in the Spanish-American War. He was given the rank of Major General and Command of the Calvary Unit that included Theodore Roosevelt’s Rough Riders. This gave General Wheeler a rare distinction of having been a Major General in both the Army of the Confederacy as well as a Major General in the US Army.
He died in 1906 at the age of 69 and is one of the few Confederate Generals buried at Arlington. Over the grave of his wife at their Pond Springs home is an obelisk. When General Wheeler died, the family had the same obelisk erected over his grave in Arlington. Others seeing the obelisk didn’t want other generals trying to outdo each other, filling Arlington full of gaudy statues, so they developed size limitations on Arlington tombstones. Thus, the smallest general will always have the largest monument in Arlington Cemetery.
The tour of General Wheeler’s home was enlightening and the house was beautiful. I didn’t even mention his children; there was just so much to take in. One thing that hit me as we walked up to the house was the smell. The bushes are a plant called “Boxwood,” and I remember smelling some of these bushes when I would visit my grandmother in Cleveland, Mississippi. As we are walking up to the house, I tuned to Angela and said, “This place smells like the South,” and she told me that she was thinking the same thing. Now, when I smell a Boxwood bush, I’m going to think about General Wheeler, I’m okay with that.
Until later… Later…