What happened to Wheeler's Corps in late 1864?


Jul 28, 2021
In the beginning of Sherman's March, Wheeler was at Lovejoy Station with around 10,000 men in nine brigades. During the campaign, I was not able to detect any costly engagements.

In December 1864, Hardee remarked in a communication that Wheeler had about 3,000 men in the vicinity.

Somewhere I read that two of Wheeler's brigades supported Breckinridge at Saltville (does anybody know which ones?) and a dismounted detachment of Ferguson's brigade served in the Savannah trenches. But what about the rest of the cavalry?

This is especially interesting to me because Wheeler should have outnumbered Sherman's cavalry by up to 3 to 1, which raises the additional question why the march was not drastically slowed down.

Any input would be greatly appreciated!

Best regards, Sylvester

Coonewah Creek

First Sergeant
Jun 1, 2018
Northern Alabama
Hood sent Wheeler to raid Sherman’s railway supply lifeline. His troopers managed to destroy a few locomotives and other rolling stock and tear up some track, but didn’t do any lasting damage. They soon got tired of the assignment so Wheeler took them north into East Tennessee where they were rendered pretty useless from that point on. Wheeler was no Forrest. He didn’t have what it takes to stick to a plan to interrupt Sherman’s logistics.
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Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Nov 2, 2019
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Wheeler was tasked with breaking the N&CRR, the lifeline of the Union forces in Chattanooga. He gathered all of the sound cavalry horses left to the Army of Tennessee, ~12,000. The drunken bacchanal that occurred when Wheeler fell onto a large wagon train cost him ~ 1/3 rd of his force. He did capture a small garrison at McMinville. However, Wheeler only managed to pass between Nashville & Murfreesboro without doing more than superficial damage to the vital rail road.

Running for their lives, Wheeler’s men & broken down horses were scattered all along his escape route to the bank of the Tennessee River. An AG reported that despite Wheeler’s characteristically bloated claims & returns, - 1,000 men fully equipped & mounted were left of his force. He had done something that the Yankees were incapable of. He had destroyed the A of TN’s cavalry while doing no harm to Union logistics.

Forrest had been forced to turn over his sound animals, just like all the other A of TN commanders. The Union cavalry would only get better & CSA cavalry would only get worse.

Keep in mind that every horse that reached 5 years old, the minimum for military usefulness, was the issue of a stallion that stood to a mare before 1860. Horseflesh was a diminishing asset & nothing could be done about it.

As a footnote, Wheeler’s reports & returns were works of fiction. Errors of 80% were ubiquitous in his returns. To directly answer the question posed, Wheeler, Morgan et al, frittered away the one superior military force that the CSA had. That is why there were no masses of cavalry available to confront Sherman.


Jul 28, 2021
Thank you all for your responses. Your answers clear the situation up significantly. While skimming through "Campaigns of Wheeler and his cavalry 1862-1865" during the last hours (imho mostly unbearable to read), I came up with a dispatch during the Savannah evacuation giving him around 5,800 troopers. Although it is not stated which brigades were actually involved, this at least feels somehow realistic.


Member of the Year
Regtl. Staff Shiloh 2020
Mar 22, 2009
Collierville, TN
I need to learn more about Wheeler’s cavalry operations during this time. If it was like earlier cavalry, there were times the size of the regiments would fluctuate. A regiment might be 500 men one month and only 200 men during the winter months.
I have the bio of Wheeler; maybe he gives an explanation.

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Nov 2, 2019
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Connolly in ‘Army of the Heartland’ & ‘Autumn of Glory’ goes into considerable detail on this subject. Ed Bearss & many other historians agree with Connolly that after the early spring of 1863 A of TN cavalry was doing more harm to the CSA than the Yankees.

The footnotes alone are a wellspring of citations to follow up on. It makes for sobering reading.

Powell & Wittenberg’s‘Tullahoma Campaign’ book details what happened to the cavalry during the opening phase of that advance. Morgan lost his entire command & all of its irreplaceable horses even before Rosecrans opening moves. At Shelbyville, Wheeler suffered one of the most lopsided defeats of the war.

My wife’s g-g-g uncle William Sprague received the Metal of Honor by defeating Wheeler with a much smaller force of infantry. He was guarding the A of the TN’s reserve ammunition wagons.

There are three sources you can explore. It is all but impossible to read anything about the A of TN without seeing Connolly in the footnotes, so for the full story read him first. Everything else will fall into context afterwards.


Sergeant Major
Nov 12, 2016
Connolly in ‘Army of the Heartland’ & ‘Autumn of Glory’ goes into considerable detail on this subject. Ed Bearss & many other historians agree with Connolly that after the early spring of 1863 A of TN cavalry was doing more harm to the CSA than the Yankees.

The footnotes alone are a wellspring of citations to follow up on. It makes for sobering reading.

Powell & Wittenberg’s‘Tullahoma Campaign’ book details what happened to the cavalry during the opening phase of that advance. Morgan lost his entire command & all of its irreplaceable horses even before Rosecrans opening moves. At Shelbyville, Wheeler suffered one of the most lopsided defeats of the war.

My wife’s g-g-g uncle William Sprague received the Metal of Honor by defeating Wheeler with a much smaller force of infantry. He was guarding the A of the TN’s reserve ammunition wagons.

There are three sources you can explore. It is all but impossible to read anything about the A of TN without seeing Connolly in the footnotes, so for the full story read him first. Everything else will fall into context afterwatds.
Rhea how aware was chain of command that Wheelers reports were mostly bull?

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Nov 2, 2019
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Rhea how aware was chain of command that Wheelers reports were mostly bull?
Wheeler commanded the cavalry of the Army of Tennessee. He reported directly to Braxton Bragg. As can be seen in Connolly's footnotes & text, AG reports routinely exposed Wheeler's returns to be wildly inaccurate. Wheeler's reports were works of fiction. His repeated claims to have destroyed the N&CRR were demonstratively false. Rosecrans' advances that led to Stones River, Tullahoma & the crossing of the Tennessee River below Chattanooga were complete surprises. It was 48 hours before Bragg understood that an entire U.S. Army Corps had completely obliterated his right flank June 23-25, 1863. His raid into Tennessee effectively destroyed the army's cavalry w/o doing any significant harm to Rosecrans' logistics. How could Bragg not know these facts? How could Bragg not fire Wheeler? How, indeed is the question.


Feb 20, 2005
Inspection reports of Wheeler's Cavalry-Late War

2/10/65 Augusta, J G Devereux, Maj & AIG to Col Chilton, AA&IG, Richmond-I have the honor respectfully to report that in obedience to your instructions, received Mobile, 1/15/65, to inspect "all Cav commands detached from Gen Hood's army in Ga, especially Iverson's Bgde, & all Cav in Ala, "I repaired at once to Ga, as the case of Capt G. S. Cecil, acting commissary of subsistence, Iverson's Bgde, seemed to ask for prompt attention.

On my arrival I found that all the Cav detached from Gen Hood's Army had passed from Ga into SC except Gen Iverson's Div & Gen Ferguson's Bgde. Iverson's proper Bgde is not included in his Div command, but is commanded by Col Crews & incorporated in Gen Allen's Div, now in SC.

Capt Cecil's case has been investigated & the papers returned to you through Col E. J. Harvie, AA&IG, Army of Tenn.

The troops which were inspected are the -
3rd, 4th, 6th, 9th Ky Regts, mounted Infy of Gen Jos. H. Lewis' Bgde,
53rd Ala Regt, 24th Ala Bn, 11th Ga Regt, & the Roswell (Ga) Bn, of Col Hannon's Bgde, all of Iverson's Div

The rosters of these Regts are forwarded herewith, as also a list of the officers of the general staff belonging to them. Returns of the two Bgdes accompany this letter. The absent officers are accounted for on the rosters. The rosters of the Ky Bgde are imperfect because the Regimental records were inaccessible.

A circular from Gen Wheeler, copy enclosed, directing that all men absent without leave more than seven days be dropped from the rolls, has caused some misunderstanding. Should not such men be accounted for on the returns as deserted, & only officers as "dropped" who may have been absent without leave or are incompetent, deserters being accounted for on the muster rolls also?

It is remarked that the muster rolls in Hannon's Bgde are not correctly made out, & that the inspecting officer failed to affix his signature or fill out the remarks. The blank forms of returns in this Div are not all uniform with those of other troops. It is respectfully suggested that an order issue from your office prescribing the form of all service blanks, & exacting compliance with notes printed upon them all; the numbering of the columns is highly useful, & the notes might indicate in detail the information required in each column.

The headings, "extra duty," & "absent detached service," are frequently misused. Regimental cdrs & AAG’s seem not to know the manner of returning officers & men on detached duty at general Hqs. Gen Iverson fails to report all officers & men permanently on detached duty at his Hqs. The most notable defect in this Div is the want of proper organization. There are but few staff officers at the general Hqs, & none but Adjt’s & some surgeons with Regts.

Gen Iverson is detached from his own Bgde, now Crews', to command these two Bgdes in another Div, & has no general staff officers except Capt Byrd, ACS, recently assigned by order of Gen Hardee.

Col Hannon's Bgde was organized last April, but his application for staff officers was not approved, on the ground that the Bgde was serving with him is Capt Dickinson, AQM, 53rd Ala. Besides rendering more difficult the enforcement of discipline, the want of staff officers is one cause of the discontent of the people of Ga, who have been much annoyed with irregular receipts given by line officers ignorant of their duty.

In this connection it is proper to remark that the agent allowed by act of Congress (G O #54, 1864), to audit claims in each Congressional district has not appeared in Burke & Screven Counties, Ga, traversed by our Cav in Nov & Dec 1864.

This Div has never been officially organized in orders, nor has it ever been inspected, either as Div or by Bgdes; no inspection reports of any kind have been made since Sept.

The Ky troops were regularly inspected when Infy, but have been neglected since mounted. It is, therefore, not remarkable that all Dept’s of the staff are irregularly administered in some particulars.

Descriptive lists of horses are not found in Lewis' Bgde, & but imperfect ones in Hannon's.

Subsistence is issued to the commissary-Sgt’s, there being no Regimental commissaries or QMs, upon the Adjt’s' verbal statements, through the sergeant, of the number of men & officers, & provision returns & receipts are only signed two or three times a month on averaged statements, instead of morning reports. It is impossible to find the number of private animals foraged, as forage is issued on requisition for all stack as "public animals," & only signed once a month on averaged statements.

The transportation, both wagons & teams, of Lewis' Bgde, being nearly new, is in excellent condition.

Hannon's wagons are in fair order, but the teams seem weak, & are much jaded by incessant labor; they could be better groomed than they are.

No captured property, either horses, equipment, or arms, are ever turned over to the officers of the staff. Great embarrassment is occasioned in the QM & commissary Dept’s by the want of ready funds. Cav in motion must subsist on the country they occupy, & should have cash or bonded officers numerous enough to accompany detached parties.

The people of Ga can obtain much more for their produce when delivered to certain agents of the commissary Dept (Maj Cranston, at Augusta, for instance) than when it is impressed by Cav officers at schedule prices, hence arises much discontent. In the latter part of Jan commissaries in the field were paying schedule prices, when Maj Cranston was authorized to pay $14 or $15 per bushel for corn.

The efficiency of the Div is much impaired by details (see absent, detached service, most of such absentees being able-bodied men, with the best horses & arms) acting as guards, escorts, couriers, &c. Gen Iverson has two Lt’s & 62 men at his Hqs as provost guards & couriers.

I would recommend a judicious system of furloughing for this as well as all other commands, & not to be interrupted in even ordinarily active movements.

With an aggregate of 1,473, Hannon's Bgde has 38 absent with leave, while Lewis' Bgde, with 1,066, has 192.

The general orders from the A&IGO are seldom promulgated. G O #75, 1864, announcing average price of rations sold to officers, has not been received.

Capt Byrd, ACS sells pork at 75 cents per pound, fresh beef 53 cents net, & corn at $2. 25/bushel

The orders regarding the dropping of absent & incompetent officers, & the retirement of disabled officers & men, were not found at Div Hqs, nor well understood there or in Hannon's Bgde. Lists of absent officers & men are not sent to the bureau of Conscription from this Div.

Attention is invited to the evident neglect of orders & discipline by the frequent granting of permission to men to ride their horses on other than public business. In the matter of organization, Gen Beauregard's order, dated Dec 29, 1864, promising to merge those Bgdes with the largest number of absentees into those with the least, will, if executed, be very beneficial in reducing the number of commands & the necessity for more staff officers, & cause little inconvenience, as the number of Gen’ls exceeds but slightly the number of Div’s said to be in the Cav Corps.

Attention is attracted to the large proportion of mules in the Cav; fully one-quarter of this Div is mounted on them. Permit me strongly to recommend mounting all Cav on public horses, & the retention of these mules for transportation purposes.

It is believed that Div & Bgde cdrs do not give sufficient personal attention to the individuals & material of their commands. Morning reports are made but three times a month. Books & records seem to be incomplete; soldiers do not appear to be charged on the muster & pay rolls with articles lost or injured. There are no recitations in army regulations.

The health of the Div is remarkably good. the Bgde commanded by Gen Jos. H. Lewis is composed of the 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th, & 9th Ky Regts Infy, which were mounted, both men & officers, by order of Gen Hood, on public animals, mostly horses, but many of them mules, which have been receipted for by the acting Bgde QM. The Bgde lacks about 200 horses to complete its mounting. The men who need these horses are acting as Infy.

The horse equipments are generally in good order, & were mostly issued from Gov’t workshops; a detail of the men is making up the deficiency by constructing excellent saddles.

It is gratifying to report that there are but few absentees without leave from this Bgde. Gen Lewis reports that he has never been able to effect the retirement of either officers or men for want of action at superior Hqs.

The Bgde train was so far distant that it was impossible to examine the responsibility of the officers of the staff.

The Bgde has a sufficiency of clothing, which is kept clean, & is well supplied with blankets.

There is a marked deficiency of spurs.

There are 396 serviceable & 51 unserviceable animals in the Bgde. They are in ordinary plight & ordinarily combs & brushes are much needed.

The arms of the Bgde are with few exceptions uniform in kind & caliber, & nearly all serviceable, but there is a deficiency of about one-twelfth. The condition of the arms is generally dirty. Accouterments are in good condition, but a deficiency of about one-sixth exists. Ammunition is well preserved, but not uniformly distributed.

The military bearing of the Bgde may be said to be soldierly, but their appearance, mounted & dismounted, is indifferent. Discipline is lax; men are inattentive on parade & also at drill, which is indifferently performed; officers & men need instruction in Cav tactics.

In the 2nd Ky Regt, there is a surplus of officers, but none are found to be elected since the promulgation of G O #53.

The 6th Ky Regt has eight Co’s, but originally numbered ten.

The 9th Ky has six Co’s, although it originally had ten. Two Co’s of Tenn troops were transferred by Gen Bragg, at Murfreesboro, in Dec, 1862, under the order to aggregate troops into Regts from their own States, & two others were detached by order from the A&IGO to form a Bn under Maj Desha in Western Va.

Col M. W. Hannon's command is composed of the 53rd Ala Regt, 24th Ala Bn, 11th Ga Regt, & the Roswell (Ga) Bn. It has never been permanently brigaded, but was organized by Gen Roddey, under the orders of Gen Wheeler, & originally comprised the 53rd Ala Regt, Moreland's Regt, Williams' Bn, & the 24th Ala Bn.

No staff officers have been assigned to Col Hannon.

As before mentioned, no inspection reports have been furnished-There were no blank forms found with the command The list of absentees have not been habitually forwarded to the Bureau of Conscription, because the general orders on this & other matters have not in many instances been promulgated to the command.

This Bgde has been constantly on duty for several months. Many horses have been broken down & sent to the recruiting camps at Montgomery & in the rear of the Div. There are 664 serviceable & 122 unserviceable animals in the command; many of them need shoeing.

The Bgde seems to perform picket & outpost duty with great zeal & success. The Co books & records are not generally complete, & there are no evidences of accountability for ordnance stores on the part of Regimental cdrs, nor do the men appear to be charged on the muster & pay rolls with losses of public property.

The officers appear to be intelligent, but not as efficient as greater industry would cause them to be.

Throughout the Bgde spurs are deficient.

The 53rd Ala has ten Co’s. They appear attentive on inspection, but their bearing will not be called soldierly. They dress negligently, although their clothing is sufficient & good. Personally, the Regt is cleanly.

The animals look worn, & are not very well groomed; many are puny, & only held to retain their owners in Cav service. The proportion of mules is large.

Arms are not clean enough, & there is a deficiency; the caliber & kind are not entirely uniform. Ammunition is generally well cared for. There is a deficiency of accoutrements. Horse equipment’s are in ordinary good condition; more are needed. Currycombs are deficient.

Discipline appears to be somewhat better in this than other parts of the Bgde. The Regt drills moderately well. Co descriptive lists of animals are correctly kept.

The 24th Ala Bn has three Co’s, was organized in Feb 64, & is chiefly composed of youths, who are healthy & robust, but lack a military air. They were inattentive at inspection, & do not appear to be under good discipline & here is not enough distinction between officers & men.

Many men are unarmed, but expect to be supplied soon. Such arms as were inspected are of irregular calibers, indifferent in kind, & in bad order. Some are unserviceable. There is a great deficiency in the number of accoutrements, especially of cap pouches.

Horse equipment’s are in very bad condition; currycombs are much needed. Horses are not numerous or strong, mules being greatly in excess. The animals are not well groomed. The drill is indifferently executed. Spurs are needed.

The 11th Ga Regt, originally the 30th Ga Bn (7 Co’s), is reported to have been raised to a Regt of 10 Co’s, by authority of the War Dept, from such men as could be obtained in Northeast Ga. Many deserters from other commands joined this Regt, & though some have been returned, others remain. Pvt Mitchell (properly of the 16th Ga, now a courier for Col Hannon) is one.

The Regt was organized about Oct 25, 1864, near Athens, Ga, but when ordered from there to its present station many absented themselves. About 90 officers & men appeared on inspection. They are fine-looking youths, but do not present a military appearance. Discipline is lax; most of the Capt’s are absent on detached service, & there is not enough distinction between officers & Pvt’s. The men are well clad & have a sufficiency of blankets, but are quite uncleanly.

The Regt was at first armed with Cook's Enfield, which the men do not esteem, & say are easily broken. Many have been lost & broken, but are not charged to the men. At present arms are deficient in number, not uniform in kind or caliber, some are broken, & nearly all of them dirty. Horse equipment’s are in bad order, & there is a deficiency of currycombs. The animals are mostly lean & puny, chiefly mules & but few well ground. Many are only excuses to escape Infy service.

Accouterments are deficient. Ammunition it not evenly distributed, & there is none for some calibers, as Spence's [Spencer?] rifles, a Va musket 1814, 7c.

Descriptive lists of animals are correctly kept.

The Roswell Bn being all on picket duty could not be inspected. It is composed of two Co’s, & has no field or staff. Co A is composed of men who were operatives in the mills at Roswell, Ga, & organized into a Bn of 140 men, Infy, Arty, & Cav, under the act for local defense.

When Roswell fell into the hands of the enemy Capt King, cdg Bn, was ordered to report to Gen M. J. Wright, who reorganized the local Bn into a permanent Co, ordered the pieces of Arty to be turned into the arsenal at Atlanta, & mounted the men. At the surrender of Atlanta, Capt King was ordered to report to Gen Cobb, & by him to Gen Iverson, who assigned the Co to Hannon's Bgde.

This Co was reorganized by consent of Col Browne, chief of conscription, State of Ga, at the request of Gen Cobb. The men at present in Co A have no Co’s in the field, but were all detached by the Conscript Bureau. Such as were detailed from the field deserted. Muster rolls of the reorganization were forwarded through Gen Cobb, & at the same time lists of the deserters were furnished to the Bureau of Conscription.

Though mustered as mounted, many of the men have never been mounted. Arms are deficient in number & not uniform in kind in both Co A & Co B. Co B, commanded by Capt Zachry, was mustered into service 9/1/64, by Capt King, who received authority from Gen Cobb to add a Co to his command. It is composed of youths between fifteen & eighteen years of age. It is said to be the desire of Co A to be attached to the 24th Ala Bn.

I have no means of ascertaining why Co A should not be distributed among the regular troops & Co B attached to a Regt of Ga State Reserves.

The attention of the cdg officer of the District of Ga has been invited to many of the above-mentioned deficiencies, & to the cases of certain officers who should be retired or dropped.

Gen Iverson's troops are actively engaged as scouts & on picket duty from Sister's Ferry, on the Savannah River, to the mouth of the Altamaha, the 5th Ky Regt Mtd Infy, & the Roswell (Ga) Bn being so distant & scattered that they could not be reached.

Ferguson's Bgde being on the right of the Altamaha, near Hawkinsville, & engaged on a march which would consume two weeks, with a probability of being continued much longer, could not be inspected.

It being impossible to obtain blank inspection reports in Ga or Ala, this report has been furnished without their aid. In view of the obstacles to inspecting the few troops at present in Ga I have determined to return to Ala. Letters will reach me at Mobile, in care of Gen Maury.

[Why is Chilton ordering another inspection just as Devereaux has completed his inspection?]

2/16 Richmond, R. H. Chilton, AA&IG to Col E. E. Portlock, AIG-Representations have been made from so many quarters prejudicial to the character of Wheeler's Cav as to make it desirable that an examination should be made respecting their foundation, as, if true, they are calculated (as they have been said to have done) to produce disaffection amongst the people & to bring reproach upon our arms.

Whilst so constantly engaged in front of the enemy, it is impossible to make a regular inspection, but by visiting their camps & observing their management & the degree of discipline exercised, & in passing over the country through which they have operated you can learn enough to be able to report advisedly. With large bodies of troops, especially Cav, there must occur some irregularities, growing out of straggling, but where the latter prevails to an extent which impairs the efficiency of a command, & depredations or outrages are committed indiscriminately, it is sufficient grounds upon which to suspect inefficiency. See what system is pursued to prevent straggling; what punishments, if any, have been inflicted for irregularities, & what means are adopted to supply men & animals of his command.

See & examine the inspectors upon this subject, report facts coming under your observation, or where complaints are made let them be substantiated by the proper affidavits or certificates. Abuses which can be corrected by the cdg Gen report to him for correction, advising this office of that fact. In fact, Col, your mission is to report abuses wherever found, & to correct them in so far as can be done through Dept Cdrs, with whom you will communicate upon all points over which their authority extends. As nothing of an official character has been reported respecting the Cav referred to you, will consider the rumors herein reported as merely designed to direct your attention to alleged abuses, &, found incorrect, to disabuse by a report of facts the impressions at present prevailing. Of course, the remarks & instructions are confidential, your order for the inspection being sufficient to secure you the necessary facilities.

2/16 Richmond -XXII While on the way to Fla per orders, Col E. E. Portlock, Jr., will make such inspection as is practicable of the Cav under Maj-Gen Wheeler, & of the reported depredations committed by that command while on the march. The QM's dept will, upon application, furnish him the necessary transportation to execute this order.

XXVI. Gen N. G. Evans is assigned to duty in Beauregard’s Dept.
XXXIII. Gen E. M. Law is assigned to duty & will report for orders to Gen Bragg, Wilmington

3/10 Hqs Wheeler’s Cav Corps, Near Fayetteville, NC, E. E. Portlock, Jr., Col & AIG to Col R. H. Chilton, I embrace the first opportunity which has offered to let you know that I am with Gen Wheeler's Corps (after a long & tedious trip around the flank of Sherman's army), engaged in the execution of my orders. Thus far I have seen but little to condemn & much to commend, both on the march & in action. As the command is constantly moving, I have but little opportunity to see the practical application of orders & drill, but expect to be able before I leave to give full & complete information of this command...

3/26 Wheeler’s Cav Corps, Near Smithfield, NC, E. E. Portlock, Col-AIG to Col R. H. Chilton, AA&IG, Richmond-Yours of the 2nd was received yesterday. I regret that it was delayed so long, but I am satisfied that my inspection & observations have served a better purpose, & will enable me to report more advisedly on the matters entrusted to me, although much time has been consumed thereby.

Gen Wheeler's wagon trains have just reached him & I shall be enabled to leave here tomorrow for Columbia, via Charlotte. Waiting for this train was necessary to week to obtain them. I shall now start south with all dispatch & use every energy in the execution of my orders.

I have seen the report made by Lt-Col Roman of his inspection of Wheeler's Cav by order of Gen Beauregard, & as it has been forwarded to you, I take this occasion to say that I differ with him in many of his opinions, for which I expect to present good & sufficient grounds, based upon personal experience & observation with this command as well as in the line of the army.

This difference of opinion is chiefly in regard to discipline & organization, matters so important to the success of an army as to induce me to make this statement before my report is forwarded that it may be known to the Dept. In reply to so much of your letter as refers to the feeling prevailing among our troops with whom I come in contact, I am glad to say that our soldiers are cheerful & in good spirits, looking hopefully for final success.

I have heard that desertions occurred among Gen Hardee's troops after the evacuation of Charleston & while on the march through NC, but this has stopped. Also, some desertions occurred among the Reserves of NC on the march from Wilmington to this place. This, too, has been stopped, & I feel that I can safely say that a healthy moral spirit pervades this army.

Among the Cav I know this to be so, & a good proof of it is noticeable in the fact that the Tenn-Ky Cav left the Coosa River in front of Sherman & marched to Savannah without a single case of desertion, although at that time Hood's march to Tenn opened to them a passage to their homes.

I shall use all possible dispatch to complete my report & forward it to you, & while I forbear to express an opinion relative to Wheeler's Cav & the depredations alleged to have been committed by them until I have completed my investigations, I think that it is due to the command to say it is as orderly, well-behaved, & gallant as any Cav I have ever seen east or west of the Ms River.

Your request relative to the feeling of the people of Ga will receive due attention & report


Feb 20, 2005
Yet another inspection report for Wheeler's Cavalry

(From the Macon Telegraph, Nov. 9, 1864)
“There are many ' croakers,' ' grumblers ' & ' parlor generals ' continually crying out against Gen Wheeler, than whom we have no braver officer nor more Christian soldier.
It’s a remarkable fact, too, that since Gen Wheeler was appointed a general officer, no less than twenty-seven of his staff-officers have been killed & wounded, & some of them wounded many times. Let the ' bomb-proof individuals ' who infest the fashionable hotels & cities in this Dept cease their cowardly attacks upon Gen Wheeler & the Cav Corps of the Army, & if they have not sufficient patriotism & self-esteem to do their duty & go into the field & fight for their country, let them at least cease to discourage our brave soldiers in their line of duty & all battling for liberty & our glorious cause.' "

The Civil War Career of General Joseph Wheeler By J. P. Dyer

On the morning of Nov 16th, Sherman & his staff rode out of Atlanta toward Milledgeville. Soon his whole army was on the march foraging as it went. On this day Wheeler made his preparations to follow cautioning his men to be careful in dealing with private property which it was not necessary to destroy.69 But his men oftentimes were not careful & depredations became common. Marauding parties who had never belonged to Wheeler's command scoured the p43 land. Wheeler protested to the authorities that his orders to burn & destroy supplies were leading to depredations, but he again was informed: 12/1 orders-"Supplies of all kinds useful to the enemy & not required for your use must be destroyed."70

So the march continued with Wheeler's Cav acquiring the name of "Wheeler's robbers." One writer thought that the people of Ga had about come to the point where they did not care which army won, as Sherman was not making war any harder on them than the Cav of their own army.71 Robert denounced them in no uncertain terms to VP Stephens hoping that Ga would soon be free from Wheeler's "plundering, marauding bands of cowardly robbers."72

As Sherman continued his march to Savannah & thence through the Carolinas, Gen Beauregard in command of the Dept sent Inspector Alf Roman to report on the alleged depredations of Wheeler's men. Roman reported: "Much has been said — & is still being said — of the gross misconduct of Gen Wheeler's men. Their alleged depredations & straggling propensities & their reported brutal interference with private property, have become common by‑words in every county where it has been their misfortune to pass. Public rumor condemns them everywhere; & not a few do we find in Ga as well as in SC who look upon them more as a band of highway robbers than as an organized military band."73 1/22/65 Roman to Beauregard

1/28/65 Roman’s report-But the Inspector defended Wheeler's command against all these charges. "While I am ready to admit that much truth is hidden under some of the rumors thus brought into circulation," he continued, "yet p44 justice makes it a duty upon me to add that not a little is said about the command which is utterly false." The cry of "mad‑dog," he thought, was being brought into play. The chief trouble, he reported was fivefold. "After having carefully weighed the different reasons which could have brought forth the undisciplined, loose, & relative inefficiency of Wheeler's command" he came to the conclusion that conditions were due to:

1.The negligence & incompetency of many of the Co & Regt cdrs.
2.The want of system & good administration in the commissary Dept.
3.The great irregularity in the payment of troops.
4.The error of allowing cavalrymen to procure their own horses, instead of having them furnished by the Gov’t.
5.The excessive leniency of the Corps cdr.
The last item indicates that Roman held Wheeler personally responsible for part of the confusion. While, he said, he was aware that the reasons given for the loose discipline in Wheeler's corps "exists, more or less, in Forrest's & Hampton's commands" he believed that Wheeler was not stern enough. "No one admires Gen Wheeler more than I do" he wrote. "He is a modest, conscientious, industrious officer. He takes a fatherly interest in his command. His activity is proverbial, & is equaled only by his gallantry. But he is wanting in firmness. . . . He is too gentle, too lenient. . . ." This gentleness, Roman thought, would prevent any true discipline from being developed while Wheeler was Corps cdr. Thus he recommended his removal, "Not as a rebuke, not as a punishment, for he surely deserves neither; but on higher grounds, — that is to say, for the good of the cause."74 1/22/65 Roman to Beauregard

Acting on this report Wheeler was removed from command & Hampton was made Chief of Cav, p45 but if there was any improvement in the conduct of the Cav it is not on record. The Confederacy was on its last legs. Grant's circle of steel was slowly tightening around Richmond. The Army of Tenn was disastrously defeated at Nashville. The end was drawing near & Wheeler's Cav reflected the general feeling of defeatism.

However, Wheeler did not cease to fight. Acting as a Maj-Gen under Hampton he continued his activities as long as the war lasted


Jul 28, 2021
Thanks a lot. So it seems Wheeler was a brave, inspiring leader in battle but lacked any other abilities needed for a higher command position (f.e. strategic planning, logistics, organisation and distributing discipline). Almost a sad story.
Jun 7, 2021
[Why is Chilton ordering another inspection just as Devereaux has completed his inspection
The southern newspapers (available online at Library of Congress https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/) were starting to publish stories and complaints in early 1865 of the Confederate Calvarys' treatment of Confederate civilians, to the extent that the people were said to be treated worse by the southern soldiers than they were by the Yankees. Editors were demanding Richmond do something to stop this.

This is a very sobering report. It sounds like the Confederacy is melting away. I have read (sorry I can't find the links just now) that the quality of the southern calvaryman deteriorated toward the end of the war. The early volunteers were killed or maimed, and the later draftees forced into service saw the Calvary as a less dangerous option to being in the infantry. John Hunt Morgan, with his final command after his escape from capture, was given a petition by the Confederate citizens of Lexington asking him to remove his troops who seemed interested only in looting and destruction regardless of their victims sympathies. Morgan was accused of being unable to control his troops.