One of only a handful of Confederates to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery, Joseph Wheeler qualified on the basis of his later service as a major general of volunteers in the Spanish-American War. The Georgia-born West Pointer (1859) had resigned his commission as a second lieutenant in the Regiment of Mounted Riflemen-he had briefly been posted to the dragoons in 1859-and, joining the South, had a meteoric rise.
The cavalryman's assignments included: first lieutenant, Artillery (1861); colonel, 19th Alabama (September 4, 1861); commanding Cavalry Brigade, Left Wing, Army of the Mississippi (September 14-November 20, 1862); brigadier general, CSA (October 30, 1862); commanding Cavalry Brigade, Polk's Corps, Army of Tennessee (November 20-22, 1862); commanding Cavalry Brigade, Hardee's Corps, Army of Tennessee (November 22-December 1862); commanding cavalry division, Army of Tennessee (December 1862-March 16, 1863); major general, CSA (January 30, 1863); commanding cavalry corps, Army of Tennessee (March 16, 1863-fall 1864); commanding Cavalry Corps, Department of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida (fall 1864-March 1865); lieutenant general, CSA (February 28, 1865); and commanding corps, Hampton's Cavalry Command, Army of Tennessee (March-April 26, 1865).
He led an infantry regiment at Shiloh and during the operations around Corinth, Mississippi, but was then assigned in the summer of 1862 to be chief of cavalry for Bragg's Army of the Mississippi. He led a mounted brigade at Perryville and a division at Murfreesboro. Given command of a corps of mounted troopers, he led it in the Tullahoma Campaign and at Chickamauga was in charge of one of the two cavalry corps (the other was under Nathan Bedford Forrest). However, soon after the battle conflicts between Forrest and Wheeler and Forrest and Bragg led to the reassignment of Forrest. Thus Wheeler was again in charge of all the mounted troops with the Army of Tennessee. He fought thus at Chattanooga and led his men in the Atlanta Campaign. During these last two campaigns he was noted for his raids on the Union supply lines. Following the fall of Atlanta, Wheeler's corps was left behind to deal with Sherman while Hood launched his invasion of middle Tennessee. With the small force at hand Wheeler proved unsuccessful in hindering Sherman's March to the Sea.
During the course of the campaign in the Carolinas, Wheeler was placed under the orders of Wade Hampton who had been transferred from Virginia. Taken prisoner in Georgia in May 1865, Wheeler was held at Fort Delaware until June 8th. A longtime congressman from Alabama in the postwar years, he donned the blue as a major general of volunteers in the war with Spain. In 1900 he was retired with the regular army rank of brigadier general. His Confederate career had earned him the sobriquet "Fightin' Joe. " (Dyer, John Percy, "Fightin'joe" Wheeler and From Shiloh to San Juan)