Captain William Wheeler headstone, Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery

Captain William Wheeler as seen in an 1875 private printing of his letters

A friend took the image above on the Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend in Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery and I have been holding on to it until today. Captain William Wheeler of the 13th New York Independent Battery was killed 155 years ago today at the Battle of Kolb’s Farm in Georgia. Frederick Phisterer informs us in his essential history of New York State in the CIvil War that Wheeler was the only officer of the 13th New York Independent Battery to be killed in the American Civil War. That is saying something: among other places the 13th fought at Bull Run, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Missionary Ridge, Kennesaw Mountain, and elsewhere before Wheeler’s unfortunate death.

Wheeler was born in Manhattan in 1836, and his family moved to Brooklyn in 1847. He matriculated at Yale College in September 1851 and graduated in 1855. It must have been a heady time for an idealistic young man, what news about Bleeding Kansas, John Brown, and other outrages taking place almost daily in the lead-up to Fort Sumter. He enlisted immediately and lived to tell the story until Kolb’s Farm. By then a battle-hardened veteran at twenty-seven, Wheeler wrote to a friend from his unit’s camp in Cassville, Georgia on May 22, 1864 that “. . . to-day is a real ‘day of rest,’ unlike the last two Sundays, which were spent in fighting. . .” One month later to the day, he was killed. On July 17, Timothy Dwight V, a future president of Yale, delivered a sermon about Captain Wheeler at New Haven’s Third Congregational Church.

(bottom image/Letters of William Wheeler of the Class on 1855, Y.C.)