The army of Tennessee and its Generals.[from our own Correspondent.]
Augusta, Ga., on the 10th of September, 1836, and is consequently only twenty-seven years of age. Early in life he chose the profession of arms, and entered West Point in 1864, being one of the first who graduated under the five-year rule. His career at West Point developed the fact that he was one of the few who are born to the profession of arms. Whilst other students passed their leisure hours in sports and in reading the romances of the day, young Wheeler would be found in the library, studying with the deepest interest the volumes which treated of campaigns and battles, both of modern and ancient times, and in examining military maps and the plans of battles of distinguished commanders. In October, 1859, he was ordered to the Cavalry School, at Carlisle, Penn., and there remained on duty during the winter. In the spring of 1860, we find him in New Mexico, stationed respectively at forts Union, Craig, and Fillmore, and engaging in several important scouts against the hostile Indians. Early in March, 1861, seeing the storm-cloud of war gathering over his country, he promptly decided upon his course, and when his native State acceded he at once forwarded his resignation and returned to Georgia. Immediately on his arrival he tendered his services to the Confederate Government, and was commissioned first Lieutenant of artillery in the regular army, and ordered on duty at Pensacola. Here he exhibited so much seal and capacity that upon the special recommendation of Gen. Bragg the President, during the summer, commissioned him Colonel, and assigned him to the command of the 19th regiment of Alabama infantry. We next hear of him at the head of his well drilled and gallant regiment in the bloody battle of Shiloh, where his behavior attracted the attention and received the encomiums of a number of distinguished officers. He had two horses shot under him during the engagement, and led frequent charges with the colors of his regiment in his hands. Soon after the battle he was assigned to the command of a brigade, and when Gen. Beauregard withdrew his army from Corinth to Wheeler and his brigade was confided the honorable and perilous duty of bringing up the rear and beating back the pursuing column of the enemy. The numerous conflicts with and charges upon the Federal forces at Bridge creek and other points, tell how well they executed this responsible trust. In July, 1862, he was placed in charge of the cavalry connected with the army in Mississippi, and in a few days thereafter he penetrated the enemy's lines, destroyed several bridges on his line of communications in West Tennessee; engaged in numerous conflicts with his cavalry, captured a small train, with a number of horses, mules, &c., and burned 3,000 bales of cotton which had been purchased by the enemy. He rendered most valuable service in the Kentucky campaign. His conduct at-Munfordsville elicited even the praises of the enemy. During the battle at Perryville he succeeded throughout the whole day, by his stubborn resistance, in keeping back an entire corps of the enemy. As the enemy formed his lines on the hills west of Perryville, with the evident intention of turning our left flank, Col. Wheeler charged and put to rout his advancing lines. When the Commander-in-Chief decided to retire from Kentucky, Wheeler was appointed chief of cavalry, and assigned to the duty of covering the retreat. This duty was performed with great tact and success.--His effective force did not exceed 1,000 sabres; yet so ingeniously did he display this small force that he protected every approach to the army, and compelled the enemy to advance in long lines of battle, under the impression that a heavy infantry force was in his front, thus retarding his advance and restricting his march to six and seven miles a day. Indeed, Gen. Buell stated officially that Gen. Bragg's rear was covered by cavalry which was handled with more skill than had ever been known under similar circumstances. After the Kentucky campaign, upon the united recommendations of Generals Bragg, Hardee, Polk, and Breckenridge, Col. Wheeler was commissioned Brigadier General, and sent to Middle Tennessee. Soon thereafter, on the 26th of December, 1862, Rosecrans commenced his march on Murfreesboro'. For three successive days Gen. Wheeler so disposed his forces as to induce the enemy to believe he was resisted by our entire army. When Gen. Bragg was ready to receive the enemy Wheeler quietly withdrew at nightfall within the infantry lines. After a few hours rest, "to horse" was again sounded, and with about 800 men he made a circuit and fell upon the enemy's rear and wagon trains. Train after train was captured or destroyed, and building after building filled with valuable stores was burned. The loss sustained by the enemy in wagons, mules, supplies, and material was immense. At night he camped his weary horsemen under the light of the Federal camp fires, and on the following day he joined in the fierce carnage of the 31st December, charging repeatedly upon the enemy's lines of battle, and rendering most important service in the great battle. Upon the conclusion of the struggle around Murfreesboro' and the withdrawal of the Confederates, he was again called upon to cover the retreat of the army. For five days he held the enemy in check after our infantry had evacuated the town, and thus gave our forces time to remove their trains and secure their supplies. After the battle of Murfreesboro' Gen. Wheeler was ordered to work upon the enemy's line of communications. With scarcely 500 effective men in his command he commenced the march, and amid the beating snow and ice hunted up the enemy's stores on the banks of the Cumberland and along the railroad from Murfreesboro' to Nashville. A dozen transports, laden with rich supplies and guarded by a gunboat, bound for the "Army of the Cumberland," fell a prey to his bold troopers, and their blackened bulls soon line the shore. The armament of rifled guns belonging to the gunboat, a number of small arms, and valuable supplies of ammunition, in addition to the cargoes of the transports, fell into their hands, and were either destroyed or brought off. Not less than twenty other transports, guarded by iron-clad gunboats, took fright, threw overboard their valuable stores into the muddy Cumberland, and thus lightened were enabled to escape the daring Confederates. At Ashland, on the north bank of the river, the enemy had collected immense supplies of subsistence. Although the Cumberland was much swollen by recent rains, Wheeler swam his dauntless horsemen over, drove off the guard, consisting of a regiment of infantry, and destroyed stores covering several acres of ground. About this time he was joined by Forrest and his command, the two uniting with him in chasing the enemy into the forts at Dover, and in capturing a battery of splendid rifled guns, more ammunition and small arms, a hundred prisoners, a wagon train, and a number of mules and horses. On his return to army headquarters, he took other prisoners and a train of cars. The loss inflicted upon the enemy during this brilliant expedition, in which a formidable gunboat was forced to strike her colors to "Wheeler's horse-marines," delayed the advance of the enemy for several months, thus proving it to have been one of the most effective raids of the entire war. Before he reached headquarters he received a telegram from the President announcing his promotion to Major-General of cavalry. But I cannot follow our hero through all his brilliant service, nor recount the many successful skirmishes, battles, and expeditions in which he figured. At the great battle of Chickamauga he took an important part, capturing some 2,000 prisoners, a train of wagons and ambulances, and a large supply of medical stores and other property. Soon after the battle he undertook to make the circuit of the Federal army with a force of about 4,500 men. He crossed the Tennessee river at Cotton Port, and recrossed it near Huntsville, after an absence of nine days, during which he crossed Walden's Ridge, the Sequatchie Valley, and the great Cumberland range. The results of the expedition may be summed up in a few words: He captured and destroyed over 1,000 wagons and their contents, burnt several large depots of supplies, took over 1,200 prisoners, sabered more than 6,000 mules, destroyed several important railroad bridges and much westlework, and brought off a great deal of valuable material. But enough has been said to show the reader that in Gen. Wheeler the country possesses a zealous, energetic and able officer. He is a small man, and exceedingly modest, and is content to do his duty in whatever circumstances he may be placed. He has kept himself clear of all intrigues for or against others, being content to mind his own business, and to do his work at any point and under any officer, according to the orders of his superiors in command. Like Jackson, Longstreet, Hood and Cleburne, he looks to the good, of the service and the success of our army, rather than to his own selfish interests. The rise of such men, like the stars in the Heavens, may be slow; but they are sure to reach the zenith at last, whilst those restless, selfish spirits which seek to dazzle the public eye by their fitful meteoric light, will as certainly disappear in the night of oblivion. Fortune stands ever ready to bestow her favors upon Temperance, Energy, and Genius.