John Wheeler's Civil War


John Wheeler, Drum Major of the 4th Vermont, arrived home last week on a furlough of thirty days. He accidentally wounded himself in one foot while cleaning his pistol. John is now in good condition otherwise than his wound, although he has lost over one hundred pounds of flesh while serving his country on Virginia's sacred soil.


Vermont Phoenix, July 17, 1862.


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Arrested.---Sergeant John Wheeler of Co. F, 4th Vermont, was arrested by order of Maj. Austine, United States Mustering and Disbursing Agent for Vermont, on Saturday last, for obtaining a furlough as a commissioned officer, and taken to Fort Columbus, New York. The government is wisely looking up the soldiers who are away from the army without leave and under false pretences.


Vermont Phoenix, July 24, 1862.


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Private John Wheeler of Brattleboro was a blacksmith by trade when he enlisted on August 24, 1861 and was mustered in on September 21, 1861. Wheeler served as Sergeant in Co. F, and was promoted to Drum-Major on May 1, 1862. He was dishonorably discharged on July 26, 1862 by sentence of the General Court-Martial.


John Wheeler reenlisted in Co. F as a substitute for Clark Pierce of Wardsboro on July 31, 1863 and was subsequently promoted to Quartermaster-Sergeant September 21, 1864 before being reduced on February 3, 1865 and finally transferred to Co. A on February 25, 1865. Wheeler's final desertion is recorded for March 2, 1865.


John Wheeler served as a soldier. He knew the possible consequences for desertion, for the Vermont Phoenix for December 26, 1861 states that


Private John Wheeler of Co. F, 4th Vermont Volunteers, has sent to one of his friends in this village a piece of a newspaper stained with the heart's blood of the first deserter and traitor shot by order of our military officers. This "memorial" is posted in Lilley's saloon.


John Wheeler was the son of John H. Wheeler and Lucy Fisk, who were married on February 14, 1821 by Rev. Jonathan McGee, pastor of the Church on the Common. John Wheeler was born on August 28, 1839. The father died on August 26, 1848.


Private John Wheeler, divorced, died quite suddenly on April 12, 1871 at age thirty with cerebral congestion from alcoholism. The Vermont Phoenix for April 14, 1871 describes the "young man of dissipated habits, formerly well known in this vicinity". Soldier John Wheeler is buried in the Prospect Hill Cemetery.


Not all men are given to be successful soldiers, and as with all else,


"They jest at scars, who never felt a wound."


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