Thursday, May 31, 2012

Civil War: Daniel Wheeler/Museum Opens Sunday

In the March 30 Cavendish Update, information was provided for two of Cavendish’s Civil War veterans who were awarded the Medal of Honor, William Sperry and Tom Seaver. There was a third, Daniel Davis Wheeler.

A native of Cavendish, Wheeler enlisted at 19 when President Lincoln called for volunteers. He served in many of the major battles of the Civil War and was awarded the Medal of Honor for “distinguished bravery” at the Battle of Salem Heights. Career military, he retired in 1903.

Recently, the Cavendish Historical Society received a clipping from “The Free Lance-Star” of Fredericksburg, VA. “Daniel Davis Wheeler is hardly a household name. Yet he can be considered a Civil War hero-a fact that had, until recently, largely escaped public notice.

Now, if you visit Wheeler’s resting place in Fredericksbur’s City Cemetery, near a venerable magnolia and the brick wall along Washington Avenue, you’ll spot something shiny and new.

Affixed to Wheeler’s gravestone are two brass plaques. One reads “Medal of Honor.” The others bears his name, unit-the 4th Vermont Infantry Regiment-and birth and death dates. Both feature the distinctive design of the medal awarded as the nation’s highest military honor.

Here in Fredericksburg, Wheeler is something of an odd man out: a Union brigadier general interred in a cemetery known for its Southerns.

Nonetheless, Wheeler is of Fredericksburg. He lived his last 15 years here, having married into one of the area’s most prominent families.

And when his time came, Brig. Gen. Wheeler was laid to rest by his adopted community. At his funeral on July 29,1916, pallbearers included Fredericksburg Mayor J.P . Rowe and Charles Hurkamp, a longtime City Council member.

So how did a son of Cavendish end up marrying a confederate daughter?

During the War, the Phillips family home served as headquarters for Union army commander Ambrose Burnside during the Battle of Fredericksburg. It is possible that Wheeler met his future wife then. More than 30 years later, Wheeler married Nannie, (nee Phillips) who was recently widowed, in Fredericksburg. They then moved to Nebraska where he was stationed.

Retiring in 1903, the Wheelers returned to Fredericksburg. Wheeler is buried in the Phillips family plot. At his funeral, a tribute declared that the city had “lost one of her most distinguished citizens… a natural leader of men. …[B]ehind the apparent sternness of his character, due to his military training, was the possessor of a most kind heart. To those of us who knew him well, his memory will long remain fragrant because of the innumerable acts of courtesy and kindness which he was ever doing.

Read more: Daniel Davis Wheeler, RIP

Cavendish Historical Society Museum Opens on Sunday
The Cavendish Historical Society Museum opens this coming Sunday, June 2, with two unique exhibits. The first is the town’s 250 year historic timeline. The second features photographs and other items from the floods of 1927 and 2011. Please bring copies of your photographs from Irene so they can be included in the archives for future generations. If you would prefer, you can e-mail them to

The Museum is open every Sunday from 2-4 pm until mid October. FMI: or 802-226-7807

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