(1837 - 1919)
Home State: District Of Columbia
Education: US Military Academy, West Point, NY, Class of 1860
Command Billet: Aide-de-Camp
Branch of Service: Engineers
Unit: Army of the Potomac
Raised in Washington DC, he traveled briefly to Washington Territory in 1854 before being appointed to the US Military Academy. Wilson graduated from West Point with the class of 1860. Known as Jack, he transferred from the 2nd US Artillery to the Topographical Engineers and McClellan's staff as Aide-de-Camp by the battle of Malvern Hill in August 1862. Years later, in 1897, he was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions there.
On the Campaign
At Antietam, it was probably Jack Wilson who took the first attack order from McClellan to Burnside on the morning of September 17th between 8 and 9 am.
The rest of the War
He had a lengthy and successful Regular Army career. He received 4 brevets for Civil War service, and worked in Ordnance, Artillery, Topographical, and Engineering billets, concluding the War as a Staff Lieutenant Colonel of Volunteers working for General Canby.
After the War
His post-war career spanned engineering duty from the Great Lakes to the West Coast, on construction projects from lighthouses and fishways, the Washington Monument in DC and Jefferson's tomb at Monticello, to public buildings in Washington and the Regular Army markers on the field at Gettysburg.
At the apex of his career he was Superintendent of the US Military Academy at West Point (1889-93), and Chief Engineer of the Army (1897-1901), from which position he retired as Brigadier General, USA. Along the way he was also awarded an LL.D (law, 1890) degree from Columbian (now George Washington) University in Washington DC, in which city he lived to the ripe old age of 81.
References & notes
Wilson's military service is covered in Cullum1 (his Cullum number is 1858), with additional biographical details from Men of Mark2 and his profile from the Army Corps of Engineers site. He's also featured in a blog post on behind AotW. The photograph above is from a group shot by James Gibson, now in the collection of the Library of Congress.
10/08/1837; Washington, DC
02/01/1919 Washington, DC
1 Cullum, George Washington, Biographical Register of the Officers and Graduates of the US Military Academy, 2nd Edition, 3 vols., New York: D. Van Nostrand, 1868-79, Volume 2, Part 5 (1891) [AotW citation 732]
2 Gates, Merrill Edwards, editor, Men of Mark in America: Ideals of American Life Told in Biographies of eminent living Americans, Washingon DC: Men of Mark Publishing, 1906, Vol. 2, pp. 409-411 [AotW citation 733]