John Ellis Wool

John Ellis Wool, born on February 29, 1784, at Newburgh, New York, less than three years after Lord Cornwallis' surrender at Yorktown, was the oldest officer to exercise active command on either side during the Civil War. Orphaned at an early age, he had little formal education and pursued a variety of occupations until the War of 1812. Reputations were made swiftly in that day, and Wool emerged from the war as colonel and inspector general of the army, at the same time retaining the lineal rank of lieutenant colonel of the 6th Infantry. In 1826 he was brevetted brigadier general for faithful service and in 1841 was promoted to a full brigadier general of the line. Meanwhile, he had visited Europe to inspect foreign military establishments and had aided in moving the unfortunate Cherokees from their tribal lands in Georgia and Tennessee to what is now eastern Oklahoma. In the war with Mexico, Wool was greatly distinguished at the victory of Buena Vista—he was voted a sword and the thanks of Congress some years later for his services here. He was meantime brevetted major general to rank from February 23, 1847. From then until the beginning of the Civil War, General Wool commanded the Department of the East and the Department of the Pacific. As commander of the former in 1861 he sent reinforcements into Fort Monroe in time to save it for the Union; the ensuing bastion established on the Virginia capes operated to the disadvantage of the Confederacy from the very beginning of the war. On May 17, 1862, General Wool was made a major general in the regular service to rank from the preceding day and continued in command of the Department of Virginia until he was retired on August 1, 1863. For fifty years, he had rendered signal service to his country. He died in Troy, New York, on November 10, 1869, aged eighty-five, and was buried in Oakwood Cemetery.

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Reference: Generals in Blue. Lives of the Union Commanders by Ezra J. Warner. Louisiana State University Press. Baton Rouge.