Military figures, of course, dominate any list of people caught up in the experience of war. A few entered the American Civil War carrying memories of earlier battles in Mexico, Canada and along the American frontier, but most had no military experience at all. No matter; success in war would not depend on pedigree.
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Although trained at Harvard to be a doctor and a veteran of the Crimean War where he practiced medicine with the Ottoman army, Edward Wild's greatest fame was as a Civil War commander of United States Colored Troops. "Wild's African Brigade" struck terror into the hearts of white residents of the Carolina coast, and later served in the Petersburg Campaign. Read more
James Wilson was quite versatile. For the first two years of the war, he was a topographical engineer making maps for Gen. McClellan and Gen. Grant. In 1864 he led cavalry in Virginia. His most picturesque exploit was a daring long-distance cavalry raid through the very heart of the dying Confederacy. His troops captured fleeing Jefferson Davis in Georgia. Read more
Andersonville National Historic Site
Henry Wirz was the Swiss-born commandant of Andersonville prison. He enlisted in a Louisiana regiment, was wounded and went on secret missions to Europe before taking command of Andersonville. The prison became a nightmare of starvation and disease, and in 1865 Wirz became the only Confederate executed for war crimes as a result. Opinions still differ on how much he was to blame for conditions at Andersonville. Read more
Henry Wise was a multi-term Congressman from Virginia whose prewar fame came from being governor of Virginia at the time of John Brown's raid in 1859. Wise was an ardent secessionist and defender of slavery, and played an influential role in the Virginia secession convention. During the war, Wise was a brigadier general of no particular distinction. Read more
Horatio Wright was a career U.S. Army office, trained at West Point and tested in battle from the earliest days of the war to the last. He briefly commanded the Department of Texas after the war and was then assigned various engineering projects including work on the Washington Monument and Brooklyn Bridge. Read more