Monday, November 3, 2008

Fiddler’s Green: James F. Wade

James Franklin Wade was born in Jefferson, Ohio on April 14, 1843. His father, Senator Benjamin F. Wade, was a senator from Ohio during the Civil War, and a harsh critic of President Lincoln. Following Lincoln’s assassination, he was President Johnson’s acting vice president, and came within one vote of becoming president. Had Andrew Johnson been impeached, Wade would have succeeded him as president.

James was educated in local schools and working in the community when he received an appointment as a 2nd lieutenant in the 6th US Cavalry from the state of Ohio on May 14, 1861, which he accepted on June 24, 1861. His initial assignment was as a recruiting officer for the regiment in his home state. He was responsible for recruiting the majority of Company B, primarily from Cleveland and Columbus, through October 1861. Upon joining the regiment, oddly enough, he was assigned to Captain Charles Russell Lowell’s Company K.

Lieutenant Wade trained with his regiment during the winter of 1861-1862, learning his new trade. When the regiment went to war on the peninsula in the spring, however, he was transferred to the staff of Brigadier General Emory, commander of the 1st Brigade of the Cavalry Reserve of the Army of the Potomac. He returned to the regiment following the campaign. By October 1862, he was commanding the company, as Captain Lowell had been assigned to General McClellan’s staff.

Lieutenant Wade continued to command company K through the winter and the spring of 1863, including Stoneman’s Raid in May. He performed exceptionally well at the battle of Brandy Station, earning a brevet promotion to captain on June 9, 1863 for gallant and meritorious service at Beverly Ford, Virginia. Following Brandy Station, he and his company were detached from the regiment for service at Cavalry Corps headquarters. The company was returned to the regiment following the battle of Fairfield, but Wade remained on special duty on General Pleasonton’s staff for the next several months.

Lieutenant Wade was appointed lieutenant colonel of the 6th US Colored Cavalry on May 1, 1864. This marked the beginning of 23 years of service as a leader of colored cavalrymen. On September 19th, he was promoted to colonel and command of the regiment. He received a brevet promotion to major on December 19, 1864 for gallant and meritorious service in action at East Marion, Tennessee. Wade received further brevets to lieutenant colonel and colonel on March 13, 1865 for meritorious service during the war, and yet another to brigadier general of volunteers on February 13, 1865 for gallant service in the campaign in southwestern Virginia. How he was brevetted to brigadier general before lieutenant colonel and colonel is unclear.

James was honorably mustered out of volunteer service on April 15, 1866 and returned to the 6th US Cavalry, where he was promoted to captain two weeks later on May 1st. He didn’t stay there long, however. On July 28, 1866, he was promoted to major in the newly forming 9th US Cavalry on July 28, 1866, which he accepted on September 17th. This was one of the “Buffalo Soldier” regiments which later became famous for their service on the frontier. Major Wade was promoted to lieutenant colonel in the 10th US Cavalry on March 20, 1879.

Wade left the buffalo soldiers with his promotion to colonel of the 5th US Cavalry on April 21, 1887. He served ten years as the commander of this regiment before he was promoted to brigadier general, US Army on May 26, 1897. During the Spanish-American War he commanded a troop assembly area in Tampa, Florida. Wade was promoted to major general of volunteers on May 4, 1898. Two days later, he assumed command of the Third Corps at Camp Thomas, Chickamauga, Georgia. Following the armistice in August, he became a member of the Cuban Evacuation Committee to oversee the removal of Spanish forces from Cuba and Puerto Rico.

General Wade was honorably discharged from volunteer service a second time on June 12, 1899, and served in the Philippines from 1901 to 1904. He was promoted to major general, US Army on April 13, 1903. After his service abroad, General Wade returned home to command the District of the Atlantic from Governors Island, New York in December, 1904.

Major General Wade retired on April 14, 1907, after 46 years of service. His eldest son, John P. Wade, followed him into the cavalry. He was a captain in the 2nd US Cavalry at the time of his father’s retirement.

James returned home to Jefferson, Ohio following his retirement, where he actively served his community. He was a director and vice president of a local bank and member on the local school board.

James Franklin Wade died on August 24, 1921 in Jefferson, Ohio, after several months of poor health. Both his sons were still serving in the army at the time of his death, one as a colonel, the other as a major.


Heitman, page 991

Powell, page 619

New York Times article, April 15, 1907.

The Jefferson Gazette, August 25, 1921, as accessed from on October 21, 2008.

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