Born in Shawneetown, Illinois in time to be newly graduated from West Point when the Civil War started, James H. Wilson became a brigadier general by the age of twenty-six. Fueled by boundless ambition and the desire to serve his country, he reorganized the Union cavalry in time to gain the upper hand over the Confederate army. But the story of this brash, young man did not end with the capture of Jefferson Davis, for which Wilson was ultimately responsible. His life after the Civil War was also representative of American tenacity in the midst of explosive growth and change during the late-nineteenth century. He became a military governor in Georgia during Reconstruction, a railroad baron from the start of the Industrial Revolution, and a military advisor during World War I. The story of Wilson’s life remains a compelling example for us in these rapidly changing times, and resonates as an excellent account of one man’s lasting impression on his century.
Edward G. Longacre is a retired U.S. Department of Defense Historian and the author of numerous articles and books on the Civil War and U.S. military history, including The Cavalry at Gettysburg, winner of the Fletcher Pratt Award, and Gentleman and Soldier: A Biography of Wade Hampton III, recipient of the Douglas Southall Freeman History Award.