John Wheeler was born on February 6, 1825 in New Milford, Connecticut. His family moved to Indiana in 1847 and settled in Lake County. Wheeler worked as a farmer and teacher and was elected County Surveyor in 1853. He started and was editor of a newspaper in Crown Point called the Crown Point Register.
On July 22, 1861 he became captain of Company B of the 20th Indiana Volunteer Infantry Regiment. The 20th became part of the 3rd Corps and fought in the Peninsula in 1862. Wheeler was promoted to major, and at the Second Battle of Bull Run took command of the regiment when Colonel William Brown was killed. Wheeler was promoted to lieutenant colonel and commanded the regiment at the Battle of Fredericksburg.
In 1863 he was promoted to colonel and commanded the regiment at Chancellorsville, where the 20th Indiana captured the 23rd Georgia Infantry. When the regiment was cut off from Union lines he led a bayonet charge to reestablish communication.
On July 2nd, 1863 at the Battle of Gettysburg Colonel Wheeler was leading the regiment on horseback in the fighting in the Rose Woods when he was shot in the temple and instantly killed. The 20th Indiana Infantry’s monument at Gettysburg notes that Wheeler was “killed nearby.”
Wheeler was buried at Maplewood Memorial Cemetery in Crown Point, Indiana. The Middle School in Crown Point is named after him.