Cadmus Wilcox was a career army officer who became a Confederate division commander in the American Civil War.

Confederate Major General Cadmus Wilcox

Early Life

Cadmus Marcellus Wilcox was born on May 29, 1824, (some websites show May 20) in Wayne County, North Carolina. When he was two years old his family moved to Tipton County, Tennessee. He studied at Cumberland University before being nominated to the United States Military Academy. He joined the West Point Class of 1846, graduating with a ranking of 54 out of 59 cadets. Some classmates included Darius Couch, Thomas J. Jackson, David R. Jones, George B. McClellan, Dabney Maurey, George E. Pickett, Jesse Reno, Truman Seymour, George Stoneman and Samuel Sturgis, all of whom became major generals in the Civil War.

Mexican War

On July 1, 1846 Wilcox graduated and was promoted to Brevet Second Lieutenant in the Fourth United States Infantry. Wilcox was quickly transferred to the Seventh United States Infantry for the Mexican War. He participated in the Siege of Vera Crua from March 9-29, 1847 and fought in the Battle of Cerro Gordo on April 17‑18, 1847 and in the Skirmish of Amazoque on May 14, 1847. Wilcox served as Adjutant of the Seventh Infantry from July 9-14 and as Aide de Camp to General Quitman from July 13, 1847 to July 20, 1848.

On September 13, 1847 Wilcox took part in the storming of Chapultepec, for which he received a promotion to Brevet First Lieutenant for Gallant and Meritorious Conduct. This led to the Assault on and capture of Mexico City on September 13-14.

Second Lieutenant Cadmus Wilcox

Between the Wars

From 1848-1849 Wilcox was assigned to Jefferson Barracks, Missouri. He spent part of 1849 on recruiting service before serving in Florida for a few months during hostilities with the Seminoles. He returned to Jefferson Barracks in 1851 and then Corpus Christie, Texas. On August 24, 1851, Wilcox was promoted to full First Lieutenant in the Seventh Infantry.

On Novenber 22, 1852 Wilcox returned to West Point to serve five years as Assistant Intructor of Infantry Tactics. With his health failing, he took a leave of absence from 1857 until 1859 to travel in Europe. He returned to the United States in 1859 to join the garrison at Fort Columbus, New York. In 1859 he published a manual on “Rifles and Rifle Practice” and a translation from the French of “Austrian Infantry Evolutions of the Line.”

On December 20 1860, Cadmus Wilcox was promoted to Captain in the Seventh United States Infantry. He spent a short time on recruiting service before being transferred to Fort Marcy and Fort Fillmore, New Mexico on frontier duty. As Southern states began to secede in 1861 Wilcox took a leave of absence and went to Richmond, Virginia, where on March 16, 1861 he was appointed a captain of artillery in the Confederate States Army. His resignation from the United States Army was accepted on June 8, 1861.

Early Civil War Years

In July of 1861 Wilcox was appointed colonel of the Ninth Alabama Infantry Regiment, which was orgnizing at Richmond. The regiment joined Johnson’s Army of the Shenandoah at Winchester and was attached to the Fifth Brigade, commanded by Edmund Kirby Smith. The brigade was to have been transported by train to Manassas to join the battle but the railroad was not able to transport all the troops in time, and the Ninth Alabama did not reach Manassas until the day after the battle.

In October Wilcox took command of a brigade of Alabama, Virginia and Mississippi regiments which included his old regiment. They were assigned to Gustavus Smith’s Division. Wilcox was promoted to brigadier general in December. By March the brigade became part of Longstreet’s Division, posted to the Virginia Peninsula.

The Peninsula

Wilcox led his brigade in the fighting on the Peninsula, starting with the Battle of Williamsburg. As Longstreet’s Division became larger and harder to control Wilcox was given command responsibility for brigades other than his own. He command two at the Battle of Seven Pines, and three (adding Featherstone’s and Pryor’s) at Gaines’s Mill.

The Battle of Glendale on June 30, 1862 was particularly hard. Wilcox’s clothing was riddled by six bullets, although he escaped unwounded. Most of his regimentl officers were killed. Wilcox’s Brigade lost more casualties than any other brigade in Longstreet’s Division.

Second Manassas and the Maryland Campaign

In July of 1862 Wilcox’s informal command of several of Longstreet’s brigades was formalized. Longstreet’s Division was split in two, with three brigades each going to divisions commanded by James Kemper and Cadmus Wilcox. These divisions would end up being temporary, although Longstreet’s Division was never reconstituted.

Wilcox’s Division was in reserve and saw little action at the Second Battle of Manassas (Bull Run.) The division was merged into Richard Anderson’s Division at the beginning of the Maryland Campaign in September. But Wilcox fell ill and was at Martinsburg from September 14-19, missing the heavy casualties at the Battle of Shapsburg (Antietam.) Wilcox’s brigade fought at the Sunken Road and lost so many officers it was under the command of a captain by the end of the battle.


Longstreet was detached from the Army of Northern Virginia in early 1863 to command the Suffolk expedition. Wilcox, along with Anderson’s Division, was left behind on the Rappahannock under the direct command of Robert E. Lee. Wilcox’s division played a major role in halting the Union advance by Sedgwick’s 6th Corps west from Fredericksburg to attack Lee’s rear at the Battle of Salem Church.

The Army of Northern Virginia was reorganized after Chncellorsvile due to the death of Jackson. Wilcox’s Brigade, along with Anderson’s Division, became part of the new Third Corps, commanded by Lieutenant General A.P. Hill.


Wilcox’s Brigade took part in Longstreet’s attack on the south end of the batlefield. Wilcox was successful in breaking through the Union lines but was stopped on Cemeteary Ridge by the counter charge of the 1st Minnesota Infantry. Unsupported, Wilcox was forced to pull back. On July 3 Wilcox again advanced over the same ground in support of the charge of his West Point classmate, George Pickett. But poor communications and visibility along with the Union gun line on Cemetery Ridge under Lieutenant Colonel Freeman McGivery, forced Wilcox to withdraw once again.

Division Command

On August 3, 1863 Cadmus Wilcox was promoted to Major General and given command of the division of the Dorsey Pender, who had been mortally wounded at Gettysburg. Wilcox would command this division – two brigades from North Carolina and one each from South Carolina and Georgia – until the end of the war.

They fought through the brutal Overland Campaign and the Siege of Petersburg. On April 2, 1864 as the Confederate lines collapsed around Petersburg, the sacrificial last stand by 600 Confederate troops of Wilcox’s Division at Fort Gregg and Fort Whitworth bought two precious hours that allowed the rest of Longstreet’s forces to escape across the Appomattox River. A week later the army surrendered.

After the War

Wilcox lived in Washington, D.C. He turned down an offer to serve as a brigadier general for the Khedive of Egypt. Wilcox’s brother John had died unexpectedly in early 1865, and Cadmus took in and cared for his wife and young children. He himself never married. President Cleveland appointed Wilcox chief of the railroad division of the Land Office, where he worked until his death.

Cadmus Wilcox after the Civil War


Cadmus Wilcox died in Washington on December 2, 1890, at the age of 66. Eight former generals served as his pallbearers, four Federals and Four Confederates. He is buried in Washington’s Oak Hill Cemetery.