Maj.-Gen. John Ellis Wool
Maj.-Gen. John Ellis Wool
City of Troy

Information on this page is from History of Rensselaer Co., New York by Nathaniel Bartlett Sylvester, published in 1880.

MAJOR-GENERAL JOHN ELLIS WOOL was born at Newburgh, Orange Co., NY, on the 20th of February, 1784. After engaging for awhile in the book business, in Troy, the loss of his stock in trade by fire induced him to begin the study of the law, which, upon the breaking out of the war of 1812 with Great Britain, he abandoned and accepted a call to serve his country. On the 6th of February, 1812, he opened a recruiting office in Troy, and, having raised his company, was, in April following, upon the recommendation of Governor Clinton and others, commissioned a captain in the 13th Regiment of United States Infantry. He joined his regiment at Greenbush, and in the autumn marched to the Niagara frontier. Soon after his arrival there, he distinguished himself for bravery in the line of duty. At the storming of Queenstown, on the 13th of October 1812, he was shot through both thighs. His bravery on that occasion was at once recognized by his country, and he was, on the 13th of April, 1813, promoted to the rank of major in the 29th Regiment of Infantry.

Again, at the battle of Plattsburgh, on the 11th of September, 1814, he distinguished himself for bravery, and was soon after brevetted colonel for gallantry. Under the act of Congress of April 24, 1816, providing for the general staff, Maj. Wool was appointed inspector-general, with the rank of colonel, which position he retained until June 25, 1841, when he was appointed a brigadier-general, to which rank he had been brevetted in the year 1826. During the year 1822, as inspector general of the army, he made a professional tour of Europe, examining the various systems then prevailing there, and in 1836 negotiated the transfer of the Cherokee Indians to the territory west of the Mississippi.

In the Mexican was he superintended the organization of the Western regiments of volunteers, and after dispatching some twelve thousand to the seat of war, commanded himself a force of three thousand on the march from San Antonio to Saltillo, a distance of nine hundred miles, where he joined the army under Gen. Taylor as second in command. At Buena Vista, before the arrival of Gen. Taylor, he assumed the command during the early part of the day. The disposition of the troops made by him for the battle was approved by Gen. Taylor.

After Gen. Taylor returned to the States, Gen. Wool remained in command of the army of occupation until the close of the war. For his services at Buena Vista, he was brevetted major-general, and in 1854 Congress passed a joint resolution of thanks and presented him with a sword for his Mexican services. On his return home in August 1848, the Legislature of the State of New York and the Common Council of the City of Troy each presented him a sword.* He was placed in command of the Eastern Military Division from 1848 to 1853, and of the Department of the East from 1853 to 1854; of that of the Pacific from 1854 to 1857, and again of the Eastern Department until 1860.

In August 1861, he was placed in command at Fortress Monroe, Va. and in May 1862 occupied Norfolk and Portsmouth. On the 16th of May 1862, he was promoted to be major-general, and in June following was placed in command of the Middle Military Department, including the 8th Army Corps. In January 1863, he was transferred to New York, and commanded the Department of the East until July 15th, when he was relieved, and Aug. 1, 1863, was placed on the retired list. He died at Troy Nov. 10, 1869 and was buried with high military and civic honors. In Oakwood Cemetery at Troy, during the present year (1879), a high monolith has been raised to his memory.

*NOTE: Albert E. Harris writes in February 2005, "Your web article says that Gen. Wool was awarded a sword by the New York State Legislature in August of 1848. I have seen an original parchment document, signed by the clerks of the NY Assembly (J. B. Snidle) and the NY Senate (A. F. Calhoun), and dated April 10, 1848, that resolves their giving thanks to Gen. Wool and requests the procurement of "a sword with suitable emblems and devices" to be presented to him. The document is in good shape and is stretched over a wooden frame. It's about a foot wide, and slightly longer. Perhaps you may know of some person or organization that would be interested in acquiring this document. Sincerely, Albert E. Harris."

Send comments or suggestions to:
Debby Masterson

Go Back to Rensselaer Co. Biographies
Go Back to Home Page