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John T. Wilder papers

Identifier: L276

Scope and Contents

The bulk of this collection consists of correspondence to John T. Wilder during the U.S. Civil War written by family, friends, officials, and soldiers. Also included are official war time documents, topographical maps, some correspondence with Civil war veterans, and a few documents related to Wilder’s business interests in Tennessee.

There are also two oversize folders containing: two commissions and a report ranging from 1861 to 1863 (OB055); and maps, 1862-1864 (OBC001).


  • 1858-2002


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Legal title, copyright, and literary rights reside with Rare Books and Manuscripts, Indiana State Library, Indianapolis, IN. All requests to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted to Rare Books and Manuscripts.

Biographical Note

John Thomas Wilder was born January 31, 1830 in New York to Reuben and Mary (Merritt) Wilder. Wilder attended common schools until the age of fourteen when he moved to Columbus, Ohio to apprentice as a draftsman in a millwright plant. After several years in Ohio he moved to Greensburg, Indiana and established his own mill and foundry business. He married Martha J. Stewart in Decatur County, Indiana on May 18, 1858. Together they had five daughters and one son named Mary, Annie, Rachel, Martha, Stewart, and Edith.

Wilder enlisted as a private in the 1st Independent Battery on April 21, 1861. Gov. Oliver P. Morton appointed him to the rank of Liet. Colonel of the 17th Indiana Volunteer Infantry on June 4, 1861, and then to the rank of full colonel in March of 1862. He was later given command of a brigade which served at Munfordville, Kentucky. In June 1863 in a battle of Hoover’s Gap of the Cumberland Mountains, Wilder’s Brigade managed to dislodge the Confederate forces and open the gap which had formally held firm in an attempt to give Bragg’s army time to fall back to Chattanooga. This engagement caused the brigade to gain the title of “Wilder’s Lighting Brigade.” This brigade differed from other Union brigades in that its men were equipped with Spencer repeating rifles and its troopers were mounted. In a major battle at Chickamauga Wilder’s Lighting Brigade conducted itself with such distinction that Wilder was recommended for promotion to brigadier-general by Major-General George H. Thomas. Wilder was brevetted Brigadier-General on Aug 7, 1864. He resigned from the Army on October 5, 1864.

After the war Wilder moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee where he purchased the Rockwood Iron property and in 1867 organized the Roane Iron Works. In 1870 he built a rail mill in Chattanooga. In the world of business he held the offices of General manager of the Roane Iron Works; President of the Wilder Machine Works; Vice president of the C. C. and C. Railroad; President of the Roane Mountain Hotel Company; and General manager of the Fentress Coal and Coke Company. He held the civic offices of mayor and postmaster of Chattanooga, pension agent at Knoxville, and as a commissioner of the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Park. General Wilder retired from work in 1911. Mrs. Martha Wilder passed away in February 1892. General Wilder married Dora E. Lee in 1904. He passed away October 20, 1917 in Jacksonville, Florida.


Hale, Will T. and Dixon L. Merritt. A History of Tennessee and Tennesseans. Vol. 6. Chicago: Lewis Publ. Co., 1913. 1608-1613.

“John Thomas Wilder.” Dictionary of American Biography. Farmington Hills, Mich: Thomas Gale, 2005.


0.41 Cubic Feet (1 manuscript box, 2 oversize folders)

Language of Materials



This collection is arranged chronologically.

Custodial History

This collection was received by Rare Books and Manuscripts as a donation from Stuart Wilder, Mrs. Harriet C. Owsley, and Thomas Maher.


No further additions are expected.

Processing Information

Collection processing completed 2005/08 by Elizabeth M. Wilkinson. Finding aid updated 2015/11/24 by Lauren Patton EAD finding aid created 2018/04/30 by Lauren Patton.
John T. Wilder papes
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Rare Books and Manuscripts Repository

140 North Senate Avenue
Indianapolis, Indiana 46204 U.S.A.