Major-General Cadmus M. Wilcox was born in Wayne County, N. C., May 29, 1826. His father carried him to Tennessee when he was two years old. He studied for a while at Cumberland college. In 1842 was appointed to the United States military academy from the Memphis district, and upon graduation in 1846 went at once to the army at Monterey, joining the Fourth United States infantry as brevet second lieutenant. For gallant conduct at Chapultepec, Garite de Belen and City of Mexico, he was brevetted first lieutenant, and was commissioned as such August 24, 1851. In the autumn of 1852 he was ordered to West Point as assistant instructor of military tactics, and he remained in this position until the summer of 1857, when, on account of failing health, he was sent to Europe on a twelve months furlough. On his return he published a work on rifles and rifle firing. The war department ordered a thousand copies of this work for distribution to the army, and it was made a text-book at West Point. Wilcox also translated and published a work on infantry evolution as practiced in the Austrian army. He was ordered to New Mexico in 1860, and on December 20th was promoted captain. At this distant post in June, 1861, he learned of the secession of Tennessee. Sending in his resignation, he repaired to Richmond, where he was commissioned colonel of the Ninth Alabama regiment, July 9, 1861. On the 21st of October of the same year he was commissioned brigadier-general and placed in command of the Third Alabama, First Mississippi and First Virginia regiments and a battery. At Williamsburg this brigade bore a prominent part. At Seven Pines, Wilcox commanded two brigades, and at Gaines' Mill three—his own, Featherston's and Pryor's. Some of the hardest and most brilliant fighting of this day was done by this command. At Frayser's Farm other laurels were won. In this fight nearly every regimental officer in Wilcox's command was killed, and Wilcox himself had his clothing pierced by six bullets. The loss in Wilcox's brigade was heavier in the Seven Days battle than that of any other brigade in Longstreet's division. Wilcox did not happen to have such a difficult part to perform in the other battles of 1862, but at Chancellorsville, in 1863, his opportunities were again great, and he measured fully up to the occasion, adding much to his already splendid reputation. On the field of Gettysburg, the magnificent fighting of Wilcox's men gave new glory to the brigade and its dashing commander. On the 9th of August, 1863, Wilcox was commissioned major-general and assigned to the command of the division in Hill's corps that had been commanded by Pender at Gettysburg. It comprised Lane's North Carolina brigade, five regiments; Thomas' Georgia brigade, four regiments; McGowan's South Carolina brigade, five regiments; and Scales' North Carolina brigade, five regiments. In the campaigns from the Wilderness to Appomattox, Wilcox's division constantly added to its already great reputation. Notwithstanding the many brilliant victories of the final campaigns in Virginia, superior numbers and resources won at last. In the last fighting around Petersburg two small forts, Battery Gregg and Battery Whitworth (or Alexander), were ordered to be held to the last extremity. Two hundred men, most of them from Harris' Mississippi brigade, at that time of Wilcox's command, were placed in Fort Gregg and the rest of Harris' brigade in Fort Alexander. These two points were all that barred the enemy out of Petersburg, for Longstreet's forces which were to occupy the interval between the right of the Petersburg line and the Appomattox river had not yet had time to arrive. It was the obstinate defense of these works that enabled Lee to hold his interior line until night. When the overwhelming masses of the Federals after many repulses at last carried the two forts, only 30 of the brave defenders of Gregg were unhurt, and nearly 1,000 Federals had been killed or wounded. In the final charge at Appomattox, Wilcox had been ordered to support Gordon in the desperate attempt to force the way to Lynchburg. But the negotiations between Lee and Grant stopped the fighting before his troops became engaged. After the close of the war General Wilcox was offered a command in the Egyptian army, but declined. In 1886 he was appointed chief of railroad division in a government department at Washington, D. C.
He died on December 2, 1890 and is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery, Washington D.C.