Wade, who was born in Jefferson, Ohio, began his military career as a volunteer first lieutenant to the Sixth U. S. Calvary in 1861. During the war, he fought at Beverly Ford, Virginia, and in southwestern Virginia, becoming a brigadier general of volunteers in the process. Following the war, he became a captian in the U.S. army and over time reached the rank of brigadier general.
Wade served in the Spanish-American War as commander of a troop assembly area in Tampa, Florida. On May 26, 1898 he became commander of the Third Corps at Camp Thomas, Chickamauga, Georgia. Following the armistice in August, Wade became a member of the Cuban Evacuation Committee to oversee the removal of Spanish forces from Cuba and Puerto Rico. After the war, he served in the Philippines from 1901 to 1904, reaching the rank of major general in 1903. He retired from the service in 1907.