On 14 June 1775 the Second Continental Congress, meeting in Philadelphia, adopted a resolution under which ten companies of expert riflemen would be immediately raised, six in Pennsylvania, two in Maryland, and two in Virginia. The "compleated" companies were to "march and join the army near Boston, to be employed . . . under the command of the chief Officer of that army." On the following day the Congress elected George Washington, Esq., of Virginia to be general and commander in chief "of the forces raised and to be raised in defence of American Liberty." In these two conspicuous legislative resolves the United States Army was born and its first senior uniformed officer appointed.1 Neither the Army nor its commander sprang full-blown into being upon congressional cue. The institution would begin to take shape only in the fires of the war of American independence, while the individual would pass to his successors the problems inherent in the development and perpetuation of the senior military office.

From their earliest appearances on the North American continent, Europeans had found it necessary to defend themselves, first against the native inhabitants, later against each other as well as against the American Indian. As England and France developed footholds in the New World their interests clashed, and both dispatched military forces and cultivated indigenous allies in their attempts to prevail on the colonial frontier. By the time the English colonists along the Atlantic Coast of North America had become disenchanted with the mother country, they had participated as British subjects in colonial extensions of four world conflicts: the War of the Grand Alliance (1689-1697), known in America as King William's War; the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714), identified in the colonies as Queen Anne's War; the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-1748), called King George's War in the New World; and the Seven Years' War (1756-1763), distinguished in North America as the French and Indian War.

Colonial units carried the burden of operations in the first three of these conflicts and joined British regulars in the fourth. The colonists were thus well indoctrinated in British concepts of military and civil affairs, modified by their requirements and experiences in colonial life, as they moved down the road toward separation from the parent country and creation of their own. Their problem was to disengage from an armed, tenacious, and authoritarian monarchy; mold a group of highly independent colonies into a common government under new national authority; and bring a variety of colonial elements into a unified force under central command and control. Much of the burden would fall initially upon the new commander's shoulders.2

George Washington was the unanimous choice of his fellow delegates to command the American Army. A youthful surveyor of frontier lands, he became interested in things military as a member of the Virginia militia, and the colonial governor, Robert Dinwiddie, selected him to carry a message to the French on the Ohio frontier to warn them that they were encroaching upon lands claimed by England. When the French rejected the imputation and expanded their intrusion, Dinwiddie in 1754 commissioned Washington a lieutenant colonel and sent him with a small force to secure a British outpost at the forks of the Ohio River (near present-


Image:  George Washington received his commission as general and commander in chief of the Army of the United Colonies (later designated the Continental Army) from Second Continental Congress President John Hancock at Philadelphia on 19 June 1775.  From the collections of the Library of Congress.


George Washington received his commission as general and commander in chief of the Army of the United Colonies (later designated the Continental Army) from Second Continental Congress President John Hancock at Philadelphia on 19 June 1775. From the collections of the Library of Congress.

Image:  Facsimile of Washington's commission.  From the collections of the Library of Congress.
Facsimile of Washington's commission. From the collections of the Library of Congress

day Pittsburgh). Unfortunately, the French had captured it and had established Fort Duquesne there before Washington arrived, and although Washington defeated a French scouting party, he was then besieged in his fortified camp-Fort Necessity at Great Meadows, Pennsylvania-and forced to surrender.

In 1755 the British sent General Edward Braddock with a force of regulars against Fort Duquesne, and Washington went along as the commander's aide. The French defeated the British in the Battle of the Monongahela, inflicting heavy losses, mortally wounding Braddock, and putting the Redcoat remnants to flight. Washington was a tower of strength in getting the survivors back across the mountains to Virginia.

Dinwiddie next appointed Washington commander of all Virginia forces with the responsibility of defending 300 miles of frontier with a like number of men, an assignment that embodied on a regional level the multiform difficulties he would face on a national scale in the future. He joined a second expedition against Fort Duquesne, but when the French withdrew before the British


reached the site, erasing a central problem of frontier defense, Washington resigned to take up private life once again.3

As a prominent Virginian and concerned citizen, Washington moved easily from military to civil affairs even as he pursued his private interests, and between 1758 and 1774, both as a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses sitting at Williamsburg and a justice of Fairfax holding court in Alexandria, he came to understand the negative influences of British colonialism. As the Second Continental Congress convened at Philadelphia in May 1775, George Washington of the Virginia delegation was recognized for his wide experience in military, civil, and business affairs; his sound ability and common sense; his scrupulous sense of honor and duty; his innate dignity and impressive bearing; and, above all, political and geographical contours with enough appeal to overcome sectional rivalries. All of this combined to ordain his selection as commander in chief.

Washington's stewardship as the Army's senior officer was unique and, by its nature, could not have been duplicated by his successors. He took office as the head of the forces of a budding nation whose government was still in its formative stages. Already at war, the country yet had no national army with established civilian leadership, no departmental military organization, no administrative rules and regulations, no supply system, no senior officer structure, no institutional seasoning. Much of this would have to be developed by the left hand as the right hand fought the war.

In the days following Washington's appointment the Congress moved quickly to give substance to its plans, requirements, and intentions, authorizing two major generals and eight brigadier generals to serve under Washington; establishing the offices of adjutant general, quartermaster general, commissary general, paymaster general, and chief engineer, as well as some other positions; setting pay scales; and adopting Articles of War for the governance of the military establishment.4

Washington took command of the Army in the field at Cambridge, Massachusetts, on 3 July 1775. On the following day he issued the general order that formalized the American Army as a national institution under the authority of the central government: "The Continental Congress having now taken all the Troops of the several Colonies . . . into their Pay and Service . . . they are now the Troops of the United Provinces of North America."5 To bring "a mixed multitude of people" under order and discipline, he gave his personal attention to such matters as strength returns, roll calls, health and sanitation, efficiency, distinctions in rank, obedience to orders, and punishment of offenders. And as he kept the British Army bottled up in Boston, he dealt with such major problems as short-term enlistments, senior officer rivalries, scarcity of powder, inadequate military intelligence, and deficiencies in both organization and training.6

As the country fought for and edged toward true yet distant autonomy, it moved also, albeit slowly, toward the organizational and managerial arrangements that would provide for direction and control over the military forces of a free people. In the absence of a chief executive the Congress created boards and committees to carry out its policies, and one of its first moves along this line-antedating by three weeks the Declaration of Independence-was the establishment in June 1776 of the Board of War and Ordnance to see to "the raising, fitting out, and despatching [of] all such land forces as may be ordered for the service of the United Colonies."7 Among other things, the board was to keep a register of officers in the service of the colonies; maintain a record of the state and disposition of troops; account for arms, artillery, and other supplies; oversee the exchange of military correspondence between the Congress and the United Colonies; and preserve original letters and papers.

Development of a true war office and delineation of the responsibility and authority of the senior officer of the American Army came slowly, for there was a government to establish, a war to be fought, and experience to be gained through a long process of trial and error. Initially, the government was weak and the board became bogged down in minutiae, leaving General Washington, under the exigencies of field operations, to fill a void and make decisions on his own. This independence was consistent with Congress' mandate to Washington. As supreme commander, he had been "vested with full power and authority to act as you shall think for the good and welfare of the


Image:  General Washington assumed command of the Army in the field at Cambridge, Massachusetts, on 3 July 1775.  From the collections of the Library of Congress.
General Washington assumed command of the Army in the field at Cambridge, Massachusetts, on 3 July 1775. From the collections of the Library of Congress.


service."8 Congress had been quite explicit in its reasoning, for

whereas all particulars cannot be foreseen, nor positive instructions for such emergencies so before hand given but that many things must be left to your prudent and discreet management, as occurrences may arise upon the place, or from time to time fall out, you are therefore upon all such accidents or any occasions that may happen, to use your best circumspection and (advising with your council of war) to order and dispose of the said Army under your command as may be most advantageous for the obtaining of the end for which these forces have been raised, making it your special care in discharge of the great trust committed unto you, that the liberties of America receive no detriment.9

It was only natural that this broad mandate be curtailed as the central government broadened its knowledge of military matters and increasingly assumed its legitimate responsibilities. Step by step the composition of the war office was modified from five legislators to three nonlegislators, then to a mix of two congressmen and three outsiders. But there was a weakness in the committee process, and in February 1781 the Congress created the post of secretary at war to replace the Board of War and appointed Major General Benjamin Lincoln as its first occupant in October of that year.10

Painting:  Benjamin Lincoln, the nation's first secretary at war (1781-1783), and George Washington worked out the delicate operational relationship between the Army's senior civilian and senior officer. Portrait by James Harvey Young from the Army Art Collection.

Benjamin Lincoln, the nation's first secretary at war (1781-1783), and George Washington worked out the delicate operational relationship between the Army's senior civilian and senior officer. Portrait by James Harvey Young from the Army Art Collection.

Lincoln picked up the reins of a war office with fairly well-defined powers and responsibilities. The secretary at war was directed by the Congress "to examine into the present state of the war-office [and] the returns and present state of the troops, ordnance, arms, ammunition, cloathing, and supplies of the armies of the United States . . . , to obtain and keep exact and regular returns of all the forces . . . , to prepare estimates for paying and recruiting the armies . . . , to execute all the resolutions of Congress respecting military preparations . . . , to transmit all orders and resolutions relative to the military land forces . . . , to make out, seal, and countersign all appointments . . . , [and] to report to Congress the officers necessary for assisting him in the business of his department."11

By and large, the parties primarily responsible for military matters in these formative years of the Republic found their terms of reference in their respective operational spheres in the field and at the seat of government, and although their functions were by no means mutually exclusive, the individuals were reasonable and dedicated men who saw what must be done and did it. Accumulating experience suggested, and the secretary at war and commander in chief worked out, a successful division of authority. Military business was conducted by correspondence and in personal visits to each other's headquarters, and cooperation, not competition, was the order of the day.

Inescapably there were differences. In the period after the Cornwallis surrender at Yorktown, Virginia, Washington disagreed with Lincoln over the new secretary's estimate of remaining British strength and intentions in North America and his assessment of American force requirements and general prospects, and the divergencies prompted him to bypass Lincoln in correspondence with Major General Nathanael Greene, the commander in the South. Again, while both the secretary and the commander in chief were responsible to Congress, lines


of authority were blurred, and on one occasion Washington asked that reports of inspectors be sent to him in order to secure his responsibility and ensure that the inspectors remained subordinate to rather than independent of the commander in chief. These were relatively minor frictions compared with some that would develop later between other secretaries and commanding generals.12

The British defeat at Yorktown in October 1781 ended major active campaigning in the Revolutionary War and opened a static period for the patriot forces facing remaining enemy troop concentrations at New York in the North and Charleston in the South. While lengthy peace negotiations proceeded an ocean away, American thoughts turned to consideration of the form and composition of a postwar Army. Since regulars and militia had shared in the fighting and would share in the victory, sharp differences developed over the question of whether the future security of the nation should be entrusted to a standing Regular Army or to militia that would be called up in emergencies. This was only part of the larger question of whether the country would have a strong central government or a loose federation of states; whether, indeed, the citizen would assume not only the privileges of freedom and equality envisioned by the Declaration of Independence but the obligations and responsibilities, including military service, associated with a democratic system. As events unfolded, opinion came to favor a centralized government but for a long time shunned a standing Army.13

Painting:  Henry Knox had the distinction of serving as both the senior officer (1783-1784) and the senior civilian (1789-1794) of the Army.  Portrait by Charles Willson Pearle from the Independence National Historical Park Collection.

Henry Knox had the distinction of serving as both the senior officer (1783-1784) and the senior civilian (1789-1794) of the Army. Portrait by Charles Willson Peale from the Independence National Historical Park Collection.

The transitional period from war to peace left the Army at its lowest ebb. After the signing of the Treaty of Paris on 3 September 1783, Washington, at congressional direction, began to demobilize the Army, a process that was completed after the British evacuated New York in November. On 23 December, the war concluded and his mission accomplished, George Washington resigned his commission and returned home to Virginia. He left Major General Henry Knox, the next senior officer, to preside over an Army reduced to one regiment of infantry and one battalion of artillery-about 600 men. The decline did not stop there.

Despite the conclusion of a peace treaty, a dual threat continued to hover over the young nation in the Northwest, where the British, in contravention of peace terms, continued to garrison a chain of posts along the inland waters bordering Canada and where state sessions of frontier lands to the central government saddled the Congress with the problem of Indian defense over a wide region. Obviously the United Colonies must have an Army, but of what form and nature? To deal with a complex set of circumstances that involved politics, land, money, manpower, and deployments, the Congress, as a first step, on 2 June 1784 directed General Knox to discharge all but 80 of the 600-man force and to station the remnant at West Point (55), New York, and Fort Pitt (25), Pennsylvania, to guard military stores. There being no need for a major general to command a company-size force, Henry Knox was retired and nominal command of the Army passed on 20 June 1784 to the next senior officer, Captain John Doughty, a veteran of Revolutionary War service and head of the detachment at West Point.14

Doughty's seniority was necessarily short-lived, lasting only about seven weeks, and had


an organizational rather than institutional complexion. Despite postwar disarray, sectional differences, Lincoln's retirement, and deficiencies in the Articles of Confederation under which the government was operating, the Congress saw the need for action in the field of military affairs. Only one day after it reduced the Army to 80 men, and on the very eve of the current session's adjournment, the legislators passed an act calling upon four states-Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania-to furnish a total of 700 men from their militias for the national army. Pennsylvania, with the largest quota (260 as opposed to 165 each from Connecticut and New York and 110 from New Jersey) and with an exposed position on the frontier, filled its assessment promptly, and, as a result, command of the new force went to a Pennsylvanian. Lieutenant Colonel Josiah Harmar, who had served with several of his state's regiments during the Revolution, became the Army's senior officer on 12 August 1784.15

As had been Doughty's situation on a smaller scale, Harmar, despite his status as the ranking officer of the Army, became a field rather than a staff and institutional commander. With the war office vacant and with military concerns among the more pressing matters before it in the spring of 1785, the Congress appointed Henry Knox as the second secretary at war and issued a call to the four states of the previous year for new troops with longer enlistments to man the First American Regiment. Most of the Army was posted in detachments along the western frontier, and Harmar, far removed both organizationally and geographically from the seat of power, had all he could handle as the field commander. On top of that, the authoritarian Henry Knox was in the secretary's chair, fully assured that his powers as secretary at war embraced those of commander in chief, a role which, by experience and inclination, he was well prepared to exercise.16

The secretary's task was not an easy one, and in its way represented the problems of the government as a whole. To the existing Indian peril, British presence, and state dissension connected with the Western lands were added the difficulties of raising, supplying, and funding military forces. The government, lacking the power to tax and operating in a period of depression, faced serious fiscal problems that were reflected throughout the colonies. Discontent finally escalated into an open unrest among debtors that took its most organized and violent form in Massachusetts, where an insurrectionist band led by one Daniel Shays attacked the Springfield Arsenal.

Although Shays' Rebellion was unsuccessful, it challenged both state and federal government, coalesced a gathering concern over the need for a national army and stronger central government, and lent impetus to a movement to convene a Constitutional Convention. In 1787 the government entered a two-year period of transition from the Confederation to a constitutional system, and the war office, the active focus of a variety of state functions, served as "the chief connective element."17

In formulating and refining the new nation's system of government, the framers of the Constitution assigned to Congress the functions to raise and support armies, make rules for the government and regulation of the land forces, and declare war. They created what had been lacking under the Confederation-an executive branch of government-and made the president the commander in chief of the Army and Navy, thereby ensuring that this important command function would be entrusted to a civil rather than to a military official.

On 30 April 1789, George Washington, who had been the nation's first senior military officer, became its first senior civil official under the new Constitution: president of the United States. Three months later, on 7 August 1789, the Congress established the Department of War, changed the title of the department head from secretary at war to secretary of war, and made that official directly responsible to the president rather than the Congress. Henry Knox remained in office to become the first secretary of war, and Josiah Harmar, who had been brevetted brigadier general in 1787 and was still on the frontier, remained the Army's senior officer.

If from the beginnings of constitutional government the role of the secretary as the minister charged with running the War Department-acting with the president's authority and in his behalf in the conduct of military affairs-was codified, accepted, and understood, that of the senior


officer of the Army was not so clear. During the century and a quarter from George Washington's installation as commander in chief to Samuel B. M. Young's induction as chief of staff, uncertainty, misunderstanding, and controversy swirled around the office, involving from time to time some of the leading figures of their day. The title as well as the authority of the incumbent seemed in a constant state of flux.

The inception of constitutional government ensured not only that "a politically responsible President replaced the hereditary monarch as Commander in Chief," but that Washington's historical standing as the only uniformed commander in chief of the American Army was assured. After Washington resigned in 1783, fluctuations in the strength of the Army, the rank and location of the senior officer, the viewpoint of an incumbent secretary, and usage in government circles all influenced the designation and mode of operation of the senior officer. Commander in chief, general in chief, major general commanding in chief, commanding general of the Army, lieutenant general of the Army, General of the Army-all were applied at one time or another and in one way or another to the senior officer of the Army.

As with George Washington and Benjamin Lincoln, the senior civil and military figures of the early years of the Republic went about their business with little friction; the complexities of government, inexperience of officials, geographical separation, limitations of communication, and field operational requirements kept them absorbed in their respective spheres. Harmar, who served as the senior officer until March 1791 before returning to Pennsylvania to become state adjutant general; Major General Arthur St. Clair, who succeeded him for a one-year tour between terms as governor of the Northwest Territory; and Major General Anthony Wayne, the late Georgia congressman who occupied the Army post up to his death on 15 December 1796, were all involved in Indian warfare on the Northwestern frontier-Harmar and St. Clair disastrously, Wayne successfully-and could not have jousted with the secretary of war about lines of authority and separation of powers even had they been so inclined. Brigadier General James Wilkinson, at home with controversy and intrigue, might have relished confrontation, but he, too, served in the western arena, where he led a force of volunteers against Indians north of the Ohio before being assigned to Wayne's command. Upon the latter's death, Wilkinson ascended to the ranking position in the Army for an eighteen-month stint, to July 1798, with duties that kept him on the frontier as a field rather than institutional commander.18

Throughout this period the Army commanders conducted their operations with inadequate strength and supplies, poorly trained troops, and imperfect logistical support. The Congress, prompted by the Harmar and St. Clair reverses, gradually increased the Army's strength until Anthony Wayne was able to train a respectable force along legionary lines and, with some 3,000 men, redeem the Army's reputation in the Battle of Fallen Timbers.19

External forces now intruded upon the young nation as French and British contentions spread across the Atlantic to involve American shipping and raise the possibility of war with France. George Washington, only sixteen months out of the presidency, received his country's call once again as, early in July 1798, President John Adams dispatched Secretary of War James McHenry to Mount Vernon with Washington's appointment as "Lieutenant General and Commander in Chief of all the armies raised or to be raised for the service of the United States. . . ." Unfortunately, Washington was sixty-six, the call was to some extent politically inspired, and a general controversy developed over which officer among three candidates-Alexander Hamilton, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, or Henry Knox-should be the senior major general and, in effect, second in command to the aging Washington. Although Knox outranked the others, Hamilton, at Washington's behest, was elevated to the ranking position.20

Washington had informed the secretary of war that he would accept the new charge with the understanding that he would become fully active only if his presence should be required in the field. This stipulation kept him in the mold of his predecessors-a field rather than an institutional commander. As things turned out, his presence in the field was not required. Except for a visit to Philadelphia to work with


McHenry and Hamilton on an organizational plan for a Provisional Army to meet the putative emergency, Washington exercised his command function principally from his Mount Vernon home, while the influential and ambitious Major General Hamilton, in combination with a weak secretary of war, carried the burden of day-to-day details at the seat of government under President Adams' watchful and suspicious eye. Adams, in appointing Washington to the Army command, had acted not only to neutralize a strong sentiment for Hamilton's selection to the post but also out of concern, however justified, for what uses Hamilton might have found for an Army he controlled.21

As 1799 unfolded, the French threat and the perceived need for Washington's name and services receded, and the general's death on 14 December brought the century and an era to a close.

As he had foreseen the possibilities, Alexander Hamilton was ideally positioned to succeed Washington as the Army's senior officer, and on the day of his predecessor's death he picked up the reins for an abbreviated tenure. He presided over the preparation of new drill regulations and the discharge of such of the Provisional Army as had been mobilized-about 4,100 of a planned 50,000 men-before departing military service on 15 June 1800.22 The evaporation of the emergency and the reduction of the Army to peacetime strength erased all prospects for the martial glory that might have held him in the service. Yet, as Washington's aide, a former member of the Continental Congress, and the nation's first secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton remained an influential citizen up to his death in 1804 in a dual with his bitter political rival, Vice President Aaron Burr.

Brigadier General James Wilkinson now returned to the scene for a second tour of nominal military seniority. In almost twelve checkered years spent principally on the southern frontier, he negotiated with the Indians, fraternized with the Spaniards, consorted then broke with Aaron Burr, served as governor of Louisiana Territory, and survived several courts of inquiry and a court-martial inspired by his excessive use of authority and private commercial dealings. His stewardship, if such it might be called in view of its organizationally disconnected and militarily incoherent character, was of a piece with the trials of the first decade of the nineteenth century when the nation and the Army were groping for policies and procedures to make government and institutions work. Regrettably, as the threat of war with France faded, the menace of renewed conflict with England increased. By the time the Congress declared war against England in June 1812, Wilkinson had reverted to a subordinate position and Major General Henry Dearborn had become the Army's senior officer.23

Like many of the nation's potential military leaders, Henry Dearborn had acquired more than enough campaign experience and reputation during the Revolutionary War to mark him as a candidate for recall in emergencies. After his discharge in 1783, he had maintained a tenuous military connection through militia ties, and from 1801 to 1809 he operated in the mainstream of military affairs as President Jefferson's secretary of war. But like many veterans, he had turned sixty, and he was on the eve of his sixty-first birthday in January 1812 when President Madison made him the Army's senior major general. With the outbreak of the War of 1812 he became, not the professional uniformed head of the Army posted in Washington, but a coordinate field commander-and one of a number of aging officers not well equipped mentally or physically to deal with the rigors of campaign, a worthy enemy, and deplorable deficiencies in manpower, supply, and administration.24

After an inept performance on the northeastern Canadian front, and with recurring health problems, Dearborn, still the senior major general, was transferred in July 1813 to command at New York City, where he served until his discharge on 15 June 1815.

Seniority among the Army's uniformed leaders passed next to Major General Jacob Jennings Brown. As commander in western New York in the late war, he had added much-needed luster to American arms in operations at Chippewa and Lundy's Lane on the Niagara front. Unlike his predecessor, Brown was of a younger, post-Revolution generation; only forty, the vigor and zeal he brought to the ranking position were not


Portrait:  Andrew Jackson was one of the first Army field commanders to challenge the War Department on the proper  use of the chain of command after one of his attached technical service officers was reassigned without his knowlege.  Lithographic portrait from the collections of the National Archives.

Andrew Jackson was one of the first Army field commanders to challenge the War Department on the proper use of the chain of command after one of his attached technical service officers was reassigned without his knowledge. Lithographic portrait from the collections of the National Archives.

to be dedicated to war so much as peace. His extended tenure carried him more than halfway through an era characterized as "The Thirty Years' Peace," a period free of general conflict and marred only by occasional Indian troubles to the South and West, notably the First and Second Seminole Wars and the Black Hawk War.

On the heels of the War of 1812 the Congress passed the act of 1 May 1815 fixing the peacetime strength at 10,000 and establishing two geographical regions, the Division of the South commanded by Major General Andrew Jackson, and the Division of the North headed by General Brown. Some important evolutions occurred at the upper levels of the War Department during Brown's incumbency.

Secretary of War William H. Crawford, who entered office in August 1815 with the conviction that the country should have in place in peacetime the kind of headquarters organization required in war, consolidated and enlarged upon a general staff concept, created by the Congress in 1813, to deal with the Army's housekeeping functions. But his fourteen-month tenure was too brief for a concerted effort to strengthen the peacetime Army. That fell to his successor, John C. Calhoun.

Before Calhoun took office in October 1817, however, and while Acting Secretary George Graham was in charge, an incident occurred that brought to a head some long-standing

questions concerning the operation of the chain of command, the responsibility and authority of senior officials, and the relationships between staff and line.

Secretary Crawford had ordered Major Stephen H. Long to New York. Although Long, a topographical engineer, was assigned to General Jackson's Division of the South, the field commander was not informed of the transfer, and when he learned of it he wrote the department asking for an explanation. When Acting Secretary Graham replied testily that the department assigned officers "at its discretion," Jackson complained to President Monroe, questioning

a practice under which Washington could move officers without a field commander's knowledge. Upon learning that Jackson had instructed his attached officers to obey no departmental order that did not come through the commander, Monroe informed Jackson that the orders of the War Department were those of the president. As the case evolved, the central issue-proper use of the chain of command-became sidetracked in favor of a discussion of the president's role as commander in chief.25

Despite the fact that he was the loser on the constitutional side of the question, Jackson was partially vindicated in the practical aspects when Calhoun, while sustaining the presidential prerogatives, announced that future orders would be issued through field commanders to the maximum extent possible. But the matter was far from settled. Jackson had raised the nagging problem of the distribution of authority between staff and line; should communications between the heads of the technical services (Engineer, Quartermaster, Subsistence, Medical, etc.) in Washington and their assistants in the field, and from those subordinates back to their chiefs in


Painting:  Although Secretary of War John C. Calhoun established the office of and formalized the title of commanding general in 1821, the action failed to resolve constitutional and organizational problems. Portrait by John Wesley Jarvis from the Army Art Collection.

Although Secretary of War John C. Calhoun established the office of and formalized the title of commanding general in 1821, the action failed to resolve constitutional and organizational problems. Portrait by John Wesley Jarvis from the Army Art Collection.

Washington, be direct or through field command channels? Strangely enough, the senior officer of the Army, who might well have been at the center of the controversy, especially in light of his dual role as a division commander, was little more than a bystander. Yet the moment had come when that would change to some degree.26

The War of 1812 had demonstrated the need for more centralized control over the scattered elements of the Army. The creation of two main geographical divisions had answered this in part, but an apparently logical next step-that of establishing a single uniformed head of the whole Army-was left in suspense. Only George Washington had served in this capacity, first in 1775 during the Revolutionary War when the Congress elected him general and commander in chief, again in 1798 during the anticipated crisis with France when the president, with congressional authorization, had appointed him lieutenant general and commander in chief. In the first instance the country was at war, lacked a chief executive, and was desperately in need of an all-powerful field commander. In the second instance, the Congress and the president knew their man; knew that, as one who had served at the pinnacle in both military and civil capacities, he subscribed fully to the principle of separation of powers and knew his place. But without a Washington, what would a strong-willed figure in uniform-an Alexander Hamilton, for example, or an Andrew Jackson-make of the position of commander as opposed to senior officer, and despite the constitutional role of the

president as commander in chief? How would the functions, the powers, the responsibilities be distributed? A partial answer was soon forthcoming.

Secretary Calhoun acted in conjunction with the reorganization of 1821, which cut the Army to about 6,000 men. The Divisions of the North and South were abolished, and were replaced by Eastern and Western Departments, commanded respectively by Brigadier Generals Winfield Scott and Edmund Pendleton Gaines. At the apex, a possible dilemma was negated when Major General Andrew Jackson left service to become governor of Florida. Calhoun then brought Major General Jacob Jennings Brown to Washington as commanding general of the Army.27

The formal establishment of the position of commanding general and Brown's designation raised more questions than were answered. Hovering over the arrangement were a number of uncertainties: if the president was commander in chief of the Army and the secretary of war was his direct agent in the administration of the Army, what was the role of the commanding general? As his position was not defined constitutionally or by statute or regulation, what was his relationship to the president, the secretary, the bureau chiefs, the field commanders? Was he simply a professional military adviser to the secretary?

Jacob Brown seems not to have been disturbed by these considerations. Despite his energy and dedication, he appears to have been more interested in making an anomalous arrangement work than in making himself an agent of challenge or an instrument of disruption. What effect a wartime wound and an apparent stroke


Painting:  Winfield Scott (left), photo:  Edmund P. Gaines (center), and painting: Alexander Macomb (right-not shown).

President John Quincy Adams bypassed his quarreling generals, Winfield Scott (left) and Edmund P. Gaines (center), to pick the more junior Alexander Macomb (right) to replace the deceased Jacob Brown as commanding general of the Army. Scott portrait reproduced by the U.S. Army from a T. R. Welch engraving in the collections of the Library of Congress; Gaines photographic portrait by Matthew Brady from the collections of the National Archives; Macomb portrait by Samuel L. Waldo [not shown] in the New York City Hall Collection.

in late 1821 may have had on his efficiency is also unknown. In any case, his service under Secretaries of War Calhoun and Barbour up to his death in February 1828 was unmarked by crisis, and many of the procedural questions went unanswered.28

Brown's death left the Army with no major generals and opened the way for selection of a successor from among the regular brigadiers. At the moment, Winfield Scott and Edmund Pendleton Gaines, the department commanders, were the only two in that grade. Properly positioned in the chain of command, they were the logical candidates, except that, proud, ambitious, and arrogant individuals both, and highly sensitive to considerations of relative rank and General Brown's mortality, they had long been locked in a public dispute over seniority that not only shook the Army to its foundations but escalated into a national scandal. So far as the record was concerned, the choice was a difficult one. Both had been promoted to colonel on 12 March 1813 and both to brigadier general on 9 March 1814. Gaines was the senior at the lieutenant colonel level, but Scott was senior in a brevet major generalcy.

Ultimately these considerations became academic, for President John Quincy Adams had had his fill of the spectacle of two of the country's senior military figures publicly denouncing each other and making constant claims for prefe-


rment. He called a cabinet meeting to hear the views of his departmental secretaries on the subject, found a general consensus with his own impressions, and on 29 May 1828 reached down below the troublesome pair to appoint the chief of engineers, Colonel and Brevet Major General Alexander Macomb, as commanding general of the Army.29

A protégé of Alexander Hamilton, and with an excellent record in the War of 1812 and later special assignments, Macomb wisely stepped aside to let the president and the secretary of war deal with Scott's insubordinate announcement that he would ignore the new commander's orders as those of a junior officer. Such fulminations led to Scott's suspension from his departmental command and placement on a list of officers awaiting assignment. His representations to both houses of Congress fell upon unsympathetic ears, and only after a change in national administrations was the suspension lifted. Scott then went abroad on a six-month leave of absence, and time and the counsel of friends finally prompted him to accept the facts of life and preserve his great abilities for future crises. Meanwhile, Macomb, to distinguish his preeminence over other two-star brevet major generals, resorted to the simple device of inserting in the Army Regulations of 1834 a provision that the insignia of the major general commanding in chief should be three stars. Thus in image if not in true rank, Macomb placed himself on a par with a distinguished predecessor, the General Washington of 1798.30

It was only natural that the basic considerations of leadership and chain of command-the essence of military operation-should suggest the permanent establishment at headquarters of a uniformed commander of the Army. If there were commanders at every other level, why not at the top? It might also have been assumed that the duties of the senior uniformed officer were so self-evident as to require no regulatory expression; only Washington, serving at the outset of nationhood, had been issued formal terms of reference by the civil authority, and these had related principally to the conduct of field operations. In the intervening years until Jacob Brown's specific designation as commanding general, the senior officer seemed to see himself, and to be viewed by others, more as a field than an institutional figure. Even Brown did not depart noticeably from that mold despite his titular designation and station in Washington.

But now a statement of functions appeared in the Army Regulations of 1834-the same edition that sewed a third star on General Macomb's epaulettes. Article XLI, titled "The Commander of the Army," delineated the top uniformed official's responsibility and authority thus:

1. The military establishment is placed under the orders of the major general commanding in chief, in all that regards its discipline and military control. Its fiscal arrangements properly belong to the Treasury Department, under the direction of the Secretary of War. While the general in chief will not interfere with the concerns of the Treasury, he will see that the estimates for the military service are based upon proper data, and made for the objects contemplated by law, and necessary to the due support and useful employment of the army. The general will watch over the economy of the service, in all that relates to expenditure of money, supply of arms, ordnance, and ordnance stores, clothing, equipments, camp equipage, medical and hospital stores, barracks, quarters, transportation, fortifications, military academy, pay, and subsistence, in short, every thing which enters into the expenses of the military establishment, whether personal or material. In carrying into effect these important duties, he will call to his council and assistance, the staff, and those officers proper, in his opinion, to be employed in verifying and inspecting all the objects which may require attention. The rules and regulations established for the government of the army, and the laws relating to the military establishment, are the guides for the commanding general, in the performance of his duties.

2. All estimates, exhibits, and reports, of the several branches of the military service, required annually to be made, with a view to their transmission to Congress, will be addressed to the commanding general of the army, who, after examining them, and fixing with the officers concerned, the amounts required for the service, will present them to the Secretary of War, for his consideration.31

In these paragraphs and two more in Article XLIV fixing the responsibilities of inspectors general to the commanding general, the central authority of the Army's senior officer and the subordination of the staff were well established. Indeed, the provisions of the second paragraph appear to have been so objectionable to the bureau chiefs that it was dropped from the 1835


edition of the regulations, and the first paragraph was amended to shift fiscal control back to the staff bureaus, stipulating that the Army's "fiscal arrangements properly belong to the administrative department of the staff and to the Treasury Department, under the direction of the Secretary of War." Despite the modification, the "General-in-Chief" still was directed to "see that the estimates for the military service are based upon proper data, and made for the objects contemplated by law, and necessary to the due support and useful employment of the army."32

It was the perceived intrusion of the commanding general into their operations and his presumed interdiction of their direct access to the secretary of war that disturbed the bureau chiefs. Their case, and the nature of the controversy over lines of authority and separation of powers, was set out by Colonel Roger Jones, the adjutant general of the Army, on 24 January 1829. In a beautifully engrossed paper addressed to Secretary of War Peter B. Porter under the title, "Analysis of the theory of the Staff which surrounds the Secretary of War," Colonel Jones noted that the Adjutant General's, Ordnance, Quartermaster, Subsistence, Pay, and Medical Departments and the Corps of Engineers "constitute [the] many avenues through which the various acts and measures of the Executive . . . are communicated and executed, and such is the symmetry in this organization, that whilst each member of the military staff of the War Department is confined to the sphere of his own peculiar functions, all regard the Secretary as the common superior, the head of the harmonious whole."33

The adjutant general went on to point out that everything relative to military commissions, under the secretary of war, had been conducted in his office since 1797; that these were administrative duties under the secretary "in contradistinction to . . . Military Staff duties under the General in Chief. . . ." He wondered if these or similar executive functions had ever been assigned to any general officer of the line; whether, indeed, they were compatible with the high military duties of a commander of the Army? Ought a general in chief aspire to these comparatively subordinate responsibilities, and could it be to the interest of the Army that he assume them and virtually relinquish "the glories of the field?"34

If it did nothing else, Colonel Jones' paper exposed some of the complexities inherent in the question of whether the Army's senior officer was, or should be, a commander or a chief of staff. It was not a simple matter to resolve. Bureau chiefs were reluctant to surrender the authority and prestige of their independent jurisdictions; senior officers were proud and ambitious individuals, jealous of hard-won rank and status and fiercely protective of honor; and secretaries were transient civilians often uninitiated in military affairs and usually not in office long enough to come to grips with complicated military organization, procedures, and personalities. Accommodation among such disparate interests was not easy to achieve, and apart from competition and bias, it was not that clear in 1829 just how the senior officer of the Army should function. It would take three-quarters of a century and further clashes before the problem would be resolved.

After General Macomb died in office on 25 June 1841, Major General Winfield Scott, who had been waiting in the wings for thirteen years and had more than redeemed himself in official and public eyes in a series of skillfully conducted and eminently successful peacekeeping missions for the government, was appointed commanding general of the Army and took office on 5 July. The Second Seminole War was coming to a close, and the only cloud on the horizon was possible trouble with Mexico over its lost province of Texas. When James K. Polk won the American presidency on a platform that included annexation of Texas by the United States, and that process occurred in mid-1845, Mexico declared war on her northern neighbor.

President Polk, a Democrat and well aware that three of his predecessors-George Washington, Andrew Jackson, and William Henry Harrison-had been helped into office by battlefield achievements, saw further possibilities along this line as Brigadier General Zachary Taylor, a member of the Whig opposition, won a series of victories over the Mexicans along the Rio Grande. When it became apparent that the war could not be won in that northern theater, Polk turned with great reluctance to Winfield Scott, also a Whig and a former presidential con-


tender in that party, to conduct a landing at Vera Cruz on Mexico's east coast and drive inland against the enemy capital of Mexico City. The president, it may be noted, had been left with no alternative when the Congress rejected his proposal to create the rank of lieutenant general and place Senator Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri, no soldier but a Democrat, in the post as commander of the coming expedition.35

The wartime emergency and the employment of the commanding general as a field commander perpetuated the ambiguities of the position. President Polk, in effect, vacated the office by assigning Scott to command the Vera Cruz expedition; by limiting him, upon his departure from Washington, to control over the field force; and by appointing no successor in Washington. The Army thus went without a commanding general from 24 November 1846 to 10 May 1849, raising questions as to the need for such an office. The president, the secretary of war, and the bureau chiefs operated as the headquarters of the Army, and in the absence of a uniformed professional head, President Polk and Secretary William L. Marcy served as their own general staff. Despite some mastery of military detail they had neither the time nor the training, much less the responsibility, for carrying out the planning and programming function of a general staff. How their successors might have met the challenge was yet another question. In any case, when Scott returned to the United States in 1848 and peacetime conditions obtained once again, Scott and Taylor, the two major generals, were assigned to co-equal divisions, Eastern and Western, and Scott assumed command of the former with headquarters in New York.36

When Zachary Taylor became president in 1849, Scott was restored to the position of commanding general. A special order of 10 May specified that, "In pursuance of the orders of the President of the United States, Major General Scott will resume the command of the Army. . . ." The order went on to prescribe that the headquarters of the commander of the Army would be "at, or in the vicinity of New York." Apparently the location was agreeable to both Taylor and Scott, although how a commander of the whole Army-even one as small as the 10,000 to 12,000 men of the moment-could possibly fulfill the responsibilities implied by the title when he was so far removed from the executive base in Washington was not explained. It was also apparent that the commanding general was still to be a field rather than an institutional commander.37

Scott, who had outlasted Generals Macomb and Gaines as well as President Polk, now survived President Taylor. After Taylor's death in 1850, Scott transferred his headquarters back to Washington, where, at President Fillmore's request, he served for about three weeks as acting secretary of war. In 1852, as the Whig candidate for president, he was defeated by Franklin Pierce. In January 1853 Scott moved his headquarters back to New York to put some distance between himself and the victorious incoming administration. From there he carried on a running battle with the new secretary of war, Jefferson Davis, over the settlement of his remaining outstanding Mexican War accounts and other matters. When he questioned the secretary's authority over the commanding general, he was overruled by the president.38

On 15 February 1855 the Congress, in a joint resolution, revived the grade of lieutenant general, and on 7 March the Senate confirmed General Scott as brevet lieutenant general to rank from 20 March 1847, the date of the capture of Vera Cruz. Scott thus became the first officer since George Washington to hold three-star rank. Yet the distinction was an honorary one for a deserving officer's long and distinguished service-temporary elevation for an individual, not permanent creation of an additional echelon that would relieve a grade compression at the upper levels of the Army.39

Brevet Lieutenant General Scott spent the final months of a twenty-year tenure-the longest in office of all the senior officers of the Army even deducting the Mexican War hiatus-urging President Buchanan and Secretary of War John B. Floyd to act to protect military installations in the South as the slavery issue began to split the nation. Following President Lincoln's inauguration in March 1861, Scott brought his headquarters back to Washington and a far more sympathetic administration. But age and infirmity were closing in on him, and on 1 November 1861, at seventy-five and upon his own application, the Army's senior officer retired after half a century of military service.


Upon Scott's retirement Lincoln appointed Major General George Brinton McClellan, forty years Scott's junior, as commanding general of the Army. A graduate of the United States Military Academy, McClellan had served with Scott's forces in the Mexican War, taught engineering at West Point, studied European military systems on the scene, and designed a first-rate saddle. His effective performance against Confederate forces in early operations in West Virginia, coupled with Brigadier General Irvin McDowell's defeat at Bull Run, led Lincoln to appoint McClellan in July 1861 to head the Army of the Potomac. An able administrator who worked wonders in preparing the Army of the Potomac for coming battles, McClellan in the top military post proved to be slow at launching and cautious in executing field operations. Although he might have been more effective as the senior officer at the seat of government than as a field commander, he proved to be flawed in that role as well by arrogating to himself an excessive degree of power, even to the extent of blocking both the president and the secretary of war from his confidence. His methods could not long endure, and on 11 March 1862 President Lincoln relieved him as commanding general so that he could devote full attention to the upcoming Peninsular Campaign.40

A second period now intervened when the office of commanding general lay vacant, for no suitable successor to McClellan was readily available. Standing by, however, were two figures ready to exercise the functions in addition to their own larger ones: President Lincoln and his new secretary of war, Edwin M. Stanton. In a four-month period they brought a measure of coordination into the operation of the Union armies, responded intelligently to Major General Thomas Jonathan ("Stonewall") Jackson's Shenandoah Valley threat in May, and sought professional advice by tapping retired Major General Ethan Allen Hitchcock to head an advisory board composed of the bureau chiefs. But both were aware of their limitations and their constitutional obligations, and on 23 July 1862 President Lincoln brought Major General Henry W. Halleck to Washington as commanding general of the Army.41

A graduate of the United States Military Academy, Henry Wager Halleck had served in engineer assignments, published an influential book on military art and science, and held responsible positions in California during the Mexican War before resigning in 1854 to engage in railroad and mining enterprises. Seven years later, at the outbreak of the Civil War, he resumed Regular Army service as a newly commissioned major general, with assignment to the western theater. Upon his selection as senior officer in the summer of 1862, he left command of the Union forces in the West with a series of victories to his credit, in which subordinates-notably Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant-were largely instrumental.

Well fitted by training and experience to fulfill the joint command and administrative responsibilities embodied in the anomalous position of commanding general, Halleck, yet became bogged down in detail and buffeted by political pressures, and as events moved on he failed to live up to the command expectations of the president and the secretary of war. Eventually, Lincoln and Stanton resumed active control over military operations and both used Halleck more as an agent who translated their directions into military form and issued them to the field than as a commander in his own right.42

Although Lincoln endured this uncomfortable situation patiently for an extended period, he came increasingly to think about replacing Halleck, and inevitably his attention was drawn to the victor of Henry and Donelson, Vicksburg and Chattanooga-now Major General Ulysses S. Grant.

Like McClellan and Halleck, Ulysses Simpson Grant was a graduate of the United States Military Academy. He had served with distinction in the Mexican War, first with Taylor's forces as a troop officer, then with Scott's as a quartermaster with a combat role. He had resigned from the Army in 1854 to try his hand, with uniformly little success, at a variety of civilian occupations, and returned through Illinois volunteer channels as the Civil War opened in 1861. As a commander under Halleck in the western theater, he gave the Union some badly needed victories, acquiring public acclaim in the process. A bill was introduced in the Congress to revive the grade of lieutenant general and confer it upon Grant in recognition of his outstanding battlefield performance. The


Photo:  President Abraham Lincoln found himself engaged in a process of trial and error as he searched for the right leader to command the Union forces in the Civil War. When Generals George B. McClellan and Henry W. Halleck fell short of his expectations, he finally found his man in General Ulysses S. Grant. Photographic portrait by Matthew Brady from the collections of the National Archives.

President Abraham Lincoln found himself engaged in a process of trial and error as he searched for the right leader to command the Union forces in the Civil War. When Generals George B. McClellan and Henry W. Halleck fell short of his expectations, he finally found his man in General Ulysses S. Grant. Photographic portrait by Matthew Brady from the collections of the National Archives.


occasion offered an opportunity to correct, at least in part, an inequity in grade structure that existed in the American Army.

The fact that the Army did not have sufficient separation in rank at the top levels of the uniformed service, vexing during the Scott-Gaines-Macomb discords and on through the Mexican War, had become even more manifest with the major expansion of the Union forces during the Civil War. It led to the unusual, if not absurd, situation under which the Union had a major general commanding a division, a major general commanding a corps, a major general commanding a field army, a major general commanding a geographical region, and a major general commanding all the armies of the United States. Five echelons thus were commanded by officers of the same rank, and the major general who commanded the American armies of more than a million men held no higher rank than the major general who commanded a field division of a few thousand men. Now, in the spring of 1864, this logjam might be broken, although not as an official correction of an inequitable system, but, as in the case of General Scott, through a personal tribute to an individual officer.43

Despite Grant's reputation as a fighting and winning general, not all legislators were in favor of reviving the rank of lieutenant general and assigning it to Grant. In the light of recent experience, went the speculation, suppose the honor had been available to McDowell, McClellan, or Halleck? Why honor one general before the war was over? What could a lieutenant general do that a major general could not do as well? Should a distinguished field commander be sacrificed to the departmental bureaucracy? All of these equivocations were turned aside, and after an extended debate in the Senate as to whether Grant's appointment should be recommended by name in the legislation (it was not), the measure was passed on 29 February 1864.44

On 12 March 1864 the Army issued orders of the president of the United States formalizing the new command arrangements. They contained some interesting distinctions concerning the position of senior officer. Major General Halleck, "at his own request," was relieved from duty as general in chief of the Army. Lieutenant General Grant was "assigned to the command of the Armies of the United States." It was stipulated that the "Headquarters of the Army will be in Washington, and also with Lieutenant General Grant, in the field". Here again was that inclination to view the commanding general as a field commander, or, put another way, as commander of the armies in the field, not as a top staff coordinator at the seat of government. But now there was a striking concomitant in the second paragraph of the order: "Major General H. W. Halleck is assigned to duty in Washington as Chief of Staff of the Army, under the direction of the Secretary of War and the Lieutenant General Commanding."45

How much of this was a calculated effort to improve command arrangements and how much a propitiary gesture to Halleck who was suffering a demotion it is hard to say. Certainly the action gave Halleck a title and duties more in line with the manner in which he had been functioning all along, and like a good soldier, he served out the war in this capacity. Through the general order, the president made it known that he expected Halleck's orders as chief of staff to be "obeyed and respected accordingly," and any blow Halleck may have felt over his change of status may well have been softened by the president's official tender to him of "approbation and thanks for the able and zealous manner in which the arduous and responsible duties of [commanding general] have been performed."46 Halleck served in his staff role until the war ended in April 1865, then moved on to field assignments.

Grant brought to the role of commanding general the strategic direction and coordination the position had required all along. In Secretary Stanton, General Halleck, and Quartermaster General Montgomery C. Meigs he had an energetic and expert administrative and logistical team to provide the resources for his operational plans, while in President Lincoln he had a commander in chief who respected his abilities and applauded his initiative. He operated in the mode of the modern theater commander, maintaining his headquarters in the field, reporting directly to his civilian superiors, and, unlike McClellan, keeping them informed of his plans.

As lieutenant general and commanding general, Grant presided over four administrative field


divisions embracing seventeen subcommands and employing half a million combat soldiers. That some further adjustments were needed in the grade structure was evident in the fact that, under the wartime structure of volunteer rank, Grant was senior to 73 major generals and 271 brigadier generals. The Union could take a back seat to the Confederacy in this regard, for the South had long before solved its grade structure problems by assigning full generals to command separate armies, lieutenant generals to command corps, major generals to command divisions, and brigadier generals to command brigades. And at the apex, General Robert E. Lee was additionally appointed general in chief of the Armies of the Confederate States in February 1865. The Union did not bring its senior officer into line until after the war, when a bill was finally introduced to revive the rank intended for but never bestowed upon George Washington. The title of the grade was modified from the 1799 version-General of the Armies of the United States-to General of the Army of the United States. Ulysses Grant assumed four-star rank on 25 July 1866, and Major General William T. Sherman moved into the vacated lieutenant generalcy. Grant thus became Americas first full general under the Constitution, as Washington's rank had been conferred in 1775 by the Continental Congress.47

The end of the Civil War, Lincoln's death, and Grant's retention of the top military post during a period when the Army acquired a central role in the reconstruction process, placed the commanding general at center stage on the national scene. His position exposed him to problems that, endemic to the job and present in the best of times, were exacerbated by postwar agitation. President Andrew Johnson's leniency in dealing with the South raised problems for the Army and led to the unusual situation in which the secretary of war and the commanding general found themselves allied with the Congress in opposition to the policies of the commander in chief. The sharp differences between the president and the Congress over how to proceed with reconstruction prompted the legislators to pass a series of acts to assert their supremacy and protect sympathetic executive officials, notably Stanton and Grant, from peremptory presidential reaction.

The Command of the Army Act, attached to the Army Appropriations Act of 1867 and of questionable constitutional validity, provided that presidential orders to the Army be issued through the commanding general whose headquarters would be in Washington, and who could not be removed from office without Senate approval. The Tenure of Office Act denied the president the right to remove cabinet officers-presumably his own appointees-from office without Senate approval, almost a reverse confirmation procedure. The Congress had Secretary Stanton, a Lincoln appointee, in mind in this measure, one that was also of dubious constitutionality. Finally, the First and Third Reconstruction Acts divided the South into five military districts and authorized their commanders, major general in rank, to superintend civil processes and report directly to Washington, essentially free of civil control. The net effect of all of this was to make the commanding general rather than the commander in chief the effective head of the Army, or at least that part of it assigned to reconstruction duty in the South.48

Highly sensitive to constitutional prerogatives, angered by congressional attempts to frustrate his reconstruction policies, and indignant over opposition within his executive family, President Johnson on 12 August 1867 suspended Stanton from office and appointed General Grant as secretary of war ad interim. Grant, ill-disposed to be at the center of a controversy between his departmental superior and the commander in chief, yet thoroughly devoted to the Army, accepted the assignment reluctantly and exercised the title while retaining his position as commanding general. When the Congress, which had been in recess, resumed its deliberations, the Senate refused to concur in Stanton's suspension, invoked the Tenure of Office Act, and Grant relinquished and Stanton reclaimed the secretaryship in January 1868. Johnson retaliated by dismissing Stanton, by offering the post to General Sherman, who refused it, and by attempting to place Adjutant General Lorenzo Thomas in the office. The Congress then launched impeachment proceedings against the president.49

The Senate conducted the trial from March into May, and the final vote of 35 to 19 in favor of impeachment fell one short of the margin required


for conviction. With the disruptive issue settled through constitutional processes but with none of the parties-president, Congress, secretary-so substantially vindicated as to revel in victory, Stanton resigned and the turmoil subsided. The president, and the Congress, perhaps subdued by the experience, agreed, although for different reasons, upon Major General John M. Schofield as a candidate to pick up the war office portfolio.

Only months later, Grant, little damaged by the imbroglio, was elected president of the United States. One day after his inauguration on 4 March 1869 he promoted Lieutenant General William T. Sherman to full general and commanding general of the Army. Major General Philip H. Sheridan was advanced one grade to fill the lieutenant general vacancy.50

Like his three immediate predecessors, William Tecumseh Sherman had graduated from the United States Military Academy. Commissioned in 1840, he held various assignments in the southern states and then served as an aide and adjutant in the East and in California during the Mexican War. He resigned in 1853 to try his hand at banking and law, but his lack of success turned him to the more compatible and more successful occupation of superintendent of a military college in Louisiana. Back in the Army in time to command a brigade in the 1861 Bull Run disaster, he was transferred to the western theater and participated in a succession of operations that culminated in his command of the Union forces there and final defeat of the Confederate armies in the deeper South. He was in command of the Division of the Missouri, with headquarters at St. Louis, when he was ordered to Washington in March 1869 to be the Army's commanding general. Sheridan replaced him at St. Louis.

Having been exposed, as the Army's senior officer and secretary ad interim, to the long-standing controversy between the commanding general and the bureau chiefs, if not the secretary of war, President Grant now had it in his power to resolve matters in the general in chiefs favor on behalf of his successor. To Sherman's great satisfaction Grant did just that on 5 March 1869, directing through Secretary Schofield that "The Chiefs of the Staff Corps, Departments and Bureaus will report to and act under the immediate orders of

Photo:  President Andrew Johnson.
When President Andrew Johnson (above) challenged Congress over Reconstruction policies and suspended Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton (below) for siding with the opposition, the legislature brought impeachment proceedings against him. Ulysses S. Grant consequently found himself in the awkward position of serving not only as commanding general but also as secretary of war ad interim until the constitutional process ran its course. Johnson photographic portrait by Matthew Brady and Stanton portrait by unknown photographer from the collections of the National Archives.
Photo:  Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton.


the General commanding the Army. All official business, which by law or regulation requires the action of the President or Secretary of War, will be submitted by the General of the Army to the Secretary of War; and in general, all orders from the President or Secretary of War to any portion of the Army, line or staff, will be transmitted through the General of the Army."51

Sherman's gratification was short-lived. A week later Schofield departed the War Department and Grant installed his principal wartime staff officer, John Aaron Rawlins, in the secretary's chair. From that vantage point it was Rawlins' interpretation, abetted by strong pressures from the bureau chiefs and congressional representations, that control of the bureaus should be in the hands of the secretary, not the commanding general. Grant deferred to Rawlins' wishes, and only three weeks after the Schofield order, a Rawlins directive switched the channels of bureau business away from the commanding general and back to the secretary of war.52

Rawlins attempted to ease Sherman's displeasure by routing his orders to the bureau chiefs through the commanding general's office, but the action cooled Sherman's relationship with Grant and represented another setback to a resolution of the War Department's own ménage à trois. Rawlins' death in early September and his replacement by William Worth Belknap in October raised the prospect of even further dissension. Little credit accrued to Sherman for a stint as secretary of war ad interim during the Rawlins-Belknap interregnum.

The new secretary was a strong personality, fully prepared to assume every ounce of power and authority prescribed by law and as much more as imprecise definition, administrative vacuum, and tolerant or irresolute officials might allow. Without hesitation, Belknap took over direction of the War Department bureaus and began to intrude upon Sherman's domain, renewing, as Sherman described it, "all the old abuses . . . which had embittered the life of General Scott in the days of Secretaries of War Marcy and Davis. . . ."53

One of Sherman's first encounters with Belknap involved the question of jurisdiction over sutlerships at Army posts. When the secretary infringed upon the commanding general's prerogatives in this regard by replacing a sutler at Fort Laramie, Wyoming, Sherman restored the ousted party. Belknap then worked through friends in Congress to secure legislation that removed the authority from the general in chief and gave it to the secretary. He then installed his own man.

Uncomfortable in the political atmosphere of Washington, unlikely to prevail in clashes with his civilian superior, and with his authority largely circumscribed by the secretary, Sherman followed perhaps the only course open to him during the Belknap administration-that of absenting himself from the capital. From April to June 1871 he made an inspection tour on the Indian frontier, visiting Army units and installations in Texas (where he narrowly escaped a collision with a Kiowa war party), Indian Territory, Kansas, and Nebraska. From November 1871 to September 1872 he made the grand tour of Europe, traveling as a private citizen but accorded the highest honors, official and social, in most of the countries he visited. Then in 1874, taking a lead from Winfield Scott, he moved his headquarters to St. Louis.54

Sherman remained away from the seat of government, abdicating to Belknap the running of the Army as well as the War Department, until 1876. In March of that year the chairman of the legislative committee on expenditures reported to the House of Representatives that Belknap was guilty of malfeasance in office, as a result of having accepted money in return for the award of a post tradership at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. The evidence led the House to vote unanimously to impeach the secretary of war, but Belknap resigned even as the Senate's vote fell short of the two-thirds margin required for conviction.55

President Grant then appointed Alphonso Taft as secretary of war, and Taft moved at once to get Sherman and Army headquarters back to Washington. His formal order of 6 April returned a goodly measure of control to the commanding general, stipulating that "all orders and instructions relative to military operations, or affecting the military control and discipline of the Army, issued by the President through the Secretary of War, shall be promulgated through the General of the Army, and the Departments of the Adjutant General and the Inspector General shall report to


Photo:  General William T. Sherman.
Photo:  General Philip H. Sheridan.
Photo:  General Nelson A. Miles.
Generals William T. Sherman (left), Philip H. Sheridan (center), and Nelson A. Miles (right) took office expecting to command the whole Army. When these proud, ambitious, strong-willed, and distinguished soldiers found that the scope of their power and control as commanding general had been largely circumscribed, they vented their frustrations in part by relocating headquarters, making official trips, and writing personal memoirs. Sherman and Sheridan photographic portraits by Matthew Brady; Miles photographic portrait by the U.S. Army Signal Corps. From the collections of the National Archives.

him and be under his control in all matters relating thereto." Said General Sherman: "This was all I had ever asked."56

Sherman spent his remaining years as commanding general on good terms with the last four of the eight secretaries he served under in almost fifteen years as general in chief: James Donald Cameron, George Washington McCrary, Alexander Ramsey, and Robert Todd Lincoln. He saw the Army through its "Dark Ages," when strength, appropriations, pay, and even rank levels were under legislative assault, and he turned aside active attempts to get him to stand as a presidential candidate. He acted with rare consideration when, faced with the statutory requirement to retire at age 64, he relinquished the title of commanding general in November 1883 so that his successor would have time to prepare the Army's congressional presentation for the coming year.57

When Sherman retired from the Army in February 1884, the troublesome constitutional and statutory problems that surrounded the office of commanding general were yet unresolved. That they had not succumbed to the best efforts of a famous, well-connected, able, strong-willed leader suggested that the very nature of the senior officer's job was uncertain. An irascible Sherman had tried to straighten things out but had failed; now a combative Sheridan would have his turn.

As with his four immediate predecessors, Philip Henry Sheridan had graduated from West Point. He served on the Rio Grande frontier and against Indians in the Northwest before the Civil War drew him into operations in the border states and the South. His instrumental role at Chickamauga and Chattanooga brought him into Grant's circle, and to command of the cavalry of the Army of the Potomac when Grant took over the main Union forces. A key figure in the final operations in Virginia, he went on to administer the Division of the Gulf during the external threat represented by Maximilian's suzerainty in Mexico, and was military governor of New Orleans during reconstruction. He followed Sherman to the Division of the Missouri and its Indian campaigns, and to Washington as commanding general, picking up the reins on 1 November 1883.

At the time Sheridan entered office the responsibility and authority of the General of the Army was touched upon in the Army Regulations of 1881. Several of the provisions harkened back to the first published expressions of 1834-1835, and a tenuous trail had appeared in general orders


and regulations at intervals down through the years, although the provisions fell far short of the required substance. Article XV of the 1881 edition of the regulations referenced earlier publications for antecedence:


125. The military establishment is under the orders of the General of the Army in all that pertains to its discipline and military control. The fiscal arrangements of the Army belong to the several administrative departments of the Staff, under the direction of the Secretary of War, and to the Treasury Department.-[G.O. 28, 1876; R.S. 1133, et seq.]

126. All orders and instructions relating to military operations, or affecting the military control and discipline of the Army, issued by the President or the Secretary of War, will be promulgated through the General of the Army.-[G.O. 28, 1869; G.O. 28, 1876.]58

The dichotomy that placed the military establishment under the commanding general for discipline and control and under the secretary and the staff bureaus for fiscal affairs perpetuated the command problem. "Basic to the controversy was an assertion of the primacy of the line over the staff departments, for which there was a theoretical foundation in the developing conception of war as a science and the practice of that science as the sole purpose of military forces. Since the Army existed only to fight, it followed that its organization, training, and every activity should be directed to the single end of efficiency in combat. Therefore, the staff departments, which represented technicism, existed only to serve the purposes of the line, which represented professionalism. From that proposition it followed that the line in the person of the Commanding General, should control the staff."59

Remarking that Sherman "threw up the sponge," Sheridan moved to the attack by announcing it as his interpretation that the president's order assigning him to command the Army necessarily included all of the Army, not excepting the chiefs of the staff departments. To prove the point, he ordered one of the bureau chiefs out on an inspection tour without informing Secretary of War Robert Todd Lincoln. When Lincoln learned that the head of one of his staff departments had departed on a field trip without his sanction, he informed Sheridan in writing that he was sure the commanding general had missed the true meaning of the president's order relative to command of the Army.60

Sheridan's lesson in humility did not stop there. When the secretary of war was absent from Washington, the senior bureau chief served as acting secretary. Thus, as General Schofield later described it, Sheridan, "the loyal subordinate soldier who had commanded great armies and achieved magnificent victories in the field while those bureau chiefs were purveying powder and balls, or pork and beans," had to submit to this because of "the theory that the general of the army was not an officer of the War Department and hence could not be appointed Acting Secretary of War." Although this construction did not endure, it lasted long enough for General Sheridan to suffer a situation under which the adjutant general, junior in rank and supposedly a subordinate under the commanding general, served as acting secretary of war, supposedly over the commanding general.61

Chafing under the compromise of the general in chief's authority, Sheridan lost no opportunity to raise the problem and press for action to codify the government and regulation of the military establishment and to position the commanding general in the direct line of command at the top of the uniformed service. When General Schofield addressed the subject in his 1885 report to Sheridan concerning developments in the Division of the Missouri, the lieutenant general of the Army was impressed. "I most heartily coincide with the remarks of General Schofield on the need of military legislation," he informed Secretary of War William C. Endicott in his own summary report. "His views are of so much importance that I transfer them bodily to my report:"

There is a great need in the military service of legislation under the power conferred by the Constitution upon Congress to make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces.

It is sometimes of supreme importance that the responsibilities of military administration and command be clearly defined by law. And it is important at all times that the rules for the government of the military service be established, like other laws, by competent authority, after due consideration, and under all the


light which experience can bring to the aid of the legislature. Regulations thus established, and subject to change only by Congress, would have such degree of stability as to become the basis of a sound military system which up to the present time has not existed in this country.

Although the regulations have undergone changes almost without number, the most important questions involved in the command and government of the Army which have been the source of constant embarrassment and the cause of much controversy for many years, remain unsettled at the present time. No commanding general, from the highest to the lowest, can know the extent or limits of his authority, and no one can have any staff responsible to him for the faithful execution of his orders.

During the last twenty-five years the country has passed through three momentous crises, wherein these unsettled questions were of vital importance to the nation, and their decision, for the occasion, depended solely upon individual opinions. Another such crisis may not be far distant, when such a decision might not be so fortunate for the country. Hence, while I present the necessity of a considerable increase of the Army, I also suggest, as a still greater necessity, that laws be established by Congress for the 'government and regulation' of the military forces.62

If the commanding general's authority was circumscribed, so was his rank. When Sheridan took over the senior officer's position, he retained his three-star rank because of the Army Appropriations Act of 1870 provision specifying that "the offices of General and Lieutenant General of the army shall continue until a vacancy shall occur . . . and no longer. . . ." This stipulation made the ranks of general and lieutenant general personal to Sherman and Sheridan, respectively, with the four-star level lapsing at the time of Sherman's retirement.63

Congressional sentiment against upper-level institutional rank, firm during periods of peace and routine operation, had a way of softening to meet special individual circumstances. As noted above, the Congress in February 1855 had revived the grade of lieutenant general, specifying that it could be conferred by brevet only, "to acknowledge eminent services of a major general of the army in the late war with Mexico." The honor was tailored for and bestowed upon Winfield Scott.64 Again, in February 1864, the Congress, with Ulysses Grant in mind, had revived the grade of lieutenant general in the Army of the United States so that it could be conferred upon a major general "most distinguished for courage, skill, and ability."65 The congressional action of July 1866 reviving the rank of general was intended for Grant as the victorious field commander in the late war rather than as the appropriate rank for the uniformed head of the Army.66 And now in 1888 the Congress, prompted by Sheridan's rapidly failing health, acted on behalf of the individual rather than the institution by discontinuing the grade of lieutenant general, merging it with the grade of general, and ensuring that the four-star billet go to Sheridan by stipulating that it should continue "during the lifetime of the present Lieutenant General of the Army, after which such grade shall also cease."67

Sheridan's four-star rank was approved on 1 June 1888. On 2 August he signed the preface to his memoirs, and on 5 August 1888, still the Army's commanding general, he died. Nine days later General Schofield, the senior major general, was appointed to succeed him as commanding general of the Army.

With his designation as the Army's senior officer, John McAllister Schofield continued the succession of West Point graduates in the commanding general's chair. Early in his career he had taught philosophy at his alma mater, and physics while on leave at Washington University of St. Louis. The Civil War drew him into field operations in Missouri, with command assignments at department, division, corps, and army levels in the western and southern theaters. In the postwar period he visited France on a confidential diplomatic mission concerning the French presence in Mexico, succeeded Stanton in mid-1868 as President Andrew Johnson's secretary of war, and then successively headed several of the Army's major geographical commands, coming to the senior officer post from command of the Division of the Atlantic.

Schofield differed from his immediate predecessors in both personality and philosophy. Operating from the premise that a soldier might properly crave recognition, including promotion, from "past services," he saw individual efforts to achieve "higher command, greater power, and more unrestrained authority" as evidence of "ambition inconsistent with due military sub-


ordination and good citizenship." Thus, upon Sheridan's death, although he was the senior major general of the Army, Schofield made no move to seek the office of commanding general and allowed no one to speak for him.68

When President Grover Cleveland selected him to be commanding general, Schofield brought into play special skills and experience. His teaching, command, and diplomatic background, coupled with upwards of ten months as secretary of war and "a more modest ambition" than that possessed by his predecessors, gave him a breadth of vision and a sensitive appreciation of the controversy concerning the relationships between the command and administration of the Army. He had no illusions about the state of things; as he wrote later, "the condition of the War Department at that time was deplorable." One of his first official acts was to send a written order to the adjutant general specifying that all orders issued by the commanding general or in his name should be shown to the secretary of war before being released. He submitted to the president a paper on the general subject of command of the Army, and used it as his guide while in office. Staff officers commented that "for the first time the [commanding] general actually does command the Army."69

Command relationships during Schofield's tenure ran smoothly because Schofield "regarded himself as a Chief of Staff of the President and Secretary of War, rather than a self-assertive commanding general." Schofield served as commanding general under Presidents Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison, and again Cleveland, and under one lawyer, Secretary William

Photo:  John M. Schofield.

John M. Schofield, a former secretary of war, brought a new philosophy and a strong personality to the office of commanding general. His efficient and effective tour, next to last in the succession under the "command" format, provided some insights as to how the senior Army officer could operate in a chief of staff mode. Photographic portrait by Matthew Brady from the collections of the National Archives.


Crowninshield Endicott, and three businessmen, Secretaries Redfield Proctor, Stephen Benton Elkins, and Daniel Scott Lamont. He corrected a situation under which, as he saw it, "the adjutant general had in practice come very near being 'commander-in-chief'" by directing that no order, including routine ones, be issued in his name without his knowledge. He prided himself on the fact that perfect harmony was established between the War Department and Army headquarters.70

John Schofield served the bulk of his tour as commanding general in the rank of major general. His performance so impressed his superiors that President Cleveland took the unusual step of recommending to Congress that the temporary rank of lieutenant general be revived in Schofield's behalf as "a just and gracious act" that would permit his retirement "with rank befitting his merits." Although the proposal called forth old and somewhat familiar objections, a joint resolution was finally passed and became law on 5 February 1895. General Schofield completed his military service at three-star rank and retired on 29 September 1895. On 5 October, Nelson A. Miles, the senior major general, assumed command of the United States Army.71

Unlike his six immediate predecessors, all West Pointers, Nelson Appleton Miles had entered military service through Massachusetts volunteer channels at the outset of the Civil War and advanced from lieutenant to brigadier general


in the Army of the Potomac, serving with distinction through regimental and division levels. After the war, and a promotion to major general of volunteers in command of a corps, he served as commander of Fort Monroe, Virginia, and, for a time, acted as custodian over former Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Commissioned in the regular establishment in 1866, he served principally on the frontier during the quarter century of the Indian wars, forging a reputation as one of the Army's leading Indian campaigners. In the fall of 1895, while in command of the Department of the East at New York, he was designated commanding general of the Army and, shortly thereafter, moved to Washington.

Miles differed from Schofield in personality, method, and style, and the harmony cultivated so assiduously by Schofield fell before his successor's assault. As one perceptive historian describes it, "General Miles, coming to Washington as commanding general, energetic, conscious of his powers, and eager to do, had, like most of his predecessors, felt the hypnotic influence of ancient liturgies and tinkling bells. He found that in that hierarchy he counted as little as a Moravian bishop in the College of Cardinals. He might or might not have great plans for reform; in either case it did not matter. The adjutant-general was the real power; the arch-bureaucrat was pope."72

In the post-Civil War retrenchment, Army strength had dropped sharply to hover finally around 26,000 throughout most of the quarter century of the Indian wars. In his first few years in office Miles addressed the subject actively, proposing that military strength be cut loose from an automatic figure that had no particular significance, and be tied instead to population levels: "The Army should grow as the nation grows." In addition to pushing for increases in strength he suggested improvements in coast defenses and recommended the rotation of duties between staff and line.73 In 1897 he spent several months in Europe, visiting Italy, Greece, Turkey, Russia, Austria, Germany, France, and England, observing their armies and attending several functions. The role of America's distinguished representative abroad may well have been more satisfying than the commanding general sinecure back home.

The commanding general was nothing if not the military adviser to the president, and when the battleship Maine exploded in Cuba's Havana Harbor on 15 February 1898 and the United States began preparations for a probable war with Spain, General Miles took the opportunity to express his views to the commander in chief. Having long pressed for expansion of the Army, he now found himself urging upon President William McKinley a more modest mobilization than the administration desired, because of the time required to train and equip large numbers of troops and the negative impact of the resulting diversion of officers and supplies. When war was declared, he differed strongly with Secretary of War Russell A. Alger's acquiescence in Navy contingency plans to invade Cuba and attack Havana, pointing out that a force could not be prepared before the onset of the unhealthy rainy season, and, in any case, it would be foolish to go up against prepared positions with inadequate forces. When he was ordered early in May to lead an expedition of 70,000 men against Cuba at once, and issued orders to put things in motion, he yet requested an audience with the president to point out that, because of diversions of stocks for a force dispatched to the Philippines, there was not on hand-and would not be for two months-sufficient ammunition to supply the designated force for one hour's battle. The president deferred operations to a later day.74

Because of a mix of politics, personalities, and problems, the War with Spain became a period of contention for the commanding general of the Army. His intervention with the president put him at odds with the secretary of war. His preference for an invasion of Puerto Rico ahead of Cuba was overridden in favor of an operation against Santiago. His appearance at the Tampa, Florida, staging area raised questions as to whether he intended to supersede the expedition commander, Major General William R. Shafter, and his wire request to the secretary of war seeking approval to accompany the expedition went unanswered and became a subject of sharp debate. His vocal criticism of the chaotic logistical situation at Tampa and of the poor quality of beef rations supplied the troops put him at loggerheads with the bureau chiefs, and a series of press interviews from the


field voicing his complaints of War Department actions along a number of lines received such wide coverage that the president was forced to appoint a commission to investigate the conduct of the war. Though public opinion leaned his way, Miles was considered by some to be insubordinate and by others to be motivated by presidential ambition. His allegations eventually fell for lack of conclusive evidence, and the inquiry faded when the investigating body recommended that it would be in the best interests of the Army if the whole thing were dropped.75

The Army was ill-prepared to cope with the command and administrative complexities raised by the War with Spain. Sharp differences developed between the secretary of war, the commanding general, and the bureau chiefs, and antiquated procedures retarded timely and effective action. As Miles clashed with Secretary Alger and the department heads, President McKinley turned increasingly to the adjutant general, Henry C. Corbin, for advice and assistance. "Amid changing plans, conflicting orders, and clashing personalities, Corbin's calm, tact, physical endurance, and administrative efficiency held the creaking military machine on course. After the end of May [1898], General Miles spent much of his time away from Washington, therefore, except for the actual direction of field operations, all the myriad details of army command fell upon Corbin. . . . Having lost confidence in both Alger and Miles, President McKinley began turning to Corbin for military advice and assistance in implementing his policies. By late June he had made Corbin his de facto chief of staff."76

Miles' propensity for keeping the government embroiled in front page disputes might well have soured his superiors to a point where they would have been disposed to deny him any further advancement in his profession. Such was not the case, and when the respective and normally antipathetic supporters of the Army's commanding general and its adjutant general-themselves instinctive opponents by virtue of personality, function, and the long history of departmental dissension-joined forces to move both officials up a notch in the ladder of rank, the executive branch placed no barriers in the way. Miles advanced to lieutenant general, Corbin to major general, on 6 June 1900, although not with a great degree of unanimity. The legislation took the form of amendments to the Military Appropriations Act of 1900, and on motions to disagree, Miles' promotion won out by a margin of 143 to 117, while Corbin's was approved by a vote of 107 to 61.77

If Miles had held his own in skirmishes with President McKinley and Secretary Alger, he more than met his match in their successors, President Theodore Roosevelt and Secretary of War Elihu Root. When Miles wandered outside his official domain to comment publicly on the verdict of a court of inquiry that investigated a controversy between Admirals William T. Sampson and Winfield S. Schley concerning the conduct of naval operations at the battle of Santiago, he drew a public rebuke from Secretary Root on behalf of the administration in a letter released to the press on 21 December 1901. "You had no business in the controversy," wrote the secretary, "and no right, holding the office which you did, to express any opinion. Your conduct was in violation of the regulations . . . and of the rules of official propriety, and you are justly liable to censure which I now express." President Roosevelt followed this up with an oral reprimand at a White House reception when Miles attempted to discuss the matter with him.78

Only weeks later, on 17 February 1902, Miles had a further clash with his civilian superiors, this time over his proposal that he take a delegation of Cubans and Puerto Ricans to the Philippine Islands-where American forces had been fighting insurrectionists since the departure of the Spanish-and convince insurgent leaders of the benefits of American sovereignty. Secretary Root rejected the plan out of hand, pointing out that Governor William Howard Taft and the Philippine Commission, assisted by the commander on the scene, Major General Adna R. Chaffee, were fully capable of dealing with the situation. President Roosevelt personally endorsed Root's disapproval.79

Finding himself blocked at every turn at the seat of government, yet not easily repulsed, Miles tried once again in August to secure approval for a visit to the active theater in the Philippines. This time his request was approved; indeed, Root suggested that he take an extended trip, moving on to Japan and China, riding the Trans-Siberian


Railroad to Russia, and continuing on to Western Europe. Some plausible missions were raised: a military inspection of the Philippines, an inspection of the legation guard in Peking, an appraisal of military conditions in Manchuria, an evaluation of the military capacity of the Siberian railroad. In truth, the secretary was interested in having Miles out of the capital while he advanced a plan for the reorganization of the Army, one that would eliminate the position of commanding general and make the Army's senior officer chief of a general staff.80

Miles' departure from Washington failed to quiet agitations that seemed to eddy about the commanding general no matter what his location. He left behind him some discordant testimony before a congressional committee on Root's draft bill to create a general staff. On the island of Guam he urged but did not secure the release from imprisonment there of the former Filipino secretary of state. In the Philippines he reacted to reports of abuse of Filipino prisoners in American hands by issuing strict orders prohibiting coercive methods to obtain information, creating a stir back in Washington that produced some corrective action but also a secretarial admonition to leave such matters to the authorities on the scene. From the Philippines he finally cut loose on the more distant and remote legs of his global journey, leaving Secretary Root the respite he had sought from the commanding general's meddlesome ways.81

By the time Miles returned to Washington in the spring of 1903 he was nearing retirement age. Finally, at noon on 8

Photo:  Secretary of War Elihu Root.

Secretary of War Elihu Root brought a brilliant mind, a lawyer's training, and broad experience in cases involving municipal government and corporate law to his administration of the War Department. He instituted the series of reforms that changed the senior officer's title and role from commanding general to chief of staff. U.S. Army Signal Corps photograph from the collections of the National Archives.

August, his sixty-fourth birthday, Nelson A. Miles left active service. Neither the president nor the secretary of war attended the ceremony, although Miles' successor as senior officer, Samuel B. M. Young, promoted to lieutenant general at ten o'clock that morning, was on hand to wish his predecessor "a long and happy retired life."82

Although General Miles was portrayed as "the last of the powerful military politicians" and was a troublesome figure in the departmental hierarchy, his power was seriously circumscribed by the unworkable structure at higher headquarters, while his clashes with authority were at once the result of his attempts to vivify his title and vent his frustrations over his empty role. He was not unique in this regard, for Scott, Sherman, and Sheridan had issued from the same mold. Yet Miles was exceptional after all, for his path crossed that of Elihu Root and the Root reforms made Miles the last of his kind.

President William McKinley was responsible for bringing Root to Washington. When asked to take the post of secretary of war, Root demurred, saying that he knew nothing about war and nothing about the Army. The president responded that he needed a lawyer to administer the colonial territories acquired in the recent War with Spain. This struck a chord in Root and he accepted. The president had chosen well. Born at Canton, New York, in 1845, Elihu Root had graduated from Hamilton College there and moved on to New York University Law School and admission to the bar. After a year with the firm of Mann and Parsons, he established his own office, developing a practice around cases involving banks and railroads, wills and estates, but later specializing


in cases involving municipal government and corporate law, and by the close of the century he was considered to be "the acknowledged leader of the American bar."83 Long active in local politics in New York, the cabinet post now drew him onto the national scene.

Upon entering office on 1 August 1899, Secretary Root began methodically to study the Army's organization and functions in the light of its responsibilities. He consulted with staff officers, notably General Corbin, the adjutant general, and one of Corbin's able and analytical subordinates, Lieutenant Colonel William Harding Carter. He read the published and unpublished works of the late Colonel and Brevet Major General Emory Upton on European and Asian armies and American military policy; read British military writer Spenser Wilkinson's The Brain of an Army; and digested the report of Major General Grenville M. Dodge's investigating commission on the conduct of the War Department in the War with Spain. Working from the premise that "the real object of having an Army is to provide for war," and that the government and therefore the Army were similar to industrial establishments and could "profit by the lessons which the world of industry and of commerce has learned to such good effect," he began to cultivate support in Congress and around the country for a program of reform which he gradually exposed through a series of masterful annual reports.84

Root wasted no time in coming to grips with the Army's basic problems. He submitted his first report to the president within four months of his arrival on the scene. He saw the preparation of the Army for war-its fundamental purpose-as involving four main elements: systematic contingency planning, timely preparation of war materiel, merit selection of officers, and large unit training. He recommended that an Army war college be established, that company-grade officers attend it if not already service school graduates, that the promotion system be modified to permit advancement for merit as well as seniority, and that promotion boards be established to provide competent and disinterested bodies "to pass judgment on the record. . . ."85

The secretary of war moved with deliberation on his plan to reshape the Army. Although some steps could be taken under existing law and by executive authority, others of a pivotal nature would require new legislation. The climate was not unfavorable for reform. The War with Spain had drawn the nation outward onto the world scene, posing new dimensions for military forces in national life. The Army had been made the executive agent in the administration of the new and widely scattered insular possessions acquired from Spain, and operations against insurgents in the Philippines and Boxers in China continued to absorb national attention. The glaring defects exposed by the recent war were matters of both official and public concern. Thus, while there was a certain amount of resistance to change and predictable opposition within the Army and in Congress from entrenched officials and special interests, the opportunities were there for an advocate of the caliber of Elihu Root.

Root proposed to correct the basic problem of divided authority at the top of the War Department by changing the title of the Army's senior officer from commanding general to chief of staff. The change was important, indeed essential, for "the titles denote and imply in the officers bearing them the existence of widely different kinds of authority."86

The officer invested with the title of commanding general had every right to expect to command, but such had not been the case. Experience had shown that it was impossible for any officer to really exercise "the powers which appear and are assumed to be conferred along with the title of 'Commanding General of the Army'." The president was the constitutional commander of the Army and the secretary of war his direct representative charged with supervision over the expenditure of "the vast sums of money appropriated annually by Congress for the support of the Army." Because the Congress had always looked to the civilian head of the War Department to hold the purse strings, "the laws require all the great departments [Engineer, Ordnance, Quartermaster, Subsistence, etc.] which build the fortifications and furnish the arms, supplies, and munitions of war, and actually expend the money for those purposes . . . to act under the direction of the Secretary and withhold from the officer who is called 'Commanding General of the Army' all


Photo:  In early 1903 the Congress passed legislation to implement reforms proposed by Secretary of War Elihu Root, including creation of the General Staff Corps. A board of officers convened in March to select forty-two officers from the Army at large for assignment to the General Staff. The board members were, left to right, were Brigadier General William H. Carter, Major General Adna R. Chaffee, Major General Samuel B. M. Young (chairman), Major Henry A. Greene, M ajor General John C. Bates, Brigadier General Tasker H. Bliss, and Brigadier General Wallace F. Randolph. Of these, Young, Chaffee, Bates, and Bliss would all become chief of staff.
In early 1903 the Congress passed legislation to implement reforms proposed  by Secretary of War Elihu Root, including creation of the General Staff Corps. A board of officers convened in March to select forty-two officers from the Army at large for assignment to the General Staff. The board members were, left  to right, were Brigadier General William H. Carter, Major General Adna R. Chaffee, Major General Samuel B. M. Young (chairman), Major Henry A. Greene, Major General John C. Bates, Brigadier General Tasker H. Bliss, and Brigadier General  Wallace F. Randolph. Of these, Young, Chaffee, Bates, and Bliss would all become  chief of staff. U.S. Army photograph.

control over those departments." Thus Secretary Root explained the nub of the problem.

What was needed, proclaimed Secretary Root, was a chief of staff who would operate as the Army's general manager, presiding over a general staff that would assist him in the dual role of supervising current operations and planning for future contingencies. The very title of chief of staff, said Root, "denotes a duty to advise, inform, and assist a superior officer who has command, and to represent him, acting in his name and by his authority, in carrying out his policies and securing the execution of his commands." The incumbent must be "perfectly loyal" and must "hold the entire confidence of his commander." By relinquishing the idea of independent command embodied in the title of commanding general, and by performing the functions Root visualized for a chief of staff, the secretary was convinced that the Army's senior officer could "exercise a great and commanding influence in the control of the Army, and practically manage it in all military matters." General Schofield had shown how it could be done.

Secretary Root obtained the corrective legislation he sought on 14 February 1903, when Congress passed an act to increase the efficiency of the Army. Under its provisions the General Staff Corps was established, to be composed of officers detailed from the Army at large and to rotate between the staff and line. The members of the corps were placed under the supervision of a chief of staff who, under the direction of the president and the secretary of war, was designated to


supervise not only the troops of the line but the Adjutant General's, Inspector General's, Judge Advocate General's, Quartermaster, Subsistence, Pay, Medical, and Ordnance Departments, the Corps of Engineers, and the Signal Corps. The General Staff Corps was assigned to the specific duties of preparing plans for the national defense and for mobilization in time of war; investigating and reporting upon all questions affecting the efficiency of the Army and its state of preparation for military operations; and rendering professional aid and assistance to the secretary of war and to general officers and other superior commanders.87

On 8 August 1903, the day of General Miles' retirement, Major General Samuel B. M. Young, elevated to three-star rank, was assigned to command the Army for one week, when the legislation creating the General Staff Corps would take effect and he would assume the duties of chief of staff. Second in seniority in the Army and a distinguished veteran of Civil War campaigns and operations growing out of the War with Spain, Young came to the senior officer post from recent consecutive duty as president of the War College Board established by Root in November 1901 to oversee officer education, then senior member of a board formed in March 1903 to select forty-two officers for detail to the newly created General Staff Corps.88

General Young became the Army's first chief of staff, as scheduled, on 15 August 1903. The officers recommended for service on the General Staff had already been approved and assembled in Washington as a provisional staff to work out the operational details for the corps. The bureau chiefs and department commanders had been consulted concerning rules and procedures so that by mid-August the Army General Staff had been organized and could begin to function with a proper distribution of duties and a working body of regulations.89

The creation of the position of chief of staff and General Young's installation as the senior officer in the new mode established an organizational format that exists to this day. Not all of the problems were solved in one stroke, nor were the new arrangements to progress smoothly, for there remained traditionalist opposition to rationalist reform. Although Secretary Root got his Army War College in November 1903, his proposal that the Quartermaster, Subsistence, and Pay Departments be consolidated would not be effected until 1912 during Secretary Henry L. Stimson's administration.

One of the major causes of inceptive instability lay in personnel turnover. The secretary of war and the chief of staff both left office in January 1904, and the knowledgeable William H. Carter preceded Root and Young by a few days. General Corbin, who as adjutant general "had been sympathetic toward the General Staff idea and had worked hard in putting [it] across to both Congress and the Army although it meant the eclipse of the department he headed," moved out to a field assignment in April in line with the provisions of the act that created the General Staff Corps.90

Thus in the critical formative period of the newly adopted reforms, those who conceived and installed the long needed corrective measures were replaced by officials who were either lacking in the grasp and dedication required to advance the new order or were firmly wedded to the old way of things. When Secretary Root, as one of his final acts, consolidated several administrative agencies in order to centralize recordkeeping and free the chief of staff and the General Staff to exercise their policy and planning functions, he was the unwitting agent of unexpected ramifications that led to both a perpetuation of some of the very departmental problems he had done so much to resolve and a delay in the realization of their solution.91

The difficulty arose as a result of the departure of Adjutant General Corbin, the consolidation of the Adjutant General's Office and the Record and Pension Office into the Military Secretary's Office, and the designation of Fred C. Ainsworth of the Record and Pension Office as head of the new bureau. In the process, Ainsworth, who proved to be adept at developing connections in Congress and at influencing legislation favorable to himself, was elevated to major general, which put him one grade above his fellow bureau heads.

Although Ainsworth's consolidation of his position and creeping accretion of power placed him automatically at odds with the other bureau chiefs, it was his rivalry with the General Staff, and consequently with his superiors, that


Photo:  Thirty-one of the forty-two members of the newly formed Army General Staff assembled in the spring of 1903 for this group photograph, taken by the E. B. Thompson Photo News Service of Washington, D.C. General Samuel B. M. Young, soon to be the first chief of staff of the Army, is seated at center, with General Tasker H. Bliss on his left.

Thirty-one of the forty-two members of the newly formed Army General Staff assembled in the spring of 1903 for this group photograph, taken by the E. B. Thompson Photo  News Service of Washington, D.C. General Samuel B. M. Young, soon to be  the first chief of staff of the Army, is seated at center, with General Tasker H.  Bliss on his left. From the Peyton C. March papers in the collections  of the Library of Congress.

eventually would bring him down. He held his own through the tours of three chiefs of staff-Adna R. Chaffee, John C. Bates, and J. Franklin Bell-all of whom were interested in being relieved of as much administrative detail as possible, and three secretaries of war-William H. Taft, Luke E. Wright, and Jacob M. Dickinson-all of whom preferred harmony to internecine strife. The next lineal descendants in the respective chairs were of a different stripe. Major General Leonard Wood, who became chief of staff in April 1910, was a figure in the Winfield Scott tradition, able, ambitious, and forceful if not domineering; Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, able, dedicated, high-minded, and public-spirited, a lawyer and protégé of Elihu Root in the legal profession, entered office in May 1911 and set about consolidating his mentor's reforms.

Stimson had not been long in office when he was called upon to settle a dispute between Wood and Ainsworth over the assignment of officers to recruiting depots. Ainsworth, now adjutant general following restoration of the title in 1907, took it as an infringement of his prerogatives when the chief of staff informed him that the General Staff had selected a list of candidates for depot command from which he could make a choice. Ainsworth voiced his exception to this in a communication to the secretary of war; Wood then commented upon it in a memorandum to Secretary Stimson in which he pointed out, among other things, that the adjutant general was a subordinate officer of the War Department under the supervision of the chief of staff and his communication represented "an act of gross official insubordination and discourtesy" to his


Photo:  Adjutant General Fred C. Ainsworth.
Photo:  Chief of Staff Leonard Wood
The historic rivalry between the bureau chiefs and the Army's senior officer survived the Root reforms to erupt again in 1912, when Adjutant General Fred C. Ainsworth (left) challenged  Chief of Staff Leonard Wood (right) over perceived intrusions upon his traditional domain.  Ainsworth's written protest was so embellished with stinging criticisms, which  inescapably reflected upon his superiors, that Wood passed it to Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson  and President William H. Taft, who concurred in Wood's recommendation of strong disciplinary action.  Realizing that he had overstepped his bounds, Ainsworth asked for and was granted immediate  retirement. U.S. Army Signal Corps photographs from the collections of the National Archives.

superiors. The secretary sided with the chief of staff and so informed the adjutant general.92

The final act of the Ainsworth drama was played out over the relatively insignificant question of whether the muster roll, the soldier's record of service and biographical data, should be streamlined and consolidated with organizational returns and payrolls as an economy measure. A Presidential Commission on Efficiency and Economy had been directed to make a detailed investigation of governmental operations, and an offshoot War Department Board on Business Methods, chaired by Ainsworth, had moved the focus to military operations. The General Staff had sought suggestions and had approved a proposal that a descriptive list replace the cumbersome muster roll. General Wood asked General Ainsworth to comment on the proposal.

Ainsworth was at once opposed to any change in the format of the muster roll and convinced that inexperienced and unqualified individuals were tampering with official documents and intruding upon his special domain. His reply was so laced with derogatory statements against those who opposed his views-in this instance, the secretary of war and the chief of staff among others-that General Wood laid the matter before Secretary Stimson and President Taft. With the commander in chief's concurrence, the secretary relieved the adjutant general of his duties "pending consideration of disciplinary measures to be taken. . . ." On the following day Ainsworth asked to be allowed to retire from the Army. His request was approved, and his departure marked "a turning point in the vexed history of the Army's command. Wood's success over Ainsworth, who had led the resistance to the General Staff for a decade, was a moral triumph for the General Staff and, henceforth, caused the bureau chiefs some concern.


The center of gravity of the War Department shifted from the bureaus to the General Staff. Having grasped the ascendancy, the General Staff could now move on to ensure and consolidate its leadership."93

Wartime dilations soon tested the General Staff system and exposed still unsettled weaknesses at the top of the Army. As the First World War progressed and it became increasingly clear that the United States eventually would become involved, it was also plain that the chief of staff's authority and seniority were yet short of absolute, despite his sovereign title and organizational eminence. A lingering lack of definition in the senior military office cried out for a Leonard Wood to establish unquestioned control over the bureaus and give substance to the civilian advisory function. Major General William W. Wotherspoon's six-month tour was hardly long enough for him to grasp the reins, and Major Generals Hugh L. Scott and Tasker H. Bliss both held office on the eve of retirement and fell short of what Secretary of War Newton D. Baker desired in a wartime chief of staff. It was not until Major General Peyton C. March took office in the spring of 1918 that Baker felt he had the man for the job.94

Peyton Conway March had graduated from Lafayette College at Easton, Pennsylvania, and the United States Military Academy. Routine garrison duties and a tour at the artillery school at Fort Monroe, Virginia, brought him to the battlefields of the War with Spain and the Philippine Insurrection, where he served with distinction. He was a provincial governor and commissary general of prisoners in the Philippines before returning to the United States to become one of the first officers posted to the new General Staff; that duty included assignment as an observer with the First Japanese Army in the Russo-Japanese War. After America's entry into the World War, he moved to France as chief of artillery of the American Expeditionary Forces, later receiving his promotion to major general. In March 1918 Secretary Baker called him home to be acting chief of staff, and in May, promoted to the temporary rank of full general, March became chief of staff.

America's entry into the war, the expansion of the military to a magnitude required in world conflict, and the dispatch overseas of major expeditionary forces, had introduced a new element of competition-if not rivalry-into the uniformed leadership of the Army, namely, the rank and precedence of the chief of staff vis-a-vis that of a substantially autonomous senior field commander. With secretarial sanction, General March opened General Order Number 18 of 21 August 1918, on the subject of reorganization of the General Staff, with a broad statement of the chief of staff's authority over the whole Army, including General John J. Pershing and the American Expeditionary Forces:

    The Chief of the General Staff is the immediate adviser of the Secretary of War on all matters relating to the Military Establishment, and is charged by the Secretary of War with the planning, development, and execution of the Army program. The Chief of Staff by law (act of May 12, 1917) takes rank and precedence over all officers of the Army, and by virtue of that position and by authority of and in the name of the Secretary of War, he issues such orders as will insure that the policies of the War Department are harmoniously executed by the several corps, bureaus, and other agencies of the Military Establishment, and that the Army program is carried out speedily and efficiently.95

Even with this clear-cut expression of authority it was in the very nature of the war's evolution that, as the commander of a major oversea expeditionary force that finally numbered two million men, Pershing required and was granted broad discretionary powers in the conduct of the war in the operational theater. Paradoxically but inevitably, this brought him into opposition to March, who, under the secretary of war and the president, had to deal with military affairs and national interests on the broadest of planes at the seat of government. It would have been strange indeed if two strong-willed and able officers in positions of ultimate power and with different perspectives and missions had not found themselves at variance on some matters of policy, method, or decision, even with unquestioned unanimity on higher goals. Pershing and March differed, for example, on the number of divisions the United States should send to France by June 1919; Pershing wanted 100, while March's study of the subject indicated that 80 would be adequate to the war's needs, and, in any case, was the maximum number that could be organized,


Photo:  In a trying search for a thoroughly accomplished chief of staff, Secretary of War Newton D. Baker tested both Hugh L. Scott and Tasker H. Bliss before settling upon Peyton C. March, whom he later decorated for outstanding service in the demanding position.

In a trying search for a thoroughly accomplished chief of staff, Secretary of War  Newton D. Baker tested both Hugh L. Scott and Tasker H. Bliss before settling  upon Peyton C. March, whom he later decorated for outstanding service  in the demanding position. U.S. Army Signal Corps photograph from  the collections of the National Archives.

shipped, and sustained in the theater. On the subject of selection of twenty-five officers for promotion to brigadier general, Pershing objected when eight nominations were allocated for stateside selection as against seventeen in Europe. March cabled him that the Expeditionary Forces were only a part of the American Army and Secretary Baker intended to make promotions "from the entire Army."96

General Pershing had his opportunity to see things from the Washington headquarters horizon when, on 1 July 1921, he succeeded General March as chief of staff. A West Point graduate, his career had included frontier service in the closing years of the Indian wars, combat service in the War with Spain and the Philippine Insurrection, tours as professor of military science at the University of Nebraska and instructor in tactics at West Point, assignment to the General Staff in Washington, and designation as military attaché to Japan during the Russo-Japanese War. His reports on that conflict, and his earlier diplomatic-military achievements in the Philippines earned him President Theodore Roosevelt's nomination for promotion from captain to brigadier general over 862 senior-ranking officers. He led American troops in the Mexican Punitive Expedition before assignment to command the American Expeditionary Forces.97

General Pershing entered the senior military office at a moment when the Congress had passed the National Defense Act of 1920, legislation that would form the basic charter of the military establishment until 1947 and the Army until 1950. The act defined the senior officers role thus:


The Chief of Staff shall preside over the War Department General Staff and, under the direction of the President or of the Secretary of War under the direction of the President, shall cause to be made, by the War Department General Staff, the necessary plans for recruiting, organizing, supplying, equipping, mobilizing, training, and demobilizing the Army of the United States and for the use of the military forces for national defense. He shall transmit to the Secretary of War the plans and recommendations prepared for that purpose by the War Department General Staff and advise him in regard thereto; upon approval of such plans or recommendations by the Secretary of War, he shall act as the agent of the Secretary of War in carrying the same into effect.98

Although General Pershing brought a great fund of personal prestige to office and was enthusiastic over the promise for Army progress embodied in the National Defense Act of 1920, he became chief of staff at a moment when postwar military retrenchment was in progress and an impetus to economy in government was in the ascendant. On the plus side, the new act rejected the theory of an expansible Army in favor of a three-component Army of the United States in which regular and reserve elements could be prepared in peacetime for their wartime roles. Offices were established in the departmental headquarters for chiefs of the combat arms, placing them on a level with the service bureaus. A Finance Department, Chemical Warfare Service, and Air Service were


created, and a single promotion list replaced separate branch lists. Yet much of the promise went unfulfilled when appropriations and personnel were curtailed. Army strength fluctuated annually between 133,000 and 149,000 in the period from 1922 to 1936, when it finally began to climb toward a World War II peak of almost 8.2 million. Expenditures followed similar trends, ranging within annual limits of $357 and $458 million until 1936 and the start of an ascent to a World War II zenith of $50 billion in 1945.99

Thus the Army in the period between the World Wars felt the effects of a postwar retrenchment, of the wishful thinking engendered by a "war-to-end-all-wars" philosophy, of peacetime relaxation, of worldwide depression. General Pershing and his immediate successors, Major General John L. Hines and Generals Charles P. Summerall (first beneficiary of a 1929 legislative act elevating the chief of staff to four stars while in office), Douglas MacArthur, and Malin Craig, guided the Army through these attenuated times. Craig's efforts during the advent of World War II were to prove invaluable, although they were largely overlooked at the time because they were not attended by crisis, and when the emergency erupted, the spotlight focused automatically upon his successor.

General Pershing brought into the chief of staff's office his aide, one of the American Expeditionary Forces' outstanding officers, Colonel George C. Marshall, and from 1921 to 1924 Marshall had the opportunity to observe and be a part of the inner workings of the Office of the Chief of Staff, excellent preparation for his own assignment, fifteen years later, as the Army's senior officer.

Unlike Generals Pershing, Hines, Summerall, MacArthur, and Craig, all of whom were products of the United States Military Academy, George Catlett Marshall had graduated from the Virginia Military Institute. Commissioned in infantry in February 1902, he served twice in the Philippines and held the usual rotation in stateside troop, staff, and school assignments-the latter as both student and instructor-before assignment to the American Expeditionary Forces as assistant chief of staff for operations of the First Army; in that capacity he executed a notable piece of staff work in connection with the shift of half a million American troops and their guns from the St. Mihiel to the Argonne front. After leaving Pershing's staff in 1924, he spent three years in China, taught briefly at the Army War College, and served as assistant commandant of the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia. Following a mix of teaching, troop, and command assignments, he returned to Washington as assistant chief of staff, acting chief, and, finally, on 1 September 1939 with the rank of general, chief of staff.

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and United States involvement in global war kept General Marshall in his post for six years. The size, scope, and intensity of the conflict challenged the Army's headquarters organization and leadership. World War II differed so radically from World War I that planning based upon experience derived from the earlier conflict had to be modified constantly to meet the new circumstances. General Marshall became in fact the chief strategy and operations adviser to the president, and carried out his departmental managerial role by delegating administrative responsibility to a deputy chief of staff at headquarters and to three major field commands: Army Ground Forces, Army Air Forces, and Army Service Forces. Selecting his own principal deputies and subordinates, decentralizing administrative responsibility, and using the Operations Division of the General Staff as an operating headquarters, the chief of staff, fully supported by Secretary Stimson and President Roosevelt, became the center of military authority in the War Department and the personification of the apical rank bestowed upon him in December 1944-General of the Army.100

At the interservice level, General Marshall became the Army member of a joint committee composed of the senior Army, Navy, and Army Air Forces officers, established to ensure coordination and cooperation between the United States armed forces and to represent American views before a similar British joint service committee. The American Joint Chiefs of Staff acquired increasing authority as the war progressed, and joined their British counterparts in the interallied Combined Chiefs of Staff, a body composed of the professional military chiefs of both countries and responsible to the American


Photo:  Henry L. Stimson.
Photo:  George C. Marshall.
In World War II the United States Army's senior civil and military officials-Secretary  of War Henry L. Stimson (left) and General George C. Marshall (right)-forged  a close working relationship founded upon dedication, cooperation, and mutual  trust and respect. At a V-E Day ceremony the secretary paid tribute to the chief  of staff for his central role in the universal conflict: "Seldom can a man put  aside such a thing as being the commanding general [U.S. and Allied commander  in Europe] of the greatest field army in our history. This decision was made by  you for wholly unselfish reasons. But you have made your position as Chief of  Staff a greater one. I have never seen a task of such magnitude  performed by man." U.S. Army photographs.

president and British prime minister for planning and directing the grand strategy of the coalition under the heads of state. General Marshall's influential role in this joint-combined picture represented the beginnings of the Army chief of staff's participation in the operation of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under a principle of unified command in the conduct of war, and, as noted above, a principal adviser, in company with his fellow service chiefs, to the president of the United States.

In November 1945, General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower, fresh from operational command over victorious Allied forces in a major theater of war, succeeded General Marshall as chief of staff. His views on the shape of things, expressed through the workings of study groups, formalized in Presidential Executive Order 9722 of 13 May 1946 and War Department Circular 138 of 14 May 1946, and characterized as the Eisenhower reorganization, abolished the Army Service Forces and service commands, provided greater autonomy for the Army Air Forces, brought research and development into staff prominence, and emphasized the principle of decentralization. Unlike former occasions when the General Staff and the technical services had been at odds over how the department should be organized and run, those elements now joined in a common opposition to the Army Service Forces that led to its abolishment and the return to the bureau chiefs of their customary control over service activities. The General Staff was instructed to "plan, direct, coordinate, and supervise," and in general to "assist the Chief of Staff in getting things done." This was in line with General Eisenhower's view that teamwork, cooperation, and persuasion were better than tight executive control as a management philosophy.


Painting:  George Washington.
Photo:  Ulysses S. Grant.
Photo:  Dwight D. Eisenhower.
George Washington, Ulysses S. Grant, and Dwight D. Eisenhower, three of the  country's most distinguished soldiers, served as the Army's top uniformed officer at evenly  spaced periods in American history. Their martial accomplishments thrust them onto  the national political scene, and each served two terms as president of the United  States. Several others who held the same senior military position also became party standard-bearers or aspirants to the highest office in the land. Washington portrait by William Dunlap from the United States Capitol Collection; Grant photographic  portrait by Matthew Brady from the collections of the National Archives; Eisenhower  photographic portrait by Fabian Bachrach from the U.S. Army.

Had General Eisenhower preferred to exercise tight executive control, Circular 138 provided the necessary authority:

The Chief of Staff is the principal military adviser to the President and to the Secretary of War on the conduct of war and the principal military adviser and executive to the Secretary of War on the activities of the Military Establishment. The Chief of Staff has command of all components of the Army of the United States . . . and is responsible to the Secretary of War for their use in war and plans and preparations for their readiness for war.101

The global nature of the Second World War with its worldwide deployments, combined operations, and clear demonstration that warfare had become three-dimensional, could not help but draw attention to the subject of unification of the armed forces. The Marshall reorganization had worked so well for the Army that he proposed extending its features to a unified defense establishment. As early as April 1944, and again in October 1945, Army-Marshall proposals were aired before the Congress, and in December 1945 President Harry S. Truman sent an administration version to the Hill. Finally, after wide-ranging discussion, debate, and compromise, the National Security Act of 1947, passed on 26 July, became law. It provided for a civilian secretary of defense over a National Military Establishment in which the Air Force became a separate and co-equal service with the Army and Navy. The War Department became the Department of the Army, and the secretary of war became the secretary of the Army. The act legalized the wartime Joint Chiefs of Staff, the body composed of the chiefs of the military services.102

Weaknesses that appeared in the new organizational structure were dealt with by amendment on 10 August 1949. The designation National Military Establishment was dropped in favor of a new title: Department of Defense. In another step along the road to unification, the Army, Navy, and Air Force were transformed from executive to military departments, still separately administered by their respective secretaries but under the authority, direction, and control of the secretary of defense. Under the new arrangement the service secretaries lost their cabinet status, their membership on the National Security Council, and their direct access to the president. At the same time, the position of chairman of the Joint


Chiefs of Staff was established. He would be appointed from among the Regular officers of the armed services, would take precedence over all other officers, and would preside, although without vote, over the committee composed of the chiefs of the uniformed services.103

While the National Security Act of 1947 and its 1949 amendments were being developed, the Army was studying the body of laws that governed its management and direction. Out of this review came the Army Organization Act of 1950, which clarified the function of the chief of staff as the senior officer of the Army. References to a "command" role were finally eliminated, and parallel Army regulations stated:
Command of the Army and all components thereof is exercised by the President through the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of the Army, who directly represent him, and as the personal representatives of the President, their acts are the President's acts, and their directions and orders are the President's directions and orders.104

Thus the last half of the 1940s saw substantial organizational and managerial change within the Department of the Army. Bridging World War II and the Korean War and embracing the tenures of Generals Marshall, Eisenhower, Omar N. Bradley, and J. Lawton Collins, it was a period of transition when hidebound tradition, resistance to change, wartime lessons, peacetime inertia, advancing technology, and distant threat all influenced the course of military affairs.

The 1949 amendments to the National Security Act brought an Army chief of staff, General Omar Nelson Bradley, into the inaugural chairmanship of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Army Organization Act of 1950 brought long-awaited and long-needed clarification and stability to the chief of staff's fluctuating role as the senior officer. The Army chief of staff now performed a dual role: executive manager of the department under the secretary of the Army, and military adviser to the secretary of defense and the president of the United States as a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In giving substance to the advisory function, General Collins as Army chief of staff became a military adviser to his predecessor thrice-removed when General Marshall was appointed secretary of defense. In an unusual footnote to Army history, Generals Collins, Bradley and Marshall, in their respective concurrent roles as Army chief of staff, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, and secretary of defense, had the unpleasant but unavoidable duty of deliberating upon and concurring in President Truman's relief in 1951 of their distant predecessor as Army chief of staff, General Douglas MacArthur, then commander of American and United Nations forces in the Far East with field responsibility for the prosecution of the Korean War. In his official capacity, General MacArthur had bypassed his superiors in Washington to express personal views that were at odds with governmental positions.

Post-World War II retrenchment and a false sense of security engendered by possession of the atomic bomb had left the United States unprepared for a peripheral conventional war in Korea, and American units suffered serious reverses in 1950 before adequate forces could be readied and fielded in the theater. The nuclear deterrent failed to dissuade the North Koreans from attacking South Korea and the Chinese Communists from entering the fray when American and Allied forces advanced toward the Manchurian border. Despite this convincing evidence, and even as the Russians were fielding nuclear weapons of their own, the United States enunciated a policy of massive retaliation as its basic doctrine. Two successive chiefs of staff-Generals Matthew B. Ridgway and Maxwell D. Taylor-spoke out against dependence upon nuclear weapons and concomitant deficiencies in the strength and capabilities of conventional forces, and both considered the policy such a threat to national security that, upon retirement, they expressed their open concern to the American people.105

In succeeding General Taylor in July 1959, General Lyman L. Lemnitzer followed in General Bradley's footsteps when his service as chief of staff was cut short by his designation as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. While he was the Army's senior officer he had stressed the need for increased appropriations and modernization; he found these positions susceptible to service-wide application at the Joint Chiefs level. The Defense Reorganization Act of 1958, it might be noted, authorized the uniformed


Photo:  The National Security Act of 1947 legalized the wartime Joint Chiefs of Staff, and 1949 amendments created the position of chairman of that body. The incumbent Army chief of staff, General Omar N. Bradley, became the first chairman. He is seen here with his hand on the world globe, flanked by the service chiefs (left to right): General J. Lawton Collins, U.S. Army; Admiral Louis E. Denfeld, U.S. Navy; and General Hoyt S. Vandenberg, U.S. Air Force. The Marine Corps commandant was later added to the body.
The National Security Act of 1947 legalized the wartime Joint Chiefs of Staff, and 1949  amendments created the position of chairman of that body. The incumbent Army chief  of staff, General Omar N. Bradley, became the first chairman. He is seen here with his  hand on the world globe, flanked by the service chiefs (left to right): General J. Lawton  Collins, U.S. Army; Admiral Louis E. Denfeld, U.S. Navy; and General  Hoyt S. Vandenberg, U.S. Air Force. The Marine Corps commandant  was later added to the body. Department of Defense photograph.

chiefs of the military services to delegate duties to their vice chiefs in order to free themselves to devote more time to their functions as members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

A significant historical moment for the Army and its role in conventional war came as the decade of the sixties opened with John F. Kennedy's election as president and his selection of Robert S. McNamara as secretary of defense. In his budget message of March 1961, shortly after assuming office, President Kennedy enunciated a policy of flexible military response as a concomitant of American diplomacy-one that would enable the United States to defend itself against aggression on any force level and help deter the erosion of the free world in so-called wars of national liberation conducted by conventional means. "Any potential aggressor contemplating an attack on any part of the free world with any kind of weapons, conventional or nuclear, must know that our response will be suitable, selective, swift, and effective."

Secretary McNamara joined President Kennedy in the belief that the armed forces must be prepared to respond to military challenges on any level and anywhere in the world, and he set out to achieve that capability. He brought impressive credentials to the effort. A graduate of the University of California at Berkeley and of Harvard Business School, Mr. McNamara served in the Army Air Forces in World War II, emerging as a lieutenant colonel. He moved into the management field to specialize in the techniques of statistical control, became a member of a team of management experts dubbed the "Whiz Kids," joined the staff of the Ford Motor Company, and was president of the firm by the time public service called.

Communist challenges in Berlin in 1961 and Cuba in 1962, along with ongoing commitments in Europe and Asia, provided more than enough justification and impetus to strengthen and modernize the armed forces. Secretary McNamara seconded President Kennedy in the belief that the armed forces must be prepared to respond to military chal-


Photo:  General Matthew B. Ridgway.
Photo:  General Maxwell D. Taylor.
Generals Matthew B. Ridgway (left) and Maxwell D. Taylor (right), successive chiefs  of staff in the post-Korean and pre-Vietnam period, took issue with the  government's massive retaliation doctrine and concomitant inattention to conventional  capabilities, and both retired in the 1950s to write and speak out on this and other  problems of national security. U.S. Army photographs.

lenges on any level and anywhere in the world and he set out to achieve that capability. A key part of the McNamara reform process was the Army's Project 80, the most detailed study of its organization and management since World War I. Out of the appraisal came a major reorganization that erased some long-standing controversy and restructured the staff and command along more modern lines. The Army Staff became primarily responsible for planning and policy, while the carrying out of decisions was delegated to field commands. To organize the Army along functional lines and centralize personnel, training, research, and development while integrating supply operations, most of the technical services were abolished or reduced to special staff status, and their command functions, along with most of the operating functions of the Army Staff, were redistributed among the U.S. Continental Army Command and two new functional commands, the U.S. Army Materiel Command and the U.S. Army Combat Developments Command. The entire process represented an evolutionary spurt in which rationalism gained ascendance over traditionalism.106

In light of the managerial and budgetary complexion of the McNamara reforms, it was fitting that the Army's part in the study and installation of revised organization and procedures was carried out under General George Henry Decker's direction as chief of staff. General Decker, a graduate of Lafayette College with a degree in economics, brought to the senior officer's position a rounded career in troop, school, and staff assignments with a focus on logistics and financial functions that culminated in the concordant assignments of comptroller of the Army and vice chief of staff preliminary to his selection as chief of staff.

For his part, Secretary McNamara became involved in one of those moments in history in which events and people coincide. He entered office in 1961 when the role of the United States in Vietnam was limited to advice and support. When he left office in 1968, an immense logistics base


Photo:  Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara.

Robert S. McNamara entered office in 1961 as President John F. Kennedy's secretary of defense.  During his seven years in office he worked to strengthen and modernize the armed forces, with the United States involvement in the Vietnam conflict offering him the opportunity to introduce and test new management practices and techniques. The Army's part in the process, involving a major reorganization under Project 80, cleared up some long-standing controversies and resulted in most of the technical services being abolished and their functions realigned among major functional commands. The McNarmara reforms represented a considerable advance in a long transition from traditionalism to rationalism in the Army's organization and operation. Photographic portrait by Oscar Porter from the U.S. Army.

and global lines of communications had been established, a force appropriate to the measured scale of the war had been fielded, and American and North Vietnamese negotiators were meeting in Paris in an attempt to find mutually acceptable grounds for reducing or ending the conflict. An unwanted and unpopular war had nevertheless created a set of circumstances that made it possible for the secretary of defense to bring to bear a new management philosophy and then test and install the practices and procedures to make it work.

The Army's part in the period is evident in some statistics that provide an order of magnitude. In 1961 the budget was about $10 billion, strength was around 870,000, and the field force contained 14 divisions. By 1968 the budget had edged above $25 billion, strength was 1.5 million, and there were 19 2/3 divisions.

Secretary McNamara's contribution was not unlike that of Secretary Root's in earlier times. He was credited by one knowledgeable observer with "having rebuilt the whole armed services, for the first time in its history giving the military establishment a coherent, flexible strategy, a rational weapons policy, and an effective cooperation among the services. He vastly increased the effectiveness of the military establishment, and while this [was] a different kind of achievement from that of [James V.] Forrestal and Elihu Root, who brought the defense establishment into tune with political needs, it may well rank as high."107

Experiences in the distant theater of Southeast Asia influenced the thinking of the subsequent senior officers. The Vietnam conflict was in its more active phases when Generals Earle G. Wheeler, Harold K. Johnson, William C. Westmoreland, and Creighton W. Abrams, Jr., were consecutive chiefs of staff, with General Bruce Palmer, Jr.,108 filling this position for more than three months until

Abrams' confirmation. As chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Generals Taylor, Lemnitzer, and Wheeler had overall direction of the war, and, prefacing their assignments as chief of staff, Generals Westmoreland, Abrams, and Fred C. Weyland experienced it successively as deputy commander of American forces in the operational theater. Thereafter, Generals Bernard W. Rogers, Edward C. Meyer, John A Wickham, Jr., Carl E. Vuono, Gordon R. Sullivan, Dennis J. Reimer, and Eric K. Shinseki fought in it as unit officers at company, battalion, brigade, or divisional level. During the turbulence of the last years of the war General Peter J. Schoomaker served at the platoon and company level with units in Germany.

In recent years the rate of change for the Army itself has increased. As a result of their respective operational experiences, the post-Vietnam Army chiefs of staff have been resolute on the need for maintaining a trained and ready force, while at the


Photo:  In 1970 the incumbent chief of staff, General William C. Westmoreland, hosted a luncheon at the Pentagon in honor of six of his predecessors: at center, General Maxwell D. Taylor and, left to right, Generals George H. Decker, Harold K. Johnson, Earle G. Wheeler, Lyman L. Lemnitzer, J. Lawton Collins.

In 1970 the incumbent chief of staff, General William C. Westmoreland,  hosted a luncheon at the Pentagon in honor of six of his predecessors: at center, General Maxwell D. Taylor and,  left to right, Generals George H. Decker, Harold K. Johnson,  Earle G. Wheeler, Lyman L. Lemnitzer, J. Lawton Collins. U.S. Army photograph.

same time keenly aware that the nation will call on the Army at a moment's notice to perform tasks ranging from domestic disaster relief to overseas wars.109 The last two years of General Vuono's tenure were marked by three great victories in which the Army played a key role: the end of the Cold War, the freeing of Panama, and the repulse of Iraqi aggression in Kuwait. His successor, General Sullivan, faced the test of maintaining a trained and ready forced in the post-Cold War period as a major drawdown in American military forces commenced. General Reimer continued his predecessor's efforts to maintain readiness while the Army completed its drawdown, and his successor, General Shinseki, directed a major transformation of the Army's operational forces.

After taking office, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld gave his full support to overhauling military strategy and fundamentally transforming the nation's forces. Just as Secretary McNamara's reforms were interrupted by the Vietnam conflict in the 1960s, Rumsfeld's efforts were also challenged by the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in America and the subsequent Global War on Terrorism. Despite having to contend with the strains of combat and subsequent stability operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere, Army transformation proceeded under Shinseki and his successor, General Schoomaker. With a renewed commitment to shape its forces, the Army has continued to reorganize while not only conducting major combat and reconstruction operations in Afghanistan and Iraq but also providing operational forces for other contingency missions.

The position and office of the senior officer of the Army has evolved considerably since 1775, when the Continental Congress elected George Washington as general and commander in chief of the Army of the United Colonies. Today the chief


Photo:  General Peter J. Schoomaker was sworn in as chief of staff on 1 August 2003, shown here with Acting Secretary of the Army Les Brownlee extending his congratulations and with Mrs. Cynthia A. "Cindy" Schoomaker proudly looking on while holding the bible used during the ceremony. U.S. Army photograph.

General Peter J. Schoomaker was sworn in as chief of staff on 1 August 2003, shown here with Acting Secretary of the Army Les Brownlee extending his congratulations and with Mrs. Cynthia A. "Cindy" Schoomaker proudly looking on while holding the bible used during the ceremony. U.S. Army photograph.

of staff-as the principal officer of the Army-is appointed by the president, with the advice and consent of the Senate. He serves at the pleasure of the president for a period of four years and performs his duties under the direction of the secretary of the Army. He presides over the Army Staff, sends its plans and recommendations to the secretary, advises concerning them, and acts as the secretary's agent in carrying them out. He exercises general supervision over the Army's organizations and personnel, and is a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Armed Forces Policy Council.110

The last decade of the twentieth century and the first years of the twenty-first have experienced significant geopolitical turmoil, which has dramatically affected power and security relationships throughout the world. Perhaps the most important change has been the relative dispersal of power to regional centers. Because of long-simmering ethnic, religious, territorial, and economic disputes, often violent in nature, the calamity of failed states has resulted in new challenges for the international community. In particular, the emergence of transnational groups-such as the al Qaeda, with decentralized leadership that is harder to identify and disrupt-now looms as the dominant threat to peace. In this more unpredictable world the Army faces a new strategic situation that calls for less reliance on forward-deployed forces and presents a wider range of potential opponents. Although its own history illustrates that in postwar periods its operational abilities decline, as demonstrated during the 1990s after Desert Shield/Desert Storm, the Army's indisputable resiliency and adaptability in times of crises


such as in Somalia, the Balkans, Afghanistan, and Iraq-are a testament to the resourcefulness and flexibility of its Soldiers.

Now the Army is undergoing its largest organizational transformation since the 1950s while concurrently fighting the Global War on Terrorism. But just as their predecessors did, today's senior leaders are responding by pooling their broad-based experiences to ensure that the Army continues to fight and win this nation's wars. Their challenge is to achieve these goals while continuing to grow the seed-corn of future leaders who will lead the Army of the twenty-first century. Throughout its history the United States Army has been the principal means of protecting our national values. The Army's paramount task is to maintain this proud tradition in the midst of rapid change.







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Last updated 24 February 2006