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Commanding General of the United States Army

Prior to the institution of the Chief of Staff of the Army in 1903, there was generally recognized to be a single senior-most officer in the United States Army (and its predecessor the Continental Army), even though there was not a statutory office as such. During the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), the title was Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army. In 1783, the title was simplified to Senior Officer of the United States Army. In 1821, the title was changed to Commanding General of the United States Army. The office was often referred to by various other titles, such as "Major General Commanding the Army" or "General-in-Chief."

Commanding General of the United States Army
Last in office
LTG Nelson A. Miles

1895—August 8, 1903
United States Army
United States Department of War
Status Senior-most officer
Reports to United States Secretary of War
Appointer The President
with Congress advice and consent
Formation June 15, 1775
First holder GEN George Washington
as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army
MG Jacob Brown
as Commanding General of the United States Army (June 1821)
Final holder LTG Nelson A. Miles
Abolished August 8, 1903
Succession Chief of Staff of the Army

From 1789 until its abolition in 1903, the position of Commanding General was legally subordinate to the Secretary of War, although this was at times contested.[a]

The position was abolished with the creation of the statutory Chief of Staff of the Army in 1903.


Office holdersEdit

Commander-in-Chief of the Continental ArmyEdit

# Name Photo Term began Term ended Notes
1. GEN George Washington   June 15, 1775 December 23, 1783 Appointed by the Second Continental Congress, after being nominated by John Adams. Resigned to the Congress of the Confederation, at the end of the American Revolutionary War.

Senior Officer of the United States ArmyEdit

# Name Photo Term began Term ended Notes
1. MG Henry Knox   December 23, 1783 June 20, 1784 Resigned to begin career farming and developing land in Maine; appointed Secretary of War under Articles of Confederation in 1785.
2. Brevet MAJ John Doughty   June 20, 1784 August 12, 1784 Served when all of the Army but 80 men were discharged.
3. Brevet BG Josiah Harmar   August 12, 1784 March 4, 1791 Removed by President George Washington in the aftermath of the Harmar Campaign.
4. MG Arthur St. Clair   March 4, 1791 March 5, 1792 Simultaneously served as Governor of the Northwest Territory (1787–1802). Resigned as Senior Officer at the request of President George Washington, in the aftermath of the St. Clair's Defeat.
5. MG Anthony Wayne   April 13, 1792 December 15, 1796 Died in office.
6. BG James Wilkinson   December 15, 1796 July, 13 1798 First tenure.
7. LTG George Washington   July 13, 1798 December 14, 1799 Appointed during the Quasi-War against the French Republic. Did not actively command the Army during this period but was prepared to lead the Army if the need arose. Died in office.
8. MG Alexander Hamilton   December 14, 1799 June 15, 1800 Served as Inspector General of the Army with rank of major general from July 19, 1798. Became Senior Officer in the Army after the death of Washington.
9. BG James Wilkinson   June 15, 1800 January 27, 1812 Second tenure. Promoted to major general during the War of 1812 and retired on June 15, 1815.
10. MG Henry Dearborn   January 27, 1812 June 15, 1815 Previously served as Secretary of War (1801–1809). Last American Revolutionary War veteran to serve as Senior Officer.
11. MG Jacob Brown   June 15, 1815 June 1821 Appointed commanding general of the Army.

Commanding General of the United States ArmyEdit

# Name Photo Term began Term ended Notes
1. MG Jacob Brown   June 1821 February 24, 1828 Died in office.
2. MG Alexander Macomb   May 29, 1828 June 25, 1841 Died in office.
3. Brevet LTG Winfield Scott   July 5, 1841 November 1, 1861 Personally commanded the Army in the Battle for Mexico City in 1847, during the Mexican–American War. Upon his retirement, at the commencement of the American Civil War, he was the oldest serving Commanding General of the U.S. Army in history at age 75.
4. MG George B. McClellan   November 1, 1861 March 11, 1862 Simultaneously served as Commander of the Army of the Potomac. Removed by President Abraham Lincoln in order to focus on the Peninsula Campaign.
Vacant (March 11, 1862 – July 23, 1862)[b]
5. MG Henry Halleck   July 23, 1862 March 9, 1864 Reassigned as the Army's chief of staff, subordinate to Grant.
6. GEN Ulysses S. Grant   March 9, 1864 March 4, 1869 Resigned to become the 18th President of the United States (1869–1877).
7. GEN William Tecumseh Sherman   March 8, 1869 November 1, 1883 Resigned position; retired upon reaching mandatory retirement age of 64 in 1884.
8. GEN Philip Sheridan   November 1, 1883 August 5, 1888 Died in office.
9. LTG John Schofield   August 14, 1888 September 29, 1895 Retired upon reaching mandatory retirement age of 64.
10. LTG Nelson A. Miles   October 5, 1895 August 8, 1903 Retired upon reaching mandatory retirement age of 64.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ King
  2. ^ Eicher, Civil War High Commands. The gap from March 11, 1862 to July 23, 1862 was filled with direct control of the army by President Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, with the help of an unofficial "War Board" that was established on March 17, 1862. The board consisted of Ethan A. Hitchcock, the chairman, with Department of War bureau chiefs Lorenzo Thomas, Montgomery C. Meigs, Joseph G. Totten, James W. Ripley, and Joseph P. Taylor.