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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
Nelson A. Miles by Brands Studios, 1898.jpg
Last in office
LTG Nelson A. Miles

5 October 1895—8 August 1903
United States Army
United States Department of War
StatusSenior-most officer
Reports toUnited States Secretary of War
SeatSeveral HQs (Washington)
AppointerThe President
with Congress advice and consent
Term lengthNo fixed term
Constituting instrumentAn Act of the Second Continental Congress
Formation15 June 1775
June 1821
First holderGEN George Washington
as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army
MG Jacob Brown
as Commanding General of the United States Army
Final holderLTG Nelson A. Miles
Abolished8 August 1903
SuccessionChief 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.

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

Contents

OfficeholdersEdit

† denotes people who died in office.

Commander-in-Chief of the Continental ArmyEdit

No. Commander-in-Chief Took office Left office Time in office Notes
1Washington, GeorgeGeneral[a]
George Washington
(1732–1799)
15 June 177523 December 17838 years, 191 daysAppointed by the Second Continental Congress, after being nominated by Samuel Adams and John Adams. Resigned to the Congress of the Confederation, at the end of the American Revolutionary War.

Senior Officer of the United States ArmyEdit

No. Senior Officer Took office Left office Time in office Notes
1Knox, HenryMajor general
Henry Knox
(1750–1806)
23 December 178320 June 1784180 daysResigned to begin career farming and developing land in Maine; appointed Secretary of War under Articles of Confederation in 1785.
2Doughty, JohnBrevet Major
John Doughty
(1754–1826)
20 June 178412 August 178453 daysServed when all of the Army but 80 men were discharged.
3Harmar, JosiahBrevet Brigadier general
Josiah Harmar
(1753–1813)
12 August 17844 March 17916 years, 204 daysRemoved by President George Washington in the aftermath of the Harmar Campaign.
4St. Clair, ArthurMajor general
Arthur St. Clair
(1736–1818)
4 March 17915 March 17921 year, 1 daySimultaneously 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.
5Wayne, AnthonyMajor general
Anthony Wayne
(1745–1796)
13 April 179215 December 1796 †4 years, 246 days.
6Wilkinson, JamesBrigadier general
James Wilkinson
(1757–1825)
15 December 179613 July 17981 year, 210 days.
7Washington, GeorgeLieutenant general
George Washington
(1732–1799)
13 July 179814 December 1799 †1 year, 154 daysAppointed 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.
8Hamilton, AlexanderMajor general
Alexander Hamilton
(1755/1757–1804)
14 December 179915 June 1800183 daysPreviously served as Secretary of the Treasury (1789–1795). 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.
(6)Wilkinson, JamesBrigadier general[b]
James Wilkinson
(1757–1825)
15 June 180027 January 181211 years, 226 days.
9Dearborn, HenryMajor general
Henry Dearborn
(1751–1829)
27 January 181215 June 18153 years, 139 daysPreviously served as Secretary of War (1801–1809). Last American Revolutionary War veteran to serve as Senior Officer.
10Brown, JacobMajor general
Jacob Brown
(1775–1828)
15 June 1815June 18215 years, 351 daysAppointed Commanding General of the Army.

Commanding General of the United States ArmyEdit

No. Commanding General Took office Left office Time in office Notes
1Brown, JacobMajor general
Jacob Brown
(1775–1828)
June 182124 February 1828 †6 years, 268 days.
2Macomb, AlexanderMajor general
Alexander Macomb
(1782–1841)
29 May 182825 June 1841 †13 years, 27 days.
3Scott, WinfieldBrevet Lieutenant general
Winfield Scott
(1786–1866)
5 July 18411 November 186120 years, 119 daysPersonally 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.
4McClellan, George B.Major general
George B. McClellan
(1826–1885)
1 November 186111 March 1862130 daysSimultaneously served as Commander of the Army of the Potomac. Removed by President Abraham Lincoln in order to focus on the Peninsula Campaign.
Position vacant
(11 March 1862 – 23 July 1862)[c]
5Halleck, HenryMajor general
Henry Halleck
(1815–1872)
23 July 18629 March 18641 year, 230 daysReassigned as the Army's chief of staff, subordinate to Grant.
6Grant, Ulysses S.General of the Army
Ulysses S. Grant
(1822–1885)
9 March 18644 March 18694 years, 360 daysResigned to become the 18th President of the United States (1869–1877).
7Sherman, William TecumsehGeneral of the Army
William Tecumseh Sherman
(1820–1891)
8 March 18691 November 188314 years, 238 daysResigned position; retired upon reaching mandatory retirement age of 64 in 1884.
8Sheridan, PhilipGeneral of the Army
Philip Sheridan
(1831–1888)
1 November 18835 August 1888 †4 years, 278 days.
9Schofield, JohnLieutenant general
John Schofield
(1831–1906)
14 August 188829 September 18957 years, 46 daysRetired upon reaching mandatory retirement age of 64.
10Miles, Nelson A.Lieutenant general
Nelson A. Miles
(1839–1925)
5 October 18958 August 19037 years, 307 daysRetired upon reaching mandatory retirement age of 64.

See alsoEdit

NotesEdit

  1. ^ Promoted posthumously to General of the Armies in 1976, by an Act of Congress (Public Law 94-479) as part of the United States Bicentennial.
  2. ^ Promoted to major general during the War of 1812 and retired on June 15, 1815.
  3. ^ 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.

BibliographyEdit

  • Historical Resources Branch; United States Army Center of Military History.
  • Eicher, John H.; Eicher, David J. (2001). Civil War High Commands. Stanford University Press. ISBN 0-8047-3641-3.
  • Bell, William Gardner (2005). Commanding Generals and Chiefs of Staff 1775-2005: Portraits and Biographical Sketches. Washington, D.C.: United States Army Center of Military History.
  • King, Archibald (1949/1960 reprint). Command of the Army (PDF). Military Affairs. Charlottesville, Virginia: The Judge Advocate General's School, U.S. Army. Check date values in: |year= (help)