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Leonard Wood (October 9, 1860 – August 7, 1927) was a United States Army major general, physician, and public official. He served as the Chief of Staff of the United States Army, Military Governor of Cuba, and Governor General of the Philippines. He began his military career as an army doctor on the frontier, where he received the Medal of Honor. During the Spanish–American War, he commanded the Rough Riders, with Theodore Roosevelt as his second-in-command. Wood was bypassed for a major command in World War I, but then became a prominent Republican Party leader and a leading candidate for the 1920 presidential nomination.

Leonard Wood
Leonard Wood 1903.jpg
John Singer Sargent, Leonard Wood, Maverick in the Making, 1903, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian
Governor-General of the Philippines
In office
October 14, 1921 – August 7, 1927
Preceded byCharles Yeater
Succeeded byEugene A. Gilmore
Chief of Staff of the United States Army
In office
April 22, 1910 – April 21, 1914
Preceded byFranklin Bell
Succeeded byWilliam W. Wotherspoon
Governor of Moro Province
In office
July 25, 1903 – April 16, 1906
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byTasker H. Bliss
Governor-General of Cuba
In office
December 23, 1899 – May 20, 1902
Preceded byJohn R. Brooke
Succeeded byTomás Estrada Palma (President)
Personal details
Born(1860-10-09)October 9, 1860
Winchester, New Hampshire
DiedAugust 7, 1927(1927-08-07) (aged 66)
Boston, Massachusetts
Resting placeArlington National Cemetery
Political partyRepublican
Louise Condit Smith
(m. 1890; his death 1927)
EducationHarvard University (MD)
Military service
AllegianceUnited States
Branch/serviceUnited States Army
Years of service1886–1921
RankMajor General
CommandsChief of Staff of the United States Army
Department of the East
1st United States Volunteer Cavalry
Battles/warsApache Wars
Spanish–American War
Philippine–American War
World War I
AwardsMedal of Honor
Army Distinguished Service Medal

Born in Winchester, New Hampshire, Wood became an army surgeon after earning a Doctor of Medicine degree from Harvard Medical School. He received the Medal of Honor for his role in the Apache Wars and became the personal physician to the President of the United States. At the outbreak of the Spanish–American War, Wood and Roosevelt organized the Rough Riders, a volunteer cavalry regiment. Wood was promoted to the rank of brigadier general during the war and fought in the Battle of San Juan Hill and other engagements. After the war, Wood served as the Military Governor of Cuba, where he instituted improvements to medical and sanitary conditions. President William Howard Taft made Wood the Army Chief of Staff in 1910, and Wood held that position until 1914. Several Republican leaders supported Wood for the role of commander of the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I, but the Woodrow Wilson administration selected John J. Pershing.

After Roosevelt's death in 1919, many of Roosevelt's former supporters backed Wood for the presidential nomination at the 1920 Republican National Convention. Wood received the most votes on the first four ballots of the convention, but the Republicans nominated Warren G. Harding for president. Wood retired from the army in 1921 and was appointed Governor General of the Philippines later that year. He held that position until his death in 1927.

Biographer Jack Lane sums up his importance:

Wood played a significant role in shaping many of the United States's major developments in the early twentieth century: progressivism, expansionism and colonialism, military reform, preparedness and American intervention in World War I, and the election of 1920. He was particularly representative of an era that valued moral and physical strength. Although admired by his generation for his honesty, forthrightness, and his intense and vigorous approach to life, he fell short of greatness.[1]


Early life and educationEdit

Born in Winchester, New Hampshire, to Charles Jewett Wood (1829–1880) and Caroline E. (Hagar) Wood (1836–1910), Wood attended Pierce Academy in Middleborough, Massachusetts and Harvard Medical School, earning a Doctor of Medicine degree in 1884 as an intern at Boston City Hospital. Leonard Wood was of English descent, and was descended from four Mayflower passengers including William White, Francis Cooke, Stephen Hopkins and Richard Warren.


Start of careerEdit

In June 1885, Wood was contracted by the U.S. Army to act as an assistant surgeon without rank, and he was posted to the Department of Arizona.[2] In January 1886, Wood was nominated by the president for appointment in the U.S. Army as assistant surgeon with the rank of first lieutenant. His appointment was among several that were not immediately confirmed by the U.S. Senate,[3] so he continued as a contract surgeon and was stationed with the 4th Cavalry at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. Wood participated in the last campaign against Geronimo in the summer of 1886.[4]

Medal of Honor actionEdit

Wood was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Geronimo campaign, including carrying dispatches 100 miles through hostile territory and commanding a detachment of the 8th Infantry (whose officers had been lost) in hand-to-hand combat against the Apache.[5] Geronimo surrendered in September 1886,[6] but the events which resulted in the recommendation to award Wood the Medal of Honor, which he received in 1898, took place from May to mid-July, when he was still a civilian.[7] Thus, the award should have been considered unlawful, since the legislation governing the Medal of Honor required that a recipient be a commissioned officer or enlisted soldier.[8] The Judge Advocate General of the Army had previously ruled on the specific issue of whether a contract surgeon qualified for the award, determining that “a medal of honor could not legally ... be awarded to a person for alleged distinguished service rendered while serving in the field as an acting assistant surgeon” for lack of a commission.[9]

Based on this precedent, Wood's Medal of Honor should have been rescinded in 1917, when the Army's Medal of Honor Review Board rescinded other Medals of Honor for the same defect, including awards to Dr. Mary Edwards Walker and William "Buffalo Bill" Cody (both civilians). However, the Board was headed by retired Lt. Gen. Nelson Miles, who had personally recommended Wood for his medal. According to one historian, this was "a clear conflict of interest," and apparently resulted in Wood retaining his medal while other civilians had theirs rescinded.[10]

Early yearsEdit

In late July 1886, Wood's appointment was confirmed and he received his commission as a first lieutenant.[3] In February 1887, he was appointed acting captain and temporary medical director of the Department of Arizona during the illness of his superior.[11][12] At the end of 1887, Wood's medical duties took him to Fort Lowell, Arizona Territory, followed by duty at Fort Selden, Fort Stanton, and Fort Wingate, New Mexico.[13] In 1888, Wood was assigned to surgeon's duties at Fort McDowell, Arizona.[14] In 1889, Wood was reassigned to the Presidio of San Francisco.[15]

Wood was promoted to captain in 1891.[16] In 1892, he was part of a contingent of Presidio soldiers that traveled to Benicia Barracks to assist units of the California National Guard during the conduct of their annual training encampment.[17] While at Fort McPherson in Atlanta in 1893, Wood enrolled in graduate school at Georgia Tech, then known as the Georgia School of Technology, and organized the school's 1893 football team. Wood was the team's coach and played left guard, leading Georgia Tech to a 2–1–1 record, including a 28–6 victory over the University of Georgia.[18]

Spanish–American WarEdit

Wood was personal physician to Presidents Grover Cleveland and William McKinley through 1898. It was during this period he developed a friendship with Theodore Roosevelt, then Assistant Secretary of the Navy. At the outbreak of the Spanish–American War, Wood, with Roosevelt, organized the 1st Volunteer Cavalry regiment, popularly known as the Rough Riders. Wood commanded the regiment in a successful engagement known as the Battle of Las Guasimas. When the brigade commander, Samuel B. M. Young, became ill, Wood received a field promotion to brigadier general of volunteers and assumed command of the 2nd Brigade, Cavalry Division, Fifth Army Corps (which included the Rough Riders) and led the brigade to a famous victory at Kettle Hill and San Juan Heights.[19]

General Joe Wheeler with the command group of the 1st US Volunteer Regiment, the "Rough Riders" in Tampa—Col Wood is 2nd from right with Lt Col Roosevelt far right.

After San Juan, Wood led the 2nd Cavalry Brigade for the rest of the war; he stayed in Cuba after the war and was appointed the Military Governor of Santiago in 1898, and of Cuba from 1899–1902. In that capacity, he relied on his medical experience to institute improvements to the medical and sanitary conditions in Cuba. He introduced numerous reforms similar to those of the Progressive Movement in the U.S.[20] He was promoted to brigadier general of regulars shortly before moving to his next assignment.

Philippine–American WarEdit

Leonard Wood and son Osborne C. Wood, circa 1920.

In 1902, he proceeded to the Philippines, where he commanded the Philippines Division and later became commander of the Department of the East. He was promoted to major general in 1903 despite significant opposition,[21] and served as governor of Moro province, a stronghold of Muslim rebellion, from 1903 to 1906. He received criticism for his handling of the battle at First Battle of Bud Dajo where hundreds of women and children were killed.

Army Chief of StaffEdit

Wood had known Theodore Roosevelt well before the Spanish–American War. Wood was named Army Chief of Staff in 1910 by President William Howard Taft, whom he had met while both were in the Philippines; he remains the only medical officer to have ever held that position. As Chief of Staff, Wood implemented several programs, among which were the forerunner of the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program, and the Preparedness Movement, a campaign for universal military training and wartime conscription. The Preparedness Movement plan was scrapped in favor of the Selective Service System, shortly before World War I. He developed the Mobile Army, thus laying the groundwork for American success in World War I.[citation needed]

World War IEdit

Maj. Gen. Leonard Wood in later years

In 1914, Wood was replaced as Chief of Staff by William Wotherspoon. Wood was a strong advocate of the Preparedness Movement, led by Republicans, which alienated him from President Wilson. In 1915, he published The Military Obligation of Citizenship.

With the U.S. entry into World War I in April 1917, Wood was recommended by Republicans, in particular Henry Cabot Lodge, to be the U.S. field commander. However Wood was too closely identified with Republicans and War Secretary Newton Baker instead appointed John J. Pershing, a non-partisan choice. During the war, Wood was, instead, given the non-combat roles in charge of the training of the 10th and 89th Divisions, both at Camp Funston. After the war, Wood was appointed to command the 6th Corps Area, which he led from 1919 to 1921.

Republican politicsEdit

Wood was an unsuccessful candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in the election of 1920. He was urged into running by the family and supporters of his old friend Theodore Roosevelt, who himself had been considering another campaign before his illness and death in 1919. He won the New Hampshire primary that year but lost at the convention.

Among the reasons that he did not become the candidate were several strong rivals for the nomination, his political inexperience, and the strong support he gave to the Red Scare, Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer's campaign against Bolsheviks and anarchists.[citation needed] After the major candidates deadlocked, the nomination went to U.S. Senator Warren G. Harding of Ohio.

Governor General of the PhilippinesEdit

He retired from the U.S. Army in 1921, after which he was appointed as Governor General of the Philippines later that year.[22]

His tenure was characterized by marked tension between him and key Filipino officials. In his first year, Wood vetoed 16 measures passed by the Philippine Legislature, an act denounced by critics as a "misuse of the veto power," citing that his predecessor, Francis Burton Harrison, only vetoed 5 measures.[23]

The tension became more heightened by 1923, precipitated by the issue regarding Wood's interference in the case of Ray Conley, a Manila Police detective who was accused of immorality and misconduct in office. Interior Secretary Jose P. Laurel sought Conley's removal from service due to probable cause but Wood ordered Laurel to reinstate Conley to the police force. In protest, Laurel tendered his resignation.[24] The Filipino members of the Wood cabinet, including the Council of State, tendered their resignations as well in support of Laurel and in protest of Wood's handling of government affairs in the country. These events would become known as the "Cabinet Crisis of 1923," effectively straining relations between the U.S. colonial government under Wood and the Filipino leaders that would last until his death in 1927.[25]

Later life and deathEdit

Wood died in Boston after undergoing surgery for a recurrent brain tumor. He had initially been diagnosed in 1910 with a benign meningioma, which was successfully resected by Harvey Cushing. Wood made a full recovery, but the tumor later recurred. The successful removal of Wood's first brain tumor represented an important milestone, indicating to the public the advances that had been made in the nascent field of neurosurgery, and extending Wood's life by almost two decades.[26]

He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.[27][28] His brain is held at the Yale University School of Medicine as part of an historic collection of Harvey Cushing's patients' preserved brains.


Louise Adriana Condit Smith Wood (1918)

Wood was serving in Monterey, California in 1888 when he met Louise Adriana Condit Smith (1869–1943), who was vacationing with her uncle and legal guardian, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Johnson Field.[29] They married in Washington, DC on November 18, 1890.[30][31] The Woods were the parents of three children, Leonard, Jr., Osborne, and Luisita (Louise).[32] Leonard Wood Jr. (1892-1931) was a Cornell University graduate who attained the rank of captain while serving in the Army during World War I, but was plagued by financial difficulties and ill health afterwards.[33] Osborne Cutler Wood (1897-1950) left Harvard University to serve in World War I, and attained the rank of lieutenant colonel after the war.[34] After leaving the Army he relocated to New Mexico, where he was commissioned as a brigadier general and appointed as adjutant general of the New Mexico National Guard.[34] Louise Barbara Wood (1900-1960) served with Anne Morgan's American Friends in France relief organization during World War I.[35]


In 1925 Wood sent Mrs. Dorothy Wade, wife of the head doctor of the Culion leper colony, to the United States to raise money to fight leprosy in the Philippines. She recruited fundraiser Perry Burgess and the committee they formed became the Leonard Wood Memorial for the Eradication of Leprosy after Wood's death. The Leonard Wood Memorial organization supported leper colonies in Culion and Cebu, held the first international conference on leprosy in Manila in 1931, and helped support the International Leprosy Foundation and its journal.[36] A statue of Wood was erected at Culion in 1931.[37]

Camp Leonard Wood in Missouri, now Fort Leonard Wood, home of the United States Army Combat Engineer School, Chemical School, and Military Police School, was named in his honor in 1941. Ft. Leonard Wood is also a major TRADOC post for Basic Combat Training (BCT), home of the 10th Infantry Regiment (Basic Training).

One of the U.S. Navy's Harris-class attack transports, the USS Leonard Wood (APA-12), bears Wood's name. Numerous streets are named after Wood, including roads in Baguio City and Zamboanga City, Philippines. A Public Elementary School in Barangay Jagobiao, Mandaue City, Philippines (inside Eversley Childs Sanitarium compound) was also named after him.

For a brief period of time, Guadalupe County, New Mexico, was named after Wood. After a few years it was changed back to Guadalupe.

Wood was a Freemason; Leonard Wood Lodge No. 105 under the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the Philippines was named in his honor.[38]

In popular cultureEdit



In 1899, Harvard University awarded Wood the honorary degree of LL.D.[40]

Military decorations and medalsEdit

Medal of Honor citationEdit

Voluntarily carried dispatches through a region inhabited by hostile Indians, making a journey of 70 miles in one night and walking 30 miles the next day. Also for several weeks, while in close pursuit of Geronimo's band and constantly expecting an encounter, commanded a detachment of Infantry, which was then without an officer, and to the command of which he was assigned upon his own request.

Dates of rankEdit

Insignia Rank Date Component
  Assistant surgeon 5 January 1886 Regular Army
  Surgeon 5 January 1891 Regular Army
  Colonel 8 May 1898 Volunteers
  Brigadier general 8 July 1898 Volunteers
  Major general 7 December 1898 Volunteers
  Brigadier general 13 April 1899 Volunteers
  Major general 5 December 1899 Volunteers
  Brigadier general 1 June 1901
(Reverted to permanent rank with date of rank 4 February 1901.)
Regular Army
  Major general 8 August 1903 Regular Army
  Major general October 15, 1921 Retired list

Head coaching recordEdit

Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs
Georgia Tech (Independent) (1893)
1893 Georgia Tech 2–1–1
Georgia Tech: 2–1–1
Total: 2–1–1

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Jack C. Lane. "Wood, Leonard" American National Biography Online (2000).
  2. ^ "The Army: Leonard Wood". Leavenworth Times. Leavenworth, KS. June 26, 1885. p. 4 – via
  3. ^ a b "Long-Pending Promotions Confirmed". The Critic. Washington, DC. July 28, 1886. p. 1 – via
  4. ^ McCallum, Leonard Wood pp 27
  5. ^ McCallum, Leonard Wood pp 31-32
  6. ^ Tucker, Spencer C. (2011). The Encyclopedia of North American Indian Wars, 1607–1890. I. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO. p. 323. ISBN 978-1-85109-697-8.
  7. ^ McCallum, Leonard Wood pp 45-46
  8. ^ McCallum, Leonard Wood pp 46
  9. ^ Mears, The Medal of Honor, 58
  10. ^ Mears, The Medal of Honor, 58
  11. ^ "Gen. Miles Latest Batch of Army Orders". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, CA. February 17, 1887. p. 2 – via
  12. ^ "The Army and Navy". The Critic. Washington, DC. March 1, 1887. p. 2 – via
  13. ^ "Fort Leavenworth News: Leonard Wood". Leavenworth Times. Leavenworth, KS. November 15, 1887. p. 1 – via
  14. ^ "Army Notes: Leonard Wood". Leavenworth, KS. August 8, 1888. p. 1 – via
  15. ^ "Army Orders: Leonard Wood". Garden City Daily Herald. Garden City, KS. June 19, 1889. p. 4 – via
  16. ^ McCallum, Leonard Wood pp 10–46
  17. ^ "Military Notes". The San Francisco Call. San Francisco, CA. August 5, 1892. p. 5 – via
  18. ^ Byrd, Joseph (Spring 1992). "From Civil War Battlefields to the Moon: Leonard Wood". Tech Topics. Georgia Tech Alumni Association. Archived from the original on 2007-02-09. Retrieved 2007-03-12.
  19. ^ McCallum, Leonard Wood pp 47–111
  20. ^ Jack C. Lane. "Wood, Leonard"; American National Biography Online (2000)
  21. ^ EVIDENCE IN WOOD CASE: Major Runcie Tells of Magazine Article Attacking General Brooke: WRITTEN AT WOOD'S REQUEST: Article Exploited His Success at Santiago and Spoke Unfavorably of General Brooke's Administration of Havana, published November 28, 1903, in the Daily Star (via Google News)
  22. ^ Jones, O. Garfield (September 28, 1921). "What Wood and Forbes Have Done In The Philippines". The Outlook. 129: 133–135. Retrieved 2009-07-30. Also see Robb, Walter (November 30, 1921). "Wood Facing His Task". The Outlook. 129: 512–513. Retrieved 2009-07-30.
  23. ^ Onorato, Michael (2005). "Leonard Wood: His First Year as Governor-General" (PDF). Asian Studies. 41 (2): 57.
  24. ^ Cruz, Isagani (May 12, 2000). "The Cabinet Crisis of 1923". Philippine Daily Inquirer.
  25. ^ Halili, Maria Christine (2010). Philippine History.
  26. ^ Lee, Joung H. (2009). Meningiomas: Diagnosis, Treatment, and Outcome. Springer. p. 8. ISBN 978-1-84882-910-7.
  27. ^
  28. ^ Leonard Wood at Find a Grave
  29. ^ Lane, Jack C. (2009). Armed Progressive: General Leonard Wood. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press. p. 19. ISBN 978-0-8032-2658-6.
  30. ^ Jack McCallum, Leonard Wood pp 7–10
  31. ^ Eric Fisher Wood, Leonard Wood (1920), page 22
  32. ^ "Greatest Ambitions Thwarted". Lincoln Star. Lincoln, NE. International News Service. August 7, 1927. p. 2 – via
  33. ^ "Leonard Wood Dies Penniless". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, CA. Associated Press. August 28, 1931. p. 2 – via
  34. ^ a b "Osborne C. Wood, Ex-Guard Chief, Dies In San Diego". Albuquerque Journal. Albuquerque, NM. Associated Press. February 1, 1950. p. 14 – via
  35. ^ "Death Notice, Miss Louise B. Wood". The Evening Sun. Baltimore, MD. Associated Press. November 28, 1960. p. 4 – via
  36. ^ Leprosy History page on Perry Burgess
  37. ^ picture of Wood Memorial on Culion
  38. ^ "What". Retrieved 2017-11-22.
  39. ^ "The White Healer on Death Valley Days". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved September 14, 2018.
  40. ^ "Conferring the Degrees". The Boston Globe. Boston, MA. June 29, 1899. p. 2 – via

Additional sourcesEdit

  • Bacevich, A. J. Diplomat in Khaki: Major General Frank Ross McCoy and American Foreign Policy, 1898–1949 (1989), biography of Wood's principal aide.
  • Eisenhower, John S.D. Teddy Roosevelt and Leonard Wood: Partners in Command (University of Missouri Press, 2014).
  • Hagedorn, Hermann, Leonard Wood, a Biography (2 vols., 1931), detailed authorized biography
  • Lane, Jack C. Armed Progressive: General Leonard Wood (1978), a major scholarly biography
  • Lane, Jack C. "Wood, Leonard"; American National Biography Online 2000. Access Mar 11 2016
  • Mears, Dwight S. (2018). The Medal of Honor: The Evolution of America's Highest Military Decoration. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas. ISBN 9780700626656. OCLC 1032014828.
  • McCallum, Jack (2005). Leonard Wood: Rough Rider, Surgeon, Architect of American Imperialism.
  • Pruitt II, James Herman. "Leonard Wood and the American Empire" (PhD dissertation Texas A&M University, 2011); online; bibliography on pp 296–315.
  • US soldiers pose with the bodies of Moro insurgents, Philippines, 1906

Primary sourcesEdit

  • Wood, Leonard. Chasing Geronimo: The Journal of Leonard Wood, May – September, 1886. Edited, with Introduction and Epilogue, by Jack C. Lane. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1970.

External linksEdit

Political offices
Preceded by
John R. Brooke
Governor-General of Cuba
Succeeded by
Tomás Estrada Palma
as President of Cuba
Preceded by
Charles Yeater
Governor-General of the Philippines
Succeeded by
Eugene A. Gilmore
Military offices
Preceded by
Franklin Bell
Chief of Staff of the United States Army
Succeeded by
William W. Wotherspoon