Our Generals




Reports on the request of the Secretary of War to Congress to revive the rank of General so that it can be given to the commander of the Army overseas.


Cary T. Grayson Papers, Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library, Staunton, Virginia


pdf file




The long delay in making promotions at the head of the Army, necessitated by its immense increase, was beginning to excite considerable curiosity. Now comes the announcement that the Secretary of War will call upon Congress, when it convenes in regular session next December, to revive the rank of general, that it may be given to the commander of our overseas Army. Hitherto the rank of general has never been so bestowed. Washington, Grant, Sherman and Sheridan have been our only generals, and their elevation to that grade was a reward for extraordinary services in the field. It was not even given to Scott, who commanded the Army for many years and was “the military idol of his time.” When Congress made him a lieutenant general the country thought the honor entirely commensurate with his record. Even our lieutenant generals have been few and far between.

Certainly neither Congress nor the country will begrudge Major General Pershing a rank commensurate with the size of his command and the quality of his service. It is a question, however, whether he would welcome the necessity of being made to skip the grade of lieutenant general. It is a question whether Congress would be willing to compel him to skip it. It would be more in line with precedent, more in keeping with the policy of promotion adopted by the War Department at the beginning of the war, and thus far adhered to, probably more in harmony with the preference of General Pershing, were Congress to be asked to revive at once the grade of lieutenant general and leave the revival of the rank of general to be decided at the regular session.

Such a solution of the problem would enable the promotion forthwith of the six major generals of the Army, who were the only major generals we had when war was declared. In the order of seniority they are Leonard Wood, J. Franklin Bell, Thomas H. Barry, Hugh L. Scott, Tasker H. Bliss and John J. Pershing. They are still major generals all of them, although many other officers have been promoted to that grade. The services of these six senior general officers have long been inscribed in bright letters on the roll of our Army. A large public still looks with confidence and hope to the seniors of the old Army, all of whom are working their hardest at the present moment, for guidance in these difficult days. Pershing is in France, Scott will soon be there, Bliss is chief of staff, Wood and Barry and Bell are commanding divisions of draft troops. Their promotion one and all at once to the grade of lieutenant general is one that the Secretary of War should be glad to recommend, which Congress would be willing to sanction, and the country quick to approve.

Original Format




Boston Transcript, “Our Generals,” 1917 October 4, WWP21984, Cary T. Grayson Papers, Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum, Staunton, Virginia.