President Generals
Veterans and Future Chief Executives


     In no other war in United States History have so many future presidents of the United States served the uniform as they have during our American Civil War. Coming of age during the country's most trying time in its history, several have sought appointments and served the country well. Although most had been introduced to the field of combat, others have served from the state level preparing volunteers to take the field.

     Chester A. Arthur had been appointed by the governor of New York in the acting role of Assistant Quartermaster General with a state rank of Brigadier General. During his short two year service, he served as Inspector General and then Quartermaster General by summer of 1862. He successfully helped field over 200,000 New Yorkers with basic food, shelter and equipment provisions.

     Before the 1864 Presidential Elections, President Abraham Lincoln had democrat Andrew Johnson serve in the role of his Vice President in the wake of Hannibal Hamlin's wish to return to Maine. Johnson, a Tennessean, had elected to cast his loyalty with the central government and had served as Military Governor there prior to returning to Washington City.

     Two exclusive combat veterans, Rutherford B. Hayes and James Garfield donned the uniform and served with distinction as well. The former had joined the service as major of the 23rd Ohio Infantry slowly rising to the rank of Brevet Major General before war's end. The latter, engaged the enemy in the west serving during small conflicts such as Mill Springs, Kentucky and later with the Army of the Tennessee in the much larger Chickamauga/Chattanooga conflicts. Garfield had served as Major General William Rosecrans' Chief of Staff, serving on several military court martials and distinguished himself as an able commander.

     William McKinley, another Ohioan rose from private to a commissioned Major serving on Rutherford B. Hayes' staff. He was present with Ambrose Burnside's 9th Army Corps at the battle of Antietam in September 1862 and provided hot coffee for the soldiers on the opposite side of the Rohrbach Bridge as they marched to engage Major General A. P. Hill's troops recently arriving from Harper's Ferry.

     The American Civil War's most famous general officer and soon to be president, was that of Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant. He rose from Colonel of the 21st Illinois Infantry to be the first Federal Lieutenant General since George Washington during the American Revolution. Despite the political controversies of his rumored drinking during periods of excessive boredom and homesickness, President Abraham Lincoln found favor with this man who would eventually coordinate all the Union Armies in the field to move in unison against their military targets.

     The period of the American Civil War produced many fascinating characters that shaped our history during the country's most miserable crossroads. Perhaps had it not been for the war our succession of Chief Executives would be far different when studying history. Instead, great leadership rose from the ranks and would later continue to build a country that President Abraham Lincoln had begun when the very life of the country could have been no more.


Dan (Aldie) Daniel Moran
© 2003

Editors Note: Mr.Moran is a feature writer on the US-Civilwar.com writers staff. He may be contacted with your questions, ideas and requests at dmoran@us-civilwar.net