Commanders-in-Chief Biographies

Major General George Cadwalader
Commander-in-Chief 1865 - 1879

by Robert G. Carroon, Past Commander-in-Chief
Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States

Major General George Cadwalader was the first Commander-in-Chief of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States and served from 1865 to 1879, longer than any other Companion in that office. He was born on May 16, 1806 to Thomas and Mary (Biddle) Cadwalader in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, read law and was admitted to the bar.

In 1826, he became a member of the First Troop Philadelphia City Cavalry and, in 1832, was elected Captain of the Philadelphia Grays. Ten years later he was commissioned Brigadier General of the First Brigade, First Division, Pennsylvania Militia. He commanded the forces which quelled the Native American or Know Nothing Party riots of 1844.

On March 3, 1847, at the beginning of the Mexican War, he was commissioned Brigadier General of Volunteers, and participated in every general engagement from the landing at Vera Cruz to the taking of the Mexico City. He was brevetted Major General on September 13, 1847 for gallant conduct at Chapultepec. On his return to Philadelphia, he was accorded a public reception at Independence Hall. He resumed the practice of law and was involved in a number of business ventures in Philadelphia until the outbreak of the Civil War.

General Cadwalader's first assignment was as commander of United States forces at Baltimore and Annapolis. In June 1861, he was sent as a Divisional Commander to the Shenandoah Valley. It was reported that he urged a movement of the forces in the valley toward General Irwin McDowell's main force at Manassas that would have prevented Johnston's reinforcement at Bull Run, but his advice was not acted upon. Transferred to the Western Theater, General Cadwalader, who was commissioned a Major General on April 25, 1862, commanded the Second and Sixth Divisions of the Army of the Western Tennessee at Corinth, Mississippi. He participated in the severe fighting about that post and in the successive Western campaigns under Generals Grant, Sherman and Thomas. He served throughout the war and returned to Philadelphia in April 1865 just in time to assume the Chief Command of the Ceremonies surrounding the death of President Abraham Lincoln.

General Cadwalader was elected a member of Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States at the organizational meeting on April 17, 1865 and officially became a member on May 1, 1865, when he was assigned Pennsylvania Commandery Membership Number 60. As there was only one Commandery in existence at that time, his National Insignia Number was also 60. General Cadwalader served as Commander-in-Chief for the remainder of his life and at the time of his death was also Commander of the Pennsylvania Commandery. He died in Philadelphia on February 3, 1879. He was married in 1830 to Frances Butler Mease they had three sons, Thomas, Henry and William, and one daughter, Frances. General Cadwalader was a member of the Society of the Cincinnati and the Aztec Club of 1847 as well as the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of hte United States and is represented in all of these organizations in 1996. General Cadwalader's long tenure as Commander-in-Chief was a major factor in shaping the traditions of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States and many of its institutions, such as the design of the insignia, are attributed to him. At his death, General Cadwalader was succeeded as Commander-in-Chief by Major General Winfield Scott Hancock.

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