John McAllister Schofield became Commander-in-Chief of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion on October 18, 1899, succeeding Rear Admiral Bancroft Gherardi. A veteran of forty-six years service in the United States Army, John Schofield retired with the rank of Lieutenant General in September 1895.
John Schofield was one of the greatest serving officers in the history of the United States Army, holding virtually every military office his country could bestow. Born in Gerry, Chautauqua County, New York, on September 29, 1831 to The Rev. James and Caroline (McAllister) Schofield. John's father, a Baptist clergyman, was called to a parish in Freeport, Illinois and the young Schofield graduated from the public schools in that area. Following a brief stint as a surveyor and schoolteacher in Wisconsin, John secured an appointment to West Point. He graduated seventh in the Class of 1853 and was commissioned a Brevet Second Lieutenant and assigned to the Second Artillery at Fort Moultrie, South Carolina. After joining the First Artillery in Florida Lt. Schofield returned to West Point in the capacity of professor of natural and experimental philosophy.
In 1860 he secured a leave of absence to accept a visiting professorship in physics at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri and it was in that state that he commenced his career in the Civil War. He was promoted to Captain on May 14, 1861 and assisted General Nathaniel Lyon, whom he served as chief of staff, in organizing the forces of the Union Army in Missouri. Captain Schofield commanded the 1st Missouri Volunteer Infantry at the Battle of Wilson's Creek with the rank of brevet Major. Following General Lyon's death at Wilson's Creek, Schofield continued to serve in Missouri and on November 21st, at age 31, was commissioned Brigadier General of Volunteers. Following the removal of General John C. Fremont as commander of Union forces in Missouri, General Schofield assumed command of the state militia and on June 1, 1862, he became commander of the District of Missouri. His aggressive action swept the Confederates into the southwestern corner of the state. General Schofield formed the "Army of the Frontier" which was the major Union Army in the Trans-Mississippi area.
During his tenure in Missouri General Schofield manifested administrative as well as military abilities dealing with many problems, particularly on the Missouri-Kansas border in a very effective manner. Following a brief appointment as a division commander in the XIV Army Corps General Schofield was assigned to St. Louis as commander of the Department of Missouri. His diplomatic skills continued to stand him in good stead, particularly with the powerful Blair family and with President Abraham Lincoln, with whom he had several interviews, who sustained General Schofield when he was criticized for what some considered to be harsh procedures involving pro-Southern elements in the state.
General Schofield took command of the XXIII Corps and the Department of the Ohio. He joined General William T. Sherman as one of three army commanders in the Atlanta Campaign and was made a Brigadier General in the Regular Army on November 30, 1864. It was in that capacity that he commanded the United States forces at the Battle of Franklin when he practically destroyed the Confederate Army of Tennessee under Lieutenant General John Bell Hood. Although Schofield retreated to Nashville, pursued by Hood, the latter's army was in such a state of near collapse that the forces under the command of Major General George Thomas, assisted by Schofield, easily dispersed the Rebel remnant. On March 13, 1865 John Schofield was commissioned a Brevet Major General for "gallant and meritorious services in the battle of Franklin, Tennessee." General Schofield closed his service in the War of the Rebellion by commanding the Department of North Carolina, occupying Wilmington, and leading his forces to a junction with those of General Sherman at Goldsboro, North Carolina which effectively ended the war in the eastern theatre. Schofield accompanied Sherman to the meeting with Lt. General Joseph E. Johnston, which arranged the terms of surrender of the Confederate forces in the area. General Schofield was mustered out of the volunteer service on September 1, 1866.
General Schofield was immediately called upon by Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton and Secretary of State William H. Seward to go to Paris on an unofficial diplomatic mission regarding the presence of French forces in Mexico. Schofield's diplomatic finesse enabled him to secure the withdrawal of the French army. Upon his return from France General Schofield was assigned as commander of Military District No. 1 (Virginia) under Reconstruction. He remained in that position until 1868 when he briefly served as Secretary of War, a post he resigned upon President Grant's inauguration. John Schofield was commissioned a Major General in the regular Army on March 4, 1869. General Schofield then served as commander of the Department of Missouri and later of the Pacific. From 1876 to 1881 he was Superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and then returned to command once again the military departments of Missouri, the Pacific and the Atlantic. In 1888, upon the death of Lt. General Philip Sheridan, General Schofield became Commander-in-Chief of the Army.
During his service in the period following the War of the Rebellion, General Schofield was responsible for establishing the U.S. Cavalry School at Fort Riley, Kansas and selecting Pearl Harbor as the United States Naval Base in the Hawaiian Islands. He received the Medal of Honor "for conspicuous gallantry at the battle of Wilson's Creek, Missouri, August 10, 1861." On February 25, 1895, John Schofield was promoted to Lieutenant General and retired on September 29, 1895. During the Spanish- American War, President McKinley asked that he return, to active service, but General Scofield's incompatibility with the views of the General-in-Chief, Nelson A. Miles made that an impossibility.
General Schofield was an active and enthusiastic member of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion. He was elected to membership as a Companion of the First Class through the Commandery of the State of Pennsylvania on April 12, 1871 and assigned Insignia No. 1274. He transferred to the Commandery of the State of California as a Charter Member on May 3, 1871 and to the Commandery of the State of New York, October 31, 1878. He returned to California on February 7, 1883 and then transferred to Illinois on May 5, 1884 returning to New York on October 16, 1886 and finally to the Commandery of the District of Columbia on May 7, 1890. General Schofield served as Commander of the Commandery of the State of California, May 3, 1871 to May 1, 1876 and was thus its founding Commander. He served two terms as Commander of the Commandery of the State of New York, May 7, 1879-May 4, 1881 and May 4, 1887 to May 1, 1889. He served as Commander-in-Chief from October 18, 1899 to October 21, 1903, when he was succeeded by Major General David McMurtrie Gregg.
General Schofield died in St. Augustine, Florida, on March 4, 1906. He was twice married, first to Harriet Bartlett by whom he had two sons and a daughter and, following the death of his first wife to Georgia Kilbourne by whom he had a daughter Georgiana. He was survived by his wife and daughter. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery His memoirs, FORTY-SIX YEARS IN THE ARMY were controversial and also a best seller. General T. H. Ruger summed up General Schofield's career on the latter's death when he said of John McAlister Schofield "The country has lost a great soldier, a great statesman, a great negotiator, a great patriot."
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