John M. Schofield and the Politics of Generalship

John M. Schofield and the Politics of Generalship

John M. Schofield and the Politics of Generalship

John M. Schofield and the Politics of Generalship


In the first full biography of Lieutenant General John McAllister Schofield (1831-1906), Donald B. Connelly examines the career of one of the leading commanders in the western theater during the Civil War. In doing so, Connelly illuminates the role of politics in the formulation of military policy, during both war and peace, in the latter half of the nineteenth century.

Connelly relates how Schofield, as a department commander during the war, had to cope with contending political factions that sought to shape military and civil policies. Following the war, Schofield occupied every senior position in the army--including secretary of war and commanding general of the army--and became a leading champion of army reform and professionalism. He was the first senior officer to recognize that professionalism would come not from the separation of politics and the military but from the army's accommodation of politics and the often contentious American constitutional system.

Seen through the lens of Schofield's extensive military career, the history of American civil-military relations has seldom involved conflict between the military and civil authority, Connelly argues. The central question has never been whether to have civilian control but rather which civilians have a say in the formulation and execution of policy.


I have written this biography of Lieutenant General John M. Schofield with three different, but occasionally overlapping, groups of readers in mind. For the avid students of the Civil War, I hope to provide a slightly different perspective on the war than combat and battlefield command. For the scholars of civilmilitary relations, I hope to portray the complexity of the American experience in both war and peace. Finally, I hope current or former soldiers will appreciate the roots of their profession and recognize the dilemmas faced by an earlier generation.

In examining John Schofield’s Civil War experience, I have placed special emphasis on the role of politics in the formulation and execution of military policy. I have endeavored to demonstrate that there is no easy dividing line. Political disputes about slavery or the use of African American soldiers had enormous military implications. Similarly, military efforts to suppress guerrillas, seize or destroy enemy property, and seek battle or resort to maneuver had enormous political implications. the relationship between political and military policies was even more dynamic as contending political factions attempted to promote their ideas and adherents in both the military and civil spheres.

This study also focuses on the role of military government in American history. During the Civil War and Reconstruction, military governments displaced civil authorities in numerous states. in the early days of the Civil War, Schofield helped overthrow the legal, but secessionist, governor of Missouri. As departmental commander, Schofield supervised a nearly parallel government, with its own courts and the ability to levy fines and taxes. As a military governor in Reconstruction Virginia, General Schofield replaced civilian officials, supervised elections, and drafted constitutions.

The military was also heavily involved in federal intervention in domestic disorders. in the West soldiers in the U.S. Army frequently served as law enforcement officers, while in the East they aided civil authorities in quelling labor violence. Army officers also frequently displaced civilian Indian agents in the supervision of Indian reservations. By the end of the nineteenth century, however, the army’s constabulary missions had diminished as the Indian Wars . . .

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