September 29, 1831–March 4, 1906
John McAllister Schofield was a prominent Union general who served primarily in the Western Theater of the American Civil War. As commanding general of the Army of the Ohio, Schofield played a leading role in the Atlanta Campaign (May 7–September 2, 1864) and the Franklin-Nashville Campaign (September 18-December 27, 1864). After the war, he served briefly as Secretary of War under President Andrew Johnson (1868-1869), Superintendent of the United States Military Academy (1876-1881), and commanding general of the United States Army (1888-1895).
John McAllister Schofield was born on September 29, 1831, at Gerry, New York. His parents were Reverend James Schofield, a Baptist minister, and Caroline McAllister. In 1843, Schofield's family moved to Freeport, Illinois, where Schofield attended public schools. After a brief stint as a surveyor and schoolteacher in Wisconsin, Schofield received an appointment to the United States Military Academy, where he graduated seventh in his class in 1853. In July of that year, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Second Artillery, United States Army, and was assigned to serve in South Carolina. After two years in the South, Schofield was promoted to first lieutenant and reassigned to West Point, where he served as an assistant professor of natural and experimental philosophy until 1860. While at the academy, Schofield married Harriet Bartlett in 1857. In 1860, Schofield was granted a leave from the army, and he took a position as professor of physics at Washington University, St. Louis, where he remained until the American Civil War began the following year.
The outset of the Civil War found Schofield serving as a major in the 1st Missouri Infantry, charged with mustering Missouri troops. Later in 1861, he served as Assistant Adjutant-General to General Nathaniel Lyon, organizing the forces of the Union Army in Missouri. In August, he commanded the 1st Missouri Volunteer Infantry at the Battle of Wilson's Creek (August 10, 1861). By the end of the year Schofield was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers (November 21, 1861).
Throughout 1862 and 1863, Schofield continued his ascension up the Union chain of command, but not without difficulties. He commanded the District of Missouri from June 4 until September 26, 1862. On October 12, 1862 Major General Samuel R. Curtis, commanding the Department of the Missouri, placed Schofield in charge of the newly-created Army of the Frontier, despite the fact that his rank as brigadier general made him ineligible to command an army. President Lincoln seemingly resolved that dilemma on November 29 when he nominated Schofield for promotion to major general. The Senate, however, declined to to confirm Schofield's promotion and his term expired on March 4, 1863. As a result, Curtis named Major General Francis J. Herron to command the Army of the Frontier and the War Department ordered Schofield to report to Major General William S. Rosecrans' Army of the Cumberland. On April 20, 1863, Rosecrans assigned Schofield to command the Third Division of Major General George M. Thomas's Fourteenth Corps. On May 12, 1863, President Lincoln renominated Schofield for promotion to major general. The next day, the War Department assigned Schofield to replace Curtis as commander of the Department of the Missouri. While in command of the Department of the Missouri (1863-1864), Schofield's forces captured Fort Smith and Little Rock, in Arkansas, and he rendered material assistance to General Ulysses S. Grant in the Siege of Vicksburg (May 18–July 4, 1863).On February 9, 1864, Schofield was appointed as commander of the Department of the Ohio and of the Army of the Ohio, known at that time as the Twenty-third Army Corps. On May 12, 1864, the Senate finally confirmed Schofield's appointment as major general of volunteers.
Schofield commanded the Army of the Ohio throughout Ohioan William T. Sherman's Atlanta campaign (May 7–September 2, 1864). When Confederate General John Bell Hood's Army of Tennessee evacuated Atlanta on September 1, 1864, Sherman pursued Hood for about a month as Hood raided Sherman's supply lines back to Chattanooga. By November, Sherman convinced Grant to allow him to embark on his March to the Sea. Hood had also changed objectives, launching an offensive back into Tennessee, hoping to draw Sherman out of the Deep South. Sherman did not take the bait. Instead, he ordered Major General George Thomas to Nashville to defend against Hood, while Sherman set out to "make Georgia howl." Thomas sent about half of his troops directly to Nashville to prepare for Hood's invasion. The other half, commanded by Schofield, engaged Hood's army throughout November at the Battles of Columbia (November 24-29, 1864), Spring Hill (November 29, 1864), and Franklin (November 29, 1864). Schofield inflicted a major defeat upon the Rebels at Franklin before slipping off to join Thomas at Nashville. He was promoted to brigadier general in the regular army on November 30, 1864, for his leadership at Franklin. Two weeks later, Schofield participated in the Union victory at the Battle of Nashville (December 15-16, 1864), which ended Hood's offensive, took the Confederate Army of Tennessee out of the war, and effectively ended the last major campaign in the Western Theater.
With the major fighting over in the West, Schofield was promoted to the brevet rank of major general in the regular army on March 13, 1865, and was placed in command of the Department of North Carolina on April 26, 1865, serving in that capacity until June 21. When hostilities ended, Schofield was mustered out of volunteer service on September 1, 1866, but continued to serve in the regular army.
After the Civil War, Schofield served as a confidential diplomatic emissary to France from June 22, 1865, to August 16, 1866, negotiating the withdrawal of French troops from Mexico. Upon his return from abroad, Schofield served briefly as Secretary of War under President Andrew Johnson from June 1, 1868, to March 13, 1869. On March 4, 1869, he was promoted to major general in the regular army. From 1872 to 1873, Schofield served on a special mission to assess the military value of the Hawaiian Islands and recommended that the United States establish a military base at Pearl Harbor. In 1876 Schofield was named as Superintendent of the United States Military Academy, where he remained until 1881. Upon leaving West Point, Schofield commanded the Military Division of the Pacific (1882-1883), the Division of the Missouri (1883-1886), and the Division of the Atlantic (1886-1888). On August 14, 1888, Schofield was promoted to commanding general of the entire United States Army. Later that year, his first wife, Harriet, died on December 24. Schofield subsequently married his second wife, Georgia Kilbourne, in 1891. In 1892, Schofield was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his "conspicuous gallantry" during the Battle of Wilson's Creek (August 10, 1861). Schofield was promoted to lieutenant general on February 25, 1895, before retiring from active service on his sixty-fourth birthday, on September 29.
John M. Schofield died from a cerebral hemorrhage on March 4, 1906, in St. Augustine, Florida, and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
- Battle of Nashville
- Ulysses S. Grant
- Atlanta Campaign
- Siege of Vicksburg
- William Tecumseh Sherman
- John Bell Hood
- George Henry Thomas
- Battle of Wilson’s Creek
- Nathaniel Lyon
- Andrew Johnson
- Army of the Ohio 1861?1862
- Department of the Ohio
- Army of the Cumberland
- General Orders, No. 316 (U.S. War Department)
- General Orders, No. 121 (U.S. War Department)
- General Orders, No. 28 (U.S. War Department)
- General Orders, No. 34 (U.S. War Department) (1864)
- General Orders, No. 144 (U.S. War Department)
- General Orders, No. 240 (U.S. War Department)
- General Orders, No. 256 (U.S. War Department)
- General Orders, No. 97 (U.S. War Department) (1865)
- Army of the Frontier
- Francis Jay Herron