Peyton C. March

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Peyton Conway March
Peyton C. March.jpg
Born (1864-12-27)December 27, 1864
Easton, Pennsylvania
Died April 13, 1955(1955-04-13) (aged 90)
Washington, D.C.
Buried at Arlington National Cemetery
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch  United States Army
Years of service 1888–1921
Rank US-O10 insignia.svg General
Commands held 8th Field Artillery Regiment
Chief of Staff of the United States Army
Battles/wars Spanish–American War
Philippine–American War
World War I
Russian Civil War
Awards Distinguished Service Cross
Distinguished Service Medal
Silver Star
Legion of Honor (France)

Peyton Conway March (born December 27, 1864 in Easton, Pennsylvania – April 13, 1955) was an American soldier and Army Chief of Staff. He is largely responsible for the designing the powerful role of the Chief of Staff in the 20th century.

Early army career[edit]

March was the son of Francis Andrew March, considered the principal founder of modern comparative linguistics in Anglo-Saxon. Peyton March attended Lafayette College, where his father occupied the first chair of English language and comparative philology in the United States. His mother descended from Thomas Stone, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and was Moncure D. Conway's sister.[1] While at Lafayette College, March was a member of the Rho Chapter of Delta Kappa Epsilon. After graduating with honors in 1884,[2] he was appointed to West Point and graduated in 1888. After his initial assignment to the 3rd Artillery, March was assigned to the 5th Artillery as a 1st lieutenant in 1894.

He was sent to the Artillery School at Fort Monroe, Virginia in September 1896 and graduated in April 1898, at the outbreak of the Spanish–American War. As he was not immediately assigned, he watched as his classmates went off to various commands, and began fearing he would not see combat. In early May, that changed when he was offered to lead what later became known as the Astor Battery, named so because it was personally financed by John Jacob Astor IV. He organized, equipped and subsequently commanded the battery when it was sent to the Philippines during the Spanish–American War.[3] Historian Bruce Campbell Adamson has written about Henry Bidwell Ely (Adamson's great grandfather) who was placed in charge of The Astor Battery by John Jacob Astor IV, to give Peyton March whatever he needed. March credit's Ely as having "an open check book" to purchase uniforms, mules and the cannons.[4]

After the battery returned from the Philippines in 1899, March was assigned as the aide to Major General Arthur MacArthur, Jr. during the Philippine–American War. Later that year he was promoted to major. He continued to serve in the Philippines, participated as part of General Loyd Wheaton's expedition in battles at San Fabian, Buntayan Bridge and San Jacinto. He commanded the U.S. forces in the Battle of Tirad Pass, 2 December 1899, where General Gregorio del Pilar was killed, and received the surrender of General Venacio Concepción, Chief of Staff to Philippine President Aguinaldo at Cayan, 5 December 1899. He served as provincial governor of districts including Lepanto-Bontoc and Ilocos Sur from February to June 1900, and then the Abra Province from June 1900 to February 1901. He then served as Commissary General of Prisoners for the Philippine Islands through 30 June 1901, when he mustered out of the U.S. Volunteers.[5]

In 1903 he was sent to Fort Riley and commanded the 19th Battery of the Field Artillery. Later that year he was sent to Washington, D.C. and served on the newly created General Staff.

From 21 March to 30 November 1904, March was one of several American military attachés serving with the Imperial Japanese Army in the Russo-Japanese War. Of the seventeen military attachés observing both sides of the Russo-Japanese War for the United States, eight were later promoted to be generals.[6]

In 1907, March commanded the 1st Battalion, 6th Field Artillery. March then served as adjutant of Fort Riley, Kansas and then served as adjutant at several other commands, including at the War Department.

In 1916, he was promoted to colonel and commanded the 8th Field Artillery Regiment on the Mexican border.

World War I and later[edit]

In June 1917, March was promoted to brigadier general and commanded the 1st Field Artillery Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, American Expeditionary Forces. Later that year, he was promoted to major general and commanded the artillery units of the U.S. First Army and all non-divisional artillery units.

In March 1918, he was recalled to Washington, took over as acting Army Chief of Staff on March 4 and was Army Chief of Staff on May 20, 1918. He was promoted to temporary general.

General Peyton March as chief of staff.

March was highly critical of President Wilson's decision to send an American Expedition to North Russia and Siberia in 1918 during the Russian Civil War (the so-called Siberian Intervention) ostensibly to prop-up the White movement war effort, secure the railroads, support the Czech Legion trapped there, and stop the Japanese from exploiting the chaos in order to colonize Siberia. March wrote after the pull-out of American forces in 1920:

In 1919 March was admitted as an honorary member of the Virginia Society of the Cincinnati.

Gen. Peyton C. March, painted by Nicodemus David Hufford III.

He served as Chief of Staff until June 30, 1921. As Chief of Staff he reorganized the Army structure, and abolished the distinctions between the Regular Army, the Army Reserves, and the Army National Guard during war time. He created new technical branches in the service including the United States Army Air Corps, Chemical Warfare Service, Transportation Corps, and Tank Corps. He also centralized control over supply. After the war ended, he supervised the demobilization of the Army. As Chief of Staff he often came into disagreement with General John J. Pershing, who wanted to conduct the AEF as an independent command.

March retired as a major general in 1921.[8] In June 1930, March was advanced to general on the retired list.

In December 1922, March was elected honorary president of Delta Kappa Epsilon during the fraternity's 78th Annual Convention.[9]

After retirement, he travelled Europe, Africa and Turkey.[10] In 1932, he published his war memoirs, The Nation at War.[11] During World War II, reporters for Time and Life magazines regularly sought his opinions of events.[10]

March died on April 13, 1955 and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. In his funeral marched "the escort commander and his staff; the U.S. Army Band; one battalion of cadets from the US Military Academy; one company of infantry; one battery of field artillery; one company of armor; the U.S. Marine Band; one company of Marines; one company of bluejackets; one squadron of airmen; and one composite company of servicewomen." The estimated total strength of the military escort was 1,200 soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. At the grave "was a large group of military, civilian, and foreign dignitaries headed by Vice President Richard M. Nixon. Also in attendance were representatives of the Society of the Cincinnati, the Descendants of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence, and the Delta Kappa Epsilon Fraternity, to all of which General March had belonged."[12]

March was a highly efficient and capable administrator who did much to modernize the American Army and prepare it for combat in the First World War.


He married Josephine Cunningham (née Smith, 18 December 1862 – 18 November 1904), the widowed daughter[10] of his battery commander, Lieutenant Colonel Lewis Smith,[13] on July 4, 1891. She died in November 1904, while March was still observing the Imperial Japanese Army. Between 28 November 1917 and 8 June 1918, their daughters Mildred (1893—1967), Josephine (1895—1972) and Vivian (1899—1932) had all married Army officers.[14] Josephine had a twin brother, named Peyton Jr. who died ten days after their birth. March's second son, also named Peyton, Jr., was killed in a plane crash in Texas during World War I. March AFB in Riverside, California was named in young March's honor.[15] A third son, Lewis Alden March, was born in 1904 and died in 1928.[10][16]

While traveling in Italy, he met Cora Virginia McEntee (1897–1964), and married her in August 1923.[10][16][17]

Dates of rank[edit]

Rank Component Date
Cadet United States Military Academy 15 June 1884
Second Lieutenant Regular Army 11 June 1888
US-O2 insignia.svg First Lieutenant Regular Army 25 March 1894
US-O4 insignia.svg Major Volunteers 5 July 1899
US-O5 insignia.svg Lieutenant Colonel Volunteers 9 June 1900
US-O3 insignia.svg Captain Regular Army 2 February 1901 (Discharged from Volunteers - 30 June 1901)
US-O4 insignia.svg Major Regular Army 25 January 1907
US-O5 insignia.svg Lieutenant Colonel Regular Army 8 February 1912
US-O6 insignia.svg Colonel Regular Army 1 July 1916
US-O7 insignia.svg Brigadier General Regular Army 17 June 1917
US-O8 insignia.svg Major General National Army 5 August 1917
US-O8 insignia.svg Major General Regular Army 12 February 1918
US-O10 insignia.svg General Emergency 20 May 1918
US-O8 insignia.svg Major General Regular Army 1 July 1920
US-O8 insignia.svg Major General Retired List 1 November 1921
US-O10 insignia.svg General Retired List 21 June 1930

Source: Army Register, 1946[18]

Awards and decorations[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "March, Peyton Conway (1864 - 1955), Army Officers (1866–1995)". Oxford Index. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 15 May 2015. 
  2. ^ Delta Kappa Epsilon Council (1910). Warren, Aldice G., ed. Catalogue of the Delta Kappa Epsilon Fraternity. Philadelphia: John C. Winston Company. p. 742. Retrieved 15 May 2015. 
  3. ^ Feuer, A.B., ed. (2002). "11". America at War: The Philippines, 1898–1913 ([Online-Ausg.] ed.). Westport, Conn.: Praeger Publishers. pp. 65–72. ISBN 9780275968212. Retrieved 15 May 2015. 
  4. ^ Adamson, Bruce Campbell (1996). Potter, Agnes H.; Ely, George W.; Hawkins, William D., eds. The Life and Times of Captain George W. Ely, 1840–1922: Secretary of the New York Stock Exchange, 1874–1919. Aptos, California: Bruce Campbell Adamson. ISBN 9781892501011. 
  5. ^ Cullum, George Washington (1920). Braden, Lieutenant Charles, ed. Biographical Register of the Officers and Graduates of the U.S. Military Academy, at West Point, N.Y., since its Establishment in 1802: Supplement V, 1900–1910. Saginaw, Michigan: Houghton, Mifflin. p. 418. Retrieved September 5, 2015. 
  6. ^ Sisemore, James D. (2003). The Russo-Japanese War, lessons not learned. Fort Leavenworth, Kansas: U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. pp. 2, 109. ISBN 9781497522282. Retrieved 15 May 2015. 
  7. ^ Willett, Robert L. (2003). Russian sideshow : America's undeclared war 1918-1920 (1st ed.). Washington, DC: Brassey's. p. 264. ISBN 9781574884296. 
  8. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1922). "March, Francis Andrew". Encyclopædia Britannica (12th ed.). London & New York. 
  9. ^ "Delta Kappa Epsilon Honors Unknown Here". Evening Star (Washington, D.C.). 29 December 1922. p. 9. 
  10. ^ a b c d e Glenn, Justin (2014). The Washingtons: A Family History: Volume 5 (Part One): Generation Nine of the Presidential Branch. California: Savas Publishing. p. 535. ISBN 9781940669304. Retrieved 15 May 2015. 
  11. ^ March, Peyton C. (1932). The Nation at War. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Doran & Company, Inc. ISBN 9781430476542. 
  12. ^ Mossman, Billy C.; Stark, M. Warner (1972). The Last Salute: Civil and Military Funerals, 1921-1969. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office. pp. 81–86. 
  13. ^ "Tribute Paid at Bier of a Gallant Soldier". The San Francisco Call (San Francisco, California). 25 April 1907. p. 2. Retrieved 15 May 2015. 
  14. ^ "Maj. Gen. March's Three Daughters All War Brides". The Evening World (New York, N.Y.). 16 May 1918. p. 18. Retrieved 15 May 2015. 
  15. ^ Armed Services Press, Welcome to March Air Force Base – 1971 Unofficial Guide and Directory, Riverside, California, 1971, page 3.
  16. ^ a b papers, compiled from family; Anderson, from reliable sources by Sarah Travers Lewis Scott (1984). Lewises, Meriwethers and their Kin: Lewises and Meriwethers with Their Tracings through the Families Whose Records Are Herein Contained. Baltimore: Genealogical Pub. Co. p. 488. ISBN 9780806310725. Retrieved 15 May 2015. 
  17. ^ "General March has taken young bride". Berkeley Daily Gazette (Berkeley, California). 25 August 1923. p. 9. Retrieved 15 May 2015. 
  18. ^ The Adjutant General's Office, War Department (1946). Official Army Register for 1946 (PDF). Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office. p. 963. Retrieved September 5, 2015. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Tasker H. Bliss
Chief of Staff of the United States Army
Succeeded by
John J. Pershing