United States Secretary of War

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United States Secretary of War
Seal of the United States Department of War.png
Flag of the United States Secretary of the Army.svg
Flag of the Secretary of War
KCR portrait.jpg
Last in office
Kenneth C. Royall

July 19, 1947 – September 18, 1947
United States Department of War
StyleMr. Secretary
Member ofCabinet
Reports toPresident of the United States
SeatWashington, D.C.
AppointerThe President
with Senate advice and consent
Term lengthNo fixed term
PrecursorSecretary at War
First holderHenry Knox
Final holderKenneth C. Royall
SuccessionSecretary of the Army
Secretary of the Air Force

The secretary of war was a member of the U.S. president's Cabinet, beginning with George Washington's administration. A similar position, called either "Secretary at War" or "Secretary of War", had been appointed to serve the Congress of the Confederation under the Articles of Confederation between 1781 and 1789. Benjamin Lincoln and later Henry Knox held the position. When Washington was inaugurated as the first President under the Constitution, he appointed Knox to continue serving as Secretary of War.

The secretary of war was the head of the War Department. At first, he was responsible for all military affairs, including naval affairs. In 1798, the secretary of the Navy was created by statute, and the scope of responsibility for this office was reduced to the affairs of the United States Army. From 1886 onward, the secretary of war was in the line of succession to the presidency, after the vice president of the United States, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the President pro tempore of the Senate and the secretary of state.

In 1947, with the passing of the National Security Act of 1947, the secretary of war was replaced by the secretary of the Army and the secretary of the Air Force, which, along with the secretary of the Navy, have since 1949 been non-Cabinet subordinates under the secretary of defense. The secretary of the Army's office is generally considered the direct successor to the secretary of war's office although the secretary of defense took the secretary of war's position in the Cabinet, and the line of succession to the presidency.

List of secretaries[edit]

Secretary at War (1781–1789)[edit]

The office of Secretary at War was modelled upon Great Britain's secretary at war, who was William Barrington, 2nd Viscount Barrington, at the time of the American Revolution. The office of Secretary at War was meant to replace both the commander-in-chief and the Board of War, and like the president of the board, the secretary wore no special insignia. The inspector general, quartermaster general, commissary general, and adjutant general served on the secretary's staff. However, the Army itself under Secretary Henry Knox only consisted of 700 men.

No. Portrait Name State of residence Took office Left office Congress
1 General Benjamin Lincoln-restored.jpg Benjamin Lincoln Massachusetts March 1, 1781 November 2, 1783 Congress of the Confederation
2 Henry Knox by Gilbert Stuart 1806.jpeg Henry Knox Massachusetts March 8, 1785 September 12, 1789

Secretary of War (1789–1947)[edit]

Swearing in of Dwight F. Davis as Secretary of War in 1925. Former Secretaries John W. Weeks and Chief Justice William Howard Taft are standing beside him.

  Federalist (4)   Democratic-Republican (8)   Democratic (14)   Whig (5)   Republican (25)

No. Portrait Secretary of War Took office Left office Time in office Party State of residence President
serving under
Henry Knox
Henry KnoxSeptember 12, 1789December 31, 17945 years, 110 daysFederalistMassachusettsGeorge Washington
Timothy Pickering
Timothy PickeringJanuary 2, 1795December 10, 1795342 daysFederalistPennsylvaniaGeorge Washington[1]
James McHenry
James McHenryJanuary 27, 1796June 1, 18004 years, 125 daysFederalistMarylandGeorge Washington
John Adams (Federalist)
Samuel Dexter
Samuel DexterJune 1, 1800January 31, 1801244 daysFederalistMassachusettsJohn Adams (Federalist)
Henry Dearborn
Henry DearbornMarch 5, 1801March 4, 18097 years, 364 daysDemocratic-RepublicanMassachusettsThomas Jefferson (Democratic-Republican)
William Eustis
William EustisMarch 7, 1809January 13, 18133 years, 312 daysDemocratic-RepublicanMassachusettsJames Madison (Democratic-Republican)
John Armstrong, Jr.
John Armstrong, Jr.January 13, 1813September 27, 18141 year, 257 daysDemocratic-RepublicanNew YorkJames Madison (Democratic-Republican)
James Monroe
James MonroeSeptember 27, 1814March 2, 1815156 daysDemocratic-RepublicanVirginiaJames Madison (Democratic-Republican)
William H. Crawford
William H. CrawfordAugust 1, 1815October 22, 18161 year, 82 daysDemocratic-RepublicanGeorgiaJames Madison (Democratic-Republican)
John C. Calhoun
John C. CalhounOctober 8, 1817March 4, 18257 years, 147 daysDemocratic-RepublicanSouth CarolinaJames Monroe (Democratic-Republican)
James Barbour
James BarbourMarch 7, 1825May 23, 18283 years, 77 daysDemocratic-RepublicanVirginiaJohn Quincy Adams (Democratic-Republican)
Peter Buell Porter
Peter Buell PorterMay 23, 1828March 9, 1829290 daysDemocratic-RepublicanNew YorkJohn Quincy Adams (Democratic-Republican)
John H. Eaton
John H. EatonMarch 9, 1829June 18, 18312 years, 101 daysDemocraticTennesseeAndrew Jackson (Democratic)
Lewis Cass
Lewis CassAugust 1, 1831October 5, 18365 years, 65 daysDemocraticOhioAndrew Jackson (Democratic)
Joel Roberts Poinsett
Joel Roberts PoinsettMarch 7, 1837March 4, 18413 years, 362 daysDemocraticSouth CarolinaMartin Van Buren (Democratic)
John Bell
John BellMarch 5, 1841September 13, 1841192 daysWhigTennesseeWilliam Henry Harrison (Whig)
John Tyler (Whig)
John Canfield Spencer
John Canfield SpencerOctober 12, 1841March 4, 18431 year, 143 daysWhigNew YorkJohn Tyler (Whig)
James Madison Porter
James Madison PorterMarch 8, 1843February 14, 1844343 daysWhigPennsylvaniaJohn Tyler (Whig)
William Wilkins
William WilkinsFebruary 15, 1844March 4, 18451 year, 17 daysDemocraticPennsylvaniaJohn Tyler (Whig)
William Learned Marcy
William Learned MarcyMarch 6, 1845March 4, 18493 years, 363 daysDemocraticNew YorkJames K. Polk (Democratic)
George W. Crawford
George W. CrawfordMarch 8, 1849July 22, 18501 year, 136 daysWhigGeorgiaZachary Taylor (Whig)
Charles Magill Conrad
Charles Magill ConradAugust 15, 1850March 4, 18532 years, 201 daysWhigLouisianaMillard Fillmore (Whig)
Jefferson Davis
Jefferson DavisMarch 7, 1853March 4, 18573 years, 362 daysDemocraticMississippiFranklin Pierce (Democratic)
John B. Floyd
John B. FloydMarch 6, 1857December 29, 18603 years, 298 daysDemocraticVirginiaJames Buchanan (Democratic)
Joseph Holt
Joseph HoltJanuary 18, 1861March 4, 186145 daysRepublicanKentuckyJames Buchanan (Democratic)
Simon Cameron
Simon CameronMarch 5, 1861January 14, 1862315 daysRepublicanPennsylvaniaAbraham Lincoln (Republican)
Edwin M. Stanton
Edwin M. StantonJanuary 20, 1862May 28, 18685 years, 204 days[3]RepublicanPennsylvaniaAbraham Lincoln (Republican)
Andrew Johnson (Democratic)
Ulysses S. Grant (Acting)
Ulysses S. Grant

January 20, 1862May 28, 1868155 days[4]RepublicanPennsylvaniaAbraham Lincoln (Republican)
Andrew Johnson (Democratic)
Edwin M. Stanton
Edwin M. StantonJanuary 20, 1862May 28, 1868290 days[5]RepublicanPennsylvaniaAbraham Lincoln (Republican)
Andrew Johnson (Democratic)
John McAllister Schofield
John McAllister SchofieldJune 1, 1868March 13, 1869285 daysRepublicanIllinoisAndrew Johnson (Democratic)
John Aaron Rawlins
John Aaron RawlinsMarch 13, 1869September 6, 1869177 daysRepublicanIllinoisUlysses S. Grant (Republican)
William Sherman (Acting)
William Sherman

September 6, 1869October 25, 186949 daysRepublicanOhioUlysses S. Grant (Republican)
William W. Belknap
William W. BelknapOctober 25, 1869March 2, 18766 years, 129 daysRepublicanIowaUlysses S. Grant (Republican)
Alphonso Taft
Alphonso TaftMarch 8, 1876May 22, 187675 daysRepublicanOhioUlysses S. Grant (Republican)
J. Donald Cameron
J. Donald CameronMay 22, 1876March 4, 1877286 daysRepublicanPennsylvaniaUlysses S. Grant (Republican)
George W. McCrary
George W. McCraryMarch 12, 1877December 10, 18792 years, 273 daysRepublicanIowaRutherford B. Hayes (Republican)
Alexander Ramsey
Alexander RamseyDecember 10, 1879March 4, 18811 year, 84 daysRepublicanMinnesotaRutherford B. Hayes (Republican)
Robert Todd Lincoln
Robert Todd LincolnMarch 5, 1881March 4, 18853 years, 364 daysRepublicanIllinoisJames A. Garfield (Republican)
Chester A. Arthur (Republican)
William Crowninshield Endicott
William Crowninshield EndicottMarch 5, 1885March 4, 18893 years, 364 daysDemocraticMassachusettsGrover Cleveland (Democratic)
Redfield Proctor
Redfield ProctorMarch 5, 1889November 5, 18912 years, 245 daysRepublicanVermontBenjamin Harrison (Republican)
Stephen Benton Elkins
Stephen Benton ElkinsDecember 17, 1891March 4, 18931 year, 77 daysRepublicanWest VirginiaBenjamin Harrison (Republican)
Daniel S. Lamont
Daniel S. LamontMarch 5, 1893March 4, 18973 years, 364 daysDemocraticNew YorkGrover Cleveland (Democratic)
Russell A. Alger
Russell A. AlgerMarch 5, 1897August 1, 18992 years, 149 daysRepublicanMichiganWilliam McKinley (Republican)
Elihu Root
Elihu RootAugust 1, 1899January 31, 19044 years, 183 daysRepublicanNew YorkWilliam McKinley (Republican)
Theodore Roosevelt (Republican)
William Howard Taft
William Howard TaftFebruary 1, 1904June 30, 19084 years, 150 daysRepublicanOhioTheodore Roosevelt (Republican)
Luke Edward Wright
Luke Edward WrightJuly 1, 1908March 4, 1909246 daysRepublicanTennesseeTheodore Roosevelt (Republican)
Jacob M. Dickinson
Jacob M. DickinsonMarch 12, 1909May 21, 19112 years, 70 daysRepublicanTennesseeWilliam Howard Taft (Republican)
Henry L. Stimson
Henry L. StimsonMay 22, 1911March 4, 19131 year, 286 daysRepublicanNew YorkWilliam Howard Taft (Republican)
Lindley Miller Garrison
Lindley Miller GarrisonMarch 5, 1913February 10, 19162 years, 342 daysDemocraticNew JerseyWoodrow Wilson (Democratic)
Newton D. Baker
Newton D. BakerMarch 9, 1916March 4, 19214 years, 360 daysDemocraticOhioWoodrow Wilson (Democratic)
John W. Weeks
John W. WeeksMarch 5, 1921October 13, 19254 years, 222 daysRepublicanMassachusettsWarren G. Harding (Republican)
Calvin Coolidge (Republican)
Dwight F. Davis
Dwight F. DavisOctober 14, 1925March 4, 19293 years, 141 daysRepublicanMissouriCalvin Coolidge (Republican)
James William Good
James William GoodMarch 6, 1929November 18, 1929257 daysRepublicanIllinoisHerbert Hoover (Republican)
Patrick J. Hurley
Patrick J. HurleyDecember 9, 1929March 4, 19333 years, 85 daysRepublicanOklahomaHerbert Hoover (Republican)
George Dern
George DernMarch 4, 1933August 27, 19363 years, 176 daysDemocraticUtahFranklin D. Roosevelt (Democratic)
Harry Hines Woodring
Harry Hines WoodringSeptember 25, 1936June 20, 19403 years, 269 daysDemocraticKansasFranklin D. Roosevelt (Democratic)
Henry L. Stimson
Henry L. StimsonJuly 10, 1940September 21, 19455 years, 73 daysRepublicanNew YorkFranklin D. Roosevelt (Democratic)
Harry S. Truman (Democratic)
Robert P. Patterson
Robert P. PattersonSeptember 27, 1945July 18, 19471 year, 294 daysRepublicanNew YorkHarry S. Truman (Democratic)
Kenneth C. Royall
Kenneth C. RoyallJuly 19, 1947September 18, 194761 daysDemocraticNorth CarolinaHarry S. Truman (Democratic)

See also[edit]



  1. ^ http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/D?hlaw:7:./temp/~ammem_WqlO::
  2. ^ "Papers of the War Department". Wardepartmentpapers.org. Retrieved 2012-05-15.
  3. ^ From August 12, 1867 until January 14, 1868, Stanton was suspended from office, and Ulysses S. Grant served as Acting Secretary of War. For more on President Johnson's attempts to remove Stanton from office, see impeachment of Andrew Johnson.
  4. ^ From August 12, 1867 until January 14, 1868, Stanton was suspended from office, and Ulysses S. Grant served as Acting Secretary of War. For more on President Johnson's attempts to remove Stanton from office, see impeachment of Andrew Johnson.
  5. ^ From August 12, 1867 until January 14, 1868, Stanton was suspended from office, and Ulysses S. Grant served as Acting Secretary of War. For more on President Johnson's attempts to remove Stanton from office, see impeachment of Andrew Johnson.

Further reading[edit]