A Civil War Biography

John McCallister Schofield

Schofield was born 29 September 1831 in Gerry, Chautauqua County, New York. When he was just 12 his father, a Baptist minister, took the family to Freeport, Illinois. After being educated in the public schools Schofield received an appointment to West Point. He graduated standing 7th in the class of 1853 along with Philip H. Sheridan, James B McPherson, and John B. Hood and was assigned as a 2nd lieutenant in the 1st US artillery. Schofield served garrison duty in South Carolina and Florida until on 31 August 1855 he was promoted to 1st lieutenant and assigned as an assistant professor of natural and experimental philosophy at West Point. He remained at West Point until 1860 when he was granted a leave of absence to teach physics at Washington University of St. Louis, Missouri. He was still in that position when the war erupted.

When the war started Schofield remained in St. Louis and was returned to active duty. He joined the volunteer service on 26 April 1861 as a major in the 1st Missouri Infantry regiment and was assigned, as chief-of-staff, on the staff of Nathaniel Lyon . Schofield was promoted to captain in the 1st US Artillery on 14 May 1861. He saw action at Wilson's Creek on 10 August 1861 for which, on 2 July 1892, he was awarded the Medal of Honor, the citation reading, "Was conspicuously gallant in leading a regiment in a successful charge against the enemy." On 21 November 1861 he was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers and a few days later brigadier general in the Missouri militia. He commanded the Missouri militia for the next year and the Army of the Frontier and the District of Southwest Missouri from October 1862 until April 1863, mostly performing administrative duties. He was promoted to major general of volunteers on 13 May 1863 to rank from 29 November 1862 and was given command of the Department of the Missouri. In February 1864 he was assigned command of the Department and Army of the Ohio. Beginning in April 1864 his command, designated the XXIII Corps, took part in William T. Sherman's Atlanta campaign seeing action at Resaca, Dallas, Kennesaw Mountain, and Atlanta. When Sherman left Atlanta, headed to the sea, Schofield and his corps became part of the forces being organized under George H. Thomas to counter John B. Hood's invasion of Tennessee. Schofield was in command at Franklin on 30 November 1864 when Hood's army was affectively wrecked. Schofield joined Thomas at Nashville the following day. For his services at Franklin, Schofield was appointed brigadier general in the regular army and on 13 March 1865 was brevetted major general in the regular army. In January 1865 the XXIII Corps with Schofield in command, was detached from Thomas's army and sent by rail, via Washington DC, to North Carolina. On 9 February 1865, after arriving in North Carolina, Schofield was given command of the Department of North Carolina. His forces captured Wilmington on 22 February 1865, saw action at Kinston from 8 to 10 March, then joined Sherman's forces at Goldsboro on 22 March. Schofield administered the surrender of Joseph E. Johnston's forces on 26 April 1865.

Following the war Schofield remained in the military. He was assigned command of the First Military District of Virginia. In June 1865 he was sent to France as a special envoy from the State Department to negotiate the removal of French troops from Mexico. When he returned from France in May 1866, he was assigned command of the Department of the Potomac with headquarters in Richmond, Virginia. He was given command of the 1st Military District which included all of the state of Virginia in March 1867. On 2 June 1868 he replaced Edwin M. Stanton as Andrew Johnson's Secretary of War. Schofield remained in that position until the end of Johnson's term. Schofield even served briefly as Ulysses S. Grant's Secretary of War, leaving that position on 12 March 1869 when he was appointed major general in the US army and assigned command of the Department of the Missouri. He was assigned command the Division of the Pacific in 1870. While in that assignment he was part of a special mission from 1872 until 1873 to assess the military value of the Hawaiian Islands. His recommendation resulted in the establish of the US base at Pearl Harbor. He remained in command of the Division of the Pacific until 1876 when he was named superintendent at West Point. In 1878 he served as president of the board of inquiry that exonerated Fitz John Porter of the charges levied against Porter following the Second Battle of Bull Run and over turned Porter's January 1863 dismal from the army. In 1881, after five years at his alma mater Schofield returned to the Pacific command. In 1883 he was assigned command of the Division of the Missouri then in 1886 took over as commander of the Division of the Atlantic. On 14 August 1888, following the death of Philip S. Sheridan, Schofield was named commanding general of the army. He was promoted to lieutenant general in February 1895 and retired at that rank on 29 September 1895 having reached the mandatory retirement age of 64. He died 4 March 1906 in St. Augustine, Florida.

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