United States Secretary of War

Last updated
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
Style Mr. Secretary
Member of Cabinet
Reports to President of the United States
Seat Washington, D.C.
AppointerThe President
with Senate advice and consent
Term length No fixed term
PrecursorSecretary at War
First holder Henry Knox
Final holder Kenneth C. Royall
Abolished 1947
Succession Secretary 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

Secretary at War (1781–1789)

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.PortraitNameState of residenceTook officeLeft officeCongress
1 General Benjamin Lincoln-restored.jpg Benjamin Lincoln Massachusetts March 1, 1781November 2, 1783 Congress of the Confederation
2 Henry Knox by Gilbert Stuart 1806.jpeg Henry Knox Massachusetts March 8, 1785September 12, 1789

Secretary of War (1789–1947)

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. Swearing in of Secretary Dwight Davis.jpg
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.PortraitNameState of residenceTook officeLeft office President(s)
1 Henry Knox by Gilbert Stuart 1806.jpeg Henry Knox Massachusetts September 12, 1789December 31, 1794 George Washington
2 Timothy-Pickering.jpg Timothy Pickering Pennsylvania [1] January 2, 1795December 10, 1795
3 JMcHenry.jpg James McHenry Maryland January 27, 1796June 1, 1800 [2]
John Adams
4 Samuel Dexter.jpg Samuel Dexter Massachusetts June 1, 1800January 31, 1801
5 Gilbert Stuart - Major-General Henry Dearborn - 1913.793 - Art Institute of Chicago.jpg Henry Dearborn Massachusetts March 5, 1801March 4, 1809 Thomas Jefferson
6 William Eustis.jpg William Eustis Massachusetts March 7, 1809January 13, 1813 James Madison
7 John Armstrong Jr..jpg John Armstrong, Jr. New York January 13, 1813September 27, 1814
8 Jamesmonroe-npgallery.jpg James Monroe Virginia September 27, 1814March 2, 1815
9 WilliamHarrisCrawford5.jpg William H. Crawford Georgia August 1, 1815October 22, 1816
10 JCCalhoun-1822.jpg John C. Calhoun South Carolina October 8, 1817March 4, 1825 James Monroe
11 BarbourT.jpg James Barbour Virginia March 7, 1825May 23, 1828 John Quincy Adams
12 Peter Buell Porter.jpg Peter Buell Porter New York May 23, 1828March 9, 1829
13 John Eaton.jpg John H. Eaton Tennessee March 9, 1829June 18, 1831 Andrew Jackson
14 Lewis Cass 2.jpg Lewis Cass Ohio August 1, 1831October 5, 1836
15 Jrpoinsett.jpg Joel Roberts Poinsett South Carolina March 7, 1837March 4, 1841 Martin Van Buren
16 JBell.jpg John Bell Tennessee March 5, 1841September 13, 1841 William Henry Harrison
John Tyler
17 SpencerJohn.jpg John Canfield Spencer New York October 12, 1841March 4, 1843
18 PorterJM.jpg James Madison Porter Pennsylvania March 8, 1843February 14, 1844
19 William Wilkins United States Senator - Brady-Handy.jpg William Wilkins Pennsylvania February 15, 1844March 4, 1845
20 William L. Marcy.png William Learned Marcy New York March 6, 1845March 4, 1849 James K. Polk
21 GWCrawford2.jpg George W. Crawford Georgia March 8, 1849July 22, 1850 Zachary Taylor
22 Charles Magill Conrad.jpg Charles Magill Conrad Louisiana August 15, 1850March 4, 1853 Millard Fillmore
23 President-Jefferson-Davis.jpg Jefferson Davis Mississippi March 7, 1853March 4, 1857 Franklin Pierce
24 John Buchanan Floyd.jpg John B. Floyd Virginia March 6, 1857December 29, 1860 James Buchanan
25 Joseph Holt.jpg Joseph Holt Kentucky January 18, 1861March 4, 1861
26 Smn Cameron-SecofWar.jpg Simon Cameron Pennsylvania March 5, 1861January 14, 1862 Abraham Lincoln
27 Edwin McMasters Stanton Secretary of War.jpg Edwin M. Stanton Pennsylvania January 20, 1862May 28, 1868
Andrew Johnson
28 John Schofield.jpg John McAllister Schofield Illinois June 1, 1868March 13, 1869
29 John Aaron Rawlins - Brady-Handy.jpg John Aaron Rawlins Illinois March 13, 1869September 6, 1869 Ulysses S. Grant
30 WWBelknap.jpg William W. Belknap Iowa October 25, 1869March 2, 1876
31 Alphonso Taft seated.jpg Alphonso Taft Ohio March 8, 1876May 22, 1876
32 JDonaldC2.jpg J. Donald Cameron Pennsylvania May 22, 1876March 4, 1877
33 GWMcCrary.jpg George W. McCrary Iowa March 12, 1877December 10, 1879 Rutherford B. Hayes
34 Alexander Ramsey - Brady-Handy.jpg Alexander Ramsey Minnesota December 10, 1879March 4, 1881
35 Robert Todd Lincoln, Brady-Handy bw photo portrait, ca1870-1880.jpg Robert Todd Lincoln Illinois March 5, 1881March 4, 1885 James A. Garfield
Chester A. Arthur
36 William Endicott, bw photo portrait, 1886.jpg William Crowninshield Endicott Massachusetts March 5, 1885March 4, 1889 Grover Cleveland
37 Redfield Proctor, bw photo portrait, 1904.jpg Redfield Proctor Vermont March 5, 1889November 5, 1891 Benjamin Harrison
38 SBElkins.jpg Stephen Benton Elkins West Virginia December 17, 1891March 4, 1893
39 Daniel Lamont, bw photo portrait, 1904.jpg Daniel S. Lamont New York March 5, 1893March 4, 1897 Grover Cleveland
40 Russell Alexander Alger by by The Detroit Publishing Co..jpg Russell A. Alger Michigan March 5, 1897August 1, 1899 William McKinley
41 Elihu Root, bw photo portrait, 1902.jpg Elihu Root New York August 1, 1899January 31, 1904
Theodore Roosevelt
42 William Howard Taft.jpg William Howard Taft Ohio February 1, 1904June 30, 1908
43 Luke Edward Wright.jpg Luke Edward Wright Tennessee July 1, 1908March 4, 1909
44 Jacob Dickinson, bw photo portrait standing, 1909.jpg Jacob M. Dickinson Tennessee March 12, 1909May 21, 1911 William Howard Taft
45 HLStimson.jpg Henry L. Stimson New York May 22, 1911March 4, 1913
46 Lindley Garrison, BW photo portrait, 1913.jpg Lindley Miller Garrison New Jersey March 5, 1913February 10, 1916 Woodrow Wilson
47 Newton Baker, Bain bw photo portrait.jpg Newton D. Baker Ohio March 9, 1916March 4, 1921
48 John Wingate Weeks, Bain bw photo portrait.jpg John W. Weeks Massachusetts March 5, 1921October 13, 1925 Warren G. Harding
Calvin Coolidge
49 Dwight Davis, Bain bw photo portrait.jpg Dwight F. Davis Missouri October 14, 1925March 4, 1929
50 James William Good, Harris & Ewing bw photo portrait, 1919.jpg James William Good Illinois March 6, 1929November 18, 1929 Herbert Hoover
51 PJayHurl.jpg Patrick J. Hurley Oklahoma December 9, 1929March 4, 1933
52 George Dern, Bain bw photo portrait.jpg George Dern Utah March 4, 1933August 27, 1936 Franklin D. Roosevelt
53 Harry Hines Woodring, 53rd United States Secretary of War.jpg Harry Hines Woodring Kansas September 25, 1936June 20, 1940
54 Henry Stimson, Harris & Ewing bw photo portrait, 1929.jpg Henry L. Stimson New York July 10, 1940September 21, 1945
Harry S. Truman
55 Robert P. Patterson, 55th United States Secretary of War.jpg Robert P. Patterson New York September 27, 1945July 18, 1947
56 KCR portrait.jpg Kenneth C. Royall North Carolina July 19, 1947September 18, 1947

See also

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  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.

Further reading