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
Gilbert Stuart - Major-General Henry Dearborn - 1913.793 - Art Institute of Chicago.jpg
Longest serving
Henry Dearborn

March 5, 1801 – March 4, 1809
United States Department of War
Style Mr. Secretary
Type 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
FormationSeptember 12, 1789
First holder Henry Knox
Final holder Kenneth C. Royall
Abolished September 18, 1947
Superseded by Secretary of the Army
Secretary of the Air Force
Succession 6th in the line of succession

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 modeled 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 MassachusettsMarch 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.PortraitSecretary of WarTook officeLeft officeTime in officePartyStates of residence President
serving under
Henry Knox by Gilbert Stuart 1806.jpeg
Henry Knox September 12, 1789December 31, 17945 years, 110 days Federalist Massachusetts George Washington
Timothy Pickering, Peale.jpg
Timothy Pickering January 2, 1795December 10, 1795342 days Federalist Pennsylvania George Washington [1]
James McHenry January 27, 1796June 1, 18004 years, 125 days Federalist Maryland George Washington
John Adams  (Federalist)
Samuel Dexter.jpg
Samuel Dexter June 1, 1800January 31, 1801244 days Federalist MassachusettsJohn Adams (Federalist)
Gilbert Stuart - Major-General Henry Dearborn - 1913.793 - Art Institute of Chicago.jpg
Henry Dearborn March 5, 1801March 4, 18097 years, 364 days Democratic-Republican Massachusetts Thomas Jefferson  (Democratic-Republican)
William Eustis.jpg
William Eustis March 7, 1809January 13, 18133 years, 312 days Democratic-Republican Massachusetts James Madison  (Democratic-Republican)
John Armstrong Jr Rembrandt Peale.jpg
John Armstrong Jr. January 13, 1813September 27, 18141 year, 257 days Democratic-Republican New York James Madison (Democratic-Republican)
James Monroe White House portrait 1819.jpg
James Monroe September 27, 1814March 2, 1815156 days Democratic-Republican Virginia James Madison (Democratic-Republican)
William H. Crawford August 1, 1815October 22, 18161 year, 82 days Democratic-Republican Georgia James Madison (Democratic-Republican)
George Peter Alexander Healy - John C. Calhoun - Google Art Project.jpg
John C. Calhoun October 8, 1817March 4, 18257 years, 147 days Democratic-Republican South Carolina James Monroe  (Democratic-Republican)
Portrait of James Barbour, by Chester Harding.jpg
James Barbour March 7, 1825May 23, 18283 years, 77 days Democratic-Republican Virginia John Quincy Adams  (Democratic-Republican)
Peter Buell Porter.jpg
Peter Buell Porter May 23, 1828March 9, 1829290 days Democratic-Republican New YorkJohn Quincy Adams (Democratic-Republican)
John Eaton.jpg
John H. Eaton March 9, 1829June 18, 18312 years, 101 days Democratic Tennessee Andrew Jackson  (D)
Lewis Cass circa 1855.jpg
Lewis Cass August 1, 1831October 5, 18365 years, 65 days Democratic Ohio Andrew Jackson (D)
JRP-SoW, S.jpg
Joel Roberts Poinsett March 7, 1837March 4, 18413 years, 362 days Democratic South Carolina Martin Van Buren  (D)
John Bell (Restored).png
John Bell March 5, 1841September 13, 1841192 days Whig Tennessee William Henry Harrison  (W)
John Tyler  (W)
SPENCER, John C-Treasury (BEP engraved portrait).jpg
John Canfield Spencer October 12, 1841March 4, 18431 year, 143 days Whig New YorkJohn Tyler (W)
James Madison Porter March 8, 1843February 14, 1844343 days Whig PennsylvaniaJohn Tyler (W)
William Wilkins United States Senator - Brady-Handy.jpg
William Wilkins February 15, 1844March 4, 18451 year, 17 days Democratic PennsylvaniaJohn Tyler (W)
William L. Marcy - Brady-Handy.jpg
William Learned Marcy March 6, 1845March 4, 18493 years, 363 days Democratic New York James K. Polk  (D)
George W. Crawford March 8, 1849July 22, 18501 year, 136 days Whig Georgia Zachary Taylor  (W)
Charles Magill Conrad.jpg
Charles Magill Conrad August 15, 1850March 4, 18532 years, 201 days Whig Louisiana Millard Fillmore  (W)
Jefferson Davis March 7, 1853March 4, 18573 years, 362 days Democratic Mississippi Franklin Pierce  (D)
John Buchanan Floyd.jpg
John B. Floyd March 6, 1857December 29, 18603 years, 298 days Democratic Virginia James Buchanan  (D)
Judge Joseph Holt - NARA - 526106 (3x4a).jpg
Joseph Holt January 18, 1861March 4, 186145 days Republican Kentucky James Buchanan (D)
Smn Cameron-SecofWar.jpg
Simon Cameron March 5, 1861January 14, 1862315 days Republican Pennsylvania Abraham Lincoln  (R)
Edwin McMasters Stanton Secretary of War.jpg
Edwin M. Stanton January 20, 1862May 28, 18685 years, 204 days [3] Republican PennsylvaniaAbraham Lincoln (R)
Andrew Johnson  (D)
Ulysses S. Grant 1870-1880.jpg
Ulysses S. Grant

August 12, 1867January 14, 1868155 days [4] Republican PennsylvaniaAbraham Lincoln (R)
Andrew Johnson (D)
Edwin McMasters Stanton Secretary of War.jpg
Edwin M. StantonJanuary 20, 1862May 28, 1868290 days [5] Republican PennsylvaniaAbraham Lincoln (R)
Andrew Johnson (D)
John M Schofield by CM Bell, c1860s (cropped).JPG
John McAllister Schofield June 1, 1868March 13, 1869285 days Republican Illinois Andrew Johnson (D)
John Aaron Rawlins-Brady-Handy Seated.jpg
John Aaron Rawlins March 13, 1869September 6, 1869177 days Republican Illinois Ulysses S. Grant  (R)
General William T. Sherman (4190887790) (cropped).jpg
William Sherman

September 6, 1869October 25, 186949 days Republican OhioUlysses S. Grant (R)
William W. Belknap October 25, 1869March 2, 18766 years, 129 days Republican Iowa Ulysses S. Grant (R)
Alphonso Taft - cropped and retouched.jpg
Alphonso Taft March 8, 1876May 22, 187675 days Republican OhioUlysses S. Grant (R)
J. Donald Cameron May 22, 1876March 4, 1877286 days Republican PennsylvaniaUlysses S. Grant (R)
George Washington McCrary, Brady-Handy bw photo portrait, ca1860-1875.jpg
George W. McCrary March 12, 1877December 10, 18792 years, 273 days Republican Iowa Rutherford B. Hayes  (R)
Alexander Ramsey - Brady-Handy.jpg
Alexander Ramsey December 10, 1879March 4, 18811 year, 84 days Republican Minnesota Rutherford B. Hayes (R)
Robert Todd Lincoln, Brady-Handy bw photo portrait, ca1870-1880-Edit1.jpg
Robert Todd Lincoln March 5, 1881March 4, 18853 years, 364 days Republican Illinois James A. Garfield  (R)
Chester A. Arthur  (R)
William Endicott, bw photo portrait, 1886.jpg
William Crowninshield Endicott March 5, 1885March 4, 18893 years, 364 days Democratic Massachusetts Grover Cleveland  (D)
Redfield Proctor, bw photo portrait, 1904.jpg
Redfield Proctor March 5, 1889November 5, 18912 years, 245 days Republican Vermont Benjamin Harrison  (R)
Stephen Benton Elkins Restore.jpg
Stephen Benton Elkins December 17, 1891March 4, 18931 year, 77 days Republican West Virginia Benjamin Harrison (R)
Daniel Lamont, bw photo portrait, 1904.jpg
Daniel S. Lamont March 5, 1893March 4, 18973 years, 364 days Democratic New YorkGrover Cleveland (D)
Russell Alexander Alger by The Detroit Publishing Co. - retouched from older copy.jpg
Russell A. Alger March 5, 1897August 1, 18992 years, 149 days Republican Michigan William McKinley  (R)
Elihu Root, bw photo portrait, 1902.jpg
Elihu Root August 1, 1899January 31, 19044 years, 183 days Republican New YorkWilliam McKinley (R)
Theodore Roosevelt  (R)
William Howard Taft, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing front.jpg
William Howard Taft February 1, 1904June 30, 19084 years, 150 days Republican OhioTheodore Roosevelt (R)
Secretary Luke Edward Wright.jpg
Luke Edward Wright July 1, 1908March 4, 1909246 days Republican TennesseeTheodore Roosevelt (R)
Jacob Dickinson, bw photo portrait standing, 1909.jpg
Jacob M. Dickinson March 12, 1909May 21, 19112 years, 70 days Democratic Tennessee William Howard Taft  (R)
Henry Stimson, Harris & Ewing bw photo portrait, 1929.jpg
Henry L. Stimson May 22, 1911March 4, 19131 year, 286 days Republican New YorkWilliam Howard Taft (R)
Lindley Garrison, BW photo portrait, 1913.jpg
Lindley Miller Garrison March 5, 1913February 10, 19162 years, 342 days Democratic New Jersey Woodrow Wilson  (D)
Newton Baker, Bain bw photo portrait.jpg
Newton D. Baker March 9, 1916March 4, 19214 years, 360 days Democratic OhioWoodrow Wilson (D)
John Wingate Weeks, Bain bw photo portrait.jpg
John W. Weeks March 5, 1921October 13, 19254 years, 222 days Republican Massachusetts Warren G. Harding  (R)
Calvin Coolidge  (R)
Dwight Davis, Bain bw photo portrait.jpg
Dwight F. Davis October 14, 1925March 4, 19293 years, 141 days Republican Missouri Calvin Coolidge (R)
James William Good, Harris & Ewing bw photo portrait, 1919.jpg
James William Good March 6, 1929November 18, 1929257 days Republican Iowa Herbert Hoover  (R)
Patrick J. Hurley, 1935.jpg
Patrick J. Hurley December 9, 1929March 4, 19333 years, 85 days Republican Oklahoma Herbert Hoover (R)
George Dern, Bain bw photo portrait.jpg
George Dern March 4, 1933August 27, 19363 years, 176 days Democratic Utah Franklin D. Roosevelt  (D)
Harry Hines Woodring, 53rd United States Secretary of War.jpg
Harry Hines Woodring September 25, 1936June 20, 19403 years, 269 days Democratic Kansas Franklin D. Roosevelt (D)
Henry Stimson, Harris & Ewing bw photo portrait, 1929.jpg
Henry L. Stimson July 10, 1940September 21, 19455 years, 73 days Republican New YorkFranklin D. Roosevelt (D)
Harry S. Truman  (D)
Portrait of Robert P. Patterson 111-C-C2512 (tight crop).jpg
Robert P. Patterson September 27, 1945July 18, 19471 year, 294 days Republican New YorkHarry S. Truman (D)
KCR portrait.jpg
Kenneth C. Royall July 19, 1947September 18, 194761 days Democratic North Carolina Harry S. Truman (D)

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  1. http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/D?hlaw:7:./temp/~ammem_WqlO:: [ bare URL ][ dead link ]
  2. "Papers of the War Department". Wardepartmentpapers.org. Archived from the original on December 29, 2018. Retrieved May 15, 2012.
  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