“General” is the highest rank in the Army, Marines, and the Air Force. Today, the highest rank anyone can attain in any branch of the service is general with four stars. In WWII, there were several five star generals–known as General of the Army. They included Douglas MacArthur and Dwight Eisenhower, the two great leaders during WWII. In peacetime, that rank disappeared.
George Washington was the first American to hold the rank as the Commanding General of the Continental Army. There were several generals that held that rank after that. The number of generals greatly increased during the Civil War. The figure approached 1,000. Since then, the figure has dropped precipitously.
Even though the American political system has successfully maintained civilian control of the military since the country’s inception, the United States holds a special place for the generals who served the nation with distinction. And the U.S. has rewarded some of those distinguished soldiers who chose to enter politics.
Becoming a general has proved to be a stepping stone to the presidency. Twelve U.S. generals have gone on to occupy the White House, and half of them served during and after the Civil War. The qualities of inspiring leadership and decisive action that distinguished their military careers helped propel them to the presidency.
24/7 Wall St. looked at histories of the U.S, histories of the major military engagements the country participated in over the years since it was founded, and the importance of the wars in which these generals fought. The list is made up of generals who led troubles in critical battles, affected the course of entire wars, or managed the largest numbers of troops in U.S. history.
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