General-in-Chief (also known as Senior Officer of the United States Army or Commanding General of the United States Army) was the title of the highest ranked officer in the United States Army through the 19th century. At different points in US history, the title was held by all four levels of general officer.
During the Antebellum, in peacetime, the general-in-chief acted as little more than a bureacrat. In time of war most generals-in-chief took to the field to command the US's largest army: George Washington did so in the American Revolution, Henry Dearborn did so in the War of 1812, Winfield Scott did so during the Mexican War, and both George McClellan and Ulysses S. Grant did so during the American Civil War. After the Civil War Generals-in-Chief usually remained in Washington, DC during the Indian Wars, the Spanish American War, and the Philippine Insurrection, but were actively involved in crafting strategy and military policy.
In 1903 the office was dissolved with the creation of the General Staff. Ever since, the highest ranked officer in the US Army has held the title Chief of Staff of the United States Army (though since 1949 he has been subordinate to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff).
General-in-Chief in Southern VictoryEdit
The general-in-chief had limited supervisory authority over largely autonomous field armies and was also charged with planning overall strategy, a task which was made all but impossible for one man by the structure of the army.
These inadequacies were very costly to the US in the Second Mexican War and ultimately contributed to the loss of that war. Following the war, German military observer to the US Alfred von Schlieffen suggested a reogranization of the army, doing away with the general-in-chief position and replacing it with the much more centralized Prussian-style General Staff.
General-in-Chief in The Guns of the SouthEdit