Leonard Wood was a
physician who served as the US Army Chief of Staff and Governor General
of the Philippines. He later became a recipient of the Medal of Honor.
Maj. Gen. Leonard Wood
Born in Winchester, New Hampshire, he attended Pierce Academy in
Middleborough, Massachusetts and Harvard Medical School, earning an
M.D. degree in 1884 as an intern at Boston City Hospital.
He took a position as an Army contract physician in 1885, and was
stationed at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. Wood participated in the last
campaign against Geronimo in 1886, and was awarded the Medal of Honor
in 1898 for carrying dispatches 100 miles through hostile territory and
for commanding an infantry detachment whose officers had been lost.
Wood was personal physician to Presidents Grover Cleveland and William
McKinley through 1898. It was during this period he developed a
friendship with Theodore Roosevelt, then assistant secretary of the
At the outbreak of the Spanish-American War, Wood, with Roosevelt,
organized the 1st Volunteer Cavalry regiment, popularly known as the
Rough Riders. Wood commanded the regiment in a successful engagement
known as the Battle of Las Guasimas. When brigade commander, Samuel B.
M. Young became ill, Wood received a field promotion to brigadier
general of volunteers and assumed command of the 2nd Brigade, Cavalry
Division, V Corps (which included the Rough Riders) and led the brigade
to a famous victory at Kettle Hill and San Juan Heights.
After San Juan, Wood led the 2nd Cavalry Brigade for the rest of the
war; he stayed in Cuba after the war and was appointed the Military
Governor of Santiago in 1898, and of Cuba from 1899-1902. In that
capacity he relied on his medical experience to institute improvements
to the medical and sanitary conditions in Cuba. He was promoted to
brigadier general of regulars shortly before moving to his next
In 1902 he proceeded to the Philippines, where he served in the
capacity of commander of the Philippines Division and later as
commander of the Department of the East. He was promoted to major
general in 1903, and served as governor of Moro province from 1903-06.
During this period he was in charge of several bloody campaigns against
Filipino troops, which was to be the beginning of his unpopularity
Wood was named Army Chief of Staff in 1910 by President Taft, whom he
had met while both were in the Philippines; he remains the only medical
officer to have ever held that position. As Chief of Staff, Wood
implemented several programs, among which were the forerunner of the
Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program, and the Preparedness
Movement, a campaign for universal military training and wartime
conscription. The Preparedness Movement plan was scrapped in favor of
the Selective Service System, shortly before World War I. He developed
the Mobile Army, thus laying the groundwork for American success in
WWI. He also created the General Staff Corps.
In 1914, Wood was replaced as Chief of Staff by William Wotherspoon.
With the US entry into World War I, Wood was recommended by
Republicans, in particular Henry Cabot Lodge, to be the U.S. field
commander; however, War Secretary Newton Baker instead appointed John
J. Pershing, amid much controversy. During the war, Wood was instead
put in charge of the training of the 10th and 89th Infantry Divisions,
both at Camp Funston. In 1915, he published The Military Obligation of
Citizenship, and in 1916 Our Military History.
Wood was an unsuccessful candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in the election of 1920.
He retired from the Army in 1921, and was made Governor General of the
Philippines, in which capacity he served from 1921 to 1927. He was
noted for his harsh, unpopular policies.
Wood died in Boston, Massachusetts after undergoing surgery for a brain
tumor that had resulted from an earlier head injury. He is buried in
Arlington National Cemetery.
Camp Leonard Wood in Missouri, now Fort Leonard Wood, home of the U.S.
Army Combat Engineer School, was named in his honor, as was the USS
Leonard Wood (AP-25/APA-12).
Medal of Honor citation
Medal of Honor
Voluntarily carried dispatches through a region
infested with hostile Indians, making a journey of 70 miles in one
night and walking 30 miles the next day. Also for several weeks, while
in close pursuit of Geronimo's band and constantly expecting an
encounter, commanded a detachment of Infantry, which was then without
an officer, and to the command of which he was assigned upon his own
After Leonard Wood's death in 1927, his widow, Louise Wood offered one
hundred dollars (a lot of money in the late 1920's) to any American
Legion Post that would honor Leonard with his name, Hillsdale post 162
took up the offer. Hence our post was so named.
General Leonard E. Wood
October 9, 1860 - August 7, 1927