Hugh L. Scott

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Hugh L. Scott
General Scott, c. 1908-19
Birth nameHugh Lenox Scott
Born(1853-09-22)September 22, 1853
near Danville, Kentucky, United States
DiedApril 30, 1934(1934-04-30) (aged 80)
Washington, D.C., United States
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service1876–1919
Rank Major general
Unit Cavalry Branch
Commands held78th Division
Chief of Staff of the United States Army
2nd Cavalry Brigade
3rd Cavalry Regiment
Superintendent of the United States Military Academy
Battles/warsAmerican Indian Wars

Philippine–American War

World War I
Russian Civil War
AwardsArmy Distinguished Service Medal
Silver Star (2)

Major General Hugh Lenox Scott (September 22, 1853 – April 30, 1934) was a United States Army officer. A West Point graduate of 1876, he served as superintendent of West Point from 1906 to 1910 and as chief of staff of the United States Army from 1914 to 1917, which included the first few months of American involvement in World War I.

1973 Portrait by Robert Oliver Skemp

Early life[edit]

Scott was born in Danville, Kentucky, on September 22, 1853, the son of Reverend William McKendry Scott and Mary Elizabeth (Hodges) Scott.[1] He grew up in Danville and in Princeton, New Jersey, where he was educated at The Lawrenceville School.[1] He attended Princeton University, before being accepted into the United States Military Academy at West Point.[1][2]

Military career[edit]

Scott graduated from West Point with the Class of 1876 (his Cullum number was 2628), and was commissioned in the cavalry.[1] For some twenty years thereafter he served on the Western frontier, chiefly with the 7th United States Cavalry. He was assigned to the quarters only recently vacated by the widow of George Armstrong Custer. In fact, Scott was sent out to the Little Big Horn battle site to mark gravesites for Custer's men killed in the battle. He also had the opportunity to interview many of the Native Americans who fought on both sides of the battle on June 25, 1876. He saw action in campaigns against the Sioux, Nez Perce, Cheyenne and other tribes of the Great Plains and became an expert in their languages and ways of life. He was promoted to first lieutenant in June 1878.

About 1889, while stationed with the 7th Cavalry at Fort Sill in Oklahoma, Scott made the acquaintance of an Indian scout named I-See-O (Plenty Fires) of the Kiowa tribe. I-See-O enlisted in the Indian Scouts in 1889 and taught Scott Native American sign language and techniques of frontier warfare. Scott was placed in command of Troop L of the 7th Cavalry on March 29, 1891, and of a detachment of Indian Scouts on September 18, 1891.

When Scott was given command of Troop L of the regiment in 1891, he had I-See-O serve as his first sergeant. (Infantry regiments designated Company I for their Native American scouts, and cavalry regiments did the same with Troop L.) During the ghost dance phenomenon of the early 1890s, I-See-O helped in persuading the Apache and Kiowa tribes not to go to war. This action, while serving the interest of white settlers and speculators, undoubtedly also saved the lives of many Native Americans. Scott's gratitude to I-See-O was such that, when he was chief of staff of the army, he allowed for Sergeant I-See-O to remain on active duty for life.[3]

In 1890–91, he was given the responsibility for suppressing the "Ghost Dance" religious movement that swept the Indian reservations and received official commendation for that work. In 1892, he organized Troop L of the 7th Cavalry, composed of Kiowa, Comanche and Apache Indians, and commanded it until it was mustered out, the last Indian unit in the United States Army, in 1897. In 1894–97, he had charge of Geronimo's band of Chiricahua Apache Indian prisoners at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.[1] He was promoted to captain in January 1895, having served as a first lieutenant for 16+12 years.

In November 1897, he was attached to the Bureau of American Ethnology of the Smithsonian Institution, where he began preparing a work on Indian sign languages. In May 1898, after the outbreak of the Spanish–American War, he was appointed major of volunteers and assistant adjutant general of the 2nd and 3rd Divisions, I Corps. He saw no action in that war, but in March 1899 went to Cuba as adjutant general of the Department of Havana, with the rank of lieutenant colonel of volunteers.

In May 1900, he became adjutant general of the Department of Cuba and remained in that post until May 1902.[1] During that time, he served for a time as acting governor and took an active part in the transfer of government into Cuban hands. He was promoted to major in the Regular Army in February 1903 and served as military governor of the Sulu Archipelago, Philippines, in 1903–06 and also commanded troops there, taking part in various skirmishes, reorganized the civil government and institutions. During this assignment he received two Silver Star citations for gallantry in action.[1]

General Scott at Camp Dix
General Scott at Camp Dix.

In August 1906, he was named superintendent of the United States Military Academy, a post he held for four years with the temporary rank of colonel.[2] He was promoted to permanent lieutenant colonel in March 1911 and to colonel in August of the same year. He then commanded the 3rd United States Cavalry Regiment in Texas, engaged in settling various Indian troubles.

Major General Hugh L. Scott and members of his staff at a base hospital, December 1917

In March 1913, Scott was promoted to brigadier general in command of the 2nd Cavalry Brigade, still posted to the Southwest. He won a special commendation for his skillful handling of Navajo disturbances at Beautiful Mountain, Arizona, in November 1913. He was named assistant chief of staff in April 1914 and chief of staff of the United States Army from 1914 to 1917, including the first few months of American involvement in World War I. He was promoted to major general in April 1915. He continued to act in a diplomatic role with Indians and Mexican border officials in the Southwest, settling problems with the Paiutes of Utah in March 1915 and recovering property "confiscated" by Pancho Villa in August.[4]

From February to March 1916, Scott served as ad-interim secretary of war but his energies were directed more toward preparation for possible U.S. entry into World War I. He was very influential in winning early acceptance among civil officials of the notion of conscription.

Major General Hugh L. Scott on the Russian Eastern Front, 1917

From May to August 1917, after the official American entry into World War I, he was sent to Russia as a member of the Root Mission, led by Elihu Root, with the intention of keeping Russia in the war.[5]

He retired at the statutory age of 64 on 22 September 1917. He was succeeded as chief of staff by Tasker H. Bliss. Despite being retired, Scott was immediately recalled to active duty.[6] He served stateside and became commander of the 78th Division at Camp Dix, New Jersey, in December and of Camp Dix again in March 1918. His services during the war resulted in him being awarded the Army Distinguished Service Medal, the citation for which reads:

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Army Distinguished Service Medal to Major General Hugh Lenox Scott, United States Army, for exceptionally meritorious and distinguished services to the Government of the United States, in a duty of great responsibility during World War I, as Chief of Staff in advocating and persistently urging the adoption of the Selective Service Law and as Commanding General, Camp Dix, New Jersey, in organizing and training the divisions and miscellaneous troops committed to his care during the war.[7]

Scott retired finally in May 1919 and served on the Board of Indian Commissioners from 1919 to 1929 and was chairman of the New Jersey State Highway Commission from 1923 to 1933. In 1928, Scott published an autobiography, Some Memories of a Soldier, a memoir of his 41 years in the United States Army.

Death and legacy[edit]

Scott died in Washington, D.C., on April 30, 1934, and was buried among many other family members in Section 2 of Arlington National Cemetery.[8][6][9]

There is a large bas relief memorial plaque in his honor in the Washington National Cathedral. His papers are held by the Library of Congress,[10] and Princeton University.[11]

Dates of rank[edit]

United States Military Academy Cadet – class of 1876

Insignia Rank Component Date
No pin insignia in 1876
Second lieutenant Regular Army 15 June 1876
First lieutenant Regular Army 28 June 1878
Captain Regular Army 24 January 1895
Major Volunteers 12 May 1898
Lieutenant colonel Volunteers 17 August 1899
Major Regular Army 25 February 1903
Colonel (temporary) Regular Army 31 August 1906
Lieutenant colonel Regular Army 3 March 1911
Colonel Regular Army 18 August 1911
Brigadier general Regular Army 23 March 1913
Major general Regular Army 30 April 1915
Major general Retired List 22 September 1917




In popular culture[edit]

General Scott appears as a character in The Friends of Pancho Villa (1996), a historical novel by James Carlos Blake.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Davis 1998, p. 324.
  2. ^ a b Venzon 2013, p. 532.
  3. ^ "Sergeant I-See-O, Kiowa Indian Scout". Chronicles of Oklahoma. 13 (3). September 1935. Archived from the original on 2003-06-21. Retrieved 2015-11-11.
  4. ^ Venzon 2013, p. 533.
  5. ^ Venzon 2013, pp. 533–534.
  6. ^ a b Venzon 2013, p. 534.
  7. ^ a b c "Valor awards for Hugh Lenox Scott".
  8. ^ Burial Detail: Scott, Hugh – ANC Explorer
  9. ^ Davis 1998, p. 325.
  10. ^ Scott, Hugh Lenox. "Hugh Lenox Scott papers, 1582–1981".
  11. ^ "Hugh Lenox Scott Papers (MC119) Hugh Lenox Scott Papers".

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by Superintendents of the United States Military Academy
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chief of Staff of the United States Army
Succeeded by
Preceded by Commanding General 78th Division
January–March 1918
Succeeded by