Hugh L. Scott

Hugh Lenox Scott
Hugh Lenox Scott by Robert Oliver Skemp (1973)
Born (1853-09-22)September 22, 1853
near Danville, Kentucky
Died April 30, 1934(1934-04-30) (aged 80)
Washington, D.C.
Buried Arlington National Cemetery
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service 1876–1919
Rank Major General
Commands held 78th Infantry Division
Chief of Staff of the United States Army
2nd Cavalry Brigade
3rd Cavalry Regiment
Superintendent of the United States Military Academy

American Indian Wars

Philippine-American War

World War I
Awards Army Distinguished Service Medal
Silver Star (2)
Relations Gustavus H. Scott[1]

Hugh Lenox Scott (September 22, 1853 – April 30, 1934) was a United States Army officer. A West Point graduate, 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.

Early life

Born on September 22, 1853 in Danville, Kentucky, he grew up there and in Princeton, New Jersey, where he was educated at The Lawrenceville School.[2] He attended Princeton University, before being accepted into the United States Military Academy at West Point.[2]

Military career

Scott graduated from West Point in 1876 (his Cullum number was 2628), and was commissioned in the Cavalry.[2] 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 name 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. When Scott was given command of Troop L of the regiment, 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.[2] He was promoted to captain in January 1895, having served as a first lieutenant for 16 and a half 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.[2] 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,[2] taking part in various skirmishes, reorganized the civil government and institutions.

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. He was promoted to permanent lieutenant colonel in March 1911 and in colonel in August of the same year. He then commanded the 3rd United States Cavalry Regiment in Texas, engaged in settling various Indian troubles.

In March 1913, Scott was promoted to brigadier general in command of the 2nd Cavalry Brigade, still posted to the Southwest. He won 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.

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. He retired at the statutory age of 64 in September 1917. He was succeeded as Chief of Staff by Tasker H. Bliss. Scott remained on active duty. 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.

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, he published an autobiography, Some Memories of a Soldier.

Death and legacy

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.[4]

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,[5] and Princeton University.[6]

Dates of rank

United States Military Academy Cadet – class of 1876

No pin insignia in 1876
Second LieutenantRegular Army15 June 1876
First LieutenantRegular Army28 June 1878
CaptainRegular Army24 January 1895
MajorVolunteers12 May 1898
Lieutenant ColonelVolunteers17 August 1899
MajorRegular Army25 February 1903
Colonel (temporary)Regular Army31 August 1906
Lieutenant ColonelRegular Army3 March 1911
ColonelRegular Army18 August 1911
Brigadier GeneralRegular Army23 March 1913
Major GeneralRegular Army30 April 1915
Major GeneralRegular ArmySeptember 1917




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


  1. Gustavus Hall Scott, Rear Admiral, U.S. Navy,
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Davis, Jr., Henry Blaine (1998). Generals in Khaki. Pentland Press, Inc. p. 324. ISBN 1571970886. OCLC 40298151.
  3. "Sergeant I-See-O, Kiowa Indian Scout". Chronicles of Oklahoma. 13 (3). September 1935. Retrieved 2015-11-11.
  4. Patterson, Michael Robert. "Hugh Lenox Scott, Lieutenant General, United States Army".
  5. Scott, Hugh Lenox. "Hugh Lenox Scott papers, 1582–1981".
  6. "Hugh Lenox Scott Papers (MC119) Hugh Lenox Scott Papers".
  7. 1 2 "Valor awards for Hugh Lenox Scott".

Further reading

Military offices
Preceded by
Albert Leopold Mills
Superintendents of the United States Military Academy
Succeeded by
Thomas Henry Barry
Preceded by
William W. Wotherspoon
Chief of Staff of the United States Army
Succeeded by
Tasker H. Bliss
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