Who was Arthur MacArthur Jr.?


Arthur MacArthur Jr. (02 June 1845 to 05 September 1912) was a lieutenant general of the United States Army. He became the military Governor-General of the American-occupied Philippines in 1900; his term ended a year later due to clashes with the civilian governor, future-US President William Howard Taft.

Civil War General Arthur MacArthur, father of General Douglas MacArthur.

His son, Douglas MacArthur, was one of only five men promoted to the five-star rank of General of the Army during World War II. In addition to their both being promoted to the rank of general officer, Arthur MacArthur Jr. and Douglas MacArthur also share the distinction of having been the first father and son to each be awarded a Medal of Honour.

Early Life

MacArthur was born in Chicopee Falls. His father was Arthur MacArthur, Sr., a Scottish-born American lawyer, judge and politician who served as the fourth Governor of Wisconsin (albeit for only four days), a Wisconsin Circuit Court Judge in Milwaukee, and an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia.

His mother was Aurelia Belcher (1819-1864), the daughter of a wealthy industrialist, Benjamin B. Belcher. From his parents’ marriage, he had one brother, Frank. After his mother’s death in 1864, his father remarried to Mary E. Willcut.

Military Career

MacArthur’s father secured him an appointment to the United States Military Academy. At the outbreak of the American Civil War, MacArthur was living in Wisconsin.

Civil War

On 04 August 1862, his father secured a commission for him as a first lieutenant and appointed as adjutant of the 24th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment, seeing action at Chickamauga, Stones River, Chattanooga, the Atlanta Campaign and Franklin.

At the Battle of Missionary Ridge on 25 November 1863, during the Chattanooga Campaign, the 18-year-old MacArthur inspired his regiment during a largely uncoordinated and spontaneous frontal assault of Union forces against entrenched Confederate forces on a hilltop. During the charge the regimental flags were carried in front, so that every flag-bearer was constantly a target, causing immense casualty among them. MacArthur seized the flag from a fallen comrade and planted the regimental flag on the crest of Missionary Ridge 35°1′7.15″N 85°15′51.02″W at a particularly critical moment, shouting “On Wisconsin.” For these actions, he was awarded the Medal of Honour. He was brevetted colonel in the Union Army the following year. Only 19 years old at the time, he became nationally recognised as “The Boy Colonel” (not to be confused with Henry K. Burgwyn, known as the “Boy Colonel of the Confederacy”).

MacArthur was severely wounded in the Battle of Franklin, receiving bullet wounds to the chest and leg from a rebel officer’s pistol, but would ultimately survive.

On 25 January 1864, he was promoted to major and about a year and a half later, on 18 May 1865, to lieutenant colonel – shortly before he was mustered out of service on 10 June 1865. In recognition of his gallantry in action he received brevets (honorary promotions) to lieutenant colonel and colonel dated 15 March 1865.

American Indian Wars

With the conclusion of the Civil War in June 1865, MacArthur resigned his commission and began the study of law. After just a few months, however, he decided this was not a good fit for him, so he resumed his career with the Army. He was recommissioned on 23 February 1866, as a second lieutenant in the Regular Army’s 17th Infantry Regiment, with a promotion the following day to first lieutenant. Because of his outstanding record of performance during the Civil War, he was promoted in September of that year to captain. However, he would remain a captain for the following two decades, as promotion was slow in the small peacetime army.

Between 1866 and 1884, MacArthur completed assignments in Pennsylvania, New York, Utah Territory, Louisiana, and Arkansas.

In 1884, MacArthur became the post commander of Fort Selden, in New Mexico. The following year, he took part in the campaign against Geronimo. In 1889, he was promoted to Assistant Adjutant General of the Army with the rank of major, and was promoted to lieutenant colonel in 1897.

Spanish-American War (1898)

Following the outbreak of the Spanish-American War, MacArthur was serving as the adjutant general of the Third Army Corps in Georgia. In June 1898 he was brevetted to brigadier general in the volunteer army. He was appointed as commanding general of the 1st Brigade, 2nd Division, Eighth Army Corps and led it to victory at the Battle of Manila on 12 August 1898. He was promoted to major general on 13 August 1898.

Philippine-American War (1899-1902)

He led the 2nd Division of Eighth Corps during the Philippine-American War at the Battle of Manila (1899), the Malolos campaign and the Northern Offensive. When the American occupation of the Philippines turned from conventional battles to guerrilla warfare, MacArthur commanded the Department of Northern Luzon. In January 1900, he was appointed brigadier general in the Regular Army and was appointed military governor of the Philippines with command of Eighth Corps, replacing General Elwell S. Otis.

He authorized the expedition, under General Frederick Funston, that resulted in the capture of Emilio Aguinaldo. MacArthur persuaded the captured Aguinaldo to cease fighting and to swear allegiance to the US. He was promoted to major general in the Regular Army on 05 February 1901.

During the war, President William McKinley relieved Major General Elwell S. Otis of command and replaced him with MacArthur giving him the title of Military Governor of the Philippines on 06 May 1900. However, William Howard Taft was appointed to head the Philippine Commission by President William McKinley and arrived to Manila in June 1900 to effect the transition from military to civil government. MacArthur firmly opposed the timing of direct involvement by the Philippine Commission as he did not believe the Philippines was ready for civil rule yet. Both Taft and MacArthur, in separate correspondences, informed Secretary of War, Elihu Root, of the contention between each other and their differing views on the future of the Philippines. On 27 February 1901, shortly after promoting MacArthur to the rank of major general, Secretary Root informed Major General Adna R. Chaffee that he would succeed MacArthur as military governor in the Philippines. However, Chaffee would be subordinate to William Howard Taft, who would be appointed as Civilian Governor.

On 21 June 1901, Root’s War Department informed MacArthur that Chaffee was to replace him as military head in the Philippines with the change to take place on 04 July 1901. Taft decided, “four, possibly five and two small parts of others”, of the 27 organised provinces across the Philippines (16 additional provinces remained unorganised at the end of 1900), “in which armed insurrection continues, will remain under the executive jurisdiction of the military governor and commanding general”. The contentiousness between Taft and MacArthur seemed all too apparent as Taft stated publicly that neither his approach of municipal code nor the provincial government act under both Otis and MacArthur would form a perfect government, “though it was possible to make the former much more complete than the latter”. Taft further distanced himself and work by characterising prior military efforts as “two experiments in municipal government under the administrations of General Otis and General MacArthur before the [Philippine] Commission began its legislative work”.

After the combined ceremony installing Taft and change of command from MacArthur to Chaffee on 04 July 1901, MacArthur packed his bags that same day and boarded a ship for the United States.

Return to the United States

In the several years that followed, he was assigned to serve at various times as commander of the Department of the Colorado, the Lakes, the East, and eventually the Pacific Division. When the Russo-Japanese War exploded in early 1904, eight American officers were promptly sent to the Manchurian front as observers. Chafing at the bit at his headquarters in Fort Mason, San Francisco, MacArthur requested that he also be assigned as a military observer upon hearing of the outbreak of war between Russia and Japan in 1904. He finally secured the appointment, but arrived in Manchuria in mid-March, 1905, just after the major fighting had ended with the Japanese triumph at the Battle of Mukden. When the Portsmouth Peace Conference was convened in August, MacArthur was sent to Tokyo as military attaché to the American legation.

During Secretary of War William Howard Taft’s 1905 trip to Japan, Taft also met with MacArthur, as he was now the United States military attaché to Japan, in Yokohama (likely at the Oriental Palace Hotel where MacArthur and his wife, Mrs. “Pinky” MacArthur, were staying). In the course of this meeting, it was decided 1st Lieutenant Douglas MacArthur would replace Captain Paul W. West as Major General MacArthur’s aide-de-camp and accompany him on a ‘reconnaissance mission’ to various Asian countries from 01 November 1905, through late June 1906 traveling over 20,000 miles, per Douglas MacArthur vouchers.

On 17 July 1906, MacArthur, Mrs. MacArthur, and Douglas MacArthur sailed from Yokohama and arrived at San Francisco to resume his post at Fort Mason as Commander of the Pacific Division. In this capacity he was promoted to lieutenant general in September 1906, but though now the highest-ranking officer in the Army, was not elevated to chief of staff then or later. Brigadier General J. Franklin Bell had been made the chief of staff while MacArthur was in Asia on 14 April 1906, and subsequently promoted to major general on 03 January 1907.

In early 1907, MacArthur, after 47 years of devoted and distinguished service, was told by Taft’s War Department that he had been passed over for chief of staff of the Army. Instead of chief of staff, he was offered command of the Eastern department. MacArthur refused Taft’s offer of commanding the Eastern department, stating that it would mean a humiliating reduction in authority for him. MacArthur proposed that the War Department either accept his retirement or assign him to some “special duty” which would not be an affront to his honour. Shortly thereafter, MacArthur received orders to ‘proceed to Milwaukee, there to perform such duties as may hereafter be assigned’, but no further duties were given to him. Taft was inaugurated as President of the United States in March 1909, and MacArthur retired quietly from the Army on 02 June 1909.

MacArthur never did realise his dream of commanding the entire Army. He was one of the last officers on active duty in the Army who had served in the Civil War.

MacArthur was elected a member of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States (MOLLUS) in 1868 and was assigned insignia number 648. On 06 May 1908, he was elected commander of the Wisconsin Commandery of MOLLUS. He was elected as the Order’s senior vice commander in chief on 18 October 1911, and became the Order’s commander in chief upon the death of Rear Admiral George W. Melville on 17 March 1912. He held the office until his own death six months later.

Personal Life

On 19 May 1875, MacArthur married Mary Pinkney “Pinky” Hardy (1852-1935), daughter of Thomas A. Hardy of Norfolk, Virginia. Together, they had three children:

  • Arthur MacArthur III (1876-1923), a captain in the United States Navy who was awarded the Navy Cross in World War I.
  • Malcolm MacArthur (1878-1883), who died young of measles.
  • Douglas MacArthur (1880-1964), who was born at the Arsenal Barracks in Little Rock, Arkansas.

On 05 September 1912, while addressing a reunion of the 24th Wisconsin veterans in Milwaukee, MacArthur was suddenly and fatally stricken by an apoplectic attack (now known as a stroke). As MacArthur recounted “one of the most remarkable scouting expeditions of the war”, he told his men, “Your indomitable courage…”, then halted his speech with the words, “Comrades, I am too weak to go on”. He sat back down and collapsed, dying moments later. A young medical intern, serving as a waiter at the banquet, pronounced him dead on the platform.

Both Mrs. MacArthur and Mr. Charles King, a retired officer and close friend of MacArthur, carried out MacArthur’s final wishes to not be dressed [buried] in his uniform and for the funeral service to be ‘utterly devoid’ of military display. Except for MacArthur’s two sons, the only active military officer present at the funeral was a solitary colonel from a nearby fort. Finally, per MacArthur’s final wishes, he was interred in a cemetery in Milwaukee rather than in Arlington National Cemetery. He was originally buried in Milwaukee on Monday 07 September 1912, but was moved to Section 2 Gravesite 856-A of Arlington National Cemetery in 1926. He is buried among other members of the family there, while his son Douglas chose to be buried in Norfolk, Virginia, the hometown of his mother, Mary Pinkney Hardy, and the site of the Hardy family home Riveredge.

The Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States prepared and printed a eulogy praising MacArthur’s military record and extolling “his fervent patriotism, his unshaken loyalty, his silent and soldierly acceptance of conditions little looked for in view of his great services and exalted rank”.

For some reason, Mrs. MacArthur was only granted a pension of merely $1,200.00/per year after MacArthur died 05 September 1912, whereas the widows of all other lieutenant generals were receiving $2,500.00/per year. Mr. James Flanders, a Milwaukee attorney and lifetime friend of MacArthur, led a long but successful fight to get Mrs. MacArthur’s pension raised to the amount equal to the widows of other lieutenant generals. William Howard Taft was President of the United States at that time (March 1909 to March 1913), Elihu Root was a Senator for New York at that time (March 1909 to March 1915), and the Bureau of Pensions administered pensions for military personnel from 1832 to 1930. The Bureau of Pensions had two duties: (1) assess and either approve or deny claims, and (2) pay approved benefits. During that same time period, the Bureau’s workload was significantly being reduced due to the death of many Civil War pensioners in the early 1900s.

Awards and Honours

  • Military awards
    • Medal of Honour.
    • Civil War Campaign Medal.
    • Indian Campaign Medal.
    • Spanish Campaign Medal.
    • Philippine Campaign Medal.

Medal of Honour Citation

Rank and Organization:

First Lieutenant, and Adjutant, 24th Wisconsin Infantry. Place and date: At Missionary Ridge, Tenn., November 25, 1863. Entered service at: Milwaukee, Wis. Birth: Springfield, Mass. Date of issue: June 30, 1890.


Seized the colors of his regiment at a critical moment and planted them on the captured works on the crest of Missionary Ridge.

Just over eight decades later (1864-1945), his son, Douglas MacArthur, would also gain fame for leading US forces to victory in the Philippines. Arthur MacArthur Jr. and Douglas MacArthur were the first father and son ever to each be awarded a Medal of Honour. To date, the only other father and son to be given this honour are former President Theodore Roosevelt and his son, Theodore Roosevelt Jr.


Fort MacArthur, which protected the San Pedro, California, harbour from 1914 until 1974, was named after General Arthur MacArthur. Camp MacArthur, a World War I training camp in Waco, Texas, was also named for the General.

One of MacArthur’s fellow officers in the 24th Wisconsin was future United States Senator John L. Mitchell, the father of controversial Army aviator Major General Billy Mitchell. MacArthur’s son, General Douglas MacArthur, was a member of the younger Mitchell’s court martial in 1925.

The actor Tom Palmer (1912-1997) played Arthur MacArthur Jr. in the 1959 episode, “The Little Trooper”, of the syndicated television anthology series, Death Valley Days, hosted by Stanley Andrews. Child actor Bryan Russell (1952-2016) played Arthur’s four-year-old son, Douglas, the subject of the title of the episode, set at Fort Selden in the New Mexico Territory. Leonard Bremen (1915-1986) was cast as played Trooper Norkul, who takes a protective interest in young Douglas.

In Popular Culture

  • MacArthur was a character in the alternative history novel 1901 by Robert Conroy (1995).
  • MacArthur was portrayed by James Paolleli in the Filipino film, El Presidente (2012).
  • MacArthur was portrayed by Miguel Faustmann in the Filipino film, Heneral Luna (2015), and its sequel, Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral (2018).

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