Book Review: Armed Progressive: General Leonard Wood


by Jack C. Lane

Lincoln, Nb.: University of Nebraska Press, Bison Books, 2009. Pp. xvii, 328. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $19.95 paper. ISBN: 0803226586

Originally published in 1978, Armed Progressive: General Leonard Wood was immediately recognized as the standard biography of this most unusual officer, a tribute to the extensive research, excellent analysis, and fine writing displayed by Prof. Lane (emeritus, Rollins College).. 

Armed Progressive covers Wood's early life, education as a physician, career as an army surgeon, and his service in the waning days of the Plains Indian Wars, during which he earned a Medal of Honor.  It then discusses his transfer to the line, while continuing to practice medicine, his service with the "Rough Riders," and later as a brigade commander under fire in Cuba , where he carried his medical kit while directing the action.  After a stint as military governor of a province, and later of all Cuba , he commanded in the Philippines , suppressing the last of the Moro uprisings, and served as chief-of-staff of the Army, 1910-1914.  His tour in that post was acrimonious, as he struggled to help turn it into a real executive position, rather than a paper one, which led to conflicts with various influential department heads and their political allies.  During World War I, Wood helped found the Preparedness Movement, and hoped to command a volunteer division to be raised by his "Rough Rider" buddy Theodore Roosevelt, but spent the war training troops.  After the war he served as Governor of the Philippines , and made an unsuccessful attempt secure a nomination for president. 

In a thoughtful and timely new preface, Prof. Lane, who also wrote the useful America's Military Past: A Guide to Information Sources, comments on what he would change if he were to undertake a complete revision of the work, noting that Wood's role in Cuba and the Philippines certainly merits more attention, a timely reminder that the Army has been in the "nation building" for a very long time..

An important work for anyone interested in the U.S. Army from the Indian Wars through World War I

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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