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Revered Commander, Maligned General

The Life of Clarence Ransom Edwards, 1859-1931

Michael E. Shay

Publication Year: 2011


Major General Clarence Ransom Edwards is a vital figure in American military history, yet his contribution to the U.S. efforts in World War I has often been ignored or presented in unflattering terms. Most accounts focus on the disagreements he had with General John J. Pershing, who dismissed Edwards from the command of the 26th (“Yankee”) Division just weeks before the war's end. The notoriety of the Pershing incident has caused some to view Edwards as simply a “political general” with a controversial career. But Clarence Edwards, though often a divisive figure, was a greater man than that. A revered and admired officer whose men called him “Daddy,” Edwards attained an impressive forty-year career, one matched by few wartime leaders.


            Michael E. Shay presents a complete portrait of this notable American and his many merits in Revered Commander, Maligned General. This long-overdue first full-length biography of General Clarence Edwards opens with his early years in Cleveland, Ohio and his turbulent times at West Point. The book details the crucial roles Edwards filled in staff and field commands for the Army before the outbreak of World War I in 1917: Adjutant-General with General Henry Ware Lawton in the Philippine-American War, first chief of the Bureau of Insular Affairs, and commander of U.S. forces in the Panama Canal Zone. Revered Commander, Maligned General follows Edwards as he forms the famous Yankee Division and leads his men into France. The conflict between Edwards and Pershing is placed in context, illuminating the disputes that led to Edwards being relieved of command.


            This well-researched biography quotes a wealth of primary sources in recounting the life of an important American, a man of loyalty and service who is largely misunderstood. Photographs of Edwards, his troops, and his kin—many from Edwards’ own collection—complement the narrative.  In addition, several maps aid readers in following General Edwards as his career moves from the U.S. to Central America to Europe and back stateside. Shay’s portrayalof General Edwards finally provides a balanced account of this unique U.S. military leader.


Published by: University of Missouri Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-9

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xiv

Why Clarence Ransom Edwards? While doing research for my first book on the Yankee Division, I came across several contemporary mentions of Clarence Edwards; nearly all refer to his controversial relief late in the war, and all are couched in negative terms. One account refers to him as a “political general,”...

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1. The Making of a Soldier

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pp. 1-12

There was a special joy in the William Edwards home on January 1, 1859. As the family rang in the New Year, his wife, Lucia, delivered their first child, a healthy baby boy, whom they named Clarence Ransom. The senior Edwards, whose roots lay deep within the New England soil, had come to Cleveland,...

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2. Boots, Saddles, and Wedding Bells

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pp. 13-34

Situated on a bluff above the Niagara River, the Fort Porter to which Lieutenant Edwards (still in Company D, Twenty-third Infantry Regiment) was assigned in June 1884 would soon be in a state of transition. Beginning with the War of 1812, the locale was considered for use as a staging/muster area for the...

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3. The Not So “Splendid Little War”: The Philippines

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pp. 35-56

Edwards was back on duty in Huntsville, Alabama, on December 5, where he was assigned to the Tenth Infantry Regiment effective January 1. On January 4, 1899, he received further orders to report to Havana, Cuba, as adjutant general of that department. While en route to Cuba, he passed through Washington...

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4. The Bureau of Insular Affairs

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pp. 57-96

His sad duty complete, Lieutenant Colonel Edwards was ordered to report to the secretary of war for temporary duty. He was promptly assigned to the War Department in what was then called the Division of Customs and Insular Affairs (later designated as the Bureau of Insular Affairs), where he became chief,...

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5. Preparation for War: Wyoming, Texas, Hawaii, and the Canal Zone

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pp. 97-131

As the nascent Union Pacific Railroad thrust its way westward across the continent, it soon became apparent that, as the tracks invaded the traditional hunting range of the native peoples, the work crews and the inevitable shanty towns established in their wake would need protection, as those native inhabitants...

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6. “Daddy”

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pp. 132-171

Eventually, Edwards established the headquarters for the Northeastern Department at 25 Huntington Avenue in Boston. As a part of his duties, he was called upon from time to time to talk to groups large and small. On Sunday evening, June 3, 1917, he delivered what he referred to as an “impromptu...

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7. Postwar Doings

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pp. 172-199

Edwards’s friend and classmate, Maj. Gen. Harry Clay Hale, had taken the Eighty-fourth Division to France, only to have it broken up for attachment piecemeal to other divisions. Once Brigadier General Bamford was relieved, Hale was given command of the Twenty-sixth. His newsy letter to Edwards...

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8. “Doneroving”: The Final Years

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pp. 200-212

It had been Edwards’s intention to retire on January 1, 1923; however, President Harding and Secretary Weeks pressured him to move up the date to December 1, 1922. Citing the recent law reducing the number of army officers below the grade of general, which would, in turn, necessitate the forced retirement...

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pp. 213-216

For Clarence Edwards, his class standing at West Point did not prove to be an indicator of a lack of future success in a profession undoubtedly chosen for him. Rather, like many of his contemporaries, including Pershing, good timing and the help of family and friends was a large factor in his advancement. It...

List of Abbreviations

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pp. 217-218


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pp. 219-253


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pp. 255-265


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pp. 267-272

E-ISBN-13: 9780826272515
E-ISBN-10: 0826272517
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826219220
Print-ISBN-10: 0826219225

Page Count: 288
Illustrations: 36 illus, 6 maps
Publication Year: 2011

Edition: 1