Legally Speaking, George Washington Outranks All Other Army Officers, Past and Present

(Portrait by Rembrandt Peale)

The Second Continental Congress appointed Col. George Washington as General and Commander in Chief of the Continental Army on June 15, 1775. General Washington served in that capacity for eight and a half years before retiring at the end of the American Revolutionary War.

After serving as President of the United States for two terms, Washington retired. But he returned to duty when it appeared that the US would go to war against France. President Adams commissioned Washington as a Lieutenant General in the United States Army on July 3, 1798. Washington held this position until his death on December 14, 1799.

So the highest rank that Washington held in the United States Army was Lieutenant General. To some Americans, it seemed inappropriate that the father of our country would be outranked by any other Army officer.

In 1976, President Ford signed into law a bill that revived a defunct Army rank: General of the Armies of the United States. This rank was superior to all others. The law requested that the President appoint Washington to that rank, which he did. The law also gave Washington precedence over the only other bearer of that rank: John J. Pershing.

Thus, if there is ever a celestial gathering of all officers of the United States Army, George Washington would outrank them all.


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