Facial Hair Friday: John McAllister Schofield

In honor of Veterans Day, today’s Facial Hair Friday looks at a bearded veteran of the U.S. Civil War who first suggested the United States take control of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

John McAllister Schofield was a lieutenant general during the U.S. Civil War who led his troops during such battles as Franklin and Nashville. After the war, Schofield served as Secretary of War under President Andrew Johnson and later served as Commanding General of the United States Army from 1888 to 1895.

After serving as Secretary of War, Schofield was promoted to major general in the Army, and then commander of the Military Division of the Pacific. In June 1872, Secretary of War William Belknap gave Schofield confidential instructions to investigate the strategic potential of having a presence in the Hawaiian Islands, and to examine its ports with reference to their defensive capabilities and commercial facilities.

Scholfield left San Francisco on December 30, 1872, with Brevet Brig. Gen. B. S. Alexander, aboard the USS California and arrived in Honolulu on January 15, 1873. After having an audience with new King Lunalilo, the men examined the islands. 

In Schofield and Alexander’s May 8, 1873, report, they found that “[w]ith one exception there is no harbor on the islands that can be made to satisfy all the conditions necessary for a harbor of refuge in time of war. This is the harbor of ‘Ewa,’ or ‘Pearl River,’ situated on the island of Oahu, about 7 miles west of Honolulu.” They went on to recommend that the U.S. obtain a cession of Pearl Harbor, together with its shore for four miles back.

The report noted that while eager to open a free market for their sugar, the Hawaiian government and native Hawaiians were not interested in the U.S. annexing the islands at that time. However, they might deed the harbor and land free of cost if the U.S. were to repeal its duty on Hawaiian sugar.

In 1875 the U.S. signed a treaty with the Hawaiian government allowing the U.S. free access to sugar and other Hawaiian products in return for land that eventually became the Pearl Harbor naval base. The U.S. later obtained exclusive use of the inlet and the right to maintain a repair and coaling station for ships. After the U.S. annexed Hawaii in 1898, the U.S. established a naval station at Pearl Harbor and began to build a naval ship yard.

In 1908, Schofield Barracks was established next to the town of Wahiawā to provide defense of Pearl Harbor and the island of Oahu. Named in honor of John McAllister Schofield, it covers over 17,000 acres and is the largest Army post in Hawaii. Since 1941 it has been home to the 25th Infantry Division, known as the Tropic Lightning.

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