Leonard Wood was a physician who served as the Chief of Staff of the United States Army, Military Governor of Cuba, and Governor General of the Philippines. Early in his military career, he received the Medal of Honor. Wood also holds officer service #2 in the Regular Army (John Pershing holds officer service #1). He was present at the 1906 First Battle of Bud Dajo.
Born in Winchester, New Hampshire, he attended Pierce Academy in Middleborough, Massachusetts and Harvard Medical School, earning an M.D. degree in 1884 as an intern at Boston City Hospital. Leonard Wood was of English descent, and was descended from four Mayflower passengers including William White, Francis Cooke, Stephen Hopkins and Richard Warren; all four of whom signed the Mayflower Compact. He was married to Louise A. Condit Smith, of Washington, on November 18, 1890.
He took a position as an Army contract surgeon in 1885, and was stationed at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. Wood participated in the last campaign against Geronimo in 1886, and was awarded the Medal of Honor, in 1886, for carrying dispatches 100 miles through hostile territory and for commanding an infantry detachment in hand-to-hand combat against the Apache. He received the rank of captain in 1891.
Wood was personal physician to Presidents Grover Cleveland and William McKinley through 1898. It was during this period he developed a friendship with Theodore Roosevelt, then Assistant Secretary of the Navy. At the outbreak of the Spanish-American War, Wood, with Roosevelt, organized the 1st Volunteer Cavalry regiment, popularly known as the Rough Riders. Wood commanded the regiment in a successful engagement known as the Battle of Las Guasimas. When the brigade commander, Samuel B. M. Young, became ill, Wood received a field promotion to brigadier general of volunteers and assumed command of the 2nd Brigade, Cavalry Division, V Corps and led the brigade to a famous victory at Kettle Hill and San Juan Heights.
After San Juan, Wood led the 2nd Cavalry Brigade for the rest of the war; he stayed in Cuba after the war and was appointed the Military Governor of Santiago in 1898, and of Cuba from 1899–1902. In that capacity, he relied on his medical experience to institute improvements to the medical and sanitary conditions in Cuba. He introduced numerous reforms similar to those of the Progressive Movement in the U.S. He was promoted to brigadier general of regulars shortly before moving to his next assignment.
In 1902, he proceeded to the Philippines, where he commanded the Philippines Division and later became commander of the Department of the East. He was promoted to major general in 1903, and served as governor of Moro province, a stronghold of Muslim rebellion, from 1903 to 1906. He received criticism for his handling of the battle at First Battle of Bud Dajo.
Wood had known Theodore Roosevelt well before the Spanish-American War. Wood was named Army Chief of Staff in 1910 by President Taft, whom he had met while both were in the Philippines; he remains the only medical officer to have ever held that position. As Chief of Staff, Wood implemented several programs, among which were the forerunner of the Reserve Officer Training Corps program, and the Preparedness Movement, a campaign for universal military training and wartime conscription. The Preparedness Movement plan was scrapped in favor of the Selective Service System, shortly before World War I. He developed the Mobile Army, thus laying the groundwork for American success in World War I.
In 1914, Wood was replaced as Chief of Staff by William Wotherspoon. Wood was a strong advocate of the Preparedness Movement, led by Republicans, which alienated him from President Wilson. With the US entry into World War I, Wood was recommended by Republicans, in particular Henry Cabot Lodge, to be the U.S. field commander; however, War Secretary Newton Baker instead appointed John J. Pershing, amid much controversy. During the war, Wood was, instead, put in charge of the training of the 10th and 89th Divisions, both at Camp Funston. In 1915, he published The Military Obligation of Citizenship, and in 1916. Wood was promoted to the permanent rank of Lieutenant General. The permanent rank of lieutenant general had last been awarded to Phillip Sheridan on 4 March 1869.
Wood was an unsuccessful candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in the election of 1920. He was urged into running by the family and supporters of his old friend Theodore Roosevelt, who himself had been considering another campaign before his illness and death in 1919. He won the New Hampshire primary that year but lost at the convention.
Among the reasons that he didn't become the candidate were several strong rivals for the nomination, his political inexperience, and the strong support he gave to the Red Scare, Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer's campaign against Bolsheviks and anarchists. After the major candidates deadlocked, the nomination went to Warren G. Harding.
He retired from the Army in 1921, and was made Governor General of the Philippines, in which capacity he served from 1921 to 1927.
Wood died in Boston, Massachusetts after undergoing surgery for a recurrent brain tumor. He had initially been diagnosed in 1910 with a benign meningioma brought on by exposure to experimental weapons refuse. This was resected by Harvey Cushing at that time, and Wood made a full recovery until the tumor later recurred. The successful removal of Wood's brain tumor represented an important milestone, indicating to the public the advances that had been made in the nascent field of neurosurgery, and extending Wood's life by almost two decades.
He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. His brain is held at the Yale University School of Medicine as part of an historic collection of Harvey Cushing's patients' preserved brains.
Leonard Wood Road in Baguio City, Philippines was named in his honor. A Public Elementary School in Barangay Jagobiao, Mandaue City, Philippines was also named after him.
Ft. Leonard Wood is also a major TRADOC post for Basic Combat Training , home of the 10th Infantry Regiment ( Basic Training).
Wood Street corner Gov. Lim Avenue in Zamboanga City, Philippines was also named in his nobility.
He is portrayed favorably in the 1997 miniseries Rough Riders by actor and former United States Marine Dale Dye.
Leonard Wood was portrayed in a less favorable light by Mark Twain and others for his part in the First Battle of Bud Dajo in 1906.
A plaque in Wood's memory is found in Harvard University's Memorial Church.
Leonard Wood Avenue; located at Fort Meade, Maryland.
On March 11, 2012, in an interview on the television program Fox News Sunday, presidential candidate Newt Gingrich said of his opponent Mitt Romney, "The fact is that Romney is probably the weakest Republican frontrunner since Leonard Wood in 1920, and Wood ultimately lost on the 10th ballot."
Voluntarily carried dispatches through a region inhabited by hostile Indians, making a journey of 70 miles in one night and walking 30 miles the next day. Also for several weeks, while in close pursuit of Geronimo's band and constantly expecting an encounter, commanded a detachment of Infantry, which was then without an officer, and to the command of which he was assigned upon his own request.