John J. Pershing was appointed General of the Armies in 1919, making him the second highest ranking general in American history.
Pershing began his career as a first lieutenant regimental quartermaster of the famous 10th Cavalry during the Spanish American War in May 1898.
Pershing joined the 10th Cavalry at its staging area in Chickamauga Park, Ga., and worked tirelessly to prepare it for movement to Cuba. He had a huge task as much equipment was outdated or missing and rail transportation to Florida was delayed due to congested rail lines and poor organization.
At Tampa, Fla., he loaded the regiment onto the transport Leona and supervised unloading at Daiquiri and Siboney, Cuba. Pershing saw the first combat of his career at Kettle and San Juan Hills
Before this battle on July 1, 1898, the regimental commander ordered Pershing to act as a guide for the regiment. He was positioned in a stream bed, standing in waist deep water, where he moved men forward through exploding shells and intense fire. Later Capt. Charles Ayres said that Pershing was, “cool as a bowl of cracked ice.” After enemy snipers wounded the Regimental Adjutant, Pershing took his place. Days later he took over D Troop, 10th Cavalry due to a shortage of officers.
He continued to serve as regimental quartermaster in addition to these new duties. With the start of the rainy season, men falling ill and supplies scare, Pershing took matters into his own hands. He borrowed a mule team and wagon and drove to Siboney to load what supplies he could find without requisitions.
Pershing’s success as a quartermaster is summed up best by his regimental commander, Col. Theodore Baldwin, “You did some tall rustling and if you had not we would have starved, as none of the others were able or strong enough to do it.”
As each day passed, more officers became sick with malaria, and because of this loss of officers, Pershing eventually took command of three cavalry troops as well as serving as adjutant and quartermaster. Due to his outstanding service in Cuba, Pershing was promoted to major in the Volunteers in August 1898.