New on our Shelves: “Revered Commander, Maligned General” by Michael Shay

By Tracy Potter

Continuing our blog series on recent publications based on research conducted at the MHS, I offer a look at Michael Shay’s newest publication, Revered Commander, Maligned General: The Life of Clarence Ransom Edwards, 1859-1931 (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2011).

During the summers of 2008 and 2009 Shay and his wife Marilyn visited the MHS and thoroughly examined the extensive (43 document boxes, 10 volumes) Clarence Ransom Edwards Papers.  In large part the result of that work, Revered Commander, Maligned General is the first in-depth full-length biography of Edwards, and it is the only substantial work written about Edwards since the early 20th century. 

Edwards, a career military man, was trained at Brooks Military Academy in Ohio and at West Point in New York.  In 1899 he departed the United States as a major to serve in the Philippines during the Spanish American War. In 1900, back in the United States, Edwards, now a lieutenant colonel, was named chief of the Division of Customs and Insular Affairs (later the Bureau of Insular Affairs) in the War Department.  By 1915 Brigadier General Edwards was responsible for planning and organizing the defense of the Panama Canal Zone, and with the start of World War One he was given the command of the 26th (“Yankee”) Division of the New England National Guard with orders to fight in France.  It was on the front in France that a conflict between Edwards and his superior, General John J. Pershing, developed, ending with Edwards’ disgraceful dismissal just a few weeks before the end of the war. 

In this volume Shay, who previously authored The Yankee Division in The First World War: In The Highest Tradition (College Station: Texas A&M University Press,  2008), provides a complete view of Edwards’ life and military career, shedding new light on his relationship with Pershing and the events leading up to his dismissal in 1918.

Revered Commander, Maligned General: The Life of Clarence Ransom Edwards, 1859-1931 is now on sale through the University of Missouri Press. Visitors to the MHS library can peruse our copy, currently on display in the library. Ask one of our friendly library staff members for assistance.