Young, Samuel Baldwin Marks (9 Jan. 1840-1 Sept. 1924), commanding general of the U.S. Army, was born in Forest Grove, Pennsylvania, the son of Captain John Young, an army officer, and Hannah Scott. Young's reputation as an aggressive, dedicated soldier began in the American Civil War. After attending Jefferson College in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, he joined a group of ninety-day volunteers in that state's Twelfth Infantry during the opening days of the conflict, in April 1861. When the regiment was mustered out of service in the summer, he returned home and raised his own company. Young received a commission and commanded this organization as its captain. It was later redesignated as a mounted unit, becoming a troop in the Pennsylvania Fourth Cavalry. In 1861 Young married Margaret McFadden. After a stint in the defenses of Washington, D.C., the captain and his troop were swept up in Major General George B. McClellan's ill-fated 1862 Peninsula campaign drive on Richmond. That fall Young became known for his courage and daring at the battle of Antietam, was promoted to the rank of major, and was given command of a squadron of cavalry. In 1863, at the cavalry contest with J. E. B. Stuart's Confederates at Brandy Station, Virginia, the Pennsylvanian was seen fiercely wielding a saber with one arm while nursing a bloody wound in the other.
Young finished the war with considerable fame and valuable professional connections. Badly wounded in the fall of 1863, the cavalry officer returned after convalescence and resumed fighting. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel and then to full colonel in 1864, commanding both a regiment and a brigade before he once again was seriously wounded. In the war's last campaigns Young attracted the admiration of two important Union officers, Brigadier General J. Irving Gregg and Major General George Crook. In 1865 he led the regiment that captured the last battle flags taken from Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia before its surrender.
In July 1865 a disappointed Young found himself a civilian in the wake of the dissolution of the large Federal volunteer force. In May 1866, through the efforts of Crook and Gregg, Young obtained an infantry commission in the regular army as a second lieutenant. By that summer he was back in the cavalry as a captain.
From 1866 until the 1880s Young and his fellow officers mostly served in a series of Indian campaigns, living in the bare-bones environment of the American West. By the late 1860s he was at Fort Mohave, Arizona Territory, fighting the Walapais. A brief sojourn from Indian fighting came in 1870 along with a recruiting assignment in Chicago, a duty that was interrupted by policing tasks in the aftermath of the great fire that consumed much of the city in 1871. Cavalry life was resumed in 1874 along the Red River and later, under the command of Colonel Ranald Slidell Mackenzie, along the Rio Grande.
In the 1880s the frontier routine of the U.S. Army began to dissolve, and Young drew new assignments and experiences. In 1881, still a captain, he was posted to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, as an instructor at the newly opened Infantry and Cavalry School. The next year Young was promoted to major and dispatched to California as a squadron commander of the Third Cavalry. When a violent labor disturbance broke out in California in 1894, Young and his men had the arduous duty of maintaining order. By 1896 Young and his horsemen were in Yosemite National Park fending off the encroachments of sheepherders. Young was appointed acting superintendent of that park and was named to the same position in Yellowstone National Park in 1897. In the latter place the major met and formed a lifelong friendship with one of the nation's foremost conservationists, Theodore Roosevelt.
Young's reputation in the 1898 Spanish-American War was much like the one he had earned in the Civil War. At the outbreak of the war with Spain, Young, having been promoted to full colonel in 1897, was in the nation's capital. Leading a cavalry brigade, the colonel and his troopers landed in Cuba and promptly initiated the first skirmish with the Spanish army. This action was described as an ill-considered, blundering move that was characterized by questionable American tactics. Nonetheless, the Spanish came off worse and retreated. By the summer of 1899 Young was in the Philippines fighting Filipino insurrectionists. There, in 1900, he was promoted to brigadier general in the regular army, and he became embroiled in a dispute with one of his superiors. Typically, the argument was about Young having taken too many tactical risks.
Whatever his renown for rash battle action, Young had established the connections that would lead him to attain the highest position in his service. As soon as Roosevelt became vice president in 1901, Young's career began to overshadow that of other U.S. Army generals. In February 1901 he rose to the rank of major general. In 1902 he assumed the duties of president of the War College Board, an early army war planning and staff agency in Washington. On 9 August 1903 he was catapulted to lieutenant general and was appointed to the position of commanding general of the U.S. Army. That title disappeared nine days later in an army reorganization, and Young then became the first officer to hold the position of chief of staff of the U.S. Army. Lieutenant General Young reached the mandatory retirement age in January 1904, and forty-two years of service came to a close. He served as superintendent of Yellowstone National Park from 1907 to 1908 and as president of the Soldier's Home from 1910 to 1920. He died in Helena, Montana.
General Young's long career was marked by numerous instances of personal bravery, but little evidence indicates he contributed to the broad improvement and professional development of the U.S. Army as an institution. The generation of officers that preceded Young's own and the one that followed his era had the opportunity to command large formations and manage diverse and complex establishments. Young, like all of his contemporaries, mainly experienced both battle and peacetime command with relatively small units and modest institutions. His fighting expertise and professional interests were thus confined to minor tactics, the routine on small posts, and constabulary-type problems of establishing or restoring peace. His rise to high rank was chiefly due to his personal connections with a succession of superiors in addition to his bravery in combat. Young's advancement was not founded on a demonstrated ability to manage a large-scale organization nor on his skill handling broad, policy-type responsibilities. His tenure at this level was too brief to be adequately assessed.
Young's papers are at the U.S. Army Military History Institute in Carlisle, Pa., and mostly consist of official correspondence. Several descriptions of Young and his early service are recounted in George Crook, General George Crook: His Autobiography, ed. Martin F. Schmitt (1960). Later accounts depicting Young include John M. Gates, Schoolbooks and Krags: The United States Army in the Philippines, 1898-1902 (1973), and William Thaddeus Sexton, Soldiers in the Sun (1939).
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Rod Paschall. "Young, Samuel Baldwin Marks";
American National Biography Online Feb. 2000.