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Heintzelman, Stuartfree

(19 November 1876–06 July 1935)
  • Mitchell Yockelson

Heintzelman, Stuart (19 November 1876–06 July 1935), army officer, was born in New York City, the son of Charles Stuart Heintzelman, an and Emily Bailey. A career in the military for Heintzelman was probable, and he became the third successive member of the family to graduate from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and achieve the rank of general in the army. His grandfather was Major General Samuel P. Heintzelman, who served with distinction during the Civil War as a division and corps commander with the Army of the Potomac. The Heintzelman ancestry traced its military roots to the first American immigrant, Hieronimus (Jerome) Heintzelman, who came to this country from Germany through England in 1756 as a lieutenant in the “Royal Americans,” a regiment of German riflemen serving the British colonials.

Heintzelman’s formative years were marred by the death of his father when Heintzelman was five. His distraught mother took him abroad for his early education, but later he returned to the United States to attend the Groton School in Groton, Massachusetts. Heintzelman entered West Point in 1895 and graduated four years later with a commission as a second lieutenant in the Sixth U.S. Cavalry. An academy classmate of Heintzelman’s described him as having “enthusiasm and inspiration and joy of life … with a fine mind and splendid physique.” He was also a gifted sportsman and was elected president of the Cadet Athletic Association.

Known as “Tommy” among his fellow soldiers, Heintzelman’s initial assignments after graduation consisted of garrison duty at Fort Riley, Kansas; commander of the post at Fort Sherman, Idaho; then another garrison detail at Fort Walla Walla, Washington. He was ordered to the Philippine Islands in 1900 for duty with the Fourth U.S. Cavalry, then to China to take part in suppressing the Boxer Rebellion. During this conflict, Heintzelman proved himself as a capable combat leader when he commanded the allied cavalry forces in the fighting near Tientsin on 19 August 1900. Returning to the Philippines from China, he was assigned as the aide-de-camp to Brigadier General Samuel S. Sumner and saw action in several engagements and expeditions during the Philippine insurrection. His success on the battlefield was rewarded with a promotion to first lieutenant in February 1901. Ordered back to the United States in 1903, Heintzelman served with troops stationed at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis, Missouri.

From 1904 to 1906 Heintzelman attended the Infantry and Cavalry School as well as the Army Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He graduated with honors and was promoted to captain on 20 October 1905. Once again he was assigned to his old regiment in the Philippines, the Sixth Cavalry, as an adjutant for two years. He later returned to Leavenworth for two tours of duty, 1909–1912 and 1914–1916, as an instructor at the Army Services Schools. His achievements as both a student and a teacher brought Heintzelman accolades from Major Generals Frederick Funston and Leonard Wood for his competency in practical military art, theoretical and practical engineering, law, and French. At this stage of Heintzelman’s career his record included the Philippine, China, Mexican Border, and Victory campaign badges. Also at this time he met Rubey Bowling, whom he married in 1910. They raised one daughter from his wife’s previous marriage.

Through the influence of President Woodrow Wilson, Heintzelman was detailed in 1916 to Princeton University as a professor of military science and art. He remained at this post until 1917 and received an M.A. in the process. When the United States entered World War I, Heintzelman was ordered to France in July 1917 with the General Staff at the headquarters of the American Expeditionary Forces. He was attached to the French army as a military observer during the Chemin des Dames offensive of October 1917 and served with the French Tenth Army in their winter operations in northern Italy. He also took part in the St.-Mihiel offensive as chief of staff of the Fourth Army Corps before being assigned as chief of staff to General Robert Lee Bullard of the American II Army. He served with Bullard until demobilization in April 1919.

Heintzelman was highly decorated for his endeavors during World War I. He received from the French government the Commander of the Legion of Honor and the croix de guerre with palm and was awarded the Commander of the Order of the Crown by the grateful Italian government. His success in organizing the Fourth Corps as an effective fighting unit of the American Expeditionary Forces as well as his vigor, intelligence, and military expertise earned him the Distinguished Service Medal.

In July 1919 Heintzelman was ordered to Washington, D.C., to serve as director of the Army War College. He remained in this assignment until early 1921, when he was transferred to Fort Sheridan, Illinois, for duty on the staff of the Sixth Corps Area. Later that year he returned to Washington, D.C., where he served for four years in a variety of capacities on the War Department General Staff. His assignments included assistant chief of staff of the Military Intelligence Division, the Supply Division, and the War Plans Division.

From 1924 to 1927 Heintzelman commanded the Twenty-second Infantry Brigade at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, and from 1928 to 1929 he was placed in charge of the harbor defenses of eastern New York with headquarters at Fort Totten, Long Island. He then returned to the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth as its commandant for six years and was promoted to major general. During the last year of his life he commanded the Seventh Corps Area. A few months before his own death, his wife passed away. Heintzelman died following a gall bladder operation at the Army-Navy Hospital, Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas.

Heintzelman is best remembered for his talents as a leader, organizer, and innovator in the army’s system of military training. A former student, Colonel Stuart C. Godfrey, recalled: “The most outstanding quality of General Heintzelman as a teacher was his passion for reality. He did not attempt to introduce arbitrary changes into the course of instruction … but saw it as his task to break the molds before they set up too rigidly, to challenge dogma with the test of reality” (“Heintzelman: Soldier and Teacher,” Infantry Journal 45, no. 3 [May–June 1936]: 259).


The principle primary sources on Heintzelman are his War Department files in the National Archives in Washington, D.C., which include a personnel file, 1895–1917, in the Records of the Adjutant General’s Office (RG 94) and general correspondence relating to his assignments with the War College Division in the Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs (RG 165). Personnel documentation on his service from World War I until the time of his death is in his military personnel record at the Military Personnel Records Center, St. Louis, Mo. Additional information on his military career is in Brevet Major General George W. Cullum, Biographical Register of the Officers and Graduates of the U.S. Military Academy (1901); Francis B. Heitman, Historical Register and Dictionary of the U.S. Army (1903); and U.S. Army, Official Army Register (1899–1935). Information on his life outside the military is in obituaries in the Annual Report of the Association of Graduates of the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, 11 June 1936, and the Leavenworth Times, 7 July 1935.