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Old 12-20-2017, 02:31 PM
zimaane zimaane is offline
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Has anyone ever risen from the lowest possible military rank to the highest?

I think that the very highest ranking military officials, which in the U.S. would by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, almost (?) always start either at the Service Academies or ROTC, and enter active duty as an officer (Lieutenant or equivalent) and then advance.

Has anyone ever started as a private (or equivalent) and made it all the way to the top?

Last edited by zimaane; 12-20-2017 at 02:32 PM.
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Old 12-20-2017, 02:39 PM
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Check this site. Both Vessey and Shalikashvili made it from private to Chairman of the JCS.

Last edited by Chefguy; 12-20-2017 at 02:41 PM.
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Old 12-20-2017, 02:41 PM
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A formerly-enlisted officer is known as a Mustang Officer, and there are a lot of them. Some have achieved top positions in the flag officer ranks.

One example is John Vessey who became Chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

ETA: And Jeremy Boorda is the first enlisted sailor to become Chief of Naval Operations.

Last edited by friedo; 12-20-2017 at 02:42 PM.
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Old 12-20-2017, 02:43 PM
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Chuck Yeager.
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Charles Elwood "Chuck" Yeager (/ˈjeɪɡər/; born February 13, 1923) is a former United States Air Force general officer, flying ace and record-setting test pilot. In 1947, he became the first pilot confirmed to have exceeded the speed of sound in level flight.

Yeager's career began in World War II as a private in the United States Army Air Forces.[1] After serving as an aircraft mechanic, in September 1942 he entered enlisted pilot training and upon graduation was promoted to the rank of flight officer (the World War II USAAF equivalent to warrant officer) and became a P-51 fighter pilot.

After the war, Yeager became a test pilot of many types of aircraft, including experimental rocket-powered aircraft. As the first human to officially break the sound barrier, on October 14, 1947, he flew the experimental Bell X-1 at Mach 1 at an altitude of 45,000 ft (13,700 m). Scott Crossfield was the first to fly faster than Mach 2 in 1953, and Yeager shortly thereafter set a new record of Mach 2.44.[2]

Yeager later commanded fighter squadrons and wings in Germany, and in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War, and in recognition of the outstanding performance ratings of those units he was promoted to brigadier general. Yeager's flying career spans more than 60 years and has taken him to every corner of the globe, including the Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War.
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Old 12-20-2017, 02:43 PM
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Admiral Boorda is a pretty good example.
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Old 12-20-2017, 02:43 PM
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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sir_Wi...n,_1st_Baronet

enlisted as a private and ended his career as a Field Marshal.
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Old 12-20-2017, 02:51 PM
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I'm not sure what a spaghetti recipe has to do with this, but here's the wikipedia link for mustang officers.

Tommy Franks went from PFC to 4 star general.
Jim Mattis (current Sec Defense) also started out enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve and also ended up 4-star.
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Old 12-20-2017, 02:52 PM
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Cherry Puller attained Lt.Gen. from private.
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Old 12-20-2017, 03:03 PM
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Chesty
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Old 12-20-2017, 03:14 PM
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They used to call Napoleon “the Little Corporal.” Hard to think he never spent any time as a private. And he made it all the way to Holy Roman Emperor.
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Old 12-20-2017, 03:16 PM
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Cherry Puller attained Lt.Gen. from private.
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Chesty
How do you know what he did in privates?
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Old 12-20-2017, 03:19 PM
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Napoleon was never an enlisted man. He entered the French Army as an artillery Second Lt.
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Old 12-20-2017, 03:42 PM
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Check this site. Both Vessey and Shalikashvili made it from private to Chairman of the JCS.

Shalikashghetti carbonara. What a mouthful.
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Old 12-20-2017, 03:51 PM
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Does Adolf Hitler count?
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Old 12-20-2017, 03:55 PM
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Chesty
I knew it was Chesty. Don't know how that happened, I thought I proof read! We had a portrait of Chesty in our house when I was a child. Don't turn over in your grave, Daddy, it was a honest mistake! Semper Fi

Last edited by Beckdawrek; 12-20-2017 at 03:56 PM. Reason: Cherry pie
  #16  
Old 12-20-2017, 04:33 PM
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Nathan Bedford Forrest enlisted as a private at the outset of the Civil War and was a major general within a couple of years.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nathan_Bedford_Forrest
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Old 12-20-2017, 04:39 PM
The Other Waldo Pepper The Other Waldo Pepper is offline
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Originally Posted by zimaane View Post
I think that the very highest ranking military officials, which in the U.S. would by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, almost (?) always start either at the Service Academies or ROTC, and enter active duty as an officer (Lieutenant or equivalent) and then advance.

Has anyone ever started as a private (or equivalent) and made it all the way to the top?
Private James Buchanan became President and Commander-in-Chief.
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Old 12-20-2017, 05:20 PM
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I actually thought thought that Field Marshal William Slim had been a ranker, but turns out he started out as a 2nd Lieutenant. Damn.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willia..._Viscount_Slim

Interesting fella, none the less - commanded a division during the British retreat out of Burma, and then went on to command the Fourteenth Army in retaking Burma. Or, as he put it, "repay the debt and perhaps add a bit of interest".
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Old 12-20-2017, 06:50 PM
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They used to call Napoleon “the Little Corporal.” Hard to think he never spent any time as a private. And he made it all the way to Holy Roman Emperor.
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Originally Posted by silenus View Post
Napoleon was never an enlisted man. He entered the French Army as an artillery Second Lt.
I wonder where the “Little Corporal” thing came from, then.
  #20  
Old 12-20-2017, 07:32 PM
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I wonder where the “Little Corporal” thing came from, then.
Here is a Dope thread from 2005 where this is discussed.
  #21  
Old 12-20-2017, 07:32 PM
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I don't know. The online answers range from "Wrong" to "Holy crap you're wrong!" I'm writing myself a note to check my biographies of Napoleon. They are in my classroom and currently inaccessible.
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Old 12-20-2017, 09:12 PM
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They used to call Napoleon “the Little Corporal.” Hard to think he never spent any time as a private. And he made it all the way to Holy Roman Emperor.
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Originally Posted by silenus View Post
Napoleon was never an enlisted man. He entered the French Army as an artillery Second Lt.
And he was never Holy Roman Emperor. He was "Emperor of the French".
  #23  
Old 12-20-2017, 09:20 PM
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Check this site. Both Vessey and Shalikashvili made it from private to Chairman of the JCS.
Along with a good recipe for spaghetti, John Shalikashvili had a fascinating life and career. As a child he was stateless in Poland and lived through the invasion and occupation of the country. They fled west at the end of the war and escaped being behind the Iron Curtain. He was 16 when they go to the states and he didn’t speak English. 6 years later he was getting a mechanical engineering degree. He was a draftee who chose to go to OCS and then obviously made it a career. He also held command positions at every level. All that is a very rare combination to make it to CJCS.

Last edited by Loach; 12-20-2017 at 09:21 PM.
  #24  
Old 12-20-2017, 09:24 PM
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Check this site. Both Vessey and Shalikashvili made it from private to Chairman of the JCS.
Great username/Freudian-slip-link combo!

That's what happens when you're trying to post here and figure out what's for dinner at the same time.

Last edited by John Mace; 12-20-2017 at 09:24 PM.
  #25  
Old 12-20-2017, 11:19 PM
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Chief of Pakistani Army in the 1965 War, Gen Musa Khan started off as an enlisted man.. His first job in the Army was water bearer.

No doubt the Israelis have several. Perhaps we should limit this to men who some time in service as enlisted. As opposed to someone who was enlisted and then soon after were selected for officer training; a relatively common phenomenon.
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Old 12-20-2017, 11:44 PM
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IIRC Israel does not maintain the same kind of distinction between officer and enlisted as anglo-centric militaries.
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Old 12-21-2017, 12:17 AM
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Well per wiki they do .
From what Alessan has stated, AIUI, they don’t have Military Academy’s like West Point or Sandhurst, everyone starts in basic and the ones selected or volunteering to become officers, are then sent for further training rather than units.
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Old 12-21-2017, 01:04 AM
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It is possible that the Israeli military makes for example less of a difference in certain matters of protocol, but that's not the same as having no distinction. I'm remembering a guy who claimed that the Argentinian Army "doesn't have non-commisioned officers". Yes they do, ain't no army can walk without sergeants. But because the Spanish term is suboficiales, dude insisted that there is no such thing as NCOs in Spanish. I guess we should'a been grateful he'd never found out that our Lt's on up don't get comisiones either... (they get nombramientos).
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Old 12-21-2017, 01:32 AM
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Well then the highest rank in the Pakistan Army is full Colonel. Above that they only have “appointments” tied to a post.
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Old 12-21-2017, 01:55 AM
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All Chiefs of Staff of the Israeli army, bar one (a pilot), started out as grunts. One of them (Moshe "Bogie" Yaalon) was even discharged from regular service as an NCO, was called back as a reservist for the 1973 war, and decided to reenlist and become an officer.

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IIRC Israel does not maintain the same kind of distinction between officer and enlisted as anglo-centric militaries.
The rank structure is pretty much the same as most modern military forces, with a few minor tweaks. Military culture is a different story - although obviously every army has its own culture. In broad terms, discipline is de-emphasized in favor of "professionalism" (which is basically the same thing, only with less saluting), and junior officers are considered specialists rather than generalists. The latter point means that officers, particularly in combat arms, often have more in common with the troops under their command than with their fellow officers; it also means that the army doesn't see the need for college degrees (for non-technical officers) for ranks below lieutenant colonel, the first real "generalist" rank.

They also don't really have the stereotype other armies have, that of the incompetent junior officer who needs to be led by the nose by their more experienced sergeant, as even the freshest second lieutenant had already served as a grunt and a squad leader at least.

Last edited by Alessan; 12-21-2017 at 01:58 AM.
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Old 12-21-2017, 02:47 AM
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When’s the officer selection done?
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Old 12-21-2017, 03:03 AM
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When’s the officer selection done?
It depends. Usually after a certain amount of time serving as a junior NCO (squad leader, tank commander, etc.), with the recommendation of their own commanding officer. There's a minimum total period of service required, but it varies by profession. Sorry - it's been awhile, and I was never interested in becoming an officer myself, so I can't really give you more details. I do remember that back in my day, the "youngest" infantry officers had served for a total of two years. That's six months of standard infantry training, three months of infantry service, three months of squad leader training, six months of squad leader service, and six months of officer's training. It can vary greatly, though.

There is a "designated officer" program for some select non-combat positions, in which candidates are selected before enlistment and fast-tracked through their service as private soldiers, NCOs and officer's school, but AFAIK if they wash out they have to continue serving at whatever ranked they reached.
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Old 12-21-2017, 03:41 AM
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Thanks.
In truth the actural career progression does not seem that different from other Armies. (Here is Bear_Nenno writing the requirements for a US Infantry officer, there are several months of training after commissioning). The biggest difference seems to be that

i) Most Armies grant commission at the end of basic officer training, and then make them complete further necessary courses. In IDF's case a commission is granted after completion of the same.
ii) The training seems to be concentrated in the Unit as opposed to dedicated training intallations.
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Old 12-21-2017, 03:50 AM
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Pretty much. The difference is in selection - in other military forces, officer candidates largely start out as a blank slate, while in the IDF, they have already proven themselves to be at least above-average soldiers and commanders (although in my experience, plenty of losers still slip through the cracks).

One can almost say that, in a way, enlisted service as a whole is basically a tryout process for potential officers.
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Old 12-21-2017, 04:05 AM
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Does Adolf Hitler count?
If Hitler counts, then so do Abraham Lincoln and James Buchanan, who also served as privates before becoming commander-in-chief of the armed forces. But I rather think this is against the spirit of the question, which seems to be about those who progressed through the ranks as part of a military career, not veterans who later entered politics.
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Old 12-21-2017, 04:32 AM
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AK84 - Note also that there is a certain amount of specific training given officers after commissioning. It depends on their profession and on which version of Officer's Course they took - for instance, an intelligence officer will do a 3-month Officer's Course followed by 4 months of Intelligence Officer Training; a tanker will do a 4-month Officer's Course followed by 3 months of Tank Officer Training, and so on. Vanilla infantry reeive no supplemental training because the 6-month Infantry Officer Course is already infantry-oriented.
  #37  
Old 12-21-2017, 05:17 AM
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https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toyotomi_Hideyoshi
  #38  
Old 12-21-2017, 01:18 PM
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I don't know. The online answers range from "Wrong" to "Holy crap you're wrong!" I'm writing myself a note to check my biographies of Napoleon. They are in my classroom and currently inaccessible.
As far as I can tell, the 2005 thread here was totally wrong on all counts, and I have yet to find any reliable source that says the French ever referred to Napoleon as the "Little Corporal." It seems to be a derogatory nickname given by the English.

Research continues.
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Old 12-21-2017, 01:19 PM
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Nathan Bedford Forrest enlisted as a private at the outset of the Civil War and was a major general within a couple of years.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nathan_Bedford_Forrest
Actually, better yet, he ended up as a lieutenant general. He's the only man in either the U.S. or C.S. Army to do that in the Civil War.
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Old 12-21-2017, 03:15 PM
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Great username/Freudian-slip-link combo!

That's what happens when you're trying to post here and figure out what's for dinner at the same time.
  #41  
Old 12-21-2017, 05:32 PM
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Actually, better yet, he ended up as a lieutenant general. He's the only man in either the U.S. or C.S. Army to do that in the Civil War.
Although, you will note from that article that he was commissioned as a Lt. Col. 3-4 months after his enlistment as a private. It was not uncommon at the time for wealthy or upper class men to obtain a military commission as an officer with very little prior training. How it happened in his case:
Quote:
After the Civil War broke out, Forrest returned to Tennessee from his Mississippi ventures, enlisted in the Confederate States Army (CSA), and trained at Fort Wright in Randolph, Tennessee.[15] He joined Captain Josiah White's Company, the "Tennessee Mounted Rifles", as a private along with his youngest brother and 15-year-old son on July 14, 1861. Upon seeing how badly equipped the CSA was, Forrest offered to buy horses and equipment with his own money for a regiment of Tennessee volunteer soldiers.[16][17]

His superior officers and Governor of Tennessee Isham G. Harris were surprised that someone of Forrest's wealth and prominence had enlisted as a soldier, especially since major planters were exempted from service. They commissioned him as a lieutenant colonel and authorized him to recruit and train a battalion of Confederate mounted rangers. In October 1861, Forrest was given command of a regiment, the 3rd Tennessee Cavalry. Though Forrest had no prior formal military training or experience, he had exhibited leadership and soon proved he had a gift for successful tactics.

Last edited by yabob; 12-21-2017 at 05:33 PM.
  #42  
Old 12-21-2017, 11:44 PM
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OTOH, Edward VIII was the only man in history to go from Admiral of the Fleet to Third Mate on an American tramp.
  #43  
Old 12-22-2017, 06:45 AM
The Other Waldo Pepper The Other Waldo Pepper is offline
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IIRC, Jimmy Stewart enlisted as a private and worked his way up to general.
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Old 12-22-2017, 08:53 AM
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IIRC, Jimmy Stewart enlisted as a private and worked his way up to general.
Right you are: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_...litary_service
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Old 12-22-2017, 09:56 AM
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OTOH, Edward VIII was the only man in history to go from Admiral of the Fleet to Third Mate on an American tramp.
For another real-life backward career move, T.E. Lawrence ("Lawrence of Arabia") retired from the British Army as a full colonel, and shortly afterwards enlisted in the Royal Air Force as an aircraftman (under a false name).
  #46  
Old 12-22-2017, 11:32 AM
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Admiral Yi of Korea did it multiple times, thanks to being a kickass commander, but having powerful rivals constantly bringing him down.

Last edited by Mijin; 12-22-2017 at 11:32 AM.
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Old 12-23-2017, 10:00 AM
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OTOH, Edward VIII was the only man in history to go from Admiral of the Fleet to Third Mate on an American tramp.


Did you just make that up?
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Old 12-23-2017, 11:42 AM
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Did you just make that up?
Would love to claim credit, but I heard it years ago.
  #49  
Old 12-23-2017, 06:49 PM
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Sam Houston enlisted as a Private for the War of 1812 and ended up as Commander In Chief of the Texas army during the Revolution, then served as President of the Republic of Texas. He was also Gov. of Texas and a US Senator and, except for the fact he seems to have been bat s crazy would have had a good chance of winning the US Presidency in 1856.
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Old 12-23-2017, 09:43 PM
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He actually ran for the Know Nothing nomination in 1856 but didn't get it. He was on the right side of history when Texas seceded, however: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sam_Ho...ernor_of_Texas
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