We recently posted a collage of all the different Presidents who served in the military. Underneath their picture and name, most of them had officer ranks above Captain, except one. The 15th President of the United States, James Buchanan, who had the rank of private. Well, we decided to figure out why.
James Buchanan was born in April 1791, a mere 15 years after the United States was formed. Buchanan grew up well off and attended law school. He would then begin his own practice and became a successful businessman. So when did he join the military?
Well, after the War of 1812 began, the British invaded Maryland in 1814. At this time, Buchanan enlisted in the Pennsylvania militia. There are not very many detailed accounts of Buchanan’s enlistment. It appears he served barely a year and as a private the entire time. In 1814, Buchanan was also elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, thus beginning his political career.
Buchanan is the only enlisted President, but that is not the only unique characteristic about his Presidency. He was the last President to serve in the War of 1812. Buchanan was also the only bachelor President, only having a fiance at one point. He is also the only President to hail from Pennsylvania.
Buchanan would then serve under state legislature, the House, the Senate, as a US Ambassador, and then some. It is along this path that he made his way to the Presidency in 1857. His legacy as President, however, is seen as fairly grim. Seven states seceded from the South during his tenure. He was also morally against slavery, however, he did not do much to ease the tensions between both sides.
About a month after Buchanan’s Presidency, the Civil War started. Abraham Lincoln would then become the next United States President.
So there you have it, sadly, we found it was nothing exciting surrounding why Buchanan was the only President who was a Private, instead of an officer. We were kind of hoping for some juicy scandal to be revealed or a tale to regale them all about how he was busted down. Instead, we found out Buchanan served one year in the Pennsylvania militia to help his fellow countrymen.
We guess that’s acceptable. Do you think a President should serve in the military?