John Womack Wright (1876-1953)

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Biographical Sketch

From the College of William and Mary Alumni Gazette, Vol. XIII, May 1946, Number 4, pp 9-11:

Col. John Womack Wright was born in Kirkwood Missouri on July 10, 1876. He was the son of Brigadier General Marcus J. Wright, CSA of Purdy, Tennessee and Pauline Womack of Eutaw, Alabama. His grandfather, Benjamin Wright, was an officer in the 39th US Infantry and fought in the Creek and Mexican Wars. His great-grandfather, John Wright, served as a captain in the Revolutionary War. Wright attended public schools in Washington DC and graduated from Columbia Preparatory School before enrolling in the College of William and Mary in the fall of 1892. At William and Mary, he was president of Athletic Association, member of Kappa Sigma fraternity and Philomathean Literary Society graduating in 1895. He studied Law at George Washington University and received LL.B in 1898. At the outbreak of the Spanish American War in 1898, Wright volunteered for service in the US Army and was commissioned a First Lieutenant and Adjutant US Voluntary Army. In less than a year he was promoted to Captain serving on the Staff of General Leonard Wood, the Military Governor of Cuba . In 1899 he was commissioned 2nd Lt. in the 5th US Infantry, Regular Army From 1899 to 1902, Wright commanded the Baracoa Military District for the Military Government of Cuba. In that capacity, he acted as Commanding Officer, collector of customs, Captain of the Port and American Consul. He was adopted as a citizen of Baracoa and a street named a street for him in appreciation for his distinguished service there including draining a local swamp that had long been a breeding place for malaria. Wright married Helen Elizabeth Hyde of Plattsburg, New York in September, 1905. She was the daughter of Dr. and Mrs. R. E. Hyde of Plattsburg. They had two children - a son dying in infancy and a daughter, Pauline Hyde Wright. After a tour of duty in the Philippines, Wright returned to Cuba acting as Chief of Military Information of the Army of Cuban Pacification from 1906 to 1909. From there, he was detailed on the staff General John J. Pershing’s staff as Adjutant of the 17th US Infantry. It was on Pershing’s expedition into Mexico Wright discovered and excavated a site of ancient mounds at San Joaquin. Artifacts unearth at this site are in the collections at the Smithsonian Institute and the Field Museum of Natural History.

During World War I, Wright was appointed Lt. Colonel, 328th Infantry and served on the General Staff in the Headquarters of the Services of Supply at Chaumont and Tours, France. At the end of the war, it was decided to form a historical section at those headquarters and Wright was designated to organize, oversee the collection of documents relating to the war and command the section. In 1919, the general headquarters closed and Wright moved Historical Section to Washington DC and reported directly to the Army Chief of Staff and continued working as head of the Historical Section. From 1925 to 1929, Colonel Wright commanded the 5th US Infantry and the harbor defenses at Portland Maine and was honored by the citizens of Portland for his distinguished service. In 1936 Wright commanded the 65th Infantry in Puerto Rico and was praised by General George Catlett Marshall for his splendid work in that capacity. Wright retired a Colonel in August of 1940. Shortly after Pearl Harbor, he was called back to active duty as Secretary of the Historical Section at the Army War College. Throughout his life, Wright was published as the author of books and monographs on the subject of warfare. He was considered the leading authority in the US Army on the use of artillery in the Revolutionary War. In this regard, he submitted studies to the William and Mary Quarterly detailing aspects of the Continental Army during the Siege of Yorktown. Wright personally collected many books and maps relating to the subject of war and continued research into phases of military history until his death in 1953.

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