You can spot an Army General at a black-tie affair by arcs of oak leaves embroidered on the sleeves of the Blue Mess Dress Jacket. But can you name famous U.S. Army leaders by their nicknames? Here are a few of the classic “appellations” given to U.S. Army Generals over the decades, with brief explanations of how they came to be—and you can rest assured that more than one of them probably didn't feel too comfortable in a Blue Mess Dress jacket.
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Anthony Wayne, or “Mad Anthony”
Revolutionary War

Wayne was renowned for inspiring American forces to hold their own against numerically superior British troops; his signal victory was a bayonets-only assault on Stony Point. He later commanded the Legion of the United States (1792-1796). Like another General in our list, General Wayne has a rock and roll band named in his honor: Mad Anthony of Cincinnati, Ohio.

William Henry Harrison, or “Tippecanoe”
Tecumseh's War

The 1811 battle that earned General William Henry Harrison fame and glory was by no means his greatest military achievement. That would come at the Battle of the Thames in 1813, which if not for the Battle of New Orleans would be considered the greatest American ground-forces triumph of the War of 1812. Harrison holds two Presidential records: first President to have his photograph take while in office, and the shortest term of office (30 days).

General John B. Magruder, or “Prince John”
Civil War

Historical references to Magruder’s sobriquet usually say it was given to him by “old Army friends,” but precisely why they chose this moniker is never explained. He certainly put on a majestic performance during the 1862 Siege of Yorktown, where he tricked George B. McClellan into thinking he had far more troops under his command by marching them around in circles. It was only fitting that, after the Civil War, the “Prince” would serve under an Emperor, namely Maximilian I of Mexico.

George B. McClellan, or “Little Mac,” “The Young Napoleon”
Civil War

Nicknames for Generals are very often coined by the press, and such was the case for General George McClellan. After just two insignificant victories in which he greatly outnumbered his Confederate adversaries, a New York newspaper dubbed him the “Napoleon of the Present War.” McClellan’s subsequent records of indecisiveness and failure revealed just how much error was contained in that headline, but his well-known caution and care for his troops led them to affectionately call him “Little Mac.”

Ulysses S. Grant, or “Unconditional Surrender”
Civil War

As nicknames go, “Unconditional Surrender” is pretty awkward—so clumsy that it’s difficult to imagine anyone addressing the famed Union General by it and managing to keep a straight face. On the plus side, it was at least derived from an event that actually occurred (his surrender terms during the capture of Fort Donelson). Some sources say that he was called “Uncle Sam” during his time at West Point, but the name didn’t stick.

John Joseph Pershing, or “Black Jack”
Spanish-American War, Philippine-American War, WWI

One of the most famous nicknames ever coined for an Army general was born out of a slur. Before being appointed as an instructor at West Point, Pershing had commanded the 10th Cavalry Regiment, which consisted of African-American soldiers. Cadets who didn’t take to Pershing’s high standards of conduct and performance resorted to calling him “Jack” prefaced with a racial slur that eventually was tamped down to simply “Black.” Pershing obviously got the last laugh: in 1941, he became the only General or Soldier in the history of the U.S. Army eligible to wear a medal with his own image engraved upon it.
Joseph Warren Stillwell, or “Vinegar Joe”
World War II
Constantly undermanned and forced to deal with both Chinese commander Chiang-Kai-Shek—who himself was faced with Japanese invaders and Communist insurgents—and "rival" Claire Chennault of Flying Tigers fame, “Vinegar Joe” certainly did little to create a warm-and-fuzzy impression with his superiors, constantly pointing out what he perceived as rampant cases of corruption and incompetence. Though recalled from his command in the China Burma India Theater, Stillwell was later assigned to command the Army Ground Forces of the U.S. Tenth Army near the war’s end.

Norman Schwarzkopf, Jr., or “Stormin’ Norman” and “The Bear”
Gulf War

Whether it was called an “end run” or a “Hail Mary,” the outcome of General Schwarzkopf’s battle plan against Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi Army proved that, as the old saying goes, nothing succeeds like success. Schwarzkopf will forever be associated with that flanking maneuver, but his nickname likely came from his willingness to lead from the front and to take the offensive whenever possible.

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