Profiles from the Archives: George W. McIver

Matthew M. Peek, Military Collection Archivist

George Willcox McIver was born on December 22, 1858, in Carthage, N.C., to Alexander (a noted North Carolina educator) and Mary Ann Willcox McIver. George McIver was appointed to West Point Military Academy on July 1, 1877. He remained there to June 13, 1882, when he graduated and was promoted in the U.S. Army to Second Lieutenant with the 7th U.S. Infantry on June 13, 1882.

McIver would serve in the in the West from 1883 to 1891 at the following locations: on frontier duty at Fort Pembina in the Dakota Territory from September 30 to November 16, 1882; at Fort Bridger, Wyoming, to April 5, 1883; at Fort Fred Steele, Wyoming, to September 5, 1885, along with other troops to put down civil unrest between Chinese and white miners; at Camp Pilot Butte, Wyoming, to July 13, 1887; at Fort Laramie, Wyoming; and at Fort Logan in Denver, Colorado, until August 1891. His unit participated in the "Sioux Campaign" of 1890-1891, which culminated in the Battle of Wounded Knee. McIver was promoted to First Lieutenant of Infantry with the 7th Infantry on November 30, 1889.

McIver was reassigned to the West Point Military Academy in New York on August 28, 1891, in the Department of Tactics. He served as the tactical officer until June 15, 1893, when he was sent to be the duty officer to Camp Pilot Butte, Montana, in 1893. McIver married Helen Smedberg on June 28, 1893. He would then be at Rock Springs, Wyoming, from September 15, 1893, to March 7, 1894. McIver was sent as a Regular Army officer to serve duty with the California National Guard from March 7 to December 1, 1894, where he observed the civil unrest of the California Railroad Strikes. He was transferred to Fort Logan in Colorado from December 3, 1894, to April 20, 1898, when the regiment left their post for Chickamauga, Georgia.

Assigned as a Captain on April 26, 1898, McIver was reunited with the 7th U.S. Infantry, which was mobilized at Chickamauga Park, Georgia, for service in Cuba during the Spanish-American War, where McIver commanded Company B, 7th U.S. Infantry, in the Battle of El Caney. He would be assigned to Fort Brady, Michigan, on November 24, 1898, remaining there until April 3, 1900. Next, McIver was at Leech Lake Indian Agency in Walker, Minnesota, from April 4 to May 27, 1900. He then was assigned to Fort Davis in Nome, Alaska, from June 28, 1900, to October 6, 1901, where he enforced federal law during the Nome Gold Rush. From 1901 to 1903, he would be at Fort St. Michael, Alaska, or on U.S. Army recruiting duty in Portland, Oregon (it is unclear from conflicting records).

McIver was assigned to the Philippine Islands from 1903 until July 1905, when he returned to California with the 4th U.S. Infantry as the Commandant of the U.S. military prison on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay. McIver’s command was responsible for assisting refugees after the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, and commanded the Golden Gate Park District from April 19 to June 1, 1906. He was promoted to Major on March 29, 1904. On November 8, 1907, McIver became the Commandant of the U.S. Army’s first musketry school at Monterey, California. He was transferred to the 9th U.S. Infantry on October 13, 1910.

George McIver was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel on March 11, 1911. In 1911, McIver served as President for the board for revision of the Army Small Arms Firing Manual from July 1 to December 31, 1911. He served a second tour of duty in the Philippines in 1914, and was promoted to the rank of Colonel on March 13, 1914. McIver became assistant to the Chief of Militia Bureau of the U.S. War Department on February 4, 1915.

George McIver was promoted to Brigadier General with the U.S. Army on August 5, 1917. He then took command of the 161st Brigade, 81st Division, which trained at Camp Jackson and Camp Sevier, South Carolina. This unit became incorporated into the American Expeditionary Force when the division was shipped overseas to France during World War I. McIver served overseas from August 12, 1918, to June 7, 1919, during the war. The 161st Brigade served first in the St. Dié Sector in the Vosges department of France, later moving into the Sommedieue Sector near Verdun in 1918. On November 9, 10, and 11, the 81st Division joined in the Argonne-Meuse Offensive. McIver and his unit returned to the United States at Charleston, S. C., on June 18, 1919.

From 1919 until his retirement in 1922, McIver was stationed at Camp Pike, Arkansas, and Camp Slocum, New York. At Camp Pike, he was in charge of the Demobilization Group from July 4 to August 27, 1919. McIver was returned to the rank of Colonel on August 31, 1919, before being transferred to Camp Slocum on September 1, 1919. There, McIver commanded an Army recruit depot.

After retiring in 1922, McIver would begin writing extensively. This included the paper published as “North Carolinians at West Point before the Civil War” in the North Carolina Historical Review in 1930. Around 1930, he compiled a multi-volume work entitled Autobiography of George Willcox McIver, which he revised in 1940. In his post-WWI life, George McIver came to live in Washington, D.C.

George W. McIver died on May 12, 1947, and was buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia. He is buried in Section 6, Site 5680-A.

To view McIver’s WWI photographs, check out the album of his photographs on the State Archives of North Carolina’s Flickr page.

To learn more about George McIver’s WWI service, check out the George W. McIver Papers (WWI 98) in the WWI Papers of the Military Collection at the State Archives of North Carolina in Raleigh, N.C., and explore the attached collection finding aid for the extent of his materials.

This blog post is part of the State Archives of North Carolina’s World War I Social Media Project, an effort to bring original WWI archival materials to the public through the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources’ (NCDNCR) various social media platforms, in order to increase access to the items during the WWI centennial celebration by the state of North Carolina.

Between February 2017 and June 2019, the State Archives of North Carolina will be posting blog articles, Facebook posts, and Twitter posts, featuring WWI archival materials which are posted on the exact 100th anniversary of their creation during the war. Blog posts will feature interpretations of the content of WWI documents, photographs, diary entries, posters, and other records, including scans of the original archival materials, held by the State Archives of North Carolina, and will be featured in NCDNCR’s WWI centennial blog.


Information for this biography was taken from the following sources:

Finding aid for George Willcox McIver Papers (#251), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA (

Biographical Register of the Officers and Graduates of the United States Military Academy (5 Vols.) by George W. Cullum, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1891.

Lawson, Dennis R., "McIver, George Willcox" article, NCPedia, 1991, reprinted from the Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, edited by William S. Powell (University of North Carolina Press), viewed at

Finding aid for George W. McIver Papers, WWI 98, WWI Papers, Military Collection, State Archives of North Carolina, Raleigh, N.C.

Associated Files