General George Smith Patton, Jr
General George Smith Patton, Jr. traced his family's heritage back to eighteenth century Scotland and many of the extended family immigrated to America even before his own direct ancestors. The first in his direct line to do so was Robert Patton who settled in Fredericksburg, Virginia, shortly before the Revolutionary War. Robert married the daughter of General Hugh Mercer who had been killed in the Battle of Princeton in 1777. One of Robert's six children, John Mercer Patton was elected to Congress and served briefly as Acting Governor of Virginia. One of John's sons, George Smith Patton led the Kanawah Rifles (militia unit) during the John Brown incident at Harper's Ferry in 1859, and participated in the civil war as a Confederate field grade officer. He was killed in the Third Battle of Winchester. George Smith Patton's son, George William Patton's childhood was dominated by the Civil War and he later wrote an account of the conflict as seen through a child's eyes. Later he dropped his middle name and replaced it with that of his stepfather, Confederate Colonel George Hugh Smith, out of appreciation for what he had done to keep the family together during and just after the civil war. George Smith Patton attended Virginia Military Institute and, in 1877, joined his mother and step father in California.
In 1879, George Smith Patton was admitted to the California Bar and joined the law offices of Glassell, Smith, and Patton. In 1884, he married Ruth Wilson and set up housekeeping in Lake Vineyard Rancho in southern California. Their first child was born on November 11, 1885. He was named after his father - George Smith Patton, Jr. From birth he was known to family and friends as Georgie. Their second child was born in 1887 and named Anne Wilson Patton. She was always called Nita. Georgie learned to ride and shoot at a very early age and excelled at polo as he grew older. His father, meanwhile, served as Los Angeles County District Attorney and became a noted lawyer and businessman in Southern California. Together with other family members, George Smith Patton Sr invested in numerous real estate ventures including San Pedro Harbor and Santa Catalina Island. He was one of the founders of the Sunkist Company. He gained considerable notoriety for taking on and besting Collis Huntington and the Southern Pacific Railroad in the courts and in Washington D.C. over the development of the Port of San Pedro.
George senior educated his son and daughter at home until 1897. Latter, General Patton acknowledged that his early education had been extremely weak, but he did develop a great fondness for reading and grew to appreciate the classics. As a young man he spent many of his summers on Santa Catalina Island and learned to enjoy sailing. In 1903, Georgie entered VMI, but in 1904, left to continue his studies at West Point. There, he excelled at track, riding, and fencing, as well as marksmanship. His academic work was not as spectacular and he had to repeat a year due to deficiencies in mathematics. In the very early years of the twentieth century, as a teenager, Georgie had spent a lot of time with Beatrice Banning Ayer, the daughter of Frank Ayer, a very wealthy businessman. Her family moved east and "Bea" visited Georgie at West Point. On June 11, 1909, George Patton graduated from West Point and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the cavalry.
Second Lieutenant Patton's first assignment was to Fort Sheridan, Illinois. George and Bea were married outside of Boston, Massachusetts, on March 26, 1910. On March 19, 1911, Bea gave birth to a daughter - Beatrice Smith Patton. In December 1911, Patton was transfered to Fort Meyer, Virginia, just outside of Washington D.C. His transfer came about because Fort Meyer needed him to strengthen their polo team. While in Fort Meyer he served as quartermaster and had ample opportunity to meet senior officials in the army and in the government. One such official was President Howard Taft's Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson. In October 1913, Patton was reassigned to Fort Riley, Kansas. During these early years in the army, Patton visited Europe on several occasions to participate in various athletic contests and to train at the French Cavalry School in Saumur, France. Because of his skill in fencing and his excellent riding abilities he became something of an expert on the use of the cavalry sword and developed a new straight sword which was adopted by the army. At Fort Riley, Patton was made instructor of fencing and taught many influential field grade officers.
In August 1914, war broke out in Europe and Second Lieutenant Patton immediately started exploring ways to get into the fight. He was not successful and quickly became disenchanted with President Woodrow Wilson's reluctance to join the war. On Feburary 28, 1915, Bea gave birth to their second daughter - Ruth Patton. In August 1915, Patton, in order to avoid accompanying his unit to the Philippines, managed to wrangle an assignment to Fort Bliss, Texas. At Bliss he was assigned to the 8th Regiment of Cavalry, one of the units charged with monitoring the revolution that was ongoing in Mexico at the time. Brigadier General Black Jack Pershing took command of Fort Bliss at about the same time and the United States Government recognized Venustiano Carranza as President of Mexico. Patton was assigned low level protection duties when Carranza's forces were permitted to cross American territory to get at anti-Carranza revolutionaries loyal to Pancho Villa.