Only 227 people in the history of the U.S. Army have earned the rank of four-star general, including George Washington, Ulysses S. Grant, William Tecumseh Sherman, Douglas MacArthur and Dwight D. Eisenhower. A four-star general ranks directly above lieutenant general, or three-star general, but below a five-star general, or General of the Army.
Washington is the only four-star general to have earned the honor of this rank in the Continental Army as opposed to the U.S. Army. Five others gained the title of four-star general posthumously, and eight earned it in retirement. MacArthur holds the record for longest active-duty service at four-star rank, having served 15 years in the army as a four-star general.
Washington is also the only four-star general to have earned the rank with zero years of commission. Ulysses S. Grant, the next-fastest to have earned the rank, held active-duty positions for 23 years before being promoted.
Four-star generals can earn their rank through different methods, including being commissioned by the U.S. Military Academy, through Reserve Office Training Corps at a civilian university, through Officer Candidate School, through the Army National Guard and through the aviation cadet program.
Ann E. Dunwoody, commissioned in November 2008, remains the first and only female four-star general in the U.S. Army as of December 2015.