Henry Dearborn

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Henry Dearborn
Henry Dearborn by Gilbert Stuart.jpeg
United States Minister to Portugal
In office
August 16, 1822 – June 30, 1824
President James Monroe
Preceded by John Appleton
Succeeded by Thomas Brent (Acting)
Senior Officer of the United States Army
In office
January 27, 1812 – June 15, 1815
President James Madison
Preceded by James Wilkinson
Succeeded by Jacob Brown
5th United States Secretary of War
In office
March 5, 1801 – March 4, 1809
President Thomas Jefferson
Preceded by Samuel Dexter
Succeeded by William Eustis
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 12th district
In office
March 4, 1795 – March 4, 1797
Preceded by Constituency established
Succeeded by Isaac Parker
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 4th district
In office
March 4, 1793 – March 4, 1795
Preceded by Theodore Sedgwick
Succeeded by Dwight Foster
Personal details
Born (1751-02-23)February 23, 1751
North Hampton, New Hampshire, U.S.
Died June 6, 1829(1829-06-06) (aged 78)
Roxbury, Massachusetts, U.S.
Political party Anti-Administration (Before 1792)
Democratic-Republican (1792–1829)
Military service
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch Continental Army
 United States Army
Years of service 1775–1783
Rank US-O6 insignia.svg Colonel
US-O8 insignia.svg Major General
Battles/wars American Revolutionary War
War of 1812

Henry Dearborn (February 23, 1751 – June 6, 1829) was an American soldier and statesman. In the Revolutionary War, he served under Benedict Arnold in the expedition to Quebec, of which his journal provides an important record. After being captured and exchanged, he served in George Washington’s Continental Army, and was present at the British surrender at Yorktown. Dearborn was US Secretary of War from 1801 to 1809, and served as a general in the War of 1812. The city of Dearborn, Michigan was named for him.


Born to Simon Dearborn and Sarah Marston in North Hampton, New Hampshire, he spent much of his youth in Epping, where he attended public schools. He studied medicine and opened a practice on the square in Nottingham in 1772.

Revolutionary War service[edit]

When fighting in the American Revolutionary War began, he organized and led a local militia troop of 60 men to Boston where he fought at the Battle of Bunker Hill as a captain in Colonel John Stark’s First New Hampshire Regiment. He then volunteered to serve under Col.Benedict Arnold during the difficult American expedition to Quebec. His journal is an important record for that campaign. He was captured on December 31, 1775, during the Battle of Quebec in Lower Canada and detained for a year. He was released on parole in May 1776, but he was not exchanged until March 1777.

After fighting at Ticonderoga, Freeman's Farm and Saratoga, Dearborn joined General George Washington's main Continental Army at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania as a lieutenant colonel where he spent the winter of 1777–1778. He fought at the Battle of Monmouth in New Jersey, in 1778 following the British evacuation of Philadelphia to retreat to concentrate at New York City, in the final major battle of the Northern Theatre, and in 1779, he accompanied Major General John Sullivan on the Sullivan Expedition against the Iroquois in upstate New York.

During the winter of 1778-1779, he was encamped at what is now Putnam Memorial State Park in Redding, Connecticut. Dearborn rejoined General Washington’s staff in 1781 as deputy quartermaster general with the rank of colonel and was present when Cornwallis surrendered after the Battle of Yorktown in Virginia in October 1781.

In June 1783, he received his discharge from the Continental Army and settled in Gardiner, Maine (the District of Maine then being a part of the Massachusetts). He was an original member of the New Hampshire Society of the Cincinnati.


He was commissioned as a brigadier general in the Massachusetts Militia in 1787 and was promoted to major general in 1789. The same year he was appointed as the first U.S. Marshal for the District of Maine under the new Constitution of 1787 by first President Washington. He represented this district as a Democratic-Republican in the Third and Fourth Congresses from 1793 to 1797. In 1801, third President Thomas Jefferson appointed him Secretary of War, a post he held for eight years until March 7, 1809. During his tenure, he helped plan the removal of Indians beyond the Mississippi River.

He was appointed collector of the port of Boston by President James Madison in 1809, a position he held until January 27, 1812, when he was appointed as the senior major general in the United States Army. He was given command of the northeast sector from the Niagara River to the New England coast.

War of 1812[edit]

During the War of 1812, Dearborn prepared plans for simultaneous assaults on Montreal, Kingston, Fort Niagara, and Amherstburg, but the execution was imperfect. Some scholars believe that he did not move quickly enough to provide sufficient troops to defend Detroit. William Hull, without firing a shot, surrendered the city to British General Isaac Brock.

Although Dearborn had minor successes at the capture of York (now Toronto) on April 27, 1813, and at the capture of Fort George on May 27, 1813, his command was, for the most part, ineffective. He was recalled from the frontier on July 6, 1813, and reassigned to an administrative command in New York City. Dearborn was honorably discharged from the Army on June 15, 1815.

Later life[edit]

Dearborn was elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society in 1816.[1]

President James Madison nominated Dearborn for reappointment as Secretary of War, but the Senate rejected the nomination. He was later appointed Minister Plenipotentiary to Portugal by President James Monroe and served from May 7, 1822, until June 30, 1824, when, by his own request, he was recalled.

He retired to his home in Roxbury, Massachusetts, where he died 5 years later. He is interred in Forest Hills Cemetery, in Jamaica Plain outside of Boston at the time (later in 1874 Jamaica Plain was annexed to Boston).

Dearborn was married three times: to Mary Bartlett in 1771, to Dorcas (Osgood) Marble in 1780, and to Sarah Bowdoin, widow of James Bowdoin, in 1813. Henry Alexander Scammell Dearborn was his son by his second wife.


Lewis and Clark, appointed by Thomas Jefferson, named the Dearborn River in west-central Montana after Dearborn in 1803. Dearborn County, Indiana; Dearborn, Michigan; and Dearborn, Missouri, were also named for him, as was Fort Dearborn in Chicago, which in turn was the namesake for Dearborn Street, a major street in downtown Chicago. There was also a Fort Dearborn in Adams County, Mississippi, in the early 1800s.

A U.S. military armory, initially named Mount Dearborn, was planned in the early 1800s to be built on an island near the confluence of the Catawba and Wateree Rivers, adjacent to Great Falls, SC. The facility was never constructed, but the island name stuck and after the town was founded in 1905, its main thoroughfare was named Dearborn Street.

During World War II, a Fort Dearborn was established in Henry Dearborn's home state of New Hampshire.

His son, Henry A. S. Dearborn, was a Congressman in 1831–1833.


External links[edit]

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Theodore Sedgwick
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 4th congressional district

Served alongside: George Thatcher, Peleg Wadsworth
Succeeded by
Dwight Foster
New constituency Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 12th congressional district

Succeeded by
Isaac Parker
Political offices
Preceded by
Samuel Dexter
United States Secretary of War
Succeeded by
William Eustis
Military offices
Preceded by
James Wilkinson
Senior Officer of the United States Army
Succeeded by
Jacob Brown
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
John Appleton
United States Minister to Portugal
Succeeded by
Thomas Brent