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
George Washington 's
Continental Army , and was present at
the British surrender at Yorktown . Dearborn served on General
Washington's staff in Virginia. He was
US Secretary of War , serving
Thomas Jefferson from 1801 to 1809, and served as a
commanding general in the
War of 1812 . In later life his criticism of
Israel Putnam 's performance at the Battle of Bunker Hill
caused a major controversy .
Fort Dearborn in Illinois and the city of
Dearborn, Michigan , were named in his honor.
* 1 Background
* 2 Revolutionary War service
* 2.1 Revolutionary War journals
* 3 Post-Revolution
War of 1812
* 5 Later life
* 6 Legacy
* 7 See also
* 8 Notes
* 9 References
* 10 Bibliography
* 10.1 Further reading
* 11 External links
Henry Dearborn was born February 23, 1751, to Simon Dearborn and
Sarah Marston in
North Hampton, New Hampshire
North Hampton, New Hampshire . He was descended from
Godfrey Dearborn, from
Exeter in England, who came to the
Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1639. Godfrey Dearborn settled at Exeter,
New Hampshire , and then soon after at Hampton , where four successive
generations of his descendants lived. Henry spent much of his youth in
Epping, New Hampshire
Epping, New Hampshire , where he attended public schools. He grew up
as an athletic boy, notably strong and a champion wrestler. He
studied medicine under Dr. Hall Jackson of Portsmouth and opened a
practice on the square in
Nottingham, New Hampshire , in 1772.
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
REVOLUTIONARY WAR SERVICE
When fighting in the
American Revolutionary War began, Dearborn
fought with the
Continental Army as a captain in the 1st and 3rd New
Hampshire Regiments and soon rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel .
He was appointed Deputy Quartermaster General in July 1781 and served
on George Washington's staff while in
Virginia . At age twenty-three,
he organized and led a local militia troop of sixty men to the Boston
area, where he fought on June 17, 1775, at the Battle of Bunker Hill
as a captain in
John Stark 's 1st
New Hampshire Regiment.
During the battle, Dearborn observed that "Not an officer or soldier
of the continental troops engaged was in uniform, but were in the
plain and ordinary dress of citizens; nor was there an officer on
horseback." Dearborn years later would accuse
Israel Putnam of
failing his duty during that battle, resulting in what has since been
known as the
Dearborn-Putnam controversy .
Dearborn volunteered to serve under
Benedict Arnold in
September 1775, during the difficult American expedition to
Later Dearborn would record in his Revolutionary War journal their
overall situation and condition: "We were small indeed to think of
entering a place like
Quebec . But being now almost out of provisions
we were sure to die if we attempted to return back and we could be in
no worse situation if we proceeded on our rout."
On the final leg of the march he was taken seriously ill with fever,
forcing him to remain behind in a cottage on the
Chaudière River .
Later he rejoined the combined forces of Arnold and Gen. Richard
Montgomery in time to take part in the assault on Quebec. Dearborn's
journal is an important record for that campaign. During the march he
Aaron Burr became companions. Along with a number of other
officers, Dearborn was captured on December 31, 1775, during the
Quebec , 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 in July 1777, Dearborn was appointed
major in the regiment commanded by
Alexander Scammell .
In September 1777, Dearborn was transferred to the 1st New Hampshire
Regiment , under
Colonel Joseph Cilley . He took part in the Saratoga
campaign against Burgoyne at Freeman\'s Farm . The first battle was
largely fought by troops from
New Hampshire , Dearborn's home state.
New Hampshire brigade under General Poor and a detachment of
Major Dearborn, numbering about three hundred, along
with detachments of other militia, and Whitcomb\'s Rangers ,
co-operated with Morgan in the repulse of Fraser\'s attack. The
Horatio Gates reluctantly ordered a reconnaissance
force consisting of
Daniel Morgan 's Provisional Rifle Corps and
Dearborn's light infantry to scout out the
Bemis Heights area. Gates
later noted Dearborn's marked ability as a soldier and officer in his
report. Thereafter 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.
Dearborn fought at the
Battle of Monmouth
Battle of Monmouth in
New Jersey in 1778,
following the British evacuation of Philadelphia to retreat to
New York City
New York City , in the final major battle of the
Northern Theatre , and in the summer of 1779 he accompanied Major
General John Sullivan on the
Sullivan Expedition against the Iroquois
in upstate New York and in the
Battle of Wyoming
Battle of Wyoming against the Six
Nations , thereafter laying waste to the
Genesee Valley and the
various regions around the
Finger Lakes .
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 and
commanded the 1st
New Hampshire at the Battle of Yorktown with the
rank of colonel and was present when Cornwallis surrendered in
October of that year.
In June 1783, Dearborn received his discharge from the Continental
Army and settled in
Gardiner, Maine , where he became
Major General of
the Maine militia. Washington appointed him marshal of the District of
Maine . Dearborn served in the
U.S. House of Representatives
U.S. House of Representatives from the
District of Maine, 1793 to 1797. He was an original member of the
Society of the Cincinnati
Society of the Cincinnati .
REVOLUTIONARY WAR JOURNALS
During the American Revolution Dearborn maintained six separate
journals where he recorded the various campaigns, battles and other
notable events from his point of experience. His Revolutionary War
journals of Henry Dearborn, 1775-1783, have provided historians of
early American history with valuable first-hand information from the
perspective of an officer who was engaged in the various battles and
surrounding events. His journals were first published in 1939 by the
Caxton Club of
Chicago and were edited from the original manuscripts
by historians Lloyd A. Brown and
Howard Henry Peckham ; the
publication includes a biographical essay of Dearborn by Hermon D.
Smith. The six journals are enumerated as follows: Journal I. The
Journal II. The Burgoyne Campaign
Journal III. Operations in the Middle Colonies
Journal IV. Sullivan's Indian Expedition
Journal V. The Yorktown Campaign
Journal VI. Peace Negotiations
Dearborn also wrote An Account of the Battle of Bunker Hill. Various
scholars have cited the short work as being culturally important and
greatly contributing to the knowledge base of early American history.
Dearborn 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 President Washington . He
represented this district as a
Democratic-Republican in the Third and
Fourth Congresses from 1793 to 1797. President Thomas Jefferson
Henry Dearborn on matters of military law and
In 1801, third President
Thomas Jefferson appointed Dearborn
Secretary of War , a post he held for eight years until March 7, 1809.
Dearborn advised Jefferson in matters of military personnel when
Jefferson was formulating the
Military Peace Establishment Act
Military Peace Establishment Act in
1800-01, which outlined a new set of laws and limits for the military
and also led to the founding of a national military academy at West
Point . In April 1801, Dearborn asked
George Baron , an Englishman
who was Dearborn's friend from Maine, to be the mathematics instructor
at the academy. Dearborn also offered the superintendency of the
school to Jonathan Williams , who had translated into English some
European treatises on artillery and fortification.
During the 1801 and 1802 period, Dearborn and Jefferson corresponded
frequently, discussing various political and military matters. Notable
among them was Dearborn's report of 12 May 1801 on the War Department,
and his recommendation for "designating the boundary line between the
United States, and the adjacent British possessions, in such manner as
may prevent any disputes in future..."
During his tenure, he helped Jefferson form a policy on Native
Americans , the goal being to establish a western boundary by
procuring lands along the
Mississippi River .
In 1805 while events in the
Burr conspiracy were beginning to unfold,
Aaron Burr and
Louisiana Territory governor
James Wilkinson were
allegedly planning war with Mexico, with the aim of establishing a
secessionist state in the Southwest in the process. Hoping to incite
war with Spain, Wilkinson in a letter to Secretary of War Dearborn
urged him to attack Western
Spanish Florida from Baton Rouge .
Prompted by prevailing rumors of war, Deaborn ordered him to send
three companies of troops to
Fort Adams in
Western Florida as a
precaution. The prospect of war in turn was used by Wilkinson to
justify sending an exploratory military expedition into the Southwest
to find a route that would be used to supply a war effort at the
U.S.-Spanish-Mexican border. In May, Dearborn ordered Wilkinson to
the Orleans territory, directing his general to "repel any invasion of
United States east of the Sabine River or north or west of the
bounds of what has been called West Florida..." Dearborn further
maintained that any such movements across these borders would
constitute "an actual invasion of our territorial rights". This was
the opportunity both Burr and Wilkinson were hoping for, thinking that
Spanish officials were on edge over the prospect of confrontation with
the U.S. and could easily be provoked into war. When Wilkinson,
however, had asked Dearborn to send an exploratory military expedition
into the Southwest, Dearborn replied that, "you, Burr, etc., are
becoming too intimate ... keep every suspicious person at arm's
length." At this time Dearborn also warned his top general that "your
name has very frequently been mentioned with Burr's." Shortly
thereafter Burr was arrested for treason .
Dearborn was appointed collector of the port of
Boston by President
James Madison in March 1809, a position he held until January 27,
1812, when he was appointed as the Commanding General of the United
States Army .
WAR OF 1812
James Madison appointed
Henry Dearborn as Commanding
General of the Northeastern theater.
War of 1812 , while President Madison was urging
Federalists to join in "united support" against Britain in a war they
were given little reason to cooperate in, he gave Henry Dearborn
senior command of the northeast sector which ranged from the Niagara
River to the
New England coast. Dearborn had favor with Madison as a
Revolutionary War veteran who rose to the rank of colonel and for
serving as Secretary of War under President Jefferson, and especially
for helping Jefferson draft the Military Peace Establishment Act,
which served to remove many Federalist officers from the ranks of the
military. Subsequently, Madison's choice for commanding general of the
northeast theater was not well received by most Federalists. At age
61, however, Dearborn was now overweight, slow and insecure, and he
found it difficult to inspire confidence among the men under his
command. In March he suffered a minor injury from a fall, and it is
suggested that Dearborn took his time recovering. When the war broke
out he spent even more time in Boston, fearing, as did Vice President
Elbridge Gerry , that the Federalists were once again plotting a
northeastern secession and ready to install a "Hanoverian" -like
monarchy in opposition to them.
Needing to present Congress with reports of progress, Secretary of
William Eustis urged Dearborn to promptly embark for Albany and
plan and make preparations for an invasion of
Montreal in Canada.
Dearborn maintained, however, that he must first get to New England
and secure the militia for defending the
New England coast, which
would free up the regular troops of the region for the coming campaign
against Canada , and before the Federalists effected an open revolt
there. After disputes with New England's several Federalist governors,
who refused to supply the militia for coastal defense, Dearborn
New England for Albany with regular troops in late
July, leaving the coast almost defenseless against British coastal
On August 9, while General
William Hull was expecting a diversionary
attack by Dearborn in the Niagara area, the latter was still at his
headquarters at Greenbush , just outside of Albany, and was having
great difficulty amassing troops for the coming offensive in Canada.
At this time
George Prévost had sent British
Edward Baynes to
negotiate a temporary armistice with Dearborn. Dearborn learned that
Lord Liverpool was giving the American government time to respond.
Lacking the means to adequately engage the British in Canada, Dearborn
was not eager for battle, welcomed the delay, and rushed news of the
armistice to Madison for approval. In the meantime Dearborn gave
orders to General Van Rensselaer to avoid any engagements along the
Niagara. The truce, however, was short-lived when on August 15 Madison
repudiated Dearborn's agreement and orders were issued to renew the
offensive. The War of 1812,
Niagara River and Lake Ontario
Dearborn prepared plans for simultaneous assaults on
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 . Hull, without firing
a shot, surrendered the city to British General
Isaac Brock . Hull
was court-martialed and sentenced to death, but the sentence was
commuted. Dearborn headed the court martial.
On April 27, American forces on
Lake Ontario under Dearborn and
Isaac Chauncey gained success at the
Battle of York ,
occupying the town for several days and capturing many guns and
stores. Thereafter the American army was transported across the lake
in Chauncey's ships to Fort Niagara. Dearborn assembled 4,500 troops
Fort Niagara and planned to attack Fort George next, and entrusted
the attack to
Winfield Scott , but his army required rest and
reorganisation. No preparations had been made to accommodate the
troops at Fort Niagara, and they suffered considerable shortages and
privations for several days.
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
New York City , and married his third wife,
Dearborn was honorably discharged from the Army on June 15, 1815.
Dearborn was elected a member of the
American Antiquarian Society
American Antiquarian Society in
1816, now the oldest historical society in the United States.
Dearborn ran for Governor of
Massachusetts in 1818 against incumbent
John Brooks . Because Dearborn was a
Democratic-Republican in a
predominantly Federalist state, he needed favorable press to help his
campaign. Subsequently, Dearborn accepted an offer from Charles Miner,
the editor of
The Port Folio , a Philadelphia political magazine,
asking him to verify and edit a British soldier's map depicting the
Battle of Bunker Hill. Dearborn saw this as a chance to win public
favor and seized the opportunity. However, his efforts backfired when
he also wrote a "correct account" of the battle in the article, which
was reprinted in 1818, accusing
Israel Putnam of inaction and cowardly
leadership during the battle, which sparked a major and long-lasting
controversy among veterans of the war and various historians.
James Madison nominated Dearborn for reappointment as
Secretary of War, but the Senate rejected the nomination, and in the
face of fierce criticism over Dearborn's performance during the War of
1812, Madison withdrew 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 five
years later. He is interred in
Forest Hills Cemetery
Forest Hills Cemetery in Jamaica Plain
Boston at the time; annexed to the city in 1874).
Lewis and Clark
Lewis and Clark , appointed by Thomas Jefferson, named the Dearborn
River in west-central
Montana after Dearborn in 1803. Dearborn County,
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
Adams County, Mississippi , in the
early 1800s; see
Leonard Covington .
Augusta, Maine , was so renamed after Henry's daughter, Augusta
Dearborn, in August 1797.
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, South Carolina .
The facility was never constructed, but the island name stuck, and
after the town was founded in 1905, its main thoroughfare was named
World War II
World War II , a coast defense fort named
Fort Dearborn was
established in Henry Dearborn's home state of
New Hampshire , to guard
the approaches to Portsmouth .
General Dearborn's son, Henry A. S. Dearborn , was a U.S. congressman
representing Massachusetts' 10 District from 1831 to 1833.
* List of
American Revolutionary War battles
* Unsuccessful nominations to the Cabinet of the
* ^ In 1822 Dearborn wrote an anonymous plea in the
to urge the purchase of the site of the Bunker Hill battlefield, which
was currently listed for sale.
* ^ During the battle Montgomery was killed and Arnold seriously
* ^ Maine then being a part of
* ^ A grandnephew of
Benjamin Franklin ;
John Adams appointed
Williams a major in the Corps of Artillerists and Engineers in
February 1801. President Jefferson appointed him the Army's Inspector
* ^ Both Burr and Wilkinson, with large land holdings and other
interests in the
Louisiana Territory , claimed that most Louisiana
residents, who were recently ruled by France, preferred to be separate
from the United States.
* ^ Present-day southern Louisiana
* ^ Burr and Wilkinson, with the support of General Andrew Jackson
, were earnestly promoting the idea (e.g. via newspapers) in the
Southwest that war with Spain was imminent and that he would use
"Mexican treasure" to entice the Western states along the Mississippi
and Ohio rivers into secession.
* ^ This is when Wilkinson realized that knowledge of his plotting
with Burr was becoming commonplace, confirming similar reports coming
out of New Orleans.
* ^ The Federalists viewed the war as a political plot against
them, while the Democratic-Republicans portrayed the Federalists as
traitors for their concerted efforts to oppose the war effort.
Timothy Pickering and the Federalists once attempted a
northeastern secession during Jefferson's first term.
* ^ No British coastal attacks occurred for the first year of the
war — presumably a favor from the British for New England's open
opposition to the war.
* ^ While governor, Hull's repeated requests to build a naval fleet
Lake Erie to properly defend
Fort Mackinac , and Fort
Dearborn were ignored by Dearborn, which contributed to Hull's overall
* ^ A B C D E U.S. Army Center of Military History
* ^ A B C D U.S. Biographical Directory
* ^ Dearborn, Smith, 1939 , p.4
* ^ A B C D Malone, Allan, 1930 , p. 174
* ^ N.Y. Public library: Archives division
* ^ Willey, 1903 , p. 161
* ^ Philbrick, 2013 , chap.10
* ^ Dearborn, Peckham, 2009 , p. 5
* ^ A B C Cray, 2001
* ^ Dearborn, Smith, 1939 , p.50
* ^ Dearborn, Smith, 1939 , p.19
* ^ A B C D E Willey, 1903 , p. 162
* ^ Dearborn, Peckham, 2009 , pp. 36-37
* ^ Willey, 1903 , p. 9
* ^ Willey, 1903 , p. 13
* ^ Proceedings of the General Society of the Cincinnati, 1784-,
Volume 1 (1887) , p. 98
* ^ Dearborn, Peckham, 2009 , pp. i - vii5
* ^ Dearborn, 2016
Thomas Jefferson to the Senate, 25 March 1802
* ^ A B Henry Dearborn\'s Report on the War Department, 12 May 1801
* ^ Dearborn\'s 5 December 1801 letter to Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson Foundation:
Henry Dearborn (Physiognotrace)
* ^ A B Wheelan, 2005 , p. 128
* ^ Stewart, 2011 pp. 148-149
* ^ Stewart, 2011 , p. 111
* ^ Stewart, 2011 , pp. 110-111, 209
* ^ McDonald, 2004 , p. 115
* ^ Daughan, 2011 , p. 28
* ^ A B C Taylor, 2010 , pp. 180-182
* ^ DiLorenzo, 1998, Yankee Confederates
* ^ A B C Taylor, 2010 , p. 182
* ^ Daughan, 2011 , p. 95
* ^ Hickey, 1989 p. 84
* ^ Taylor, 2010 , p. 217
* ^ Elting, 1991 , p.119
* ^ Hickey, 1989 p. 88
* ^ Dictionary of American Biography, Vol. V , p.174
American Antiquarian Society
American Antiquarian Society Members Directory
* ^ Journal of the American Revolution
* ^ Purcell, 2010 , pp.164-168
* ^ Fredriksen, 1999 , p. 210
* Johnson, Allen ; Malone, Dumas (Eds.) (1930). Dictionary of
American Biography, Feb. 23, 1751 - Jun. 6, 1829, Vol. V. Charles
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The Continental Congress, September 5, 1774, to October 21, 1788.
Government Printing Office. 2005.
* Cray, Robert E. (2001). Bunker Hill Refought: Memory Wars and
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* Fredriksen, John C. (1999). American Military Leaders. ABC-CLIO.
* Green (2009). The Guns of Independence: The Siege of Yorktown,
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* McDonald, Forrest (2004). Thomas Jefferson\'s Military Academy:
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