Henry Dearborn

Henry Dearborn

[deer-bern, -bawrn]
Dearborn, Henry, 1751-1829, American general and cabinet member, b. Hampton, N.H. He was a physician and became a captain of militia. When the American Revolution broke out, he led his company in the battle of Bunker Hill. Later he saw distinguished service, accompanying Benedict Arnold in the march against Quebec (where he was captured, but later exchanged), serving in the Saratoga campaign in 1777, wintering at Valley Forge, and fighting in the battle of Monmouth. He led (1779) a regiment in John Sullivan's campaign against Loyalists and Native Americans in New York and was on General Washington's staff at Yorktown. After the war he settled in Maine, and represented (1793-97) the District of Maine in Congress. As secretary of war (1801-9) under President Thomas Jefferson he helped form the plan for removal of the Native Americans beyond the Mississippi River. At the outbreak of the War of 1812, he became major general in command of the northern frontier from Niagara to the Atlantic coast. His inaction contributed to the British capture of Detroit. Several plans to invade Canada were not even attempted, and although, in 1813, Dearborn took York (now Toronto) and Fort George on the Niagara River, he lost many men and exposed Sackett's Harbor to an almost successful British attack. He was relieved of command in 1813. From 1822 to 1824 he served as minister to Portugal. Fort Dearborn (around which grew the city of Chicago) was named for him.

Henry Dearborn (February 23, 1751June 6, 1829) was an American physician, statesman and veteran of both the American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. 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 in Nottingham Square in 1772.

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 Battle of Bunker Hill as a captain in Colonel John Stark’s First New Hampshire Regiment. He then volunteered to serve under Benedict Arnold during the ill-fated 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 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 George Washington's main army at Valley Forge as a lieutenant colonel where he spent the winter of 1777–1778. He fought at the Battle of Monmouth in 1778, 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, CT. Dearborn joined 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 June 1783, he received his discharge from the army and settled in Gardiner, Maine, then part of Massachusetts, where he worked as a U.S. marshal for the District of Maine. He represented this district as a Democratic-Republican in the Third and Fourth Congresses (1793-1797). In 1801, 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 senior major general in the United States Army in command of the northeast sector from the Niagara River to the New England coast. While Dearborn prepared plans for simultaneous assaults on Montreal, Kingston, Fort Niagara, and Detroit, the execution was imperfect. He did not move quickly enough to provide sufficient troops to defend Detroit and as a result, William Hull surrendered the city to 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.

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, to 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 Plains outside of Boston. Dearborn 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, Illinois. His son, Henry A. S. Dearborn, was a Congressman in 1831-1833.

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