Skip to main content
Drawn portrait of Henry Dearborn

Henry Dearborn

A veteran of two wars, Henry Dearborn rendered military, civic, political and diplomatic service to the United States in a career that spanned nearly half a century.

An illustrated map showing Dearborn in New Hampshire then going to Boston and the Battle of Bunker Hill.

Born to be a Patriot

Born in New Hampshire in 1751, when word came of the fighting at Lexington and Concord in April 1775 Dearborn's militia unit marched to join the Patriot forces besieging Boston. Dearborn received a commission as captain in the 1st New Hampshire Regiment and participated in the , in Col. Benedict Arnold's Canadian Expedition.

An illustrated map showing captured Dearborn going from Boston to Quebec.

On New Year's Eve, Dearborn led the assault on Quebec and was subsequently captured. Dearborn eventually received his parole and was exchanged at the end of March 1777.

An illustrated map showing Dearborn facing Burgoyne at Fort Ticonderoga.

Fighting for Freedom

For his distinguished service, Dearborn received a promotion to major. His regiment, the 3rd New Hampshire, made up part of the garrison of and abandoned the crucial post in the face of Lt. Gen. John Burgoyne's advance toward Albany in July.

An illustrated map showing Dearborn moving from Fort Ticonderoga to Saratoga to Albnay

The following month Continental Maj. Gen. Horatio Gates assigned Dearborn to command a unit of light infantry supporting Col. Daniel Morgan's Rifle Corps. Dearborn led his men in the battles of at Freeman's Farm and Bemis Heights. At the latter, during the assault on Breymann's Fortified Camp, Dearborn rushed to Arnold’s aid when enemies shot the general’s horse out from under him.

John Trumball's famous painting "The Surrender of General Burgoyne" at Saratoga resides at the U.S. Capitol.

The engagements eventually compelled Burgoyne to surrender on October 19, an event Dearborn described as "the greatest Conquest Ever known."

An illustrated map showing Dearborn at Valley Forge, then Monmouth, then Camden, and then the Battle of Newtown.

A Distinguished Military Career

Dearborn rejoined the main Continental Army and spent the winter of 1777-1778 at Valley Forge and later fought in the . Elevated to the rank of colonel and in command of the 3rd New Hampshire, Dearborn led his regiment in Maj. Gen. John Sullivan's expedition against the Iroquois the following summer and fought in the .

The painting Surrender of Lord Cornwallis by John Trumbull depicting Lord Cornwallis surrendering after the Siege of Yorktown.

In June 1781, Dearborn received an appointment as assistant quartermaster general of the army and witnessed the British surrender at Yorktown that October. He received his formal discharge in June 1783.
Image Credit: "Surrender of Lord Cornwallis" by John Trumbull is on display in the Rotunda of the US Capitol.

Documenting a Revolution

Dearborn kept extensive notes throughout the American Revolution in a series of journals. In his journal from 1779-1781, he discussed troop movements in New York and New Jersey, his appointment as Deputy Quartermaster General in 1781, the siege of Yorktown, and more.

Civic, Political and Diplomatic Service

Following the war, Dearborn moved to the Maine wilderness and took up residence near Pittston. After serving briefly as a major general in the Maine militia, President George Washington appointed Dearborn to be a U.S. Marshal in 1790.

Two years later, Dearborn won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. He later served in Thomas Jefferson’s cabinet as Secretary of War.

President James Madison appointed Dearborn a major general in the U.S. Army in January 1812. For the second time in his life, Dearborn directed military operations against Great Britain during the War of 1812. Discharged at the end of the conflict, Dearborn returned home only to reenter public life as President James Monroe’s Minister to Portugal, a post he held from 1822-1824.

Dearborn passed away at his home in Maine on June 6, 1829.