Henry Dearborn (February 23, 1751 – June 6, 1829) was an American physician, a statesman and a 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 on the square in Nottingham 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 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, (1740/41-1801), 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, (1732-1799), 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 (with the “District of Maine” then being a part of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts). He was an original member of the Massachusetts 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, (1743-1826), 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. 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.
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, and later on Jamaica Plain was annexed in 1874.
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. His son, Henry A. S. Dearborn, was a congressman in 1831-1833.