John Armstrong, Jr.


John Armstrong, Jr.

Infobox US Cabinet official
name = John Armstrong


order = 7th
title = United States Secretary of War
term_start = January 13, 1813
term_end = September 27, 1814
president = James Madison
predecessor = William Eustis
successor = James Monroe
birth_date = November 25, 1758
birth_place = Carlisle, Pennsylvania
death_date = April 1, 1843
death_place = Red Hook, New York
party =
spouse =
profession =

John Armstrong, Jr. (November 25, 1758April 1, 1843) was an American soldier and statesman who was a delegate to the Continental Congress, U.S. Senator from New York, and Secretary of War.

Early life and Revolutionary War

Armstrong was born in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, the younger son of General John Armstrong and Rebecca (Lyon) Armstrong. John Armstrong, Sr., was a renowned Pennsylvania soldier born in Ireland of Scottish descent. John Jr.'s older brother was James Armstrong, who would become a physician and U.S. Congressman.

After early education in Carlisle, John Jr. studied at the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University). He broke off his studies in Princeton in 1775 to return to Pennsylvania and join the fight in the Revolutionary War. He service record is sometimes confused with several other John Armstrongs in the war, including his father.

The young Armstrong joined a Pennsylvania militia regiment, but the following year became aide-de-camp to General Hugh Mercer in the Continental Army. In this role, he carried the wounded and dying General Mercer from the field at the Battle of Princeton. After the general died on January 12, 1777, Armstrong became an aide to General Horatio Gates. He stayed with Gates through the Battle of Saratoga then resigned due to problems with his health. In 1782 Gates asked him to return. Armstrong joined General Gates' staff as an aide with the rank of major, which he held through the rest of the war.

Newburgh letters

While in camp with Gates at Newburgh, New York, Armstrong became involved in the Newburgh Conspiracy. He is generally acknowledged as the author of the two anonymous letters directed at the officers in the camp. The first, titled "An Address to the Officers" (dated March 10, 1783), called for a meeting to discuss back pay and other grievances with the Congress and form a plan of action. After General Washington ordered the meeting canceled and called for a milder meeting on March 15th, a second address appeared that claimed that this showed that Washington supported their actions.

Washington successfully defused this protest without a mutiny. While some of Armstrong's later correspondence acknowledged his role, there was never any official action that connected him with the anonymous letters.

After the Revolution

Later in 1783 Armstrong returned home to Carlisle. He was named the Adjutant General of Pennsylvania's militia and also served as Secretary of State for Pennsylvania under Presidents Dickinson and Franklin. In 1787 and 1788 he was sent as a delegate for Pennsylvania to the Continental Congress. The Congress offered to make him chief justice of the Northwest Territory. He declined this, as well as all other public offices for the next dozen years.

In 1789, Armstrong married Alida Livingston (1761-1822; sister of Chancellor Robert R. Livingston and Edward Livingston). One of their daughters, Margaret, married William Backhouse Astor, Sr. of the wealthy Astor family. John Armstrong moved to New York and took up life as a gentleman farmer on a farm purchased from her family in Dutchess County.

Armstrong resumed public life in August of 1800 when John Laurance resigned from the United States Senate. Placed on the ballot as a Jefferson Republican he was elected to a term ending in 1802. That year he was re-elected for a full term, but served only until February 5, 1802 when he resigned.

Armstrong was returned to the Senate in 1804 after Theodorus Bailey resigned, but served only four months before President Jefferson named him minister to France. He served in that post until 1810, and also represented the United States at the court of Spain in 1806.

When the War of 1812 broke out, Armstrong was called to military service. He was commissioned as a Brigadier General, and placed in charge of the defenses for the port of New York. Then in 1813 President Madison named him Secretary of War. He made a number of valuable changes to the armed forces, but was forced to resign in September of 1814 after he was blamed for the Burning of Washington in August.

Later life

Armstrong returned to his farm and resumed a quiet life. He published a number of histories, biographies, and some woks on agriculture. He died at home in Red Hook, New York in 1843 and is buried in the cemetery in Rhinebeck.

Armstrong's farm in Dutchess County is still operating (and owned by the Livingston family). The home he completed in 1811 has a New York state educational marker on County Road 103.

Further reading

* Skeen, Carl E. "John Armstrong, Jr., 1758–1843: A Biography." Syracuse Univ Press, 1982. ISBN 0-8156-2242-2.

External links

* [http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=A000282 Armstrong’s Congressional biography]

* [http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=6653356 Profile page for John Armstrong, Jr.] on the Find A Grave web site


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