Armstrong, John, 1758-1843

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

Born in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, he received his early education there before studying at the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University). Armstrong broke off his studies in Princeton in 1775 to return to Pennsylvania and join the fight in the Revolutionary War. The young Armstrong initially joined a Pennsylvania militia regiment and the following year he was appointed as aide-de-camp to General Hugh Mercer of the Continental Army. 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.

After returning to Carlisle, Armstrong was named the Adjutant General of Pennsylvania's militia and also served as Secretary of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania under Presidents John Dickinson and Benjamin Franklin. In 1787 and 1788 Armstrong was sent as a delegate for Pennsylvania to the Congress of the Confederation. The Congress offered to make him chief justice of the Northwest Territory. Armstrong declined this, as well as all other public offices for the next dozen years. He moved to Dutchess County, New York in 1789, taking up farming.

Armstrong resumed public life after the resignation of John Laurance as U.S. Senator from New York. As a Jeffersonian Republican he was elected in November 1800 to a term ending in March 1801. He took his seat on November 6, and was re-elected on January 27 for a full term (1801–07), but resigned on February 5, 1802. DeWitt Clinton was elected to fill the vacancy, but resigned in 1803, and Armstrong was appointed temporarily to his old seat. In February 1804, Armstrong was elected again to the U.S. Senate to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Theodorus Bailey, thus moving from the Class 3 to the Class 1 seat on February 25, but served only four months before President Jefferson appointed him U.S. Minister to France, a role he held until September 1810. In 1806 he had also briefly also represented the United States at the court of Spain.

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. In January 1813, James Madison named Armstrong Secretary of War. In that role, he made a number of valuable changes to the armed forces but was so convinced that the British would 'not' attack Washington D.C. that he did nothing to defend the city even when it became clear it was the objective of the invasion force. After the American defeat at the Battle of Bladensburg and the subsequent burning of Washington, Madison, usually a forgiving man, forced him to resign in September 1814.

Armstrong returned to his farm and resumed a quiet life. He published a number of histories, biographies, and some works on agriculture. He died at La Bergerie (later renamed Rokeby), the farm estate he built in Red Hook, New York in 1843 and is buried in the cemetery in Rhinebeck.

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Pickering, Timothy, 1745-1829. Letter, 1806 March 12, Washington D.C., to Fisher Ames, Dedham, Mass. Boston Athenaeum
referencedIn Monroe, James, 1758-1831. James Monroe papers, 1758-1839. Library of Congress
creatorOf Armstrong, John, 1758-1843. Letters, 1830-1838. Indiana University
creatorOf Pickens, Andrew, 1739-1817. Papers of Andrew Pickens, 1785-1835 (bulk 1785-1797). Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens
creatorOf Documents relating to the Wyoming Controversy, 1751-1814, 1823, 1751-1823 American Philosophical Society
referencedIn Aldrich family. Papers, 1770-1895. Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
referencedIn James Monroe Papers, 1758-1839 Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
creatorOf Ward, Samuel, 1814-1884. Samuel Ward papers, 1647-1912. New York Public Library System, NYPL
creatorOf Dearborn, Henry, 1751-1829. Papers, 1779-1838, bulk: 1779-1817. Massachusetts Historical Society
referencedIn Pennsylvania. Supreme Executive Council. Order : Philadelphia, 1787 Feb. 1. Rosenbach Museum & Library
referencedIn Parker, Daniel. Letter, 1813 May 18. American Periodical Series I
referencedIn Morfit, Henry Mason, d. 1868. Henry Mason Morfit papers, 1819-1858 (bulk 1844-1855). Library of Congress
creatorOf Armstrong, John, 1758-1843. Autograph letters signed (11) : various places, to Henry Wheaton, 1813 Mar. 10-1827 June 16 and [n.d.]. Pierpont Morgan Library.
creatorOf United States. War Dept. Letter : Washington, D.C., to Simon Snyder, Harrisburg, Pa., 1814 Aug. 6. Texas Christian University
referencedIn Chanler, William Astor, 1867-1934. Biography of John Armstrong : typescript, [18--?]. New-York Historical Society
referencedIn Leisure hours no. 2, scraps containing important truths, 1816. Princeton University Library
referencedIn Alexandre Maurice Blanc de Lanautte, Comte d'Hauterive collection 1809 Hauterive, Alexandre Maurice Blanc de Lanautte, Comte d' collection William L. Clements Library
referencedIn Peale-Sellers family collection, 1686-1963 American Philosophical Society
referencedIn Brown, Jacob, 1775-1828. Jacob Brown papers, 1812-1828. Library of Congress
creatorOf Bowdoin, James, 1752-1811. Papers, 1804-1806. Massachusetts Historical Society
creatorOf Rhea, John, 1753-1832. Letter : Washington, [D.C.], to John Armstrong, Washington, [D.C.], 1813 May 25. Newberry Library
referencedIn Rush, Benjamin, 1745-1813. Letter, 1784, June 25 : to John Bayard. Duke University, Medical Center Library & Archives
creatorOf Boyd, John Parker, 1764-1830. Letters 1811-1815. Indiana University
creatorOf Madison, James, 1751-1836. Maunuscript letter, 1806 March 14 : [Washington, D.C.] to John Armstrong. Haverford College Library
referencedIn Christopher Van Deventer papers 1799-1925 Van Deventer, Christopher, papers William L. Clements Library
referencedIn North Carolina papers. Historical Society of Pennsylvania
creatorOf Sparks, Jared, 1789-1866,. Jared Sparks collection of documents concerning the American Revolution, 1740-1866. Houghton Library
creatorOf John Armstrong letters, 1795, 1802, 1806, 1812, 1813, 1814 New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
referencedIn Indiana Territory collection, 1800-1816. Indiana Historical Society Library
creatorOf Armstrong, John, 1758-1843. Autograph letter signed : Rhinebeck, New York, to Callendar Irvine, 1811 Sept. 13. Pierpont Morgan Library.
referencedIn William Henry Harrison Papers, 1734-1939, (bulk 1796-1841) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Jefferson, Thomas, 1743-1826. Letter to David Gelston [manuscript], 1810 December 7. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Henry family. Papers, 1758-1909. Hagley Museum & Library
creatorOf Lee, Charles Carter, 1798-1871. Papers of Charles Carter Lee and the Lee family [manuscript], 1768-1931 (bulk 1780-1871). University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Bacon, Edmund, b. 1785,. Papers of the Randolph family of Edgehill and Wilson Cary Nicholas [manuscript], 1765-1869. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Benjamin Franklin Papers Part 9 -- Letters to Franklin, 1787-1790 American Philosophical Society
creatorOf Armstrong, John, 1758-1843. General order. United States Military Academy, USMA Library
creatorOf Armstrong mss., 1830-1838. Lilly Library (Indiana University, Bloomington)
referencedIn Warden, David Bailie, 1772-1845. Papers of David Bailie Warden, 1800-1843. Library of Congress
referencedIn Madison, James, 1751-1836. Letter : Montpelier [Va.], to James Monroe, Oak Hill, Loudon County, Virginia, 1827 Sept. 22. Newberry Library
referencedIn Frederick M. Dearborn collection of military and political Americana, Part I: The Revolution and the Administration, 1669-1958. Houghton Library
creatorOf Brown, Jacob, 1775-1828. Jacob Brown papers, 1813-1849. Massachusetts Historical Society
creatorOf Van Deventer, Christopher, d. 1838. Christopher Van Deventer papers, 1799-1925. William L. Clements Library
creatorOf Armstrong, John, 1758-1843. Letter, 1811. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
creatorOf Armstrong, John, 1758-1843. ALS: Red Hook (N.Y.), to Nicholas Low, 1798 October 4. American Periodical Series I
referencedIn Harrison, William Henry, 1773-1841. William Henry Harrison papers, 1734-1939 (bulk 1796-1841). Library of Congress
referencedIn Irvine family. Papers, 1778-1843. Historical Society of Pennsylvania
creatorOf Armstrong, John, 1758-1843. Autograph letter signed : Red Hook, New York, to an unidentified correspondent, 1841 Jan. 14. Pierpont Morgan Library.
creatorOf Armstrong, John, 1758-1843. Autograph document signed : "In Council" [Philadelphia], 1785 May 30. Pierpont Morgan Library.
referencedIn Van Deventer, Christopher, d. 1838. Christopher Van Deventer papers, 1810-1837. Library of Congress
referencedIn Wilkinson, James, 1757-1825. James Wilkinson : miscellaneous papers, 1786-1819. The Filson Historical Society
referencedIn Larned family. Larned family papers, 1777-1822. Historical Society of Pennsylvania
referencedIn David Bailie Warden Papers, 1800-1840 Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Lynch, James, 1781-1853. Letterbook, 1839 Jun.-1846 Jun. Churchill County Museum
referencedIn Jefferson, Thomas, 1743-1826. Extracts from letters to Wilson Cary Nicholas and John Wayles Eppes [manuscript], 1806 July 11. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Jackson, Andrew, 1767-1845. ALS, 1814 Feb. 1, Fort Strother, Miss., to Rachel Jackson. Rosenbach Museum & Library
referencedIn Astor family. Papers, 1807-1919. New-York Historical Society Library
referencedIn Irvine, William, 1741-1804. Draper manuscripts: William Irvine papers, 1776-1834. Wisconsin Historical Society Archives
referencedIn Irvine, William, 1741-1804. Draper manuscripts: William Irvine papers, 1776-1834. Wisconsin Historical Society Archives
creatorOf Lee, Henry, 1756-1818. Papers, 1768-1816. Library of Virginia
creatorOf Armstrong, John, 1758-1843. War of 1812 era letters written to John Armstrong, secretary of war, 1813. Allen County Public Library, ACPL
referencedIn Documents relating to the Wyoming Controversy, 1751-1814, 1823. American Philosophical Society Library
referencedIn Autograph File, A, 1518-2002. Houghton Library
referencedIn Sparks, Jared, 1789-1866. Collection of documents concerning the American Revolution, 1740-1866 Houghton Library
creatorOf Armstrong, John, 1758-1843. Autograph letter signed : Paris, to Michael O'Mealy, agent of the American merchant, James Swan, 1808 Dec. 7. Pierpont Morgan Library.
referencedIn Thomas Sidney Jesup Papers, 1780-1907 Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
creatorOf Armstrong, John, 1758-1843. ALS, 1838 March 20, Red Hook, N.Y., William B. Sprague, Albany. Rosenbach Museum & Library
creatorOf Armstrong, John, 1758-1843. ALS, 1777 Sept. 26, Camp at the Trapp, Pa., to Thomas Wharton, Lancaster, Pa. Rosenbach Museum & Library
referencedIn Fort Wayne Indian Agency collection 1802-1815 Fort Wayne Indian Agency collection William L. Clements Library
referencedIn Gratz, Simon. Alphabetical collection, 1677-1910. Historical Society of Pennsylvania
referencedIn Ward, Samuel, 1814-1884. Papers, 1647-1912 New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
referencedIn Madison, James, 1751-1836. James Madison letter to Mrs. Delia Tudor Stewart [manuscript] 1806 May 20. University of Virginia. Library
creatorOf Armstrong, John, 1758-1843. ALS, 1813 July 18, Headquarters, Warburton House, to General Wadsworth. Copley Press, J S Copley Library
referencedIn Dearborn, Henry, 1751-1829. Letter books, 1812 June 3-1813 Dec. 22. New-York Historical Society
creatorOf Armstrong, John, 1758-1843. Letter, 1805. Wisconsin Historical Society, Newspaper Project
creatorOf Armstrong, John, 1758-1843. Papers, 1813 Dec. 29. Ohio History Connection, Ohio Historical Society
referencedIn War of 1812 mss., 1776-1879 Lilly Library (Indiana University, Bloomington)
creatorOf Gwathmey collection, 1708-1852 University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Gardner, Charles K. (Charles Kitchell), 1787-1869. Papers, 1803-1897. American Periodical Series I
creatorOf United States. President (1809-1817 : Madison). [Promotion letters and commission certificate for Robert Houston, 1812-1813]. New England Historic Genealogical Society
creatorOf Armstrong, John, 1758-1843. Autograph letter signed : War Dept., [Washington], to Dr. David Townsend, 1814 Feb. 24. Pierpont Morgan Library.
creatorOf Armstrong, John, 1758-1843. John Armstrong papers, 1784-1834. Library of Congress
creatorOf Harrison, William Henry, 1773-1841. Papers / Wm. H. Harrison. Dartmouth College Library
referencedIn Jesup, Thomas Sidney, 1788-1860. Thomas Sidney Jesup papers, 1780-1907. Library of Congress
creatorOf United States. War Dept. Letter : Washington, D.C., to Simon Snyder, Harrisburg, Pa., 1814 Aug. 6. University of Chicago Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Abert, John James, 1788-1863. person
associatedWith Aldrich family. family
associatedWith Amherst, Jeffery Amherst, Baron, 1717-1797 person
childOf Armstrong, John, 1717-1795 person
associatedWith Astor family. family
associatedWith Biddle, Charles person
associatedWith Bowdoin, James, 1752-1811. person
associatedWith Boyd, John person
associatedWith Boyd, John Parker, 1764-1830. person
associatedWith Brown, Jacob, 1775-1828. person
associatedWith Butler, Zebulon. family
associatedWith Chanler, William Astor, 1867-1934. person
associatedWith Conyngham, Redmond, 1781-1846 person
associatedWith Cooper, Thomas person
associatedWith Dearborn, Frederick M. (Frederick Myers), b. 1876 person
associatedWith Dearborn, Henry, 1751-1829. person
associatedWith Fitch, Thomas, 1700-1774 person
associatedWith Franklin, Benjamin, 1706-1790 person
associatedWith Franklin, John person
correspondedWith Gardner, Charles K. (Charles Kitchell), 1787-1869. person
associatedWith Gratz, Simon. person
associatedWith Hamilton, James, 1710-1783 person
associatedWith Hamilton, Joseph person
correspondedWith Harrison, William Henry, 1773-1841. person
associatedWith Hauterive, Alexandre Maurice Blanc de Lanautte, Comte d', 1754-1830 person
associatedWith Henry family. family
associatedWith Irvine, Callendar, person
associatedWith Irvine family. family
associatedWith Irvine, William, 1741-1804. person
associatedWith Jackson, Andrew, 1767-1845. person
associatedWith Jefferson, Thomas, 1743-1826. person
correspondedWith Jesup, Thomas Sidney, 1788-1860. person
associatedWith Johnston, John, 1775-1861 person
associatedWith Larned family. family
associatedWith Lee, Charles Carter, 1798-1871 person
associatedWith Lee, Henry, 1756-1818. person
associatedWith Low, Nicholas, 1739-1826 person
associatedWith Lynch, James, 1781-1853. person
associatedWith Madison, James, 1751-1836. person
correspondedWith Monroe, James, 1758-1831. person
associatedWith Montgomery, William, 1768-1848 person
correspondedWith Morfit, Henry Mason, d. 1868. person
associatedWith Ohio. Militia. corporateBody
associatedWith O'Mealy, Michael, fl. 1808, person
associatedWith Parker, Daniel. person
associatedWith Peale-Sellers families. person
associatedWith Penn, John, 1729-1795 person
associatedWith Pennsylvania. Supreme Executive Council. corporateBody
correspondedWith Pickens, Andrew, 1739-1817. person
associatedWith Pickering, Timothy, 1745-1829. person
correspondedWith Rhea, John, 1753-1832. person
associatedWith Rush, Benjamin, 1745-1813. person
associatedWith Rush, Richard person
associatedWith Shaw, William, 1742-1816 person
associatedWith Skipwith, Fulwar, 1765-1839. person
associatedWith Sparks, Jared, 1789-1866, person
associatedWith Spencer, Ambrose, 1765-1848. person
associatedWith Sprague, William B. (William Buell), 1795-1876, person
associatedWith Stickney, Benjamin Franklin, 1775-1857 person
associatedWith Townsend, David, Dr., fl. 1814, person
associatedWith Trumbull, Jonathan, 1740-1809 person
memberOf United States. Continental Congress corporateBody
associatedWith United States Military Academy corporateBody
associatedWith United States. President (1809-1817 : Madison) corporateBody
associatedWith United States. War Dept. corporateBody
associatedWith Van Deventer, Christopher, 1788-1838 person
correspondedWith Van Deventer, Christopher, d. 1838. person
associatedWith Warden, David Bailie, 1772-1845. person
associatedWith Ward, Samuel, 1756-1832 person
associatedWith Ward, Samuel, 1814-1884. person
associatedWith Wharton, Thomas, 1735-1778, person
associatedWith Wheaton, Henry, 1785-1848, person
associatedWith Wilkinson, James, 1757-1825. person
associatedWith Wolcott, Roger, 1679-1767 person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Dutchess County NY US
Paris A8 FR
Princeton NJ US
Red Hook NY US
Carlisle PA US
Subject
Colonial Politics
Debts, Public
Farms
Germantown, Battle of, Philadelphia, Pa., 1777
Land settlement
Pennsylvania History
Philadelphia Campaign, 1777-1778
Real estate investment
Occupation
State Government Official
Ambassadors
Army officers
Cabinet officers
Delegates, U.S. Continental Congress
Diplomats
Senators, U.S. Congress
Activity

Person

Birth 1758-11-25

Death 1843-04-01

Male

Britons,

Americans

English

Information

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