James McHenry: Secretary of War and Namesake of Fort McHenry

James McHenry (November 16, 1753 – May 3, 1816) was born into a Scots-Irish family in Ballymena, County Antrim, Ireland in 1753.   Sent at age 17 to North America McHenry lived with a family friend in Philadelphia before deciding to finish his preparatory education at Newark Academy.

Returning to Philadelphia, McHenry then apprenticed under Dr. Benjamin Rush and became a physician. McHenry served as a skilled and dedicated surgeon during the American Revolutionary War.

On August 10, 1776 he was appointed surgeon at the age of 22 of the Fifth Pennsylvania Battalion stationed at Fort Washington (New York). He was taken prisoner the following November when the fort was taken by Sir William Howe. While there, he observed that prisoners were given very poor medical attention and initiated reports to that effect, to no avail. He was paroled in January 1777, and released from parole in March 1778.

Having sufficiently impressed George Washington, he was appointed aide as secretary to the commander-in-chief in May 1779. McHenry was present at the Battle of Monmouth. In August 1780 he was transferred to major-general Lafayette's staff, where he remained until he retired from the army in the autumn of 1781. McHenry supervised the construction and launching of the first U.S. warships, the frigates ConstellationUnited States and Constitution. Following the war, McHenry  participated in the Constitutional Convention to create the new Constitution of the United States, was a signer representing Maryland and is the namesake of Fort McHenry.

Ancestry.com family trees list these as his possible parents: Daniel and Agnes, Robert and Susannah, or John and Susannah.  So who were they?

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Tags: Ancestry, Diaspora History, Genealogy, United States

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