James McHenry

JAMES McHENRY was born in Ballymena, County Antrim, Ireland, on 16 November 1753; received a classical education at Dublin University; emigrated to the United States in 1771 followed by his parents a year later; attended Newark Academy in Delaware in 1772; studied medicine in Philadelphia under Dr. Benjamin Rush; joined the patriot cause and volunteered for military service in 1775; was assigned to the military hospital at Cambridge, Massachusetts, as assistant surgeon, 1776; was named surgeon of the 5th Pennsylvania Battalion in August; was captured at Fort Washington in the Long Island campaign in November; was paroled in January 1777 and exchanged in March 1778; was appointed secretary to General Washington in May; was posted to General Lafayette’s staff in 1780; was a member of the Maryland Senate from 1781 to 1786 and appointed a delegate to the Confederation Congress in 1783, serving concurrently; married Margaret Allison Caldwell in 1784; was a Maryland delegate to the Constitutional Convention in 1787; was a member of the Maryland commission that welcomed George Washington on his inaugural journey to New York in 1789; served in the Maryland Assembly, 1789–1791; served again in the State Senate, 1791–1795; served as Secretary of War, 27 January 1796–13 May 1800; sustained his predecessor’s attention to coastal fortification and naval construction; defended his administration of the department in a formal paper read in the House of Representatives in 1802 and privately printed in 1803; published a Baltimore directory in 1807; served as president of the first bible society founded in Baltimore, 1813; died in Baltimore on 3 May 1816.

The Artist
Although H. Pollock is identified in an early Army portrait list as Miss H. Pollock, an 1873 letter from the artist to Secretary Belknap discloses a masculine hand even though it fails to reveal the writer’s sex. Baltimore directories of the period 1868–1886 list a Henry Pollock as a resident of that city at the address on the Belknap letter, and give his occupation as artist and photographer and proprietor of a portrait gallery. This would seem to confirm that Henry Pollock is Secretary McHenry’s portraitist. Additional information about him is elusive.


Portrait, James McHenry
Washington and J. Adams Administrations
By H. Pollock
Oil on canvas, 29½" x 24½", 1873

page created 1 March 2001

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