Archibald Henderson

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Archibald Henderson


Nickname "Grand old man of the Marine Corps"
Place of birth Colchester, Fairfax County, Virginia
Place of death Stanford, Kentucky
Allegiance USMC
Years of service 1806-1859
Rank Colonel (Brevet Brigadier General)
Commands Commandant of the Marine Corps
Battles/wars War of 1812
Indian wars
Mexican-American War

Archibald Henderson (January 21, 1783 – January 6, 1859) was the longest-serving Commandant of the Marine Corps, serving from 1820 to 1859. He is often referred to as the "Grand old man of the Marine Corps," serving in the Corps for 53 years.


Born in Colchester,Fairfax County, Virginia, Henderson was commissioned in the Marine Corps on 4 June 1806. He served on the USS Constitution during her famous victories in the War of 1812. He participated in several shipboard engagements and was decorated for bravery.

From September 16, 1818 to March 2, 1819, Henderson was the acting Commandant. On 17 October 1820, at the age of 37, LtCol Henderson was appointed as the Commandant of the Marine Corps. He served in this position for a little over 38 years — the longest of any officer to hold that position.

Henderson is credited with thwarting attempts by President Andrew Jackson to combine the Marine Corps with the Army in 1829. Instead, Congress passed the Act for the Better Organization of the Marine Corps in 1834,[1] ensuring the Marines would remain part of the United States Department of the Navy.

He went into the field as commandant during the Indian campaigns in Florida and Georgia during 1836 and 1837, and was promoted brevet brigadier general for his actions in these campaigns. Tradition holds that he pinned a note to his door that read, "Gone to Florida to fight the Indians. Will be back when the war is over." [2]

Marines also fought during the Mexican-American War during his tenure as Commandant. The sword presented to Henderson upon completion of the action was inscribed with the words, "From the Halls of Montezuma, to the Shores of Tripoli" giving the opening words to the Marine Corps hymn.

General Henderson died suddenly on January 6, 1859. He is buried in the Congressional Cemetery.[3] According to Marine lore, the Colonel Commandant had attempted to will his home — actually government-provided quarters in which he had lived for 38 years — to his heirs, having forgotten that they were government owned.[4]

USS Henderson (AP-1), and Henderson Hall Barracks was named for him.

See also

Portal:United States Marine Corps
United States Marine Corps Portal
  • Commandant of the Marine Corps


  1. ^ U.S. Congress (30 June 1834). An Act for the Better Organization of the United States Marine Corps. Retrieved on 2006-11-04.
  2. ^ Don Burzynski (February 17, 2006). "Gone to fight the Indians". Marine Corps Times. Retrieved on 2006-11-04.
  3. ^ Gen. Archibald Henderson. Historic Congressional Cemetery. Association for the Preservation of Historic Congressional Cemetery. Retrieved on 2006-11-04.
  4. ^ Archibald Henderson Willed the Commandant's Quarters to His Heirs. Marine Corps Legends. Retrieved on 2006-11-04.


This article incorporates public domain text and image from the official USMC biography.
  • This article includes text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.
  • Colonel and Brevet Brigadier General Archibald Henderson, USMC. Who's Who in Marine Corps History. History Division, United States Marine Corps. Retrieved on 2006-11-04.

Further reading

  • Dawson, Joseph G. (October 1998). "With Fidelity and Effectiveness: Archibald Henderson's Lasting Legacy to the U.S. Marine Corps". Journal of Military History 62 (4): 727-753. DOI:10.2307/120176.
Preceded by:
LtCol Franklin Wharton
Commandant of the United States Marine Corps

Succeeded by:
LtCol Anthony Gale
Preceded by:
LtCol Anthony Gale
Commandant of the United States Marine Corps
Succeeded by:
Col John Harris

This article might use material from a Wikipedia article, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

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