Henry Leavenworth (December 10, 1783 – July 21, 1834) was an United States soldier active in the War of 1812 and early military expeditions against the Plains Indians.
Early life and education
He was born at New Haven, Connecticut, a son of Col. Jesse and Catharine (Conklin) Leavenworth. Soon after his birth his parents became alienated and his father moved with the children to Danville, Vermont, where he was educated. He then read law with General Erastus Root of Delhi, New York; and upon being admitted to the bar formed a partnership with his preceptor which lasted until 1812.
War of 1812
Leavenworth was commissioned as a captain in the 25th U. S. Infantry in April 1812, shortly before the outbreak of the War of 1812. In August 1813 he was promoted to major of the 9th Infantry. He was wounded at the Battle of Niagara on July 25, 1814, and the following November was brevetted to the rank of colonel.
After the war, he then served in the New York State Assembly, in the 39th New York State Legislature, 1816, and then he went to Prairie du Chien as Indian agent, and on February 10, 1818, was made lieutenant-colonel of the Fifth U. S. Infantry. In 1820 he began constructing Fort St. Anthony from the Cantonment New Hope stockade.
In 1823, he led U.S. Army troops in the Arikara War, the first U.S. military expedition against a Great Plains Indian nation. While on duty in the West he built several military posts, one of which was Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, established May 8, 1827 as Cantonment Leavenworth, now one of the leading military establishments of the country. In 1825 he was made brigadier-general by brevet.
In 1834 he commanded the United States Regiment of Dragoons during its expedition from Fort Gibson, Indian Territory to the Wichita Mountains. The artist George Catlin was also in this expedition, and wrote of Leavenworth's death. They hoped to meet and open formal relations among the United States and the Comanche, Kiowa, and Wichita (tribe) peoples.
General Leavenworth died in the Cross Timbers, in the Indian Territory, July 21, 1834, of either sickness or an accident while buffalo-hunting;<ref>George Catlin's "Manners, Customs, and Condition of the North American Indians", Vol.2, letter #44: "and I am inclined to think, as I before mentioned, in consequence of the injury he sustained in a fall from his horse when running a buffalo calf." while leading an expedition against the Pawnee and Comanche. His regiment erected a monument at Cross Timbers; he was first buried in Delhi, with his remains later reinterred at Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery.
He was married three times, first to Elizabeth Eunice Morrison, with whom he had two children, and divorced, then to Electa Knapp, who died within the year, then to Harriet Lovejoy, with whom he had another child. Lake Harriet in Minneapolis is named for Harriet Lovejoy.
His son Jesse Henry Leavenworth was also a military careerist.
GENERAL HENRY LEAVENWORTH. A monument to General Leavenworth stands on the brow of the hill above the village of Delhi. The situation is beautiful, but the grounds about it have been sadly neglected, and now the graceful shaft is almost concealed by the great trees and the encroaching underbrush. With my best endeavors I have been able to gather only a few facts concerning him of whom many were proud in his day, and to whose memory they erected this worthy monument.
Henry Leavenworth was born in New Haven, Connecticut,* in 1783. (In a sketch of him in the Washington Globe (1834) his birthplace is given as Vermont, but it is believed that this is an error. The monument above referred to gives the place of his nativity as Connecticut). He belonged to the same stock as the noted General Elias W. Leavenworth of Syracuse who for so long a time was a prominent figure in New York public life. Like many other young men of New England he had been smitten with the fever of emigration and followed friends into the county of Delaware. He had already begun the study of law before he left New England, and when he came to Delhi in 1805 at twenty-one years of age, he entered the office of General Erastus Root to continue his studies. In due time he was admitted to the bar and then became a partner of his preceptor.
He imbibed from his partner not only a good knowledge of law and a ready and cordial manner with all who approached him, but particularly a keen liking for military matters with which the experiences of the Revolution made almost all the pioneer settlers .familiar. From this military ardor came the movement of Mr. Leavenworth at the opening of the war of 1812. He raised a company, (the 25th Infantry,) for service and was commissioned as a Captain in the United States Army. He was in the battle of Chippewa where he was brevetted for bravery, and again in the battle of Niagara, where he was a second time brevetted. But in this last battle he had been severely wounded. Colonel Leavenworth had married Harriet Lovejoy just before setting out for the war, and his wife accompanied him to the field of service. Fortunately she was present to nurse him and care for him in his wounded condition. But he recovered and was able again to give his services to the government.
After the close of the war Colonel Leavenworth was allowed a leave of absence from the army, and on his return, to Delaware county he was elected a member of the State legislature. He rendered such service to his State and his party that pointed him out as a conspicuously rising man.
On re-entering the army he was appointed an Indian agent by the government in the Northwest territory. He repaired to his field of labor without his wife; but after a few years, she joined him in these then remote regions. There are still many reminiscences of Colonel Leavenworth's residence in that country. His duties were partly civil and partly military. As a reward for his faithfulness and bravery the War Department had conferred on him the rank of Brigadier General. For the purpose of protecting the frontier settlements against the Indians he erected many forts which would enable the slender forces of the United States to hold their own. One of them, Fort Leavenworth, has given its name to a city in the state of Missouri.
During the winter of 1834 he came to Washington, on duty connected with his mission in the West. During his visit he was admitted to the Supreme Court of the United States. He was put in command of the military department of the Southwest and returned to his duties in the spring. During his operations against the hostile Indians he was seized with an attack of malarial fever. He died from this at Cross Timbers in the Territory of Arkansas. Captain James Dean, who was with him at his death, wrote concerning the painful circumstances. General Leavenworth, foreseeing that his death was near, said to Captain Dean:
- "To the people of Delaware county I owe all that I ever have been; and at the beautiful little village of Delhi, that delightful spot, I wish my bones to rest. Place my body in a coffin of bordock wood, and let it be buried here until the cold weather comes. Then carry me by way of New Orleans back to my home."
This was tenderly done, and accompanied by a detachment of his command his body was brought to Delhi. Here it was received by every demonstration of sorrow and respect by his townsmen and the military authorities of the State. The funeral was held May 22, 1835, and he was buried in the spot where his monument now stands. This was erected shortly afterwards by his admiring friends. It bears the following inscription:
On the West Front: IN MEMORY OFHENRY LEAVENWORTH, COLONEL OF THE U. S. 2D INFANTRY AND BRIGADIER GENERAL IN THE ARMY. On the North Front: AS A TESTIMONIAL TO HIS PUBLIC AND PRIVATE WORTH HIS.REGIMENT HAVE ERECTED THIS MONUMENT. On the South Front: BORN AT NEW HAVEN, CONNECTICUT, DECEMBER 10, 1783. DIED IN THE SERVICE OF HIS COUNTRY NEAR THE FALSE WASCHITA JULY 21, 1834. On the East Front: FOR HIS CIVIC VIRTUES HIS FELLOW-CITIZENS OF DELAWARE HONORED HIM WITH A SEAT IN THE LEGISLATURE OF NEW YORK: THE FIELDS OF CHIPPEWA, NIAGARA AND AURICHAREE ESTABLISH HIS FAME AS A SOLDIER.
In addition to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, Leavenworth County, Kansas, the Leavenworth Penitentiary, Henry Leavenworth Elementary School, and Leavenworth Street in Omaha are named after him. The United States Disciplinary Barracks (USDB) at Fort Leavenworth is commonly called "Leavenworth".
Dates of rank
- Captain, 25th Infantry - 25 April 1812
- Major, 9th Infantry - 15 August 1813
- Brevet Lieutenant Colonel - 5 July 1814
- Brevet Colonel - 25 July 1814
- Major, 2nd Infantry - 17 May 1815
- Lieutenant Colonel, 5th Infantry - 10 February 1818
- Lieutenant Colonel, 6th Infantry - 1 October 1821
- Brevet Brigadier General - 25 July 1824
- Colonel, 3rd Infantry - 16 December 1825
- First Dragoon Expedition - Describes both time and place of General Leavenworth's death
- Fort Snelling, Minnesota - Supported surveying fur trading routes and watersheds earlier in his career