Major General Henry duPont, 1812-1889 Adjutant General Delaware,
Henry duPont was born August 8, 1812 in Wilmington Delaware at the family homestead. He was the second son of Eleuthers Irenee du Pont de Nemours, the founder of the DuPont Company. His father enrolled him at age eleven in the Constans Military School in Germantown Pennsylvania under the famous French military tactician Col. Reumfort. He was appointed to the United States Military Academy, graduating in 1833. As a lieutenant he was assigned to the Fourth United States Artillery at Fort Munroe Virginia. Subsequently he performed frontier service on the Indian reservation at Fort Mitchell Alabama.
He served for a year before returning to the banks of the Brandywine to join the family powder business as a managing partner at the request of his father. After becoming President of the DuPont Company in 1850, Henry du Pont pushed to expand the firm outside of Delaware in response to demand for blasting powder used in mining and construction. This increased production capacity helped the company meet both government and domestic orders for gunpowder during the Civil War. He ran the company from 1850 to the time of his death 1889.
He served as aide de camp on the staff of Governor William B. Cooper in 1841 and as Adjutant General of the state for fifteen years from 1846 until the outbreak of the Civil War. Henry duPont was appointed Major General of the Delaware militia by Governor William Burton, on May 11, which position he accepted on the express condition that he should have absolute control of all the armed forces in the state. As leader of Delaware’s military forces, he helped organize those who volunteered for military service into units that would later serve in the U.S. Army. Du Pont also used his position to try and sway Delaware politics towards Republican policies and thwart his Democratic Party foes. Correspondence with Delaware Governor William Burton, including the document presented to duPont upon his commissioning (pictured above), is housed at the Hagley Museum and Library. Henry duPont's commission, signed by Delaware Governor William H. Burton, and Delaware Secretary of State, Edward Ridgley helped place him at the forefront of Delaware politics through the conclusion of the Civil War. In the Spring of 1861, he ordered that every company should forth with be mustered into the United States service and that every man should take the federal oath of allegiance to the Untied States. Those who did not would be deprived of their arms. This action caused great consternation especially in Kent and Sussex Counties among southern sympathizers, and Governor Burton suspended duPont’s order on May 14. He avowed that Delawareans were loyal and they need take no oath, and clarified that they would be disarmed only when “improperly used”.
Rival militia companies with secessionist sympathies were formed in Milford, Georgetown, Lewes, and Seaford. Prompt action on the part of the federal government nipped the insipient conspiracy of succession in the bud; a number of their leaders were arrested and imprisoned in Baltimore. Du Pont used his office to insure that arms and men from Delaware remained loyal to the union cause. Henry du Pont resigned his commission as Major General on August 20, 1866 at the conclusion of the war.
His military career, distinguished as it was can be seen as a sideline to his success at providing black powder to the arsenal of the country as the leader for almost forty years of the company which bore his name. As the wealthiest Delawarean of his time his influence was felt throughout the state. He also happened to be the father of Civil War Medal of Honor recipient Henry A. duPont, and cousin to Samuel Francis DuPont, the Civil War Admiral .
For additional information about Henry duPont and the Manuscripts and Archives Collection, please contact Lynn Catanese at 302 658-2400 x317 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about the Hagley Library, please visit http://www.hagley.org/library.