John Armstrong


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(1758–1843) soldier, senator, and secretary of war, born in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Armstrong was the son of John Armstrong, the “hero of Kittanning.” During the Revolutionary War, Armstrong wrote anonymously the controversial “Newburgh Addresses,” intended to pressure Congress into redressing the army's grievances, especially concerning the lack of pay, which were perceived as challenging George Washington's authority, but he was eventually forgiven. As a brigadier general, he was assigned the defense of New York harbor in 1812. As war secretary during the War of 1812, Armstrong infused new energy into the department, but treated his officers imperiously, was known to interfere in matters belonging to the commanders, failed to coordinate his activities with President James Madison, and was blamed for insufficient defense of Washington, D.C., that led to its burning by British troops after the Battle of Bladensburg in 1814. He resigned that year.

From The Oxford Essential Dictionary of the U.S. Military in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Warfare and Defence.

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