Historic Valley Forge

Who Served Here?

James Monroe

James Monroe was born in 1758 in Virginia to a prosperous family. He attended William and Mary College, but was not there very long when he and some of his fellow students left to join the Continental Army in 1775. He was in the 3rd Virginia Regiment as a Second Lieutenant under Colonel Hugh Mercer.

Monroe saw service at Harlem Heights, White Plains, and Trenton. It was a Trenton where he was wounded. In the fall of 1777, he was commissioned Major and subsequently named Aide-de-camp to William Alexander, Lord Stirling. He went on to fight at Brandywine and Germantown, wintered at Valley Forge and went on to fight at Monmouth in June of 1778. He resigned his commission in November of 1778.

By 1780, he was studying law under the Governor of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson. His political service began in 1782 when he was elected to the Virginia Assembly and a year later he was a Member of the Congresses of the Confederation until the year 1786. That same year he married Elizabeth Kortwright from New York. As a member of the Virginia convention, he was involved in the ratification of the Federal Constitution, and became a pronounced anti-Federalist. His political service grew and in 1790, he was elected a United States Senator. In 1794 through 1796, he served as the American envoy to France, to return the United States and be elected to the position of Governor of Virginia from 1799-1802 and later, 1811. He was involved in the negotiations for the Louisiana Purchase in France, Spain and England from 1801-1806. He eventually became Secretary of State in 1811, serving five years and Secretary of War during the years 1814-1815. He went on to become fifth President of the United States for two terms 1816-1825. His term is probably most well known for the Monroe Doctrine, issued December 2, 1823.

Quick Facts

  • Born: April 28, 1758 — Westmoreland County, VA
  • Military: 1776 — joins the Third Virginia Regiment
  • Politics: 1782 — member of the Virginia House of Delegates
  • Married: February 15, 1786 — Elizabeth Kortright
  • Senator: 1790-1794 — a delegate from Virginia
  • Ambassador: 1794-1796 — to France under President Washington
  • Governor: 1799 — (elected in)of Virginia, served four terms
  • Negotiator: 1803 — purchase of the Louisiana Territory
  • Foreign Minister: 1803-1807 — to France, England and Spain
  • Secretary of State: 1811-1817 — under President James Madison
  • Secretary of War: 1814 — during the War of 1812
  • President of the US: 1817-1825
  • Death: July 4, 1831
Courtesy National Center for the American Revolution/Valley Forge Historical Society