James McHenry was born in Ballymena, County Antrim, Ireland, on November 16, 1753. He immigrated to America in 1771 and received a medical education at the Newark Academy (Delaware) under the tutorship of Dr. Benjamin Rush.
In 1776 he served as a physician during the Revolutionary War and then as an aide to General Lafayette. In 1781, having obtained the rank of major, he left the military and served in the Maryland Senate (1781-1783) and as a delegate to the Continental Congress (1783-1786) and delegate in 1787 to the federal Constitutional Convention. Following the convention he served in the Maryland State assembly (1787-1796).
In 1796, President George Washington offered McHenry a position in his cabinet as secretary of war until 1800 when he resigned under the John Adams administration. In 1798 Fort McHenry in Baltimore was named in his honor.Following his resignation, McHenry retired to Baltimore where he died on May 3, 1816 and is buried in Westminster Burying Ground.
Sources: The Life and Correspondence of James McHenry, by Bernard C. Steiner and James McHenry, (Cleveland: Burrows Brothers Co., 1907).