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First Name: Henry

Last Name: Atkinson

Birthplace: Person County, NC, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Date of Birth: 1782

Date of Death: 14 June 1842

Rank: General

Years Served:
Henry Atkinson

•  War of 1812


Henry Atkinson
General, U.S. Army

Henry Atkinson was born in 1782 in Person County, NC.

He entered the Army in 1808 as a Captain in the 3rd Infantry, serving at various outposts on the Western frontier. He moved to New York and was promoted to Colonel in the Regular Army, 45th Infantry. Atkinson saw considerable action during the War of 1812 and, beginning in 1815, he commanded the 6th U.S. Infantry.

After the war, Atkinson led two expeditions to the Yellowstone River in 1819 and 1825. He established the first Army Fort west of the Missouri River. The site, just north of present-day Omaha, was named after him and today is Fort Atkinson State Historical Park. After Atkinson and Indian agent Benjamin O'Fallon were appointed Commissioners, they left Fort Atkinson on 16 May 1825 with a military escort of 476 men, and ascended the Missouri River. During this expedition they negotiated treaties of friendship and trade with Indian tribes of the upper Missouri, including the Arikara, Cheyenne, Crow, Mandan, Ponca, and several bands of the Sioux.

At that time there was still rivalry with British traders on the upper Missouri. The treaties acknowledged that the tribes lived within the U.S., vowed perpetual friendship, and recognized the right of the U.S. to regulate trade; promising to deal only with licensed traders. The tribes agreed to forswear private retaliation for injuries and to return or indemnify the owner of stolen horses or other goods. Efforts to contact the Blackfoot and Assiniboine tribes were unsuccessful.

Returning to Fort Atkinson at the "Council Bluff" in Nebraska, successful negotiations were had with the Ota, Pawnee and Omaha tribes. Atkinson was appointed brevet Brigadier General in 1821 and was in overall command of U.S. forces during the Black Hawk War of 1832. Although he delivered the final blow to the Black Hawk Indians at the Battle of Bad Axe River on 1-2 August 1832, Atkinson was criticized for mishandling the operations of the war and his reputation did not prosper as did those of his subordinates Zachary Taylor and Henry Dodge.

Atkinson later supervised removal of the Winnebago Indians to Iowa. Jefferson Barracks, near St. Louis, MO, and Fort Leavenworth, KS, were begun under his direction. He spent the remainder of his 34-year career stationed at Jefferson Barracks.


The following were named in his honor:

The town of Fort Atkinson, IA

Fort Atkinson State Preserve, an 1840s U.S. Army post in Fort Atkinson, IA

Fort Atkinson, an 1820s U.S. Army post in Nebraska (now Fort Atkinson State Historical Park)

Fort Atkinson, a city and fort in Wisconsin

He is the subject of a biography, "General Henry Atkinson - A Western Military Career," by Roger L. Nichols (1965). 


Atkinson married Mary Ann Bullitt on 16 January 1826 they had a son, Edward Graham Atkinson.

Death and Burial

Henry Atkinson died on 14 June 1842 in St. Louis, MO. He is buried at Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville, KY.

Honoree ID: 2081   Created by: MHOH




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