Custom Search

Biography of James Monroe

At age 11 James Monroe was a student at Campbelltown Academy in the County of Westmoreland. His teacher was a local clergyman named Archibald Campbell. He was in class with a boy named John Marshall, which became the fourth chief justice of the Supreme Court. James Monroe's school was several miles away and he had to walk through a forest, so he carried a rifle with him and hunted for small game along the way. He enjoyed hunting, so he always managed to keep his family well fed with the wild animals he shot. These animals included wild bird, and small animals such as squirrel, and raccoon.

When his father died in 1774, James inherited his father's estate because the law of primogeniture in Virginia granted inheritance exclusively to the oldest son in a family. James also became responsible for the upkeep of the family's property and the care of his three brothers.

The year his father died James Monroe started his studies at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. However, his studying was not as important as the student revolutionary movement. This movement joined the colonial cries for independence from Great Britain and the ruler, King George III. James, and other students raided the British governor's palace of their weapons and ammunition to help supply the Williamsburg militia.

James Monroe and the American Revolution

The American Revolution started with the fighting in 1775, at Lexington and Concord. In 1776 James Monroe quit college and joined the Continental Army. Monroe's basic training was performed in Williamsburg and he was quickly promoted to a lieutenant that year in a Virginia regiment.

Monroe marched in the famous crossing of the ice-filled Delaware River from Pennsylvania to Trenton, New Jersey, with General George Washington in December 1776. The Battle of Trenton lasted four days and Washington's army captured the city from British control. During the battle, Monroe was shot in the shoulder and was carried from the field to safety, and to get medical treatment. Washington rewarded James Monroe with a promotion to captain, for his effortless courage, and great fighting during this battle.

Monroe fought in two battles during the fall of 1777 in Pennsylvania. One at Brandywine Creek and the other, Germantown, and lost both battles to the British army in both. Another promotion was awarded, earning him the title, Major James Monroe. Monroe served during the blistering cold winter of 1777–78 at Valley Forge as an aide to Gen. William Alexander.

Monroe resigned from his services in the army December 1778 after two years in the war. He returned to Williamsburg, and General George Washington praised him for his heroism as a courageous and honorable officer. In Williamsburg, James Monroe tried to form a Virginia regiment under his command. However he was unsuccessful due to lack of funds and volunteers.

James Monroe's Political Career

James Monroe's political ambitions began by studying law with Thomas Jefferson, Governor of Virginia, as his teacher. James Monroe's first public office was in the Virginia state assembly, also called the Council of State, in 1782. The eight-man council delegated state laws and advised the governor on state affairs.

Monroe was elected to the Continental Congress in 1783, as a Virginia representative, and served for three years. He started granting frontier settlements to veterans of the American Revolution, acquiring new territories and admitting new states in the West, as well as allowing free navigation of the Mississippi River.

While serving in the Continental Congress in New York City, the nation's capital at the time, Monroe met the socially prominent Elizabeth Kortright, whose father was a former British officer and New York merchant. James and Elizabeth were married on Feb. 16, 1786, in New York City. The couple had two daughters Eliza (born in 1787) and Maria (born in 1803) and a son who died an infant.

Presidential History | Interesting Facts