QUANTICO MARINE CORPS BASE, Va. —Since 1775, the year the Marine Corps was born, 35 men to include Gen. James Amos have held the title of commandant of the Marine Corps. But, only one of those men holds the title as longest serving commandant in Marine Corps history. Archibald Henderson, the Marine Corps longest serving commandant served 38 years and is known as the granddaddy of the Marine Corps.
According to the Marine Corps history published by historical section, released by the Marine Corps Association & Foundation, Henderson, “served as Commandant in the three successive grades, lieutenant colonel, colonel and brigadier general (brevet rank) until his death on Jan. 6, 1859, a total of 38 years, 2 months and 19 days.”
Brevet rank is a higher rank title, given as a reward for chivalry or meritorious conduct, but exclusive of accepting the authority, precedence or pay the actual rank.
He was born to Alexander and Sara Henderson on Jan. 21, 1783 and was one of 10 children. Alexander Henderson, Archibald’s father was a local business owner, owned stores in Colchester, Occoquan, Alexandria and Dumfries Va., earning him the nickname, “Father of the Chain Store.” Archibald Henderson and his family grew up in Dumfries, Va. near Marine Corps Base Quantico, where his childhood home remains today.
Known today as the Henderson House, the home was constructed in the mid 1700s, according to Historic Dumfries Inc. and was bought by Henderson’s parents in 1790. It’s believed Henderson’s parents bought the house for him as a wedding gift. Today Chris Brown, a Certified Public Accountant and former mayor of Dumfries owns the home. Brown served as the mayor of Dumfries from 1988 – 1992 and continues to maintain the house.
“At some point in the Henderson family history they sold the house and it was bought by my grandparents in the early 1900s” said Brown. “My grandfather was a local doctor, and when they bought this, it was the original house.”
Brown explained additions to the house were made in 1930s. Historic Dumfries Inc. reported on their website, during the civil war between 1861 to 1865 the house was used as a hospital and sustained damaged during the war when a canon ball plowed into a side of the house.
Dr. D.C. Cline and his wife Annie Cline, Brown’s grandparents, rented out rooms in the house to local civilians and Marines in the 1900s and continued to do so after D.C. Cline passed away.
“This was the home to a man who became the leader and commandant of the Marine Corps, probably the best fighting force on planet earth,” smiled Brown. “The grand ole dad of the Marine Corps started his life here in Dumfries, and right down the street from where he started his life, became the ideal place for the Marine Corps.”
Brig. Gen. Henderson died suddenly on Jan. 6, 1859. Structurally, the house has survived the Civil War, hurricanes, thunderstorms and a minor earthquake a few years ago. Brown said after the earth quake he was worried about the damage, but to his surprise there was nothing more than a little dust on the floor from the crown molding.
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