Henry A. du Pont
United States Senator
from Delaware
In office
June 13, 1906 – March 3, 1917
Preceded byL. Heisler Ball[1]
Succeeded byJosiah O. Wolcott
Personal details
Henry Algernon du Pont

(1838-07-30)July 30, 1838
Greenville, Delaware
DiedDecember 31, 1926(1926-12-31) (aged 88)
Greenville, Delaware
Resting placeDu Pont de Nemours Cemetery
Political partyRepublican
SpouseMary Pauline Foster
ChildrenHenry Francis du Pont
Louise Evelina du Pont Crowninshield
Residence(s)Greenville, Delaware, U.S.
Alma materUniversity of Pennsylvania
United States Military Academy
OccupationSoldier, politician, railroad executive
AwardsMedal of Honor
Military service
Allegiance United States (Union)
Branch/serviceUnited States Army
Years of service1861–1875
Rank Brevet lieutenant colonel
Unit5th Regiment, U.S. Artillery
Battles/warsAmerican Civil War

Henry Algernon du Pont (July 30, 1838 – December 31, 1926) was an American military officer, businessman, and politician from Delaware. A member of the du Pont family, he graduated first in his class from West Point shortly after the beginning of the American Civil War and served in the U.S. Army, earning the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Battle of Cedar Creek in October 1864.

After retiring from the army in 1875, he was president of the Wilmington and Northern Railroad Company for 20 years, until 1899. An active member of the Republican Party, he was elected by the state legislature as a U.S. Senator from Delaware, serving most of two terms (June 13, 1906, to March 4, 1917).

Early life and education

Du Pont was born July 30, 1838, at Eleutherian Mills, near Greenville, Delaware, son of Henry and Louisa Gerhard du Pont and grandson of Eleuthère Irénée du Pont, the founder of E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company.

He attended the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and graduated first in his class from the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, in 1861, at the outset of the American Civil War.

Civil war and military career

Du Pont was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant of engineers upon his graduation from West Point on May 6, 1861. Soon after he was promoted to 1st lieutenant in the 5th Regiment, U.S. Artillery, with date of rank of May 14, 1861. He served as a light artillery officer in the Union Army during the war, initially assigned to the defenses of Washington and New York Harbor. From July 6, 1861, to March 24, 1864, he served as regimental adjutant (administrative officer) until he was promoted to captain. He subsequently became chief of artillery in the Army of West Virginia.

Du Pont served in General Philip Sheridan's army in the Shenandoah Valley of northern Virginia. He received the Medal of Honor for his handling of a retreat at the Battle of Cedar Creek, allowing Sheridan to win a victory in the battle. During the war, du Pont received two brevets (honorary promotions). The first was to the rank of major, dated September 19, 1864, for gallant service in the battles of Opequon and Fisher's Hill. The second brevet was to the rank of lieutenant colonel, dated October 19, 1864, for distinguished service at the Battle of Cedar Creek, Virginia.

After the war, du Pont continued as a career officer until resigning on March 1, 1875. In the postwar years, he became a companion of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States (MOLLUS), an organization for former officers of the Union Army and their descendants. Assigned to the U.S. capital, du Pont was a member of the District of Columbia Commandery, assigned MOLLUS insignia number 10418.

Marriage and family

Mary Pauline Foster du Pont

At the age of 36, du Pont married Mary Pauline Foster in 1874. They had two children, Henry Francis du Pont and Louise Evelina du Pont. They lived on his estate, Winterthur, near Greenville, Delaware. The family were members of Christ Episcopal Church in Christiana Hundred.

Business career

In 1875 du Pont returned full-time to Delaware. Within a few years, he became president and general manager of the Wilmington & Northern Railroad Company, serving from 1879 until 1899. During that time, and for the remainder of his life, he also operated an experimental farm on his estate. Since 1951, when his son established it as a museum, the estate has been operated as the Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library near Greenville, Delaware.

Political career

In 1895, du Pont ran for U.S. Senate, and claimed to have been elected. In December 1895, du Pont's supporters filed a petition on his behalf with the Senate Committee on Privileges and Elections, claiming that he had been elected in May for the term that had begun in March of that year. The petition centered on whether William T. Watson, the speaker of the Delaware Senate who had ascended to the governorship upon the death of Joshua H. Marvil on April 8, was entitled to cast a vote in the legislature's joint session on May 9. Without Watson's vote, du Pont would have been election by a vote of 15 to 14, but with his vote, the legislature was deadlocked. The Delaware Constitution prohibits the governor from sitting in the legislature, but questions were raised whether Watson was actually the governor or merely "exercising the office of governor." While the Republican-controlled committee found in du Pont's favor, the Senate as a whole opposed seating him on a party-line vote, with Populists and a Silver Party member joining Democrats, citing a state legislature's right to determine its own membership. Du Pont submitted another petition in January 1897, but did not present new evidence, leading to the committee rejecting his petition.[2]

Du Pont was elected to the U.S. Senate on June 13, 1906, to fill the vacancy in the term beginning March 4, 1905. During this term, he served with the Republican majority in the 59th, 60th, and 61st U.S. Congress. In the 61st Congress, he was chairman of the Committee on Expenditures in the Military Affairs Department.

He was again elected to the U.S. Senate in 1911. During this term, he served with the Republican majority in the 62nd Congress, but was in the minority in the 63rd, and 64th U.S. Congress. In the 62nd Congress he was again Chair of the Committee on Expenditures in the War Department, in the 63rd Congress he was a member of the Committee on Military Affairs, and in the 64th Congress he was a member of the Committee on Transportation and Sale of Meat Products.

In the first popular election of a U.S. Senator in Delaware, du Pont lost his bid for a third full term in 1916 to Democrat Josiah O. Wolcott, the Delaware Attorney General. In all, he served most of two terms from June 13, 1906, to March 4, 1917, during the administrations of U.S. Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, William H. Taft and Woodrow Wilson.

In 1919 du Pont was elected as an honorary member of the Delaware Society of the Cincinnati.

Death and legacy

Henry A. du Pont died at his home, Winterthur, and is buried in the Du Pont de Nemours Cemetery at Greenville, Delaware. His son, Henry Francis du Pont, turned his home into the Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library, the nation's premier museum of American decorative arts. Archival materials relating to him are part of the collections held by the Winterthur Library.

Medal of Honor citation

Rank and organization: Captain, 5th U.S. Artillery. Place and date: At Cedar Creek, Va., October 19, 1864. Entered service at: Wilmington, Del. Birth: Eleutherian Mills, Del. Date of issue: April 2, 1898.


By his distinguished gallantry, and voluntary exposure to the enemy's fire at a critical moment, when the Union line had been broken, encouraged his men to stand to their guns, checked the advance of the enemy, and brought off most of his pieces.

In popular culture

Du Pont was portrayed by David Arquette in the 2014 film Field of Lost Shoes, which depicted the Battle of New Market in May 1864.


Elections are held the first Tuesday after November 1. The General Assembly chose the U.S. Senators, who took office March 4 for a six-year term. After 1913 they were popularly elected.

Public offices
Office Type Location Began office Ended office notes
U.S. Senator Legislature Washington June 13, 1906 March 3, 1911
U.S. Senator Legislature Washington March 4, 1911 March 3, 1917
United States Congressional service
Dates Congress Chamber Majority President Committees Class/district
1905–1907 59th U.S. Senate Republican Theodore Roosevelt class 1
1907–1909 60th U.S. Senate Republican Theodore Roosevelt class 1
1909–1911 61st U.S. Senate Republican William Howard Taft class 1
1911–1913 62nd U.S. Senate Republican William Howard Taft class 1
1913–1915 63rd U.S. Senate Democratic Woodrow Wilson class 1
1915–1917 64th U.S. Senate Democratic Woodrow Wilson class 1
Election results
Year Office Subject Party Votes % Opponent Party Votes %
1916 U.S. Senator Henry A. du Pont Republican 22,925 45% Josiah O. Wolcott Democratic 25,434 50%
Hiram R. Burton Progressive 2,361 5%

See also


  1. ^ This seat had been vacant since March 4, 1905.
  2. ^ "The Election Case of Henry A. Du Pont of Delaware (1897)". United States Senate. 1995.


Party political offices First Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Delaware(Class 1) 1916 Succeeded byT. Coleman du Pont Political offices U.S. Senate Preceded byL. Heisler Ball U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Delaware 1906-1917 Served alongside: J. Frank Allee, Harry A. Richardson, Willard Saulsbury, Jr. Succeeded byJosiah O. Wolcott