James Monroe was a student at the College of William and Mary when he joined the Continental Army’s 3d Virginia Regiment in September, 1775. Lieutenant Monroe distinguished himself in several battles, and was wounded at Washington’s Christmas Eve victory in Trenton. Monroe resigned from the Army in 1778, and the next year George Washington recommended him for command of a regiment of Virginia state troops. He was appointed a Lieutenant Colonel, but there was no money to pay more Virginia troops, and so in 1780 Monroe began to study law under Virginia Governor Thomas Jefferson. In October 1780 the British invaded Virginia, and Monroe found himself the colonel of an “emergency regiment” of militia which he himself had rushed to raise and organize. As the war ended, Monroe entered politics, and in 1790 was elected one of Virginia’s first U.S. senators. He was governor twice, and Secretary of State and Secretary of War under President James Madison. As Secretary of War, he oversaw operations against the British, who burned parts of the American capitol in August, 1814 before being turned back at Baltimore. In 1816, Monroe became President, and during his two terms strengthened the nation’s coastal defenses; acquired Florida from Spain; saw the passage of the Missouri Compromise, which attempted to restrict the growth of slavery; and finally, issued what became known as the “Monroe Doctrine,” which warned the European powers against military or political interference with their former colonies in North and South America. The fourth President with militia service, Monroe was the last of the Revolutionary War generation to serve as Chief Executive.
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