Abraham Van Buren: Biography & Family

Instructor: Christopher Sailus

Chris has an M.A. in history and taught university and high school history.

In this lesson we explore the life of Abraham Van Buren, eldest son of America's eighth president, Martin Van Buren. Abraham served in both the White House and in the U.S. military.

In the Shadow

It can be difficult for anyone to be related to a famous person. Perhaps you live in the same house and you have strange people taking photos of your house all day. Or maybe you find it difficult trusting friends, not sure whether the gregarious stranger who befriended you in a bar is really your friend or someone trying to get near celebrity.

It can be a difficult life. For most, it's essential to find something that is important to them so they can forge their own path. This was certainly the case for the subject of our lesson, Abraham Van Buren.

Early Life

Abraham Van Buren was born in 1807, the eldest son of the eighth president of the United States, Martin Van Buren. At the time of Abraham's birth, however, Martin Van Buren was still nearly 30 years from his time in the White House. Abraham was named after his grandfather who had the same name. Abraham was born in New York, where his father won a seat in the U.S. Senate in 1821.

Early Career

Abraham spent his adolescence in Washington. As his father served in the Senate, Abraham also chose to devote his career to a different kind of service - the military. Abraham enrolled as a cadet at the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York. He graduated in 1827, four months shy of his 20th birthday, and entered the U.S. Army.

Like most army personnel, Abraham jumped around the country from base to base, serving first in Missouri, followed by a stint in Fort Dearborn, Illinois. There he served as the aide-de-camp to Major-General Macomb, whom he would continue to serve as Macomb led the U.S. Army forces during the early parts of the Second Seminole War in Florida. During his service, Abraham worked his way up the ranks to Captain.

White House

Though Abraham had proved himself a successful military officer, he resigned his commission in 1837 when his father was inaugurated as President of the United States. For the following four years, Abraham served as his father's private secretary. It was during this time that he met his wife, Angelica Singleton. They were introduced by Dolley Madison, widow of the late President James Madison, and Angelica and Abraham would go on to have four children, though only three survived infancy.

Though Abraham had no doubt enjoyed his time in Washington, that time was cut short when his father was defeated in his bid for re-election in 1840.

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