Last updated: May 23, 2023
Henry Martyn Robert was born in South Carolina. Robert and his family, who were outspoken abolitionists, soon relocated to Ohio, where Robert would grow up. He attended West Point, where he graduated fourth in his class in the year 1857 and joined the Army Corps of Engineers.
Robert’s first major assignment was a deployment to San Juan Island at the height of the Pig War. He designed the Redoubt, an earthen fortification which still stands to this day, and superintended its construction. Robert’s redoubt provided the Americans with a defensive fortification which could not only resist British warships but could credibly match them in combat. Its construction encouraged peacemaking and it never had to fire a single shot in anger.
Shortly after his time on San Juan Island, Robert was assigned to New Bedford, Massachusetts. During his time there, he attended a contentious public meeting and was disappointed by the lack of clear and consistent parliamentary procedures. He began contemplating effective methods of running public meetings and developed a set of guidelines and rule known as Robert’s Rules of Order which are still the most important resource on parliamentary procedure.
Robert spent most of his career as an engineer. He developed and altered waterways, built flood control for hurricanes, and developed significant important infrastructure which we still rely on today while stationed at The Presidio. He was a general at the time of his retirement and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.