Educated in England, John Fenwick began his military career as a Lieutenant in the United States Marines. During the War of 1812 he was wounded in the Battle of Queenstown Heights. He eventually gained the commission of Brevet-Brigadier-General in 1823. While Gilbert Stuart is not known to have worked in Charleston, he was a favorite among many Charlestonians who commissioned portraits from him during his stays in New York and later Washington, D.C. Dramatically rendered, Stuart uses an intense color scheme to depict Fenwick's uniform and sword hilt.