Christopher Van Deventer was born July 30, 1788, in New York, the son of Peter Van Deventer and Mary Durham. He attended Williams College and West Point and served in the United States Army during the years 1809 to 1816. He was appointed lieutenant in Scott's Regiment of Artillery in 1809. In 1812, he was assistant military agent at Fort Columbus, New York Harbor, and the next year, he began service as deputy quartermaster general at the rank of major. Van Deventer was captured at the Battle of Stony Creek on June 6, 1813, and transported as a prisoner of war to Quebec. He and Major Isaac Roach attempted an escape in the fall, but were recaptured and placed in solitary confinement. Van Deventer finally received his freedom around February of 1815. At the close of the war, he was retained in the service, and in 1816 was aide-de-camp to Brigadier General Joseph G. Swift. He resigned from the military on August 30, 1816, and in 1817, he was appointed chief clerk in the United States War Department under John C. Calhoun, a position he held until 1827. In 1818, he was involved in a scandal, eventually ending his public career, when his brother-in-law, Elijah Mix, bid on a War Department contract to provide stones for the construction of a fort at the Rip Raps shoal in Chesapeake Bay. Van Deventer was originally unaware of the deal, but agreed to underwrite a quarter of its expense when Mix found that he could not finance the work; in 1819, Van Deventer took on an additional quarter the project's interest, against the advice of Calhoun. Details of the deals came out in 1822 and 1825, and, in the latter year, Calhoun called for a full investigation of the matter, which led to Van Deventer's resignation. Van Deventer died in Georgetown, Washington, D.C., on April 22, 1838.
Van Deventer married three times: first to Marcia Kellogg (d. 1813) with whom he had a daughter named Marcia; then to Eliza Cooper; and finally to Sally Birkhead (ca. 1823).