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Ames, Adelbert (31 October 1835–13 April 1933), soldier and politician, was born in Rockland, Maine, the son of Jesse Ames, a sea captain, and Martha B. Tolman. After spending some time at sea as a teenager, Ames entered the U.S. Military Academy, graduating in 1861. He was commissioned a second lieutenant and assigned to the Fifth Artillery. During the Civil War he was wounded at First Bull Run (First Manassas) on 21 July, and he later received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroism there in refusing to leave his post despite the wound. He served with the Army of the Potomac during the Peninsula campaign of 1862, and for his actions at Malvern Hill he was brevetted lieutenant colonel. On 8 August 1862 he was named colonel in command of the Twentieth Maine Volunteer Infantry, with ...

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Adalbert Ames. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-B8172-1728).

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Babcock, Orville Elias (25 December 1835–02 June 1884), soldier, engineer, and presidential secretary, was born in Franklin, Vermont, the son of Elias Babcock, Jr., and Clara Olmstead. Graduating third in his class from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1861, he was commissioned a second lieutenant of engineers. During the first year of the Civil War he gained promotion to first lieutenant, serving successively in the Department of Pennsylvania and the Department of the Shenandoah. He was then transferred to the Army of the Potomac, where he served on the staff of ...

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Banks, Nathaniel Prentiss (30 January 1816–01 September 1894), congressman and Civil War general, was born in Waltham, Massachusetts, the son of Nathaniel P. Banks, a textile mill foreman, and Rebecca Greenwood. He attended a school for factory children until he began work in the mills as a bobbin boy at age eleven. At seventeen he left factory work to assist his father in carpentry and to learn the machinist’s trade....

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Nathaniel Prentiss Banks. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-4780).

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Barksdale, William (21 August 1821–03 July 1863), congressman and Confederate officer, was born in Rutherford County, Tennessee, the son of William Barksdale and Nancy Hervey Lester, farmers. He was educated in the local schools and briefly attended the University of Nashville. After his father’s death, William and his three brothers moved in 1837 to Mississippi, where they began separate careers. William settled near Columbus, read law, was admitted to the bar, and invested in land and a small number of slaves before he was twenty-five years old. During the Mexican War, he was appointed captain and served as a commissary officer under General ...

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Bate, William Brimage (07 October 1826–09 March 1905), Confederate general, governor, and U.S. senator, was born in Bledsoe’s Lick (now Castalian Springs), Sumner County, Tennessee, the son of James Henry Bate and Amanda Weathered, planters. William Bate received the rudiments of education at a local school, later named the Rural Academy, which he attended until age sixteen. At that time, 1842, his father died, and Bate took a job as a clerk on the steamboat ...

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Beatty, John (19 December 1749–30 April 1826), physician, army officer, and government official, was born in Warwick, Pennsylvania, the son of Charles Clinton Beatty, a Presbyterian minister, and Anne Reading. John attended the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University), where he was one of twenty graduates in the class of 1769. He received an A.M. there three years later. As an undergraduate, he was an original member of the school’s literary club, the American Whig Society. During the interval between his two degree awards, Beatty studied medicine under Dr. ...

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Bedinger, George Michael (10 December 1756–08 December 1843), soldier, legislator, and businessman, was born in York County, Pennsylvania, the son of Henry Bedinger and Magdalene von Schlegel, innkeepers. In 1737 his grandfather had moved to Pennsylvania from the vicinity of Strasbourg in Alsace-Lorraine. At the time of George Michael’s birth, the family name was spelled Biedinger and German was the language spoken at home. Late in life Bedinger was described by a contemporary as a “full blooded Virginia Dutchman.”...

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Belknap, William Worth (22 September 1829–12 or 13 Oct. 1890), secretary of war, was born in Newburgh, New York, the son of William Goldsmith Belknap, a career army officer, and Ann Clark. Following his graduation from Princeton in 1846, he studied law at Georgetown University. Belknap moved to Keokuk, Iowa, in 1851 and became the law partner of Ralph P. Lowe, who later became the governor of Iowa and a state supreme court justice....