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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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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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Bonham, Milledge Luke (25 December 1813–27 August 1890), governor, congressman, and soldier, was born in South Carolina’s Edgefield District, the son of James Bonham and Sophie Smith, planters. His father died when he was two, and his mother saw to his education. Bonham attended private academies before graduating from South Carolina College in 1834. He entered the legal profession, engaged in local politics, and became prominent in state military affairs, rising to the rank of major general of militia. He led a brigade of Palmetto State volunteers in the Seminole War of 1836, a position that helped win him a stint in the state house of representatives (1840–1844). In 1845 he married Ann Griffin; they had fourteen children....

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Bragg, Edward Stuyvesant (20 February 1827–20 June 1912), Civil War general, congressman, and diplomat, was born in Unadilla, Otsego County, New York, the son of Joel Bragg, a rural businessman, and Margaretha Kohl. Bragg received his early education at local schools and went on to study law at Geneva College (now Hobart College) in Geneva, New York. He was admitted to the New York bar in 1848. After briefly practicing in Unadilla, he migrated to Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, at the age of twenty-three. He was admitted to the Wisconsin bar and began a lifetime practice of arguing cases before the Wisconsin Supreme Court. In 1854 he was elected district prosecuting attorney. That same year he married Cornelia Coleman; they had four children....

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Butler, William (17 December 1759–23 September 1821), revolutionary war soldier and congressman, was born in Prince William County, Virginia, the son of James Butler and Mary Simpson, farmers. He attended grammar schools in his early years, and when he was about twelve years old his family moved to Ninety Six District, in western South Carolina. At the outbreak of the American Revolution in 1775, although he was only fifteen, he declared for the rebels and joined the South Carolina militia. Late that fall he accompanied Colonel Richard Richardson on a campaign into the backcountry of South Carolina to disperse a powerful concentration of Loyalists under the leadership of Patrick Cuningham. On 22 December he took part in a battle against Cuningham’s forces at Great Canebrake on Reedy Creek, in which the Loyalists were dispersed. Because heavy snow fell during the last days of this operation, it came to be known as the “Snow Campaign.” From July to September 1776 he served in Major ...

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Cabell, Samuel Jordan (15 December 1756–04 August 1818), revolutionary soldier and congressman, was born at “Union Hill” in Amherst County, Virginia, the son of Margaret Jordan and William Cabell, a prominent planter who served on the colony’s important revolutionary committee of safety and was chairman of the Amherst Committee. With the approach of the Revolution, Colonel William Cabell dropped plans to send Samuel to college in England and enrolled him instead at the College of William and Mary. Samuel attended from 1772 until December 1775, when Virginia militia clashed with British regulars at Great Bridge near Norfolk. Colonel Cabell, who was meeting in Williamsburg with the Virginia Committee of Safety when the battle occurred, sent Samuel home to raise a company of riflemen for Virginia’s defense....

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Chalmers, James Ronald (11 January 1831–09 April 1898), Confederate general and U.S. congressman, was born in Halifax County, Virginia, the son of Joseph W. Chalmers, a lawyer, and Fannie Henderson. In 1839 the family moved to Holly Springs, Mississippi; his father became a prominent attorney there and served in the U.S. Senate. James Chalmers attended South Carolina College, graduating in 1851. Returning to Holly Springs, he studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1853. Between 1853 and 1858 he practiced law in Holly Springs. In 1858 he was elected district attorney and served in this office until 1861. He married Rebecca Arthur around 1865; they had one daughter. A Democrat in politics, he supported secession after Lincoln’s election and served as chairman of the committee on military affairs in the state convention of 1861 that took Mississippi out of the Union....