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Allen, William Henry (21 October 1784–18 August 1813), U.S. naval officer and hero of the War of 1812, was born in Providence, Rhode Island, the son of militia general William Allen, a veteran of the Revolution, and Sarah Jones, sister of William Jones, future governor of Rhode Island. William Henry’s parents were prosperous members of Providence society and intended for him to follow a civilian career. His early education provided him with a good grounding in penmanship and mathematics (the latter proved useful in his naval career) and also with considerable skill as an artist. He made very competent sketches in his letters and the blank pages of his journals and did pen and ink portraits of his family. His only surviving likeness, a profile portrait, is probably based on a sketch done by Allen himself....

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Bailey, Ann Hennis Trotter (1742–22 November 1825), revolutionary war scout, was born in Liverpool, England. Little is known about her parents, although it is believed that her father had been a soldier under the duke of Marlborough’s command. As Bailey was literate, she received an education in Liverpool, although details of it are not recorded. Orphaned as a young adult, she immigrated to America in the wake of relatives named Bell. She arrived in Staunton, Virginia, at the Bells’ home, in 1761. In 1765 she married Richard Trotter, a frontiersman and Indian fighter, and they had a son in 1767. Lord Dunmore, the royal governor of Virginia, recruited men in 1774 to fight the marauding Indians who were disrupting the settlers on or near the Scioto River. Richard Trotter volunteered and followed Colonel Charles Lewis to the point where the Kanawha and Ohio rivers meet, known as Point Pleasant. He was killed in the battle there on 10 October 1774....

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Carney, William Harvey (1840–after 1901), Union army sergeant and first African American awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, was born in Norfolk, Virginia, the son of William Carney and Ann, a former slave. Little is known of his early years. As a young boy he expressed an interest in the ministry, and at the age of fourteen, in 1854, he attended a covertly run school under the tutelage of a local minister. Later he moved to New Bedford, Massachusetts, where he took odd jobs in the hope of saving sufficient funds to acquire his religious training....

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Hale, Nathan (06 June 1755–22 September 1776), martyr of the American Revolution, was born in Coventry, Connecticut, the son of Richard Hale and Elizabeth Strong, successful farmers. A sickly infant, he barely survived his first year, but as he grew he became an outdoorsman and a powerful athlete. He enjoyed reading, and his father decided to prepare him for the ministry, first by hiring Rev. Joseph Huntington to tutor him and then by sending him in 1769 to Yale College. At Yale he was widely admired by his teachers and fellow students. Dr. ...

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Jones, John Paul (06 July 1747–18 July 1792), revolutionary war naval officer and hero, was born John Paul in Kirkbean, Kirkcudbrightshire, on the southwestern coast of Scotland, the son of John Paul, a gardener, and Jean MacDuff. After attending the local Presbyterian school, he apprenticed at age thirteen to a shipowner at the nearby port of Whitehaven. His first ship made several voyages that carried provisions to Barbados, thence rum and sugar to Virginia, and returned to Whitehaven with tobacco. The postwar economic slump ended his apprenticeship and sent him briefly into the slave trade, which he called “abominable.” At twenty-one Paul was master and supercargo of a ship sailing out of Kirkcudbright to the West Indies. Returning to Scotland from Tobago, he was briefly jailed in 1770 on a charge of murder, for having flogged a sailor who later died. Exonerated, Paul became the master of a large West Indies trader out of London. Again he found trouble in Tobago: during a mutiny he killed a sailor in what he claimed was self-defense. Perhaps in fear for his life, he fled to Virginia in October 1773 and became “Mr. John Jones.”...

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John Paul Jones. Color lithograph with the inscription "Painted after an etching by Moreau made from the life in 1780." Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZC4-2761).

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Kelly, Colin Purdie (11 July 1915–10 December 1941), army pilot, was born in Madison, Florida, the son of Colin Purdie Kelly, Sr., and Mary Mays. After attending high school in his hometown, Kelly spent a year at the Marion Military Institute in Florida before receiving an appointment to West Point in 1933. While there, he met Marion Wick, a stenographer, whom he wed in 1937, shortly after graduation; they had one son. Although commissioned as a second lieutenant in the infantry, Kelly requested to be assigned to the Army Air Corps, and in September he was sent to Randolph Field to receive his pilot’s training. In October 1939 he went to Texas for advanced training. In January 1940 formal induction into the Army Air Corps followed and Kelly was assigned to the Nineteenth Bombing Group at March Field, California. Kelly made captain on 9 September 1940. His career would have been similar to that of most young officer graduates in World War II had it not been for circumstances surrounding his death....

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Lafayette, James (1748–09 August 1830), patriot spy, also known to history as James Armistead, was born in slavery; little is recorded of his parentage or early life except that he belonged to William Armistead of New Kent County, Virginia. In the summer of 1781 James was attending his master while Armistead worked as a commissary in Richmond, supplying patriot forces under the command of the ...

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Dorie Miller. In background, ships at Pearl Harbor are depicted sinking. Poster by David Stone Martin, 1943. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZC4-2328).

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Miller, Dorie (12 October 1919–24 November 1943), African-American war hero, was born Doris Miller in Waco, Texas, the son of Conery Miller and Henrietta (maiden name unknown), sharecroppers. Miller attended Waco’s segregated Moore High School and became the school’s 200-pound star fullback. As the third of four sons in a family engaged in subsistence farming, however, he was forced to drop out of school to find work. In September 1939 he joined the navy as a mess attendant....