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McNeill, John Hanson (12 June 1815–10 November 1864), soldier and farmer, was born in Hardy County, Virginia (now W.Va.), the son of Strother McNeill and Amy Pugh, farmers. McNeill’s childhood and youth were made difficult by the death of his father when McNeill was only four years old. The dire circumstances of his family forced him to abandon school after only a few years and assist his mother in farming while he was still a child. In 1837 he married Jemima Harness Cunningham; they had four sons and one daughter....

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Pillow, Gideon Johnson (08 June 1806–08 October 1878), soldier, lawyer, and planter, was born in a log cabin in Williamson (now Maury) County, Tennessee, the son of Gideon Pillow, a pioneer planter, and Annie Payne. Gideon graduated from the University of Nashville in 1827 and, after reading law for three years in the offices of two judges, was admitted to the Tennessee bar in 1830. He hung out his shingle in Columbia, and, possessed of a “quick mind and a powerful speaking voice,” his civil and criminal practice flourished. In 1831 Pillow married Mary Elizabeth Martin. The union was blessed with ten children. The Martins were an affluent Middle Tennessee family, and Mary was a good manager, capable of overseeing family and business interests during her husband’s long absences from home....

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Shelby, Joseph Orville (12 December 1830–13 February 1897), planter and soldier, was born at Lexington, Kentucky, the son of Orville Shelby and his second wife, Anna Boswell. “Jo” Shelby studied at Transylvania University (1845–1848), followed by one year in Philadelphia. At age nineteen he moved to Lafayette County, Missouri, taking up planting and the manufacture of rope. He acquired a fortune but was increasingly distracted by the slavery controversy in “bleeding Kansas.” The slaveholding Shelby led proslavery volunteers in several raids but resumed his economic pursuits when antislavery forces triumphed in Kansas. In 1858 he married a distant cousin, Elizabeth Shelby; they had seven children....