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Buffalo Bill Cody. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-111880).

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Cody, William Frederick (26 February 1846–10 January 1917), frontiersman and entertainer, better known as “Buffalo Bill,” was born in Scott County, Iowa, the son of Isaac Cody and Mary Ann Bonsell Laycock. Cody’s father managed several farms and operated a state business in Iowa. In 1854 the family moved to the Salt Creek Valley in Kansas, where Cody’s father received a government contract to provide hay to Fort Leavenworth. After his father died in 1857, Cody went to work as an ox-team driver for fifty cents a day. Shortly thereafter, the firm of Majors and Russell hired him as an express boy. Cody attended school periodically, although his formal education ended in 1859 when he joined a party heading to Denver to search for gold. He prospected for two months without any luck. He arrived back in Kansas in March 1860 after a trapping expedition. He rode for a time for the Pony Express during its short lifetime (Apr. 1860–Nov. 1861). After the start of the Civil War he joined a group of antislavery guerrillas based in Kansas. Later the Ninth Kansas Volunteers hired him as a scout and guide. On 16 February 1864 Cody enlisted into Company F of the Seventh Kansas Volunteer Cavalry. He saw quite a bit of action in Tennessee, Missouri, Arkansas, and Kansas during his one year and seven months of duty. He was mustered out of the army as a private on 29 September 1865....

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Harbord, James Guthrie (21 March 1866–20 August 1947), army officer and corporation executive, was born in Bloomington, Illinois, the son of George Washington Harbord, a farmer who had served as a cavalryman in the Union army during the Civil War, and Effie Critton Gault. When James was a child, around 1870, the family moved to Pettis County, Missouri, then in 1878 to Lyon County, Kansas. Growing up on the family farm, Harbord had an active, outdoors-oriented boyhood, but he also was an avid reader. After high school he enrolled at Kansas State Agricultural College, a land-grant institution, where military training fostered his interest in an army career. Upon graduating in 1886 with a B.S., he taught school for two years while unsuccessfully trying to obtain an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy. When this attempt failed, Harbord enlisted on 10 January 1889 as a private in Company A, Fourth U.S. Infantry....

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Harney, William Selby (22 August 1800–09 May 1889), soldier, was born in Haysborough, Tennessee, the son of Thomas Harney, a merchant and surveyor, and Margaret Hudson. Harney was first home educated and later received advanced schooling at Cumberland College. He began his U.S. Army career in 1818 when he was commissioned second lieutenant. Harney was an ambitious, daring, and impulsive officer, traits that would both help and hinder his military career....

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Murphy, Audie (20 June 1924–28 May 1971), soldier and film actor, was born Audie Leon Murphy in Hunt County, Texas, the son of Emmett Murphy and Josie Bell Killian, tenant farmers. Murphy was reared in the rural poverty familiar to Texas sharecropping families in the 1920s and 1930s. With barely a fifth-grade education, he left home at fifteen, facing what looked to be a bleak future. Then came Pearl Harbor, and, just after his eighteenth birthday in June 1942, he enlisted in the army. Shorter, thinner, and younger than the average GI, Murphy as an infantryman capitalized on his hunting skills and, from Sicily, through Italy and France, and into Germany, exhibited uncommon aggressiveness against the enemy. His prowess and initiative in combat earned him a battlefield commission and his country’s highest decorations, including the Congressional Medal of Honor for his daring standoff (firing a machine gun atop a burning tank destroyer) against a German counterattack at the Colmar Pocket in Alsace in January 1945....