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Anza, Juan Bautista de (07 July 1736–19 December 1788), military commander, explorer, and governor, was born in the presidio of Fronteras, Sonora, Mexico, the son of Juan Bautista de Anza, commandant of the post since 1719, and María Rafaela Becerra Nieto; his grandfather was commandant of Janos presidio, Chihuahua. Anza’s father was killed in combat in 1739, but Anza continued in the family tradition, and on 1 December 1752 entered the militia at Fronteras. On 1 July 1755 he was promoted to lieutenant at Fronteras, and, after participating in Indian campaigns in Sonora, he rose in 1760 to the rank of captain and commander of the presidio at Tubac (in present-day Arizona). On 24 June 1761 he married Ana María Pérez Serrano of Arizpe, Sonora, but no children were born of the union....

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Bonneville, Benjamin Louis Eulalie de (14 April 1796–12 June 1878), explorer and army officer, was born in or near Paris, France, the son of Nicolas de Bonneville, a writer-editor, and Margaret Brazier. During the French Revolution Bonneville’s father was prominent in the Cercle Social...

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Brainard, David Legg (21 December 1856–22 March 1946), soldier and Arctic explorer, was born in Norway, New York, the son of Alanson Brainard and Maria Legg, farmers. He attended public school in Norway until age ten, when the family moved to the John Corp farm at Freetown, New York, where his father also operated a dairy. Brainard attended the state normal school in Cortland....

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Bridger, James (17 March 1804–17 July 1881), fur trapper and trader, explorer, and scout, was born in a tavern near Richmond, Virginia, the son of James Bridger, a surveyor and innkeeper, and Chloe Tyler, a barmaid. Bridger and his family moved in about 1812 to a farm near St. Louis, where, on being orphaned five years later, he became a blacksmith’s apprentice. In 1822 he responded to an advertisement calling for a hundred able-bodied young men to join a fur-trapping expedition, lasting from one to three years, up to the headwaters of the Missouri River. The organizers of the expedition were ...

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Burnham, Frederick Russell (11 May 1861–01 September 1947), explorer, scout, and miner, was born in Tivoli, Minnesota, the son of Reverend Otway Burnham, a Congregational minister and missionary, and Rebecca Russell. One family story has it that his mother left him among corn stalks for an entire day while their settlement was under an Indian attack during the 1862 war with the Sioux. Certainly not proven, this story has an interesting ring to it, since Burnham was to spend much of his life hiding or escaping from American Indians or South African peoples during his career as a scout....

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Richard E. Byrd Photograph by Arnold Genthe, 1928. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-G412-BN-5390-001-B-x).

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Byrd, Richard Evelyn (25 October 1888–11 March 1957), naval aviator and explorer, was born in Winchester, Virginia, the son of Richard Evelyn Byrd, an attorney, and Eleanor Bolling Flood. The family had long been prominent in Virginia; Byrd’s brother Harry Flood Byrd served as governor and several terms as a U.S. senator. After traveling alone around the world at the age of twelve, Byrd attended the Shenandoah Valley Military Academy, Virginia Military Institute (1904–1907), the University of Virginia (1907–1908), and the U.S. Naval Academy, receiving his ensign’s commission in 1912....

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Danenhower, John Wilson (30 September 1849–20 April 1887), naval officer and arctic explorer, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of William Washington Danenhower, a publisher and political activist; his mother’s name is not known. After graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1870, he served in Europe, the North Pacific, and at the U.S. Naval Observatory. In 1878 he suffered a mental breakdown and was confined for four months at the Government Hospital for the Insane in Washington, D.C. After his release he served on the ...

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De Long, George Washington (22 August 1844–30 October 1881), naval officer and explorer, was born in New York City, the son of Levi De Long and Catherine Greames (occupations unknown). He grew up in Brooklyn and was fascinated with stories of American naval heroes during the War of 1812. His protective parents tried vigorously to dissuade him—their only child—from going to sea, but he gained entrance on his own to the U.S. Naval Academy, which at the time was located at Newport, Rhode Island. He graduated with distinction in 1865, too late to participate in the Civil War. He was assigned as a midshipman aboard the U.S.S. ...

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Denys de la Ronde, Louis (02 August 1675–25 March 1741), French military officer, explorer, and spy, was born in Quebec City, Canada, the son of Pierre Denys de la Ronde, a landowner and merchant (the Crown had given the aristocracy in Canada permission to engage in trade), and Catherine Leneuf de la Potherie. He entered naval service in 1687 as a midshipman in France. During the war of 1689–1697 he served in exiled British king James II’s expedition to Ireland, then off the coast of England, and finally on several voyages to New France and along the coast of New England. Captured at sea in 1695, he was soon released in an exchange of prisoners of war. He served in ...

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Fabry De La Bruyère, André (fl. 1733–1750), explorer and French colonial officer, , first appears as a commission clerk in French Louisiana in 1733. Nothing is known about Fabry’s birth and parentage. In 1735 he became secretary to Governor Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville...

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Gass, Patrick (12 July 1771–02 April 1870), soldier and member of the Lewis and Clark expedition, was born at Falls Springs, near Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, the son of Benjamin Gass, Jr., and Mary McLene (occupations unknown). At the time he joined the Meriwether Lewis...

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A. W. Greely. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62--95948).

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Greely, Adolphus Washington (27 March 1844–20 October 1935), soldier and arctic explorer, was born in Newburyport, Massachusetts, the son of John Balch Greely, a shoemaker, and Frances D. Cobb, a cotton mill weaver. Greely graduated from Brown High School, Newburyport, in 1860, and in the following year, at the age of seventeen, he joined the Nineteenth Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. He served as a private, corporal, and first sergeant and was hospitalized for wounds sustained at Antietam, including a facial injury, which he covered with a beard for the remainder of his life. On furlough in 1863 he accepted a commission as a second lieutenant in the Fourth U.S. Volunteers (later Eighty-first U.S. Colored Infantry), stationed in Louisiana....

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Ives, Joseph Christmas (25 December 1828–12 November 1868), soldier, engineer, and explorer, was born in New York City, the son of Ansel Wilmot Ives and Laura (maiden name unknown), occupations unknown. Little is known of his early years. Apparently, he was raised in a boardinghouse in New Haven, Connecticut. He attended Yale College and graduated fifth in his class at West Point in 1852. Commissioned as a brevet second lieutenant of ordnance, Ives served at the Watervliet, New York, arsenal (1852–1853) and was transferred to the topographical engineers in 1853. He was an assistant topographical engineer on the Pacific Railroad Survey (1853–1854) and in the Pacific Railroad Office in Washington, D.C. (1854–1857). In 1855 he married Cora Semmes, who came from a prominent southern family; they eventually had three children, all sons, two of whom would serve in the U.S. military. In 1857 Ives was promoted to first lieutenant and was named to lead an expedition up the Colorado River in order to develop potential routes of supply in the event of a war between the national government and the Mormon settlements in Deseret (Utah)....

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La Vérendrye, Pierre Gaultier de (17 November 1685–05 December 1749), explorer, military officer, and post commander, was born in Trois-Rivières, Canada, the son of René Gaultier de Varennes, a governor of Trois-Rivières, and Marie-Ursule Boucher, the daughter of Pierre Boucher, a former governor of Trois-Rivières....

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Lander, Frederick West (17 December 1821–02 March 1862), topographical engineer and explorer, was born in Salem, Massachusetts, the son of Edward Lander, a well-to-do factory owner, and Eliza West. Educated at private academies, he later studied engineering privately and at Norwich Military Academy in preparation for a career as an assistant engineer for eastern railroads. ...

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Bienville. Engraving by John Chester Buttre. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-100821).

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Le Moyne, Jean-Baptiste (baptized 23 Feb. 1680–07 March 1767), French soldier, explorer, and governor of colonial Louisiana, was born in Montréal, New France, the son of Charles Le Moyne, sieur de Longueuil et de Châteauguay, a provincial nobleman, and Catherine Thierry Primot. Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne inherited the title ...

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Le Moyne, Pierre (baptized 20 July 1661–09 July 1706), French soldier, explorer, and governor of colonial Louisiana, was born at Ville-Marie de Montréal, New France, the son of Charles Le Moyne, sieur de Longueuil et de Châteauguay, a provincial nobleman, and Catherine Thierry Primot. The early life of Pierre Le Moyne, known as the sieur d’Iberville, is veiled in obscurity. It is known that he was groomed for naval duty by his influential father through service aboard his father’s ship. In 1683 he was entrusted with Governor Le Febvre de La Barre’s dispatches for the French Crown. It was also in that year that Jeanne-Geneviève Picoté de Belestre’s guardians brought a paternity suit against Iberville, claiming that the young Canadian officer was responsible for her pregnancy. The Conseil Souverain, Canada’s court of last resort, concurred with the plaintiffs and ordered Iberville to support the child until its fifteenth birthday....