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Corbin, Margaret Cochran (12 November 1752–1800), revolutionary war heroine, was a . The details of her early life are based on an undocumented source that indicates she was born in Pennsylvania in what is now Franklin County, the daughter of Robert Cochran. Her mother’s name is not known. In 1756, Native Americans killed her father and abducted her mother. Margaret and her brother John, who might have been visiting their mother’s brother, escaped capture and were subsequently raised by their uncle. She was probably still living in Pennsylvania when she married John Corbin, a Virginian by birth, in about 1772. Although a 1782 source referred to a son being killed in the Revolution, the couple apparently had no children. When John went to war, Margaret, who at about five feet eight inches was tall for the era, accompanied him....

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David Crockett. Engraving after a portrait by John Gadsby Chapman. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-93521).

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Crockett, Davy (17 August 1786–06 March 1836), frontiersman, Tennessee and U.S. congressman, and folk hero, was born David Crockett in Greene County, East Tennessee, the son of John Crockett, a magistrate, unsuccessful land speculator, and tavern owner, and Rebecca Hawkins. John Crockett hired his son out to Jacob Siler in 1798 to help on a cattle drive to Rockbridge County, Virginia, and Siler tried forcibly to detain young Crockett after the completion of the job. The boy ran away at night, however, and arrived home in late 1798 or early 1799. Preferring to play hooky rather than attend school, he ran away from home to escape his father’s wrath. His “strategic withdrawal,” as he called it, lasted about thirty months while he worked at odd jobs and as a laborer and a wagon driver. When he returned home in 1802, he had grown so much that his family at first did not recognize him. He soon found that all was forgiven and reciprocated their generosity by working for a year to settle the debts that his father had incurred....

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Flora, William (fl. 1775–1818), war hero and businessman, was born probably in the vicinity of Portsmouth, Virginia, the son of free black parents, whose names are unknown. On the eve of the American Revolution fewer than 2,000 free blacks lived in Virginia. The colony’s statutes forbade the manumission of slaves except those who exposed an incipient slave uprising. Consequently, Flora, who was known as “Billy,” was probably descended from Africans who arrived in Virginia before 1640, when blacks were treated like indentured servants rather than slaves....

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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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Hart, Nancy (1735–1830), revolutionary war heroine, was born Ann Morgan, in Pennsylvania or North Carolina, the daughter of Thomas Morgan and Rebecca Alexander. Nothing is known of her childhood except that she grew up in North Carolina. Portrayed as “unlearned” in most accounts, she probably received little education. She married Benjamin Hart, a Virginia-born North Carolinian, with whom she had eight children. In the early 1770s the Harts migrated to Georgia and settled in the upcountry area that became Elbert County. There her revolutionary exploits took place. Like many uneducated eighteenth-century women who left no personal writings, the real Nancy Hart is an elusive figure, making it difficult to separate fact from myth. The early information of her deeds was oral tradition, with the earliest extant written accounts dating to the 1840s. She does not appear in the earliest Georgia histories, and even modern Georgia scholars have dealt with her in qualified terms....

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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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Molly Pitcher. Lithograph by Nathaniel Currier, c. 1886. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-5030).

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Pitcher, Molly (13 October 1754?–22 January 1832), revolutionary war heroine, was of uncertain origins; her birthplace, early family history, and heroic actions are all clouded in mystery and dispute. Only her actual first name, Mary, is accepted as definite. John B. Landis, in an influential 1911 study built on oral testimony, maintained that Mary was born near Trenton, New Jersey, that she was the daughter of John George Ludwig, a dairyman who came from the German Palatinate, and that she was employed as a domestic servant before her first marriage. However, these claims cannot be verified. There is better support for Landis’s claim, based on family testimony, that Mary married John (or John Casper) Hays, a Carlisle, Pennsylvania, barber, in 1769. C. P. Wing, who in 1878 had access to a family bible as well as to Mary’s granddaughter, who was thirty when Mary died, offered the same information about Mary’s first marriage. In addition, a marriage licence for a Mary Ludwick and Casper Hays was issued in the appropriate county in 1769. Nevertheless, D. W. Thompson and Merri Lou Schaumann, in a vital 1989 study, asserted that court records prove that Mary’s first husband was a William Hays and that she was never married to a John Hays. However, they do not have court records for the period before 1783. On balance, the evidence suggests that Mary did marry a John Hays of Carlisle in 1769. All scholars agree that Mary’s first marriage produced one son, John L. Hays (1780–1856)....

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Sampson, Deborah (17 December 1760–29 April 1827), revolutionary heroine and public speaker, was born in Plympton, Massachusetts, the daughter of Jonathan Sampson and Deborah Bradford, farmers. Born into a family that claimed a distinguished lineage from the days of the early Pilgrims in Massachusetts, Sampson endured a painful and impoverished childhood. Her father died when Deborah was five. She lived with an elderly female relative for three years and with a pastor’s widow for two more years before she was bound out as a servant to the family of Jeremiah Thomas in Middleborough, Massachusetts. Sampson thrived during the period of her indenture, learning manual skills and her letters. She became literate enough to teach school for a period of six months after she became free from her indenture in 1779. To this point in her life, little distinguished her from her fellows other than her physical strength. She was five feet seven inches, and observers commented on her sturdy physique....

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Shelby, Isaac (11 December 1750–18 July 1826), first governor of Kentucky and revolutionary war hero, was born near Hagerstown, Frederick County, Maryland, the son of Evan Shelby and Letitia Cox, farmers. The Shelby family originally came from Wales to Pennsylvania and then to Maryland. In 1773 the family moved to the Holston area of western Virginia, where they established a fort and small trading post....

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Patrick G. Williams

Sisson, Jack (1743?–1821), soldier, was also known as Tack Sisson, Guy Watson, or Prince. He was one of those African-American patriots whose lives were allowed by their contemporaries to become shrouded in obscurity. Little record exists of his whereabouts, activities, or circumstances before or after the exploit for which he is noted—the July 1777 abduction of Brigadier General Richard Prescott, commander of the redcoat garrison at Newport, Rhode Island. Sisson was among the forty volunteers Lieutenant Colonel ...

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Tarrant, Caesar (1740–1797), patriot, was born into slavery, probably at Hampton, Virginia. The identity of his parents is unknown. In his early adulthood, Caesar was sold to Carter Tarrant upon the death of his master Robert Hundley. His purchase price exceeded the normal price for male slaves because Tarrant had a particular skill, that of a river pilot. Just how Tarrant acquired the skill is unclear. Typically, the Tidewater area river pilot was white and passed the skill on to his son. In any case, Tarrant would eventually use this skill to parlay his freedom....

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Zachary Taylor. Photograph by Mathew B. Brady. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-13012 DLC).

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Taylor, Zachary (24 November 1784–09 July 1850), army hero and twelfth U.S. president, was born in Orange County, Virginia, the son of Richard Taylor, a revolutionary war officer and pioneer political leader, and Sarah Strother, a cousin of James Madison and Robert E. Lee...

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Thompson, Robert George (21 June 1915–16 October 1965), military hero and ranking American Communist Party figure, was born in Fruitdale, Oregon, the son of Harold Condon Thompson, a logger, and Ernestine Mell. Harold Thompson considered himself a Socialist but was not a member of the Socialist party (SP) or of the Industrial Workers of the World. Robert received little formal education, joining his father in the logging camps at age twelve; they later worked together in the lettuce fields....