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Alexander, Edward Porter (26 May 1835–28 April 1910), Confederate soldier and author, was born in Washington, Georgia, the son of Adam Leopold Alexander, a planter and banker, and Sarah Hillhouse Gilbert. Educated by tutors in his wealthy family’s household, Alexander entered the U.S. Military Academy in 1853 and graduated third in the class of 1857. He was commissioned a brevet second lieutenant of engineers on 1 July 1857 and was promoted to second lieutenant on 10 October 1858. Marked from the first as a promising officer, he taught at West Point immediately upon graduation, accompanied ...

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Barnes, James (28 December 1801–12 February 1869), railroad executive and soldier, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Captain William Barnes and Jane (maiden name unknown). He was educated at the Latin School of Boston and went into business after graduation; but he desired a military life and in 1825 secured an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Barnes was an excellent student and graduated fifth in the illustrious class of 1829, which included ...

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Boyle, Jeremiah Tilford (22 May 1818–28 July 1871), soldier and railroad entrepreneur, was born in Mercer County, Kentucky, the son of John Boyle, a judge, and Elizabeth Tilford. His father was described as “one of the most conspicuous figures in the public life of Kentucky for more than a third of a century” (Levin, p. 157). Boyle was educated at Centre and Transylvania colleges in his native state and in 1839 graduated from the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University). Admitted to the Kentucky bar in 1841, he practiced law in Harrodsburg and later that year in Danville. In 1842 he married Elizabeth Owsley Anderson; they had twelve children....

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Ambrose E. Burnside Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-B8172-1625).

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Burnside, Ambrose Everett (23 May 1824–13 September 1881), soldier and businessman, was born in Liberty, Indiana, the son of Pamelia Brown and Edghill Burnside, a law clerk and farmer. The Burnsides had nine children and only a modest income, so Ambrose received no more than a rudimentary education before starting work as an apprentice tailor in 1840. His father took advantage of a term in the state legislature to have the boy appointed to the United States Military Academy at West Point, which he entered on 1 July 1843. He graduated eighteenth out of thirty-eight cadets in the class of 1847 and was commissioned second lieutenant in the Third U.S. Artillery. His battery was serving in the Mexican War, and he joined it in Mexico City, too late to see action. Bored, he gambled away six months’ pay. Further embarrassment was prevented by a posting, in spring 1848, to Fort Adams, Rhode Island....

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Claire Lee Chennault Right, with Major General Gilbert Cheves, at the start of a softball game in China, each serving as captain of a team drawn from the men under their command, 1945. Courtesy of the National Archives (NWDNS-111-SC-203553).

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Chennault, Claire Lee (06 September 1893–27 July 1958), military officer and airline executive, was born in Commerce, Texas, the son of John Stonewall Jackson Chennault, a small-scale cotton grower, and Jessie Lee. Chennault grew up on a small farm in Franklin Parish in northeastern Louisiana. His mother died when he was eight years old. Two years later, his father married Lottie Barnes, a local schoolteacher. Educated in the nearby town of Gilbert, he entered Louisiana State University in 1909. Shortly thereafter, his stepmother, who had persuaded him to continue his education, died. “I was alone again,” he later wrote, “and really never found another companion whom I could so completely admire, respect, and love.”...

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Claghorn, George (06 July 1748–03 February 1824), army officer and shipwright, was born in Chilmark, Massachusetts, the son of Shubael Claghorn, a soldier, and Experience Hawes. He was a great-grandson of James Claghorn of Scotland, who was captured at the battle of Dunbar and deported to the colonies by Cromwell. His father was a veteran of the Louisburg expedition of 1745. Claghorn himself eventually settled in New Bedford and in 1769 married Deborah Brownell of Dartmouth. They had eight children....

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Drake, Francis Marion (30 December 1830–20 November 1903), army officer, railroad promoter and executive, and governor of Iowa, was born in the western Illinois hamlet of Rushville, the son of John Adams Drake, a merchant and small-time capitalist, and Harriet Jane O’Neal. Drake grew up in a family of modest means. In 1837 his father relocated the family to the raw frontier settlement of Fort Madison, Iowa, then part of Wisconsin Territory. The Drakes stayed in this Mississippi River community until March 1846, when they moved to inland Davis County. There Francis’s father founded the town of Drakesville and pursued agricultural and banking interests. Like his thirteen brothers and sisters Francis received rudimentary formal education. He attended public schools in Fort Madison, although he never graduated from high school. But Drake expanded his knowledge through his own initiative; he read widely and enthusiastically and associated with “learned” people....

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Dwight, William (14 July 1831–21 April 1888), soldier and businessman, was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, the son of William Dwight and Elizabeth Amelia White, occupations unknown. After attending a private military academy, Dwight received an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy in 1849. Because of poor grades he was dismissed from West Point on 31 January 1853. One of his subordinate officers during the Civil War later wrote that army gossip said that Dwight “was expelled from West Point on account of his drunkenness and shameless association with obscene women” (quoted in Bacon, p. 158). Dwight then entered the manufacturing business in Boston. He married Anna Robeson in 1856; the number of their children, if any, is unknown....

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Gadsden, James (15 May 1788–26 December 1858), soldier, politician, and railroad executive, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, the son of Philip Gadsden, and Catherine Edwards. He was the grandson of Christopher Gadsden, a merchant and revolutionary leader. Like his older brothers, he attended Yale, from which he was graduated in 1806. After leaving Yale he returned to Charleston and became a merchant. Gadsden married Susanne Gibbs Hort; the couple had no children....

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Gorrell, Edgar Staley (03 February 1891–05 March 1945), aviator and industrialist, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of Charles Edgar Gorrell, a carpenter, and Pamelia Smith. He entered the U.S. Military Academy in 1908, graduating in 1912 with a commission as a second lieutenant of infantry. In 1915 he attended the army’s Signal Corps Aviation School in Coronado, California, where he became a pilot. While serving with the First Aero Squadron during the Mexican Punitive Operation in 1916, he came to the attention of Brigadier General ...

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King, William (09 February 1768–17 June 1852), merchant shipper, army officer, and governor of Maine, was born in Scarborough, Maine, the son of Richard King, a merchant and shipowner, and Mary Black. He was educated at home, but he spent one term at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts....

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Logan, Thomas Muldrup (03 November 1840–11 August 1914), Confederate general and railroad developer, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, the son of Judge George William Logan and Anna D’Oyley. Raised in a family that had a rich tradition of service in law and the military, Logan graduated at the head of his class from South Carolina College in 1860. When the Civil War began one year later there was no doubt as to where his loyalty lay; he served as a volunteer at the bombardment of Fort Sumter and soon afterward was elected first lieutenant of Company A of the Hampton Legion of the Confederate army....

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Mahone, William (01 December 1826–08 October 1895), soldier, railroad executive, and politician, was born in Monroe, Virginia, the son of Fielding Mahone, a merchant, and Martha Drew. After studies at Littletown Academy, William entered the Virginia Military Institute in 1844. He graduated in 1847 and afterward taught at the Rappahannock Academy. At the end of the 1848–1849 academic year, he was appointed surveyor of the Orange and Alexandria Railroad. He remained in this post until 1852, when he was appointed chief engineer of the Fredericksburg and Valley Plank Road. He left that company one year later to accept the post of chief engineer of the Norfolk and Petersburg Railroad; in April 1860 he was elected president of the company. In 1855 he married Otelia Butler. Only three of the couple’s thirteen children reached maturity....

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Ogden, Aaron (03 December 1756–19 April 1839), soldier, public official, and entrepreneur, was born in Elizabethtown, New Jersey, the son of Robert Ogden II, a lawyer, and Phebe Hatfield. He attended the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University) and graduated with the class of 1773. Over the next three years he taught school, first in Princeton, then in Elizabethtown, but with the outbreak of hostilities between Great Britain and its American colonies, he was quickly drawn into the revolutionary confrontation....

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Horace Porter. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-104938).

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Porter, Horace (15 April 1837–29 May 1921), soldier, businessman, and diplomat, was born in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, the son of David Rittenhouse Porter, a businessman, politician, and governor, and Josephine McDermott. Educated at Lawrenceville Academy and the Lawrence Scientific School at Harvard (1854–1855), he entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point (1855), graduating third in the class of 1860. Commissioned a brevet second lieutenant in the Ordnance Branch, he remained at the academy as an artillery instructor before being assigned to the Watervliet Arsenal at Troy, New York....

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Eddie Rickenbacker Standing on the steps of an Eastern Air Lines airplane, c. 1930. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-100555).

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Rickenbacker, Edward Vernon (08 October 1890–23 July 1973), aviator and airline executive, was born in Columbus, Ohio, the son of William Rickenbacher, a construction worker and bridge builder, and Elizabeth Baseler. The son of Swiss immigrants, “Eddie” Rickenbacker’s formal education ended when he was thirteen and in seventh grade, after his father was fatally injured in a construction accident. He dropped out of school and began working twelve-hour night shifts in a factory to help support his family. His only academic preparations after that came from correspondence courses in mechanical and automotive engineering. He worked in a machine shop, an automobile garage, and for the Frayer-Miller Company, which manufactured automobiles....