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Allen, Henry Watkins (29 April 1820–22 April 1866), Confederate soldier and governor of Louisiana, was born in Prince Edward County, Virginia, the son of Thomas Allen, a physician, and Ann Watkins. Allen and his family moved from Virginia to Ray County, Missouri, when he was thirteen. His father secured him a position working in a store, but Allen found business distasteful and enrolled in Marion College at age fifteen. At seventeen he ran away from college and traveled to Grand Gulf, Mississippi, where he became a tutor on a plantation a few miles outside of town. After tutoring for two years, Allen moved to Grand Gulf to open his own school and to study law. On 25 May 1841 he received his license to practice law in Mississippi. In 1842, when Allen was becoming an established lawyer in Mississippi, President ...

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John André. A rendering of his capture at Tarrytown, New York. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZC4-2395).

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André, John (02 May 1750–02 October 1780), British officer and spy, was born in London, England, the son of Anthony André, a merchant, and Marie Louise Girardot. His early schooling was with a tutor, the Reverend Thomas Newcomb, and he may have attended St. Paul’s School. In his teens André studied mathematics and military drawing at the University of Geneva, giving vent to his romantic temperament by dreaming of a military career. He was rudely brought back to reality by his merchant father when he was called home to work in the countinghouse before he completed a degree. Despising the family business, he nevertheless labored at it manfully for a number of years. After his father died on 14 April 1769, he felt a particular obligation as the eldest son to continue the business, even though his father had left him financially independent, with a small fortune of £5,000. In the summer of 1769 he joined a Lichfield literary group presided over by Anna Seward, a poet. The group included a young lady named Honora Sneyd, for whom he developed a passion. They became engaged and courted for a year and a half before she suddenly rejected him for another man at a Christmas party in 1770. Shattered by this betrayal, André revived his earlier ambition to become a soldier and in early 1771 bought a second lieutenant’s commission in the 23d Regiment, Royal Welsh Fusiliers. Later he purchased a first lieutenancy in the same regiment....

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Benedict Arnold. Engraving from a painting by John Trumbull. Courtesy of the National Archives (NWDNS-148-GW-617).

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Arnold, Benedict (14 January 1741–14 June 1801), revolutionary war general and traitor, was born in Norwich, Connecticut, the son of Benedict Arnold III, a merchant, and Hannah Waterman King. Of his mother’s eleven children, only he and a younger sister survived. At age eleven he was sent away to grammar school, but he left two years later when his alcoholic father lost the family’s fortune. Apprenticed to his mother’s cousin, an apothecary in Norwich, he volunteered in three campaigns (1757–1759) of the French and Indian War, deserting finally to be with his dying mother. His father died soon after, leaving little except debts, but his generous master paid the debts and set Arnold up in business when he decided to move to New Haven in 1762....

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Bancroft, Edward (09 January 1744–08 September 1821), physician, scientist, and spy, was born in Westfield, Massachusetts, the son of Edward Bancroft and Mary Ely, farmers. The elder Bancroft died in 1746 of an epileptic attack suffered in a pigpen, two months before the birth of his younger son, Daniel. His widow married David Bull of Westfield in 1751, and the family moved to Hartford, Connecticut, where Bull operated the Bunch of Grapes tavern. Edward Bancroft was taught for a time by the recent Yale graduate ...

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Barlow, Francis Channing (19 October 1834–11 January 1896), lawyer and soldier, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of the Reverend David Hatch Barlow, a Unitarian minister, and Almira Penniman, who were divorced in 1849. Barlow was raised by his mother and spent his youth living in Massachusetts. Graduating first in the Harvard class of 1855, Barlow journeyed to New York City, working briefly as a private tutor. In 1856 he undertook the study of law and was admitted to the bar in April 1858....

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Barron, James (1769–21 April 1851), naval officer, was born in Virginia, the younger of two naval sons of James Barron, a merchant captain and officer of the Virginia navy in the Revolution, and Jane Cowper. The older son, Samuel Barron, also commanded in the U.S. Navy and was senior to James. James Barron began his sea service before the age of twelve on board his father’s ship in the Virginia service. He was commissioned a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy in 1798, presumably having sailed in merchant vessels in the intervening years, since he would be known throughout the service for his masterful seamanship. In 1790 he married Elisabeth Mosely Armistead, another Virginian; the Barrons’ first child, Jane, was born in 1791....

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Benning, Henry Lewis (02 April 1814–10 July 1875), soldier and jurist, was born in Columbia County, Georgia, the son of Pleasant Moon Benning and Malinda Meriwether White, planters. In 1834 he graduated with honors from the University of Georgia, Athens. Soon afterward he moved to Columbus, where he was admitted to the bar. Barely two years after entering upon his profession, Benning was appointed solicitor general for his judicial circuit. In 1839 he married Mary Howard Jones, daughter of a prominent Columbus attorney with whom Benning formed a partnership. They had ten children....

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Elizabeth Bentley. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-109688).

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Bentley, Elizabeth Terrill (01 January 1908–03 December 1963), Communist party activist and government witness, was born in New Milford, Connecticut, the daughter of Charles Prentiss Bentley, a newspaper editor and department store manager, and Mary Burrill, a schoolteacher. After growing up in small towns in Connecticut, New York, and Pennsylvania, Bentley enrolled in Vassar College and in 1930 received an undergraduate degree in English. While at Vassar, she became involved in a variety of Socialist causes but did not demonstrate any interest in more radical left-wing ideas. For two years following graduation, she taught languages at the Foxcroft School in Middleburg, Virginia, but left in 1932 for Columbia University, where she earned her M.A. in Italian in 1935. While working on her graduate degree, she accepted a fellowship that took her to the University of Florence for the 1933–1934 academic year....

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Birney, William (28 May 1819–14 August 1907), soldier, journalist, and lawyer, was born in Madison County, Alabama, the son of James Gillespie Birney, a lawyer, state legislator, and abolitionist leader, and Agatha McDowell. In 1818 his family had moved to Huntsville, Alabama, and in late 1835 they relocated to New Richmond, Ohio. Birney was educated at four colleges, including Yale University, and graduated from Cincinnati Law School in 1841. He began practicing law in that city and in 1845 married Catherine Hoffman. They would have nine children. For five years thereafter he resided on the Continent and in England. He contributed essays on the arts to English and American newspapers, and he upheld the activist reputation of his family by opposing French troops as a member of a Republican student battalion in Paris. In 1848 he accepted an appointment as professor of English literature at the lycée in Bourges....

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Bloomfield, Joseph (18 October 1753–08 October 1823), lawyer, soldier, and politician, was born in Woodbridge, New Jersey, the son of Moses Bloomfield, a physician, and Sarah Ogden. The family was one of the most prominent in colonial New Jersey. His father had received a first-rate medical education in Edinburgh, Scotland, and had a thriving practice in Middlesex County by the time Joseph was born. Joseph’s mother was a member of a wealthy and influential family of Elizabethtown, which further assured Joseph’s upper-class pedigree. His education and choice of occupation were in line with his social standing. While in his early teens, he attended the Reverend Enoch Green’s classical academy in Deerfield, Cumberland County, at the opposite end of the province from Woodbridge. Upon graduation, Bloomfield returned to East Jersey, determined to be a lawyer. He entered the profession at the top, studying in Perth Amboy with Cortlandt Skinner, attorney general of New Jersey, and was admitted to the bar in November 1774. Setting up practice in Bridgeton, Cumberland County, he soon became known and respected in all of New Jersey’s southern counties. The future seemed secure, had not the American Revolution intervened....

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Belle Boyd. Albumen silver print, c. 1864, by Unidentified Artist. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

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Boyd, Belle (09 May 1844–11 June 1900), Confederate spy, was born in Martinsburg, Virginia (now West Virginia), the daughter of Reed Boyd, a store owner and manager of a farm, and Mary Rebecca Glenn. Both parents were from prominent Virginia families, and young Belle (christened Isabelle) was educated at Mount Washington Female College in Baltimore. When the Civil War broke out, she returned to her home and began raising funds for the Confederate army....

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Brearly, David (11 June 1745–16 August 1790), jurist and revolutionary war officer, was born at “Spring Grove” farm, near Maidensead (now Lawrenceville), New Jersey, the son of David Brearly and Mary Clark, farmers. The family name was sometimes spelled “Brearley.” His early education is unknown, and he may have briefly attended the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University). He studied law and became an attorney at Allentown, New Jersey, where he made his residence. Brearly participated in the revolutionary movement and became associated with men involved in protest against Great Britain before the war who were later dubbed the “early Whigs” and who would dominate East New Jersey politics. In his law practice, he specialized in estate matters; he was appointed Monmouth County surrogate in 1768 and 1771. About 1767 Brearly married Elizabeth Mullen; they had four children before she died in 1777....

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Browne, John Ross (11 February 1821–08 December 1875), writer, world traveler, and government agent, was born in Beggars Bush, near Dublin, Ireland, the son of Thomas Egerton Browne and Elana Buck. His father was a refugee from British rule. As the editor of three publications, Thomas Browne satirized British tithing measures and earned the enmity of the Crown, a fine, and a jail sentence for “seditious libel.”...

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Burke, Michael (08 June 1918–05 February 1987), intelligence operative and sports executive, was born in Enfield, Connecticut, the son of Patrick Burke, an attorney, and Mary Fleming. After Patrick Burke graduated from the Yale University Law School, the family moved to County Galway, Ireland, where they lived from 1918 to 1925. Each side of the family claimed ancestry as far back as the Norman invasion of 1169....

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Aaron Burr. Engraving on paper, c. 1793 - 1814, by Charles Balthazar Julien Févret de Saint-Mémin. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon.

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Burr, Aaron (06 February 1756–14 September 1836), revolutionary soldier, U.S. senator, and vice president of the United States, was born in Newark, New Jersey, the son of Aaron Burr, a theologian and the second president of the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University), and ...