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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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Boyd, John Parker (21 December 1764–04 October 1830), army officer and soldier of fortune, was born in Newburyport, Massachusetts, the son of James Boyd and Susanna (maiden name unknown). He developed military interests as a boy, and in 1786 he was appointed ensign in a Massachusetts infantry regiment suppressing Shays’s Rebellion (see ...

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Campbell, Arthur (03 November 1743–08 August 1811), frontiersman, soldier, and politician, was born in Augusta County, Virginia, the son of David Campbell and Mary Hamilton, immigrant Scotch-Irish Presbyterian farmers. He was not quite fifteen when, during the French and Indian War, he joined a company of Virginia rangers stationed in western Augusta County. At Fort Young on the Jackson River in September 1758, Campbell was captured by Wyandot Indians and spent two years in captivity in the vicinity of Detroit before escaping....

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Kit Carson. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-107570).

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Carson, Kit (24 December 1809–23 May 1868), mountain man, army officer, and Indian agent, was born Christopher Houston Carson in Madison County, Kentucky, the son of Lindsey Carson, a farmer and revolutionary war veteran, and Rebecca Robinson. In 1811 Lindsey Carson moved his family to Howard County, Missouri, to find “elbow room.” He died in 1818, hit by a falling limb while clearing timber from his land. Christopher enjoyed no schooling and never learned to read or write, other than signing his name to documents. In 1825 his mother and stepfather apprenticed him to David Workman, a Franklin, Missouri, saddler whom Kit described as a kind and good man. Nevertheless, he ran away because he found saddlemaking tedious and distasteful work and yearned to travel. Following in the footsteps of a brother and a half-brother who were in the Santa Fe trade, Carson joined a caravan as a “cavvy boy” (an assistant to the wrangler in charge of the horse and mule herd). Though not unsympathetic, Workman was obliged by law to advertise for his runaway. But he misleadingly suggested to readers of the ...

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Cocke, William (1748–22 August 1828), legislator, soldier, and Indian agent, was born in Amelia County, Virginia, the son of Abraham Cocke, a member of the tobacco gentry. As a young man, Cocke studied law and soon became prominent in public affairs. After moving in the early 1770s with his wife, Sarah Maclin (whom he married in 1773 or earlier), and the first of their nine children to a settlement in the Holston Valley near the present Virginia-Tennessee boundary, he served in the Virginia House of Delegates and was an officer in the Virginia militia. Sometime later, he married Keziah (or Kissiah) Sims; they had no children. While in the Holston Valley, he participated in the formation of Sullivan and Washington counties and held several minor positions. In 1776 he raised a company of troops, was commissioned captain, and established “Cocke’s Fort” in the nearby wilderness. He took part in several military encounters with the British and Indians and in 1780 led his troops—along with ...

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Emory, William Hemsley (07 September 1811–01 December 1887), soldier, surveyor, and cartographer, was born on the family plantation, “Poplar Grove,” in Queen Annes County, Maryland, the son of Thomas Emory and Anna Maria Hemsley. In July 1826 William Emory enrolled in the United States Military Academy, where his classmates, to whom he was known as Bold Emory, included ...

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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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Harrod, James (1742– July 1793), frontiersman and soldier, was born at Big Cove (in present-day Bedford County), Pennsylvania, the son of John Harrod and Sarah Moore, pioneer farmers. Harrod’s father, an immigrant from England, was killed by Indians in 1754. Harrod himself had no schooling and was barely literate, although in his youth he learned woodcraft. In 1755 the family narrowly escaped from a Delaware Indian raid. The sixteen-year-old Harrod served as a private in the campaign of 1758 against Fort Duquesne led by General ...

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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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Meriwether Lewis. In Indian garb. Engraving by Charles Balthazar Julien Févret de Saint-Mémin, published in The Analectic Magazine, 1816. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-11953).

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Meriwether Lewis. From an engraving by Charles Févret de Saint-Mémin, 1805. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZC4-2970).

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Lewis, Meriwether (18 August 1774–11 October 1809), explorer and soldier, was born in Albemarle County, Virginia, the son of William Lewis, a planter, and Lucy Meriwether. The family was prominent in the area, and moved in circles that included Thomas Jefferson. William Lewis died when his son was five. His mother remarried, and Lewis spent part of his childhood in Georgia. He returned to Virginia in his early teens and attended a number of local schools. His formal education ended at the age of eighteen. From that time on, he was in charge of “Locust Hill,” the family plantation in Albemarle County....

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Long, Stephen Harriman (30 December 1784–04 September 1864), army explorer and engineer, was born in Hopkinton, New Hampshire, the son of Moses Long, a farmer, tradesman, and local politician, and Lucy Harriman. In 1809 he graduated from Dartmouth College, and he spent the next five years teaching at Salisbury, New Hampshire, and Germantown, Pennsylvania. In those positions he demonstrated a high level of mathematical skill while becoming a surveyor and an inventor. Soon he came to the attention of U.S. army chief of engineers General ...

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Mullan, John (31 July 1830–28 December 1909), army explorer, road builder, and lawyer, was born in Norfolk, Virginia, the son of John Mullan, a civil servant, and Mary Bright. The eldest of ten children, Mullan grew up in Annapolis, Maryland, where his father was postmaster at the U.S. Naval Academy. He received his education, beginning at the age of nine, at St. John’s College in Annapolis, from which he received a B.A. in 1847 and an M.A. in 1855. Family tradition holds that Mullan sought a personal interview with President ...

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Zebulon Pike. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-19731).

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Pike, Zebulon Montgomery (05 January 1779–27 April 1813), soldier and explorer, was born in Lamberton (now Trenton), New Jersey, the son of Major Zebulon Pike, a soldier, and Isabella Brown. After attending school in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, Pike enlisted as a cadet in his father’s company at the age of fifteen. Five years later he was promoted to first lieutenant. During his first decade as a soldier, he was stationed at a number of frontier posts, among them Fort Allegheny, Fort Washington, Fort Knox, and Kaskaskia. Although he did not particularly distinguish himself during this time, he proved himself a diligent, courageous, and alert soldier and a good leader of men. He also manifested a determination to make something of himself, for he employed his leisure time in studying military history and tactics, mathematics, French, and Spanish. In 1801 he married Clarissa Brown, daughter of Senator ...

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Pryor, Nathaniel Hale (1772–01 June 1831), soldier and member of the Lewis and Clark expedition, was born in Amherst County, Virginia, the son of John Pryor (occupation unknown) and Nancy Floyd. In about 1782 Pryor moved with his parents to Jefferson County, Kentucky, and in 1798 he married Peggy Patton. Although Peggy Pryor may not have been living at the time he signed on with the expedition of ...

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Shelby, Evan ( October 1719–04 December 1794), frontiersman and soldier, was born in Tregaron, Cardiganshire, Wales, the son of Evan Shelby and Catherine (maiden name uncertain, possibly Davies). In 1735 the family immigrated to Pennsylvania, and in 1739 they moved to a 1,000-acre land grant near Hagerstown, Maryland. In 1744 Shelby married Letitia Cox; they had seven children. Letitia died in 1777, and he married Isabella Elliott in 1787; they had three children....

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Stansbury, Howard (08 February 1806–?18 Apr. 1863), soldier and explorer, was born in New York City, the son of Arthur Joseph Stansbury and Susanna Brown. In 1827 he married Helen Moody; they had two children. Stansbury was educated as a civil engineer and in October 1828 received his first significant assignment, which was to direct the series of surveys that were being undertaken with the goal of creating canals to link the Wabash River with Lake Erie and Lake Michigan. Between 1832 and 1835 he surveyed the route of what would become the Mad River and Lake Erie railroad, as well as the mouths of the Chagrin, Cumberland, and Vermilion rivers....