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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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Ashe, John (1720?–24 October 1781), colonial politician and military officer, was born in the Albemarle Sound region of North Carolina, the son of John Baptista Ashe, an assemblyman, and Elizabeth Swann. In late 1727 the elder Ashe moved south from Beaufort County and purchased a 640-acre plantation near the Cape Fear River. There, John Ashe was tutored in Latin, Greek, and French. Entering Harvard as a member of the class of 1746, he proved to be a rebellious student, continually chafing against authority and chronically absenting himself from class....

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Barnwell, John (1671– June 1724), frontier settler and Indian fighter, was the son of Alderman Matthew Barnwell of Dublin, Ireland, and Margaret Carberry. The elder Barnwell was killed in the siege of Derry in 1690 as a captain in James II’s Irish army, which attempted to restore the last Stuart king after the revolution of 1688. The family seat, Archerstown in County Meath, was forfeited as a result of this support of James II against William and Mary....

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Berkeley, Sir William (03 July 1606–09 July 1677), royal governor and captain general of Virginia, was born in or near London, the son of Sir Maurice Berkeley, a well-connected gentleman of distinguished family. He was the brother of John, first Baron Berkeley of Stratton, a colonial proprietary. He entered Queen’s College, Oxford, in February 1623 and received his B.A. in July 1624 from St. Edmund Hall, Oxford. Five years later, he completed his M.A. at Merton College, Oxford. A charming, intelligent, well-connected gentleman, Berkeley became a favorite of King Charles I and was created a member of the Privy Chamber. In 1632 he was appointed a Commissioner of Canadian affairs and executed the office with distinction. He authored a number of notable plays, among them ...

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Bland, Theodorick (21 March 1742–01 June 1790), revolutionary soldier and politician, was born in Prince George County, Virginia, the son of Theodorick Bland, a planter, and Frances Bolling. In 1753 he was sent to Wakefield in Yorkshire, England, for schooling, remaining there until taking up medical studies in Liverpool in 1759. Two years later he transferred to the University of Edinburgh and received an M.D. degree in 1763. In Edinburgh and later in London Bland cut a fashionable figure, chivied by friends for his “monstrous large Whig.” He was also known as “something of a politician,” and it was with reluctance that he heeded his father’s call to return to Virginia in 1764. There he began his medical practice with all its attendant “distresses, cares and anxieties,” the “immense fatigue” of which caused him to retire from the profession in 1771. Wishing for a “calm, quiet, and philosophical life, in a rural situation,” Bland became a planter in Prince George County....

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Brown, Thomas (27 May 1750–03 August 1825), revolutionary war soldier and superintendent of the Southern Indian Department, was born in Whitby, England, the son of Jonas Brown, a shipowner and alum manufacturer, and Margaret Jackson. Captain Cook, the celebrated explorer, was a near neighbor during Thomas Brown’s youth. After several voyages to America on his father’s ships, Brown decided to seek his fortune on Georgia’s newly ceded lands above Augusta in 1773. With the financial support of his father, Brown recruited seventy-four indentured servants in Yorkshire and in the Orkney Islands and sailed for Georgia in August 1774. A second contingent of the same number followed a year later....

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Buade, Louis de (22 May 1622–28 November 1698), French soldier and courtier, was born at Saint-Germain-en-Laye, the son of Henri de Buade and Anne Phélypeaux de Pontchartrain, aristocrats. On his father’s side he was descended from the old nobility of the sword and on his mother’s from the ascending nobility of the robe. His father, comte de Frontenac, baron (later comte) de Palluau, and colonel of the Régiment de Navarre, was highly regarded by Louis XIII, who stood as godfather to the infant Louis at his baptism....

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Butler, Richard (01 April 1743–04 November 1791), soldier and government official, was born in St. Bridget’s Parish, Dublin, Ireland, the son of Thomas Butler, the younger son of a baron, and Eleanor Parker. In 1748 the family immigrated to Pennsylvania and subsequently farmed in Cumberland County. During ...

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Coffin, John (1756–12 June 1838), Loyalist and British general, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Nathaniel Coffin, the last receiver general and cashier of His Majesty’s Customs at Boston, and Elizabeth Barnes. Coffin attended the Boston Latin School and went to sea at an early age. He rose to command of a ship by the age of eighteen, and in 1775 he was engaged to bring a regiment of British troops from England to Boston, which at that time had just broken out in armed rebellion against King George III. Coffin appears to have had no conflict in his loyalties; he brought the troops on his ship to Boston and soon engaged in the war on the side of the king....

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Coffin, Sir Isaac (16 May 1759–23 July 1839), Loyalist and British admiral, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Nathaniel Coffin, the last receiver general and cashier of His Majesty’s Customs at Boston, and Elizabeth Barnes. Born into a family of wealth and social prominence, Isaac Coffin attended the Boston Latin School and then entered the British Royal Navy in May 1773. Assigned to the brig ...

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Crane, John (07 December 1744–21 August 1805), soldier and patriot, was born in Braintree, Massachusetts, the son of Abijah Crane and Sarah Beverly. Crane entered into his profession of soldiering at an early age. In 1759 he volunteered to serve in the French and Indian War in the place of his father, who had been drafted. Nothing specific is known of his service in that war. He returned from the conflict and learned the trade of housewright. In 1767 he married Mehitable Wheeler. That same year he set up a shop with his brother on Tremont Street in Boston and soon became associated with the organization of the Sons of Liberty. It is not known whether Crane wrestled with the competing notions of loyalty to the king and patriotism for Massachusetts, but in 1773 some members of the group that undertook the Boston Tea Party met at his shop and dressed themselves as Indians prior to the event. Crane went to the tea ships with his fellows, and while in the hold of one of the three ships, he was knocked unconscious when a tea chest fell on him. His companions took him to be dead and left him buried underneath a pile of wood shavings in a carpenter’s shop near the wharf, but Crane recovered....

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Dale, Sir Thomas (?–09 August 1619), soldier, of unknown parentage, served as deputy governor and lord marshal of the Virginia settlement (1611–1616) and in that capacity was twice acting governor of the colony. Dale himself tells us almost all there is to know of his life before his involvement with the Virginia venture, writing to the states-general of the Netherlands in 1618 that he had “served this country about thirty years, first as a soldier and last as a captain.” Taken at face value, this statement suggests that he was of the English yeomanry and was impressed or volunteered to serve as a common soldier in the earl of Leicester’s expedition of 1588 to the Low Countries. He was, to judge from his subsequent career, able and ambitious, and England’s military society was fluid. By 1594 he was serving as a captain in an English expedition in Ireland; subsequently he was in French service, then in 1599–1601 he was back in Ireland, serving with the earl of Essex. He seems to have escaped involvement in Essex’s treason, but it is not until 1603 that we again find him with a military command, serving as a garrison captain in the Dutch town of Terthol. He was still in Dutch service when, in 1610–1611, he was recruited by the Virginia Company of London for service in Virginia....

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Dayton, Jonathan (16 October 1760–09 October 1824), revolutionary war officer and congressman, was born in Elizabethtown (now Elizabeth), New Jersey, the son of Elias Dayton, a wealthy merchant and revolutionary war general, and Hannah Rolfe. Dayton probably attended Elizabethtown Academy (a grammar school). He entered the College of New Jersey (Princeton) about 1774 and graduated in 1776, although he missed the commencement because he had joined the Continental army....

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Gage, Thomas (1719 or 1720–02 April 1787), soldier and the last royal governor of Massachusetts, was born in Firle, Sussex, England, the son of Thomas Gage, first Viscount Gage of the Irish peerage, who had for political reasons abandoned his family’s traditional Roman Catholicism and joined the Church of England, and Benedicta or Beata Maria Theresa Hall, an heiress who gained notoriety for her alleged promiscuity. The year of Gage’s birth traditionally has been given as 1721, but the fact that he entered school in 1728 suggests that he was actually born in 1719 or early 1720. Gage spent much of his early childhood at his mother’s family seat in Gloucestershire. During his eight years at the Westminster school (1728–1736), Gage associated with a number of youths who would later achieve military and political prominence....

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Gayoso de Lemos, Manuel (30 May 1747–18 July 1799), Spanish army officer, governor of the Natchez district, and governor general of Louisiana, was born in Oporto, Portugal, the son of Manuel Luis Gayoso de Lemos y Sarmiento, a Spanish consul general, and Theresa Angelica Amorín y Magallanes. Educated in England, he developed a capacity for languages and diplomacy. He entered the army’s Lisbon Infantry Regiment as a cadet in 1771 and began a slow rise in rank....

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Graham, Joseph (13 October 1759–12 November 1836), revolutionary soldier, political leader, and iron entrepreneur, was born in Chester County, Pennsylvania, the son of James Graham and Mary McConnell Barber, farmers. Graham’s father rented the land he farmed. Upon his death in 1763, his mother joined the great Scotch-Irish migration to the South, moving her family to the Carolina back country via Charleston, South Carolina. Eventually the widow Graham and her five children—three sons and two daughters—settled in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, where in 1771 she purchased a 200-acre farm near Charlotte....

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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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Houstoun, John (1750?–20 July 1796), lawyer, soldier, and politician, was born in St. George’s Parish, Georgia, the son of Sir Patrick Houstoun, a baronet, registrar of grants and receiver of quit rents for the colony, and Priscilla Dunbar. He studied law in Charleston and practiced in Savannah, where he early became involved in the protests against Great Britain prior to the Revolution and was probably a member of the Sons of Liberty. In 1775 he married Hannah Bryan, the daughter of Jonathan Bryan, a prominent planter, a former member of the governor’s council, and one of the leaders of Georgia’s Whig movement; they apparently had no children. In July 1774 he joined ...

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Hull, Agrippa (1759–1848), revolutionary war soldier, was born a free African American in Northampton, Massachusetts, of unknown parentage. He was taken to Stockbridge, Massachusetts, at the age of six by Joab, an African-American former servant to Jonathan Edwards. When Hull was eighteen years old, in May 1777, he enlisted to fight in the revolutionary war as a private in General ...

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Hunter, Robert ( October 1666–31 March 1734), British army officer and royal governor of Virginia, New York and New Jersey, and Jamaica, was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, the son of James Hunter, an attorney, and Margaret Spalding. Lacking land or inherited wealth, Robert Hunter chose a military career. In the November 1688 Glorious Revolution, Hunter formed part of the dragoon bodyguard that escorted Princess Anne from London as she fled her father, James II. An ardent Whig, Hunter continued to serve William III in Cardross’s Dragoon Regiment, Colonel John Hill’s Regiment, the Royal Scots Dragoons, and Colonel Charles Ross’s Irish Dragoons. In the War of the Spanish Succession (1702–1713) Hunter was aide-de-camp to commander in chief John Churchill, duke of Marlborough, a close relationship that brought Hunter into contact with the most influential men in Great Britain. Under Marlborough, Hunter rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel, saw active duty at the battles of Blenheim and Ramillies in 1704 and 1706, and was instrumental in securing the 1706 surrender of the city of Antwerp....