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Judah P. Benjamin. Daguerreotype from the studio of Mathew B. Brady. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-109992).

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Benjamin, Judah Philip (06 August 1811–06 May 1884), Confederate cabinet member, U.S. senator, and lawyer, was born at Christiansted, St. Croix, West Indies, the son of Philip Benjamin, a shopkeeper, and Rebecca de Mendes. St. Croix was under British rule at the time of Benjamin’s birth. He grew up in Charleston, South Carolina. Though his father’s circumstances were always modest, wealthy relatives and other benefactors helped him attend Yale (1825–1827), but he left as a junior under circumstances that remain unclear....

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Cobb, Thomas Reade Rootes (10 April 1823–13 December 1862), lawyer and Confederate congressman and military officer, was born in Jefferson County, Georgia, the son of John Addison Cobb, a planter, and Sarah Robinson Rootes. His older brother, Howell Cobb—congressman, governor, and secretary of the treasury under ...

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Davis, George (01 March 1820–23 February 1896), lawyer, Confederate senator, and Confederate attorney general, was born in New Hanover (now Pender) County, North Carolina, the son of Thomas Frederick Davis, a prominent planter, and Sarah Isabella Eagles. He attended W. H. Harden’s school in Pittsboro, was tutored at home, and at fourteen entered the University of North Carolina, graduating in 1838 at the head of his class. After reading law with his brother in Wilmington, he was admitted to the bar at age twenty and licensed statewide a year later....

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Pettus, John Jones (09 October 1813–26 January 1867), lawyer and Confederate governor, was born in Wilson County, Tennessee, the son of John Jones Pettus and Alice Taylor Winston, farmers. Pettus was raised in Limestone County, Alabama, after his father moved the family from Tennessee. Only nine when his father died, Pettus helped out with farm chores and was educated at home by his mother. He settled in Mississippi in 1835. After a brief stay in Sumter County, Alabama, where he studied law, he opened a law practice in Scooba, Kemper County, Mississippi, where in the early 1840s he married a cousin, Permelia Virginia Winston. They had at least three children. He became a successful planter and by 1850 owned 1,600 acres and 24 slaves....

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Watson, John William Clark (27 February 1808–24 September 1890), lawyer and Confederate senator, was born in Albemarle County, Virginia, the son of John Watson and Elizabeth Finch, farmers. Little is known of Watson’s early life, but his local schooling prepared him for legal studies at the University of Virginia. A year after graduating with a law degree in 1830, he married Catherine Davis, the sister of one of his law professors. The couple soon moved to Abingdon in southwestern Virginia, where Watson practiced law from 1833 to 1845. He was an ardent Whig in his politics. In 1846 Watson moved to Holly Springs, Mississippi, to join in a law partnership with Jeremiah W. Clapp....