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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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Connor, Patrick Edward (02 March 1820?–17 December 1891), soldier, entrepreneur, and politician, was born Patrick Edward O’Connor in County Kerry, Ireland. His exact birth date and the names of his parents are in question. As a teenager, he emigrated with his parents to New York City, where he probably briefly attended public school....

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Cooke, Philip St. George (13 June 1809–20 March 1895), soldier and author, was born in Leesburg, Virginia, the son of Stephen Cooke, a physician, and Catherine Esten. Cooke was educated in local schools near his parents’ home in Virginia. In 1823 he received an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York. He graduated in 1827 and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the infantry. From 1827 to 1833 he served in a variety of infantry assignments on the western frontier, including brief service in the ...

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Thomas L. Crittenden. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-B8172-1730).

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Crittenden, Thomas Leonidas (15 May 1819–23 October 1893), lawyer and soldier, was born in Russellville, Kentucky, the son of John J. Crittenden, a lawyer and statesman, and Sarah “Sally” Lee. After unsuccessful business ventures in New Orleans and with a brother-in-law in Louisville, he studied law and was admitted to the Kentucky bar in 1840. Appointed a commonwealth’s attorney in 1843, he occasionally opposed his famous father in courtroom appearances. Crittenden married his stepsister Kittie Todd, probably in 1840. Their only son, Lieutenant John J. Crittenden, was killed with ...

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Crook, George (08 September 1828–21 March 1890), soldier, was born near Taylorsville, Ohio, the son of Elizabeth Matthews and Thomas Crook, farmers. Entering the U.S. Military Academy in 1848, Crook graduated in 1852 and served until 1861 in California and Oregon fighting hostile American Indians. Fascinated by American Indians, Crook’s studious interest helped him in combat against them where other officers failed. Most important, he learned and appreciated that American Indians fought to preserve their cultures and lands....

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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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Ethan Allen Hitchcock Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ6-2078).

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Herman Hattaway and Eric B. Fair

Hitchcock, Ethan Allen (18 May 1798–05 August 1870), soldier and author, was born in Vergennes, Vermont, the son of Samuel Hitchcock, a U.S. Circuit Court judge, and Lucy Caroline Allen, the daughter of Ethan Allen. Though raised in affluence, Ethan Hitchcock was compelled to make a career decision at the age of sixteen because of the death of his father. With family connections to the army, Hitchcock sought appointment to the U.S. Military Academy. He entered the academy on 11 October 1814 and graduated as a third lieutenant of artillery on 17 July 1817. He was in garrison duty for the next seven years....

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Oliver O. Howard. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-B8172-3719).

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Howard, Oliver Otis (08 November 1830–26 October 1909), soldier, government official, and educator, was born in Leeds, Maine, the son of Rowland Bailey Howard and Eliza Otis, farmers. As a boy Howard worked in the company of a young black farmhand, an experience to which he later attributed his broadmindedness in racial matters. Howard graduated from Bowdoin College in 1850 and entered the U.S. Military Academy. He graduated from West Point in 1854, ranked fourth in his class. In 1855 Howard married Elizabeth Ann Waite; the couple had seven children. He first served at the federal arsenals in New York and Maine and then as an ordnance officer in Florida. In 1857 Howard returned to West Point to teach mathematics. The same year he experienced the religious conversion that would earn him such sobriquets as “the Christian Soldier.” His distaste for alcohol and profanity hardly endeared him to many of his fellows. ...

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Kearny, Philip (01 June 1814–01 September 1862), soldier, was born in New York City, the son of Philip Kearny, a businessman, and Susan Watts. He attended Highland Academy and Columbia College, from which he graduated in 1833. His grandfather’s bequest of $1 million in 1836 relieved Kearny of financial concerns and allowed him (despite the objections of his grandparents) to pursue his passion: soldiering. In 1837 he received a second lieutenant’s commission in the First U.S. Dragoons. Two years later he was sent by the secretary of war to France to study cavalry tactics. Kearny did more than study; he distinguished himself in several battles. The French awarded him the Cross of the Legion of Honor for “services to France … above the call of duty.” He returned to the United States to write a book—published in 1844 as ...

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Mansfield, Joseph King Fenno (22 December 1803–18 September 1862), army officer, was born in New Haven, Connecticut, the son of Henry Mansfield, a merchant, and Mary Fenno. In 1817 young Mansfield entered the U.S. Military Academy, where his uncle Jared Mansfield was professor of natural and experimental philosophy. Graduating second in his class in 1822, he was commissioned second lieutenant in the Corps of Engineers. His first assignment was as an assistant to the Board of Engineers for Fortification, the panel of senior engineers that designed the program of seacoast defense—the foundation of the nation’s defense system into the late nineteenth century. From 1825 to 1846 he divided his time between the construction of coastal fortifications, most notably Fort Pulaski, which defended the approach to Savannah, Georgia, and civil works, including the Cumberland Road and harbor improvements along the south Atlantic coast; during 1842–1845 he served as a member of the Board of Engineers for Fortification. He reached the rank of captain in 1838 and that year married Louisa Maria Mather; they had five children, one of whom died in infancy....

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Meigs, Montgomery Cunningham (03 May 1816–02 January 1892), army officer, was born in Augusta, Georgia, the son of Charles Meigs, a physician, and Mary Montgomery. Soon after the family relocated to Philadelphia. In 1831 Meigs briefly attended the University of Pennsylvania there. He transferred to the U.S. Military Academy the following year and on 1 July 1836 graduated fifth in his class of forty-nine. As a second lieutenant, Meigs was initially posted with the First Artillery Regiment but subsequently requested and received transfer to the engineers. He engaged in various construction projects over the next sixteen years, commencing with Fort Mifflin near Philadelphia. He also worked on navigational improvements along the Mississippi River with Lieutenant ...

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Reynolds, Joseph Jones (04 January 1822–25 February 1899), Civil War general and Plains Indian fighter, was born in Flemingsburg, Kentucky, the son of Edward Reynolds, a hatter, and Sarah Longley. The family moved to Lafayette, Indiana, in 1837, and the next year young Reynolds attended Wabash College at Crawfordsville. In 1839 he received an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy, graduating in 1843, tenth in a class of thirty-nine. Classmate ...

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Winfield Scott Daguerreotype from the studio of Mathew B. Brady, c. 1849. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-110151).

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Richard E. Beringer

Scott, Winfield (13 June 1786–29 May 1866), soldier, was born at “Laurel Branch,” the family plantation near Petersburg, Virginia, the son of William Scott, a farmer, and Ann Mason. His father died when Scott was six and his mother when he was seventeen. He had two years of rudimentary education at a Quaker boarding school, and in 1804 he went to school in Richmond. He entered the College of William and Mary but left after a year to read law and was admitted to the bar in 1806. After the ...

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Smith, Charles Ferguson (24 April 1807–25 April 1862), soldier, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Samuel Blair Smith, an army surgeon, and Mary Ferguson. Attending the U.S. Military Academy, he graduated in 1825, ranking nineteenth in a class of thirty-seven, and was commissioned a second lieutenant of artillery. Four years later he returned to West Point and commenced thirteen years of service there, first as an instructor, then as an adjutant to the superintendent, and finally as commandant of cadets. He made quite an impression on several of the cadets, notably ...

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Isaac I. Stevens. Photograph by Timothy H. O'Sullivan. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-B8171-0164).

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Stevens, Isaac Ingalls (25 March 1818–01 September 1862), military leader and politician, was born in North Andover, Massachusetts, the son of Isaac Stevens and Hannah Cummings, moderately well-to-do farmers. After attending local schools and Phillips Academy, Stevens received appointment to the U.S. Military Academy in 1835, from which he graduated first in his class in 1839....