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Birch, John (28 May 1918–25 August 1945), Baptist missionary and military officer, was born John Morrison Birch in Landaur, India, the son of George S. Birch and Ethel Ellis Birch. Both parents were Methodist missionaries under the auspices of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. George Birch was also an agricultural professor at Ewing Christian College, Allahabad, India, while Ethel Birch tutored English there and conducted women's Bible classes nearby. In 1920 the family returned to the United States. George Birch became a fruit farmer in Vineland, New Jersey, where John Birch first went to school. In 1930 the family, by then including seven children, moved to Rome, Georgia, where Birch attended high school. After graduating at the head of his class, he entered Mercer University; there, he deepened his religious convictions and evangelical passion and graduated magna cum laude in 1939. He completed a two-year course at the Bible Baptist Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, in one year and then left in July 1940 for China, sponsored by a World's Fundamentalist Baptist Missionary Fellowship....

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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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Cody, William Frederick (26 February 1846–10 January 1917), frontiersman and entertainer, better known as “Buffalo Bill,” was born in Scott County, Iowa, the son of Isaac Cody and Mary Ann Bonsell Laycock. Cody’s father managed several farms and operated a state business in Iowa. In 1854 the family moved to the Salt Creek Valley in Kansas, where Cody’s father received a government contract to provide hay to Fort Leavenworth. After his father died in 1857, Cody went to work as an ox-team driver for fifty cents a day. Shortly thereafter, the firm of Majors and Russell hired him as an express boy. Cody attended school periodically, although his formal education ended in 1859 when he joined a party heading to Denver to search for gold. He prospected for two months without any luck. He arrived back in Kansas in March 1860 after a trapping expedition. He rode for a time for the Pony Express during its short lifetime (Apr. 1860–Nov. 1861). After the start of the Civil War he joined a group of antislavery guerrillas based in Kansas. Later the Ninth Kansas Volunteers hired him as a scout and guide. On 16 February 1864 Cody enlisted into Company F of the Seventh Kansas Volunteer Cavalry. He saw quite a bit of action in Tennessee, Missouri, Arkansas, and Kansas during his one year and seven months of duty. He was mustered out of the army as a private on 29 September 1865....

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Jones, John Paul (06 July 1747–18 July 1792), revolutionary war naval officer and hero, was born John Paul in Kirkbean, Kirkcudbrightshire, on the southwestern coast of Scotland, the son of John Paul, a gardener, and Jean MacDuff. After attending the local Presbyterian school, he apprenticed at age thirteen to a shipowner at the nearby port of Whitehaven. His first ship made several voyages that carried provisions to Barbados, thence rum and sugar to Virginia, and returned to Whitehaven with tobacco. The postwar economic slump ended his apprenticeship and sent him briefly into the slave trade, which he called “abominable.” At twenty-one Paul was master and supercargo of a ship sailing out of Kirkcudbright to the West Indies. Returning to Scotland from Tobago, he was briefly jailed in 1770 on a charge of murder, for having flogged a sailor who later died. Exonerated, Paul became the master of a large West Indies trader out of London. Again he found trouble in Tobago: during a mutiny he killed a sailor in what he claimed was self-defense. Perhaps in fear for his life, he fled to Virginia in October 1773 and became “Mr. John Jones.”...

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Miller, Dorie (12 October 1919–24 November 1943), African-American war hero, was born Doris Miller in Waco, Texas, the son of Conery Miller and Henrietta (maiden name unknown), sharecroppers. Miller attended Waco’s segregated Moore High School and became the school’s 200-pound star fullback. As the third of four sons in a family engaged in subsistence farming, however, he was forced to drop out of school to find work. In September 1939 he joined the navy as a mess attendant....

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Taylor, Zachary (24 November 1784–09 July 1850), army hero and twelfth U.S. president, was born in Orange County, Virginia, the son of Richard Taylor, a revolutionary war officer and pioneer political leader, and Sarah Strother, a cousin of James Madison and Robert E. Lee...

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York, Alvin Cullum (13 December 1887–02 September 1964), World War I soldier, was born in Pall Mall, Tennessee, the son of William York and Mary Brooks, farmers. A skillful hunter and marksman, York worked as a farmer, a laborer, and a blacksmith before the war. He received approximately three years of formal schooling. His drinking and brawling earned him a reputation as a local rowdy, but an emotional religious experience in 1915 prompted him to join the Church of Christ in Christian Union, a deeply conservative congregation originally founded in reaction to the carnage of the Civil War period. Because church members rejected violence, York sought conscientious objector status when the United States entered World War I, but the Selective Service denied his appeal. Once York was drafted, his Eighty-second Infantry Division superiors persuaded him that America was fighting God’s battle in the war, an argument that transformed the pacifist from the Tennessee mountains into a veritable soldier of the Lord....