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Arnold, Benedict (14 January 1741–14 June 1801), revolutionary war general and traitor, was born in Norwich, Connecticut, the son of Benedict Arnold III, a merchant, and Hannah Waterman King. Of his mother’s eleven children, only he and a younger sister survived. At age eleven he was sent away to grammar school, but he left two years later when his alcoholic father lost the family’s fortune. Apprenticed to his mother’s cousin, an apothecary in Norwich, he volunteered in three campaigns (1757–1759) of the French and Indian War, deserting finally to be with his dying mother. His father died soon after, leaving little except debts, but his generous master paid the debts and set Arnold up in business when he decided to move to New Haven in 1762....

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Burr, Aaron (06 February 1756–14 September 1836), revolutionary soldier, U.S. senator, and vice president of the United States, was born in Newark, New Jersey, the son of Aaron Burr, a theologian and the second president of the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University), and ...

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Campbell, William ( August 1745–22 August 1781), revolutionary war officer, was born in Augusta County, Virginia, the son of Charles Campbell, a farmer and landowner, and Margaret Buchanan. Campbell’s grandfather came to America from northern Ireland in 1726 and settled in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. In 1733 Campbell’s father settled in Augusta County, Virginia (then part of Orange County). Campbell was baptized on 1 September 1745; the exact date of his birth is unknown. From the tutorship of David Thompson and attendance at Augusta Academy (the nucleus of the later Washington and Lee University), Campbell gained a mastery of the English language and became known as an excellent writer. Possessing a tall, rugged physique, sandy red hair, and blue eyes, Campbell had a great source of confidence that made him ideally suited as a leader of Virginia’s frontiersmen....

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Clinton, George (26 July 1739–20 April 1812), soldier, governor of New York, and vice president of the United States, was born in Little Britain, New York, the son of Charles Clinton, a farmer and surveyor, and Elizabeth Denniston. After schooling with a private tutor, George left home in 1757 to serve as a steward’s mate on the ...

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Craik, James (1730–06 February 1814), physician and military surgeon, was born on his father’s estate near Dumfries, Scotland, the son of Robert Craik, a member of the British Parliament; the name of his mother is unknown. Little information about his early life is available. Although his parents were apparently not married, he was acknowledged by his father, who assumed responsibility for his education. After studying medicine at the University of Edinburgh, he joined the British army as a surgeon. Shortly after being sent to the West Indies, he resigned his position and sailed for Virginia in 1751. After a short period in the Norfolk area, he moved to Winchester, Virginia....

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Grayson, William (1736–12 March 1790), lawyer, soldier, and statesman, was born in Prince William County, Virginia, the son of Susanna Monroe and Benjamin Grayson, a merchant and factor. He attended the College of Philadelphia (now the University of Pennsylvania), graduating in 1760. Some controversy exists concerning whether he next proceeded to Oxford or to Edinburgh, but the absence of his name from the rolls at Oxford, coupled with his great devotion to the teachings of Adam Smith, seems to militate in favor of the Scottish university. According to tradition, he then received legal training at the Inns of Court. He married Eleanor Smallwood....

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Hamilton, Alexander (11 January 1757?–12 July 1804), statesman and first secretary of the treasury, was born in Nevis, British West Indies, the second of two illegitimate sons of James Hamilton and Rachel Faucett Lavien. (The year of birth is often given as 1755, but the evidence more strongly supports 1757.) The father deserted the family when Hamilton was eight; the mother died three years later. Hamilton was apprenticed to a firm of international merchants and proved to be so gifted in commerce that he was soon left in full charge of the business. At fifteen he was “discovered” by a Presbyterian minister, who arranged financial support to send him to the College of New Jersey at Princeton. After a year at a preparatory school he passed the stiff entrance exams at Princeton, but when the president refused to allow him to advance at his own pace rather than with the regular classes, he went to King’s College (now Columbia) in New York instead....

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Hand, Edward (31 December 1744–03 September 1802), medical doctor and revolutionary war soldier, was born in Clyduff, King’s County, Province of Leinster, Ireland, the son of John Hand, occupation unknown, and Dorothy (maiden name unknown). In the 1760s he enrolled in Trinity College, Dublin, and completed medical studies in 1766 with a good academic record. Thereupon he entered the British army as a surgeon’s mate and came to Philadelphia in 1767 with the Eighteenth Royal Irish Regiment of Foot. He was ordered to Fort Pitt in western Pennsylvania, and in 1772 he purchased an ensign’s commission with profits earned from land speculation. Two years later he sold his ensigncy, resigned from the army, and settled in Lancaster, Pennsylvania to practice medicine and surgery. In 1775 he married Catharine Ewing, with whom he had eight children over the next seventeen years. At the outbreak of the revolutionary war, Hand, an ardent Whig, joined his neighbors in resisting Britain. Offered a commission as a lieutenant colonel in the Continental army, he obeyed the “glorious summons” to arms and marched with Colonel William Thompson’s Pennsylvania Rifle Battalion to the siege of Boston. On 1 January 1776 he was appointed lieutenant colonel of the First Continental Infantry and two months later was chosen its colonel. With this regiment, he fought in the battle of Long Island and later, at Throg’s Neck delayed a British advance toward White Plains. He retreated with ...

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Kościuszko, Tadeusz Andrzej Bonawentura (12 February 1746–15 October 1817), revolutionary war officer and leader for Polish independence, was born at one of his family’s estates, either “Mereczowszczyna” or “Siechnowicze,” both near Kosów, Poland, the son of Ludwig Tadeusz Kościuszko, an army colonel and member of the minor gentry, and Thecla Ratomska. As the youngest of four sons, Kościuszko could share in inheritance but not control of the family estates. Thus he chose an army career. His father died in 1758, and his mother ten years later. After being tutored by an uncle and briefly attending a Jesuit school in Brześć, Kościuszko, from 1755 to 1760, studied at a school of the Piarist Fathers in Lubieszów, near Pinsk. Sponsored by Prince Casimir Czartoryski, Kościuszko entered the Royal Corps of Cadets at the Royal Military School in Warsaw in December 1765. After one year he was an ensign and an instructor of students; in 1768 he was promoted to captain, graduating the following year....

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Lafayette, Marquis de (06 September 1757–20 May 1834), major general in the Continental army and French soldier and statesman, was born Marie-Joseph-Paul-Yves-Roch Gilbert du Motier Lafayette in Chavaniac, France, the son of Gilbert du Motier, marquis de Lafayette, and Julie de la Rivière. After his father, a colonel in the grenadiers, was killed at the battle of Minden in 1759, his mother moved to Paris. The boy was raised at Château Chavaniac in the mountains of Auvergne until he was twelve. He then spent four years at the Collège du Plessis in Paris in a curriculum emphasizing the civic virtues of republican Rome....

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Lee, Charles (26 January 1731–02 October 1782), revolutionary war general, was born in Chester, England, the son of John Lee, a British officer, and Isabella Bunbury. Possessing the important social advantage of gentle ancestry, his education was not neglected. His father, desiring that he familiarize himself with peoples and languages other than English, enrolled him at an early age in an academy in Switzerland. Over the years, Lee became proficient in Greek, Latin, French, Spanish, Italian, and German. In 1746 he entered grammar school at Bury St. Edmunds, where he became lifelong friends with important and well-placed companions such as William Butler and Charles Davers. His father, colonel of the Fifty-fifth Regiment of Foot, also determined that young Lee would continue the family’s tradition of military service. Thus when Lee was fourteen years old, Colonel Lee purchased for him an ensigncy in the Fifty-fifth Regiment, soon renumbered the forty-fourth; when young Lee completed his education he reported for active duty. His father died in 1750, and four years later Lee fell out with his mother. Their problems likely stemmed from a strain of eccentricity in the Bunbury family, which Lee inherited, and which manifested itself in moodiness and a choleric temper. As Lee himself later admitted, he suffered from a “distemper of … mind.” Thereafter, Lee was on close terms only with his unmarried sister, Sidney Lee, who like himself had survived a childhood scarred by the deaths of five siblings....

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Lee, Henry (29 January 1756–25 March 1818), cavalry officer in the American Revolution, popularly known as “Light-Horse Harry” Lee, was born at Leesylvania, Prince William County, Virginia, the son of Henry Lee, a planter, and Lucy Grymes. As the eldest son in an important family, he realized early in life that he was expected to take a leading role in the affairs of his colony. He prepared by studying for three years at the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University), where he enjoyed debate and the Latin classics and graduated at the age of seventeen in 1773. He intended to study law in London, but growing American animosity toward British colonial policies in the 1770s diverted his attention. When the American Revolution began, he declared for America, as did all the Lees of Virginia, and he determined upon a soldier’s life. Twice, in 1775 and 1776, he solicited the aid of a neighbor, ...

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McLane, Allen (08 August 1746–22 May 1829), soldier and politician, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of a Scottish immigrant, Allen McLeane (as he spelled his name in his will), a leather breeches maker, and Jane Irwin. The son always spelled his first name Allen, although it appears as Allan on his tombstone in Asbury Church cemetery in Wilmington. Details of his rearing and education are unknown, except that he traveled to Europe in 1767. Apparently having previously moved to Kent County, Delaware, he was married there in 1770 to Rebecca Wells, daughter of the sheriff; they had fourteen children, of whom eleven died in infancy....

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Montgomery, Richard (02 December 1738–31 December 1775), soldier, was born at Swords, County Dublin, Ireland, the son of Thomas Montgomery, a baronet and member of the Irish Parliament, and Mary Franklin (or Franklyn). As befitted a son of landed gentry, he received a liberal education. After attending St. Andrews School, he enrolled in Trinity College, Dublin, in 1754 but remained there for only two years. Following the advice of his father and his brother, Alexander Montgomery, he joined the British army on 21 September 1756 as an ensign in the Seventeenth Regiment and began service in the Seven Years’ War. He was sent to Canada in 1757, and a year later he took part in the siege of Louisbourg, where he was promoted to lieutenant. In 1759 he accompanied Sir ...

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Moultrie, William (23 November 1730–27 September 1805), revolutionary war general and governor, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, the son of John Moultrie, a physician, and Lucretia Cooper. The elder Moultrie had emigrated from Scotland and settled in Charleston in about 1729. Nothing is known of William Moultrie’s youth, but he certainly had a basic education. In 1749 he married Elizabeth Damaris de St. Julien; they had two children before Elizabeth died. In 1779 Moultrie married Hannah Motte Lynch, widow of ...

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Muhlenberg, John Peter Gabriel (01 October 1746–01 October 1807), revolutionary soldier and politician, , also known as Peter Muhlenberg, was born in the German settlement of Trappe, Pennsylvania, the son of Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, a Lutheran minister, and Anna Maria Weiser. Tall and strong as a boy, impulsive but shy, he was drawn to the military. From 1760 to 1763 he attended the Academy of Philadelphia but preferred fishing and hunting to his studies. In April 1763 his father sent him, together with two brothers, to Halle, Germany, to give them the advantages of a better education than was available at the time in Pennsylvania. John Peter’s mentors at the Franckesche Stiftungen, however, found him unsuited to study for the ministry and thought him better qualified for a career in commerce....

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Pinckney, Thomas (23 October 1750–02 November 1828), soldier and statesman, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, the son of Charles Pinckney and Elizabeth “Eliza” Lucas. Members of South Carolina’s low-country landed aristocracy, his parents prepared him, his older brother, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, and his sister, Harriott, for expected leadership roles in the colony’s society. Because of limited educational opportunities, the parents moved to England in 1753, enrolling the boys in local academies. Threats of war with France, however, forced the elder Pinckneys to return with Harriott to South Carolina in 1754, leaving their sons in England. Unfortunately, the elder Charles Pinckney died two months after arriving at Charleston....

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Pulaski, Casimir (04 March 1748–11 October 1779), Polish patriot and soldier, was born in Podolia, Poland, the son of Count Joseph Pulaski (mother’s name unknown). His given name was spelled in Polish Kazimierz. After receiving a good education, he entered the profession of arms by joining the guard of Charles, duke of Courland. In 1767 he returned to Poland and joined with his father and six other associates in founding the Confederation of Bar on 29 February 1768 to counter the destruction of his homeland by powerful neighbors. After his father was arrested and killed, he attempted unsuccessfully to carry on partisan warfare. In 1769 he fomented a revolt in Lithuania. Driven into the fortified monastery of Czestochowa in Poland, he forced his Russian besiegers to withdraw and helped chase them across the Vistula River. But Pulaski suffered military reverses and finally was unable to halt the first Polish partition of 1773. Declared an outlaw, his estates confiscated, and with a price on his head, he fled to Turkey, where for the next two years he unsuccessfully attempted to obtain the sultan’s assistance in attacking Russia. In 1775, without money or prospects, he dejectedly removed himself to Paris and spent many months looking for suitable employment. Finally he was put in touch with ...

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St. Clair, Arthur (23 March 1737–31 August 1818), politician and soldier, was born in Thurso, Caithness County, Scotland, probably the son of William Sinclair, a merchant, and Elizabeth Balfour. After a reported enrollment at the University of Edinburgh, St. Clair was apprenticed in 1756 to an eminent physician, Dr. ...

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Steuben, Friedrich Wilhelm von (17 September 1730–28 November 1794), inspector general of the Continental army, was born in Magdeburg, Germany, the son of Wilhelm Augustin von Steuben, a Prussian army officer, and Maria Justina Dorothea von Jagow. Baptized as Friedrich Wilhelm Ludolf Gerhard Augustin von Steuben, he usually called himself Frederick William von Steuben in America and signed his letters “Steuben.” He spent most of his early childhood in Russia, where his father was a military engineer. In 1742 the family settled in Breslau, Silesia, where Steuben was tutored in mathematics by Jesuits. In 1746 Steuben became a lance corporal in the Lestwitz Infantry Regiment at Breslau and in 1749 was commissioned an ensign in that regiment. He was promoted to second lieutenant in 1752....