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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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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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Jackson, Andrew (15 March 1767–08 June 1845), soldier and seventh president of the United States, was born in the Waxhaw Settlement, South Carolina, the son of Andrew Jackson and Elizabeth Hutchinson, farmers. Like many other Scotch-Irish at the time, Andrew and Elizabeth Jackson migrated to this country from the port of Carrickfergus in Northern Ireland in 1765, landing most probably in Philadelphia and then journeying southward to join relatives living in the Waxhaw Settlement along the northwestern boundary separating North and South Carolina. They settled with their two sons, Hugh and Robert, on a stretch of land on the south side of Twelve Mile Creek, a branch of the Catawba River, and for two years tried to scratch a living from this acid soil. Then, early in March 1767, Andrew died suddenly. Approximately two weeks later, on 15 March, Elizabeth gave birth to her third son and named him after her deceased husband. Later a dispute arose over the exact location of the birthplace of the future president—whether he was born in North or South Carolina—but Jackson himself always believed and repeatedly stated that he was born in South Carolina....

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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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Morgan, John Hunt (01 June 1825–04 September 1864), soldier and Confederate general, was born in Huntsville, Alabama, the son of Calvin Cogswell Morgan, a wholesale merchant and planter, and Henrietta Hunt, the daughter of an entrepreneur. When Morgan was six years old, his family relocated to Fayette County, Kentucky, near Lexington. He attended Transylvania University but was suspended for dueling and never completed his studies. During the Mexican War he served in a volunteer cavalry regiment that distinguished itself at Buena Vista in 1847. Desiring a career in the military but denied the opportunity, Morgan became a businessman, investing in hemp manufacturing and the woolen industry, as well as the slave trade. He also was active for several years in the Kentucky militia, forming a sixty-man company known as the “Lexington Rifles.” In 1848 Morgan had married Rebecca Bruce. After giving birth to a stillborn child, she lingered as an invalid for eight years prior to her death in July 1861. Seventeen months later, Morgan married twenty-one-year-old Martha Ready of Murfreesboro, Tennessee....

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Perry, Oliver Hazard (23 August 1785–23 August 1819), naval officer, was born near South Kingston, Rhode Island, the son of Christopher Raymond Perry, a and Sarah Wallace Alexander. Of prominent Rhode Island lineage, he and his younger brother, Matthew C. Perry, were both significant to American naval history. Oliver Hazard Perry received an educational foundation from his mother and learned maritime sciences from schoolmasters in Newport. The Navy Department appointed Perry a midshipman on 7 April 1799 and assigned him to his father’s frigate, ...

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Pike, Albert (29 December 1809–02 April 1891), lawyer, soldier, and Masonic scholar, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Benjamin Pike, a cobbler, and Sarah Andrews. The boy was torn between his father, whose irreverence and drinking scandalized neighbors, and his mother, who read the Bible to her only son daily and planned on his entering the ministry. In 1813, seeking to supplement his income by farming, Benjamin Pike moved the family to Newburyport, Massachusetts. In 1825 Albert was sent to live with his uncle, a teacher at Framingham Academy, who soon learned that Pike had a prodigious memory that enabled him to digest large volumes and recall their contents at will; the boy learned Hebrew, Latin, and Greek almost effortlessly. Eight months after his arrival in Framingham, Pike passed the entrance examination for Harvard College. He could not afford the tuition, however, so, instead of enrolling at Harvard, he taught common school at Gloucester. The following year Harvard agreed to admit him as a junior, but school officials insisted that he pay the first two years’ tuition. Outraged, Pike abandoned his dreams of a formal education....

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Wise, Henry Alexander (03 December 1806–12 September 1876), congressman, governor, and Confederate general, was born on Virginia’s Eastern Shore in Drummondtown (now Accomac), the son of John Wise, a Federalist lawyer and legislator, and Sarah Corbin Cropper. Orphaned in 1812–1813, he was raised by relatives and had few resources other than a small inheritance. He received only a meager education until his admission in 1822 to Washington College (now Washington and Jefferson College) in Pennsylvania, where he graduated with first honors in 1825. He attended Chancellor ...