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Ashe, Thomas Samuel (19 July 1812–04 February 1887), jurist and congressman, was born at “the Hawfields,” Orange County, North Carolina, the home of his maternal grandfather, where his parents regularly spent the summer. He was the son of Pasquale Paoli Ashe, the owner of a plantation in coastal New Hanover County, North Carolina, and a coal mine in Alabama, and Elizabeth Jane Strudwick. His father lost his entire fortune about 1829 as surety for the debts of a friend....

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Barksdale, Ethelbert (04 January 1824–17 February 1893), editor and U.S. and Confederate congressman, was born in Smyrna, Rutherford County, Tennessee, the son of William Barksdale and Nancy Lester. Ethelbert Barksdale was the younger brother of William Barksdale (1821–1863), commanding general of the Mississippi brigade in the Army of Northern Virginia, who was killed at the battle of Gettysburg. Ethelbert Barksdale moved to Mississippi while still in his teens and soon followed his brother William into journalism and Democratic politics. He married Alice Harris in 1843. Whether they had any children is unknown....

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Barnwell, Robert Woodward (10 August 1801–25 November 1882), educator, congressman, and U.S. and Confederate senator, was born at Beaufort, South Carolina, the son of Robert Gibbes Barnwell, a prosperous planter and Federalist member of Congress, and Elizabeth Wigg Hayne. In 1817 he entered Harvard College, where he became friendly with ...

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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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Brown, Albert Gallatin (31 May 1813–12 June 1880), U.S. and Confederate congressman, was born in Chester District, South Carolina, the son of Joseph Brown. (His mother’s identity is unknown.) The second son of a struggling, ambitious farmer, Brown moved with his family in 1820 from South Carolina to Copiah County, Mississippi. In this raw frontier setting his father acquired land and slaves. After attending Mississippi College and Jefferson College from 1829 to 1832, Brown wanted to attend Princeton or Yale, but when his father refused to pay the costs, he turned to law and politics. He won his first elective office in 1832 as a colonel of militia. He was admitted to the Mississippi bar in 1833 and had just started his law practice in the now extinct town of Gallatin when he was elected a brigadier general in the militia. Soon after his marriage in 1835 to Elizabeth Frances Taliaferro, he entered the Mississippi legislature as a Democratic representative. He began a remarkable record of holding elective office virtually without interruption for the next thirty years....

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Clement Claiborne Clay. Daguerreotype from the studio of Mathew B. Brady. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-110033).

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Clay, Clement Claiborne (13 December 1816–03 January 1882), U.S. and Confederate senator, was born near Huntsville, Alabama, the son of Clement Comer Clay, a lawyer and later governor and U.S. senator, and Susanna Claiborne Withers. He used the designation C. C. Clay, Jr., to distinguish himself from his father. He graduated from the University of Alabama in 1834 and studied law under John B. Minor at the University of Virginia, receiving his degree in 1839. During his father’s tenure as governor of Alabama, 1835–1837, Clay was his father’s secretary. He practiced law with him from 1839 to 1846, after which he became Madison County judge. He resigned in 1848 for financial reasons. Debt was a lifelong problem, along with chronic bad health, particularly asthma. Clay was associated with the ...

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Gartrell, Lucius Jeremiah (07 January 1821–07 April 1891), soldier and U.S. and Confederate congressman, was born in Wilkes County, Georgia, the son of Joseph Gartrell, Jr., a planter and merchant, and Eliza Boswell. After attending the state university and Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia, Gartrell read law in the Washington, Georgia, office of another future Confederate commander, ...

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Gilmer, John Adams (04 November 1805–14 May 1868), state senator and U.S. and Confederate congressman, was born in Guilford County, North Carolina, the son of Robert Gilmer, a farmer and wheelwright, and Anne Forbes. Both parents were of Scotch-Irish descent; their families had come from Ireland to North Carolina via Pennsylvania. His father and both grandfathers fought against the British in the American Revolution. John Adams Gilmer’s name reflected his father’s Federalist political predilections. Young Gilmer worked on the family farm and attended a local subscription school a few months during the winter. When he was nineteen, he enrolled in the Reverend Eli W. Caruther’s school in Greensboro, where he excelled in classical languages and mathematics. For three years afterward (1826–1829), he taught school in Laurel County, South Carolina, to pay debts resulting from his education. In 1829 he returned to Greensboro to study law in the office of Archibald D. Murphey. In 1832 he married Juliana Paisley; they had six children, five of whom survived childhood. One son, John Alexander Gilmer, became a Confederate lieutenant colonel and superior court judge. Also in 1832 Gilmer was admitted to the bar, and he gradually built a lucrative practice. He was listed in the 1860 census as an agriculturalist and lawyer who owned fifty-three slaves and property valued at $112,000....

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Graham, William Alexander (05 September 1804–11 August 1875), governor of North Carolina, secretary of the navy, and U.S. and Confederate senator, was born in Lincoln County, North Carolina, the son of Joseph Graham, a revolutionary war soldier, iron entrepreneur, and major general of a North and South Carolina brigade in the War of 1812, and Isabella Davidson. After attending preparatory academies in Lincolnton, Statesville, and Hillsborough, Graham graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1824, sharing first honors in a distinguished class. He read law with the eminent jurist ...

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Hill, Benjamin Harvey (14 September 1823–16 August 1882), Confederate senator and U.S. senator, was born in Jasper County, Georgia, the son of John Hill and Sarah Parham, farmers. When he was ten, the family moved to Troup County in western Georgia, where he worked on the family farm and attended school intermittently. He entered the University of Georgia at seventeen, graduating with honors in 1843. He was admitted to the bar the next year and soon developed a prosperous practice in La Grange. In 1845 he married Caroline Holt. They had six children....

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Robert M. T. Hunter, early 1860s. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-B8172-1740).

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Hunter, Robert M. T. (21 April 1809–18 July 1887), congressman and statesman, was born Robert Mercer Taliaferro Hunter at “Mount Pleasant,” his father's estate in Essex County, Virginia, the son of James Hunter, a planter, and Maria Garnett Hunter. Born into a family that had achieved local prominence, he grew up in comfortable surroundings. After receiving his early education through home tutoring, he entered the University of Virginia and graduated in July 1828. Interested in government and history, he decided to become a lawyer and studied under Judge ...

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Johnson, Herschel Vespasian (18 September 1812–16 August 1880), Georgia governor, U.S. and Confederate senator, and vice presidential candidate, was born in Burke County, Georgia, the son of Moses Johnson, a planter, and Nancy Palmer. He studied at local schools before entering Monaghan Academy near Warrenton at fourteen. Attending the University of Georgia, he became a friend of ...

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Johnson, Robert Ward (22 July 1814–26 July 1879), Arkansas political leader and member of both the U.S. Congress and the Confederate Congress, was born in Scott County, Kentucky, the son of Benjamin Johnson and Matilda Williams. Young Johnson was named for his paternal grandfather, who headed a powerful political family in Kentucky. Two of his uncles won election to the U.S. House of Representatives, while another, ...

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Stephen Russell Mallory. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-B8172-1743).

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Mallory, Stephen Russell (1811–09 November 1873), U.S. senator and Confederate secretary of the navy, was born in Trinidad, the son of John Mallory, an engineer, and Ellen Russell. Shortly after his birth, Mallory’s parents moved to Key West. After his father died in 1822, Mallory helped his mother operate a boardinghouse there. From 1826 to 1829 Mallory received his only formal education when he attended a Moravian-run school at Nazareth, Pennsylvania. He returned to Key West, where he studied law and served as inspector of customs (1830), town marshal (1832), fire department director (1835), and collector of customs (1845). He also served in the Florida militia during the Seminole War (1836–1838)....

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Maxwell, Augustus Emmet (21 September 1820–05 May 1903), jurist and legislator, was born in Elberton, Georgia, the son of Simeon Maxwell, a planter, and Elizabeth Fortson. When he was two years old, the family moved to Green County, Alabama. After attending country schools, in 1836 Maxwell began study at the University of Virginia; he left school briefly because of vision problems but he graduated from the university in 1841....

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Miles, William Porcher (04 July 1822–11 May 1899), U.S. and Confederate congressman, was born in Walterboro, Colleton District, South Carolina, the son of James Saunders Miles, a planter, and Sarah Bond Warley. Neither academics nor politics interested Porcher (pronounced Poor-shay) Miles as a young man, though he graduated from the College of Charleston in 1842 with honors. For a year after college Miles read law, but he abandoned that profession when the College of Charleston appointed him professor of mathematics in 1843. He stayed at the school for twelve years and in time cultivated such friends as ...