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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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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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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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McRae, John Jones (10 January 1815–31 May 1868), governor of Mississippi and Confederate congressman, was born in Sneedsboro (now McFarlan), North Carolina, the son of John M. McRae, a merchant, and Elizabeth Mary Hempstead. The third son in a large family descended from Scotch Highlanders, McRae was raised on the frontier of southern Mississippi, where his father had moved the family to pursue mercantile opportunities in the cotton trade. After attending a local academy, McRae was sent north to Miami University in Ohio, from which he graduated in 1834. Returning to Mississippi to read law in Pearlington, in 1835 he joined the bar and married Mary A. McGuire, a widow. The total number of their children is unknown, but one son died in childhood....

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James Lawrence Orr. Photograph by Mathew B. Brady. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-91142).

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Orr, James Lawrence (12 May 1822–05 May 1873), Speaker of the House of Representatives, governor of South Carolina, and Confederate States senator, was born in Craytonville, Pendleton District (now Anderson County), South Carolina, the son of Christopher Orr, a merchant, and Martha McCann. After a conventional education in the local schools, he began the study of law at the University of Virginia in 1839. Following the death of his favorite mentor there, he returned to South Carolina, read law in a local firm, and was admitted to the bar in 1843. A year later he married Mary Jane Marshall, a union that produced seven children. For two years he edited the ...

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Pettus, John Jones (09 October 1813–26 January 1867), lawyer and Confederate governor, was born in Wilson County, Tennessee, the son of John Jones Pettus and Alice Taylor Winston, farmers. Pettus was raised in Limestone County, Alabama, after his father moved the family from Tennessee. Only nine when his father died, Pettus helped out with farm chores and was educated at home by his mother. He settled in Mississippi in 1835. After a brief stay in Sumter County, Alabama, where he studied law, he opened a law practice in Scooba, Kemper County, Mississippi, where in the early 1840s he married a cousin, Permelia Virginia Winston. They had at least three children. He became a successful planter and by 1850 owned 1,600 acres and 24 slaves....

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Alexander Stephens. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-B8172-1430.).

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Stephens, Alexander Hamilton (11 February 1812–04 March 1883), congressman and Confederate vice president, was born on a piedmont farm near Washington, Georgia, the son of Andrew Stephens and Margaret Grier. A few months after his birth, his mother died. Within a year, his father remarried. When Aleck was fourteen, calamity struck again when his father died of pneumonia, to be followed a few weeks later by his stepmother from the same virus....

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Watts, Thomas Hill (03 January 1819–16 September 1892), Confederate attorney general and governor of Alabama, was born on his father’s plantation near Greenville, Alabama, the son of John Hughes Watts and Prudence Hill. John H. Watts was a substantial planter, the owner of thirty-one slaves in 1840. Thomas Watts was graduated with honors from the University of Virginia in 1840 and in 1841 began the practice of law in Greenville. The next year he was elected to represent Butler County in the Alabama House of Representatives and was reelected in 1844 and 1845....