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Armstrong, John (13 October 1717–09 March 1795), soldier, surveyor, and member of the Continental Congress, was born in County Fermanagh, Ulster, Ireland. The identities of his Scotch-Irish parents and circumstances of his youth are unclear, but his father may have been named James. A trained surveyor, John Armstrong evidently received some education fairly early in life. Sometime in the mid-1740s Armstrong immigrated to America, settling initially in Delaware and then in Pennsylvania, where he worked as a surveyor. It was probably at some point after his arrival in America that he married Rebeckah Armstrong. The couple had two sons (the younger, ...

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Armstrong, John, Jr. (25 November 1758–01 April 1843), soldier and politician, was born in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, the son of John Armstrong and Rebecca Lyon. His father, a surveyor and a prominent figure on the Pennsylvania frontier, achieved fame as the “Hero of Kittanning” during the Seven Years’ War when he destroyed a particularly troublesome Indian village; he later served as an officer in the revolutionary war. Armstrong attended the College of New Jersey (later Princeton) for two years but left in 1776 to join the Continental army. He served successively as aide-de-camp to Brigadier General Hugh Mercer and Major General ...

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Bloomfield, Joseph (18 October 1753–08 October 1823), lawyer, soldier, and politician, was born in Woodbridge, New Jersey, the son of Moses Bloomfield, a physician, and Sarah Ogden. The family was one of the most prominent in colonial New Jersey. His father had received a first-rate medical education in Edinburgh, Scotland, and had a thriving practice in Middlesex County by the time Joseph was born. Joseph’s mother was a member of a wealthy and influential family of Elizabethtown, which further assured Joseph’s upper-class pedigree. His education and choice of occupation were in line with his social standing. While in his early teens, he attended the Reverend Enoch Green’s classical academy in Deerfield, Cumberland County, at the opposite end of the province from Woodbridge. Upon graduation, Bloomfield returned to East Jersey, determined to be a lawyer. He entered the profession at the top, studying in Perth Amboy with Cortlandt Skinner, attorney general of New Jersey, and was admitted to the bar in November 1774. Setting up practice in Bridgeton, Cumberland County, he soon became known and respected in all of New Jersey’s southern counties. The future seemed secure, had not the American Revolution intervened....

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Campbell, Arthur (03 November 1743–08 August 1811), frontiersman, soldier, and politician, was born in Augusta County, Virginia, the son of David Campbell and Mary Hamilton, immigrant Scotch-Irish Presbyterian farmers. He was not quite fifteen when, during the French and Indian War, he joined a company of Virginia rangers stationed in western Augusta County. At Fort Young on the Jackson River in September 1758, Campbell was captured by Wyandot Indians and spent two years in captivity in the vicinity of Detroit before escaping....

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Connor, Patrick Edward (02 March 1820?–17 December 1891), soldier, entrepreneur, and politician, was born Patrick Edward O’Connor in County Kerry, Ireland. His exact birth date and the names of his parents are in question. As a teenager, he emigrated with his parents to New York City, where he probably briefly attended public school....

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Dearborn, Henry (23 February 1751–06 June 1829), politician and soldier, was born in Hampton, New Hampshire, the son of Simon Dearborn and Sarah Marston, farmers. When Henry was seven years old the family moved to Epping, New Hampshire, where he attended local schools. The father died when Henry was fifteen, leaving the mother with a large family and scant resources. Unable to attend college, Henry studied medicine first under local doctors and then under ...

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Elliot, James (18 August 1775–10 November 1839), politician, soldier, and author, was born in Gloucester, Massachusetts, the son of James Elliot, a sailor, and Martha Day. His father died at sea of smallpox early in the Revolution, and in 1780 the family moved to New Salem, Massachusetts, where Elliot’s mother made a meager living as a seamstress. As a boy Elliot developed a strong love of reading and study, but the family’s poverty denied him a chance for a formal education. He worked as a household servant for Ebenezer Sanderson, a Petersham farmer and merchant, from 1782 to 1789, then took a job as clerk at a general store in Guilford, Vermont. There he made the acquaintance of ...

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Folsom, Nathaniel (18 September 1726–26 May 1790), merchant and soldier, was born in Exeter, New Hampshire, the son of Jonathan Folsom and Anna Ladd Foster, farmers. When Folsom was fourteen his father died. He was apprenticed to a trade but later became a merchant and, with two partners, began his own trading firm. He had no formal or academic education....

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Gadsden, James (15 May 1788–26 December 1858), soldier, politician, and railroad executive, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, the son of Philip Gadsden, and Catherine Edwards. He was the grandson of Christopher Gadsden, a merchant and revolutionary leader. Like his older brothers, he attended Yale, from which he was graduated in 1806. After leaving Yale he returned to Charleston and became a merchant. Gadsden married Susanne Gibbs Hort; the couple had no children....

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Hardin, John J. (06 January 1810–23 February 1847), soldier and politician, was born in Frankfort, Kentucky, the son of Martin D. Hardin, a politician, and Elizabeth Logan. It is not known what the middle initial, “J.,” stood for, if indeed Hardin had a full middle name. He was raised in a wealthy Kentucky family. His father was a U.S. senator (1816–1817) and Kentucky’s secretary of state, and his mother was the daughter of General ...

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Johnson, James (01 January 1774–13 August 1826), soldier, entrepreneur, and political leader, was born in Orange County, Virginia, the son of Robert Johnson, a frontier planter and political leader, and Jemima Suggett. Emigrating to Kentucky, the family experienced the dangers of frontier life. According to Leland W. Meyer’s description, during a battle with American Indians at Bryant’s Station (Lexington) in 1782, eight-year-old James extinguished fire arrows on cabin roofs while his mother led a group of women to resupply the station with water....

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Lane, Joseph (14 December 1801–19 April 1881), soldier and political leader, was born near Asheville, North Carolina, the son of John Lane and Elizabeth Street, farmers. When Lane was three, his family moved to Henderson County, Kentucky. After a rudimentary education, he left home at fourteen and settled in Darlington, Indiana, where he clerked and learned the basics of law in the offices of Warrick County. In 1820 he married Mary Polly Hart and bought land on the Ohio River in Vanderburgh County, where their ten children were born and raised. At age twenty Lane was elected to the state legislature, where, as an admirer and supporter of ...

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Logan, Benjamin (1742–11 December 1802), military and civil officer, was born in Augusta County in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, the son of David Logan and Jane McKinley, farmers. His parents, Anglo-Irish immigrants to Pennsylvania, moved to Virginia in the late 1730s, where David Logan purchased an 860-acre tract. Benjamin Logan apparently received little formal schooling, but a commanding physical presence together with an aptitude for hunting and wrestling earned the young man the respect of his backcountry peers. Following the death of his father in 1757, Benjamin, the oldest living son, inherited the family’s Shenandoah Valley lands. Seeking more and better land, Logan relocated to the Holston River Valley in southwestern Virginia in the fall of 1771. There he married twenty-year-old Ann Montgomery in 1772. They had nine children....

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McClure, George (1770–16 August 1851), soldier and public official, was born near Londonderry, Ireland. His ancestors had left Scotland for religious reasons in the seventeenth century. Working as a carpenter, at the age of twenty he decided to immigrate to the United States. He entered the new nation at Baltimore with only extra clothes and a chest of tools. After two years he set off on foot to see more of the country. In Pennsylvania he read an advertisement offering good pay to craftsmen who would come to Bath in western New York. En route to Bath, McClure passed through uninhabited land and crossed streams that had not yet been bridged. He joined a crew of thirty men tasked by an agent for a large landed interest to build houses as fast as they could in an attempt to hurry up settlement. In 1795 he married Eleanor Bole of Derry, Pennsylvania. After she died, he married Sarah Welles in 1808....

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Quitman, John Anthony (01 September 1799–17 July 1858), Mexican War general and southern secessionist, was born in Rhinebeck, New York, the son of Frederick Henry Quitman, a Lutheran minister, and Anna Elizabeth Hueck. His father achieved considerable prominence as a minister, and John, in turn, was educated privately for the ministry. From the fall of 1816 until the summer of 1818, he taught and pursued theological studies at Hartwick Seminary in Hartwick, New York. He then became adjunct professor of English at Mount Airy College, a Catholic academy near Philadelphia, before moving to Ohio in the fall of 1819 to pursue a career in law. Though he passed Ohio’s bar examination in July 1821, he became discouraged by the state’s depressed economy due to the panic of 1819 and traveled, almost penniless, to Natchez, Mississippi, where he arrived in December 1821. The next month, however, he passed Mississippi’s bar requirements and soon established a lucrative legal practice, becoming a leading figure in the Mississippi State Bar Association. Marriage in 1824 to Eliza Turner, the niece of the influential Edward Turner, provided John with social respectability. They had ten children. The transplanted northerner relished southern institutions, and through his marriage and subsequent purchases he acquired a Natchez mansion, four plantations in Mississippi and Louisiana, and several hundred slaves....

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Ripley, Eleazar Wheelock (15 April 1782–02 March 1839), army officer and politician, was born in Hanover, New Hampshire, the son of the Reverend Sylvanus Ripley, a professor of theology at Dartmouth College, and Abigail Wheelock, daughter of the founder of that school. Ripley attended Dartmouth and graduated in 1800. He studied law and subsequently established a practice in Waterville, Maine, then administered by Massachusetts. In 1807 Ripley was elected to the state house of representatives and by 1811 had succeeded future Supreme Court justice ...

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Seguín, Juan Nepomuceno (27 October 1806–27 August 1890), military and political figure, was born in San Antonio, Texas, the son of Erasmo Seguín, a merchant and postmaster, and María Josefa Becerra. Seguín was born four years before the outbreak of the Mexican War of Independence. He witnessed the family’s loss of property and position when royal authorities accused his father of collaborating with insurrectionists. Restored to a leadership position by the time of independence, his father represented Texas at the Mexican constitutional convention of 1823–1824, while Seguín helped his mother run the post office and farm. Through his father’s efforts on behalf of colonization projects, Seguín became a strong supporter of Anglo-American settlement and, like him, an outspoken proponent of states’ rights liberalism....

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Isaac I. Stevens. Photograph by Timothy H. O'Sullivan. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-B8171-0164).

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Stevens, Isaac Ingalls (25 March 1818–01 September 1862), military leader and politician, was born in North Andover, Massachusetts, the son of Isaac Stevens and Hannah Cummings, moderately well-to-do farmers. After attending local schools and Phillips Academy, Stevens received appointment to the U.S. Military Academy in 1835, from which he graduated first in his class in 1839....

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Van Rensselaer, Solomon (06 August 1774–23 April 1852), soldier, congressman, and public official, was born in Rensselaer County, New York, the son of Henry Kiliaen Van Rensselaer, a revolutionary war general, and Alida Bradt. The Van Rensselaers were one of the powerful Dutch patroon families of New York. Respect for the military profession ran high in the culture and in the family, so Solomon’s father secured for him in 1792 a commission as cornet in the newly formed U.S. light dragoon squadron. The dragoons became part of ...