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Adair, John (09 January 1757–19 May 1840), soldier, politician, and governor of Kentucky, was born in Chester County, South Carolina, the son of Baron William Adair and Mary Moore. Little is known about his childhood. As a young man, he fought in the revolutionary war and was captured by the British. During his imprisonment he suffered many cruelties, which apparently did little to deter him from becoming a career soldier. After the war Adair traveled west, eventually settling in Mercer County, Kentucky, in 1786. In 1784 he had married Katherine Palmer; they had twelve children....

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Allen, Henry Watkins (29 April 1820–22 April 1866), Confederate soldier and governor of Louisiana, was born in Prince Edward County, Virginia, the son of Thomas Allen, a physician, and Ann Watkins. Allen and his family moved from Virginia to Ray County, Missouri, when he was thirteen. His father secured him a position working in a store, but Allen found business distasteful and enrolled in Marion College at age fifteen. At seventeen he ran away from college and traveled to Grand Gulf, Mississippi, where he became a tutor on a plantation a few miles outside of town. After tutoring for two years, Allen moved to Grand Gulf to open his own school and to study law. On 25 May 1841 he received his license to practice law in Mississippi. In 1842, when Allen was becoming an established lawyer in Mississippi, President ...

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Adalbert Ames. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-B8172-1728).

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Ames, Adelbert (31 October 1835–13 April 1933), soldier and politician, was born in Rockland, Maine, the son of Jesse Ames, a sea captain, and Martha B. Tolman. After spending some time at sea as a teenager, Ames entered the U.S. Military Academy, graduating in 1861. He was commissioned a second lieutenant and assigned to the Fifth Artillery. During the Civil War he was wounded at First Bull Run (First Manassas) on 21 July, and he later received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroism there in refusing to leave his post despite the wound. He served with the Army of the Potomac during the Peninsula campaign of 1862, and for his actions at Malvern Hill he was brevetted lieutenant colonel. On 8 August 1862 he was named colonel in command of the Twentieth Maine Volunteer Infantry, with ...

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Nathaniel Prentiss Banks. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-4780).

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Banks, Nathaniel Prentiss (30 January 1816–01 September 1894), congressman and Civil War general, was born in Waltham, Massachusetts, the son of Nathaniel P. Banks, a textile mill foreman, and Rebecca Greenwood. He attended a school for factory children until he began work in the mills as a bobbin boy at age eleven. At seventeen he left factory work to assist his father in carpentry and to learn the machinist’s trade....

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Bate, William Brimage (07 October 1826–09 March 1905), Confederate general, governor, and U.S. senator, was born in Bledsoe’s Lick (now Castalian Springs), Sumner County, Tennessee, the son of James Henry Bate and Amanda Weathered, planters. William Bate received the rudiments of education at a local school, later named the Rural Academy, which he attended until age sixteen. At that time, 1842, his father died, and Bate took a job as a clerk on the steamboat ...

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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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Bonham, Milledge Luke (25 December 1813–27 August 1890), governor, congressman, and soldier, was born in South Carolina’s Edgefield District, the son of James Bonham and Sophie Smith, planters. His father died when he was two, and his mother saw to his education. Bonham attended private academies before graduating from South Carolina College in 1834. He entered the legal profession, engaged in local politics, and became prominent in state military affairs, rising to the rank of major general of militia. He led a brigade of Palmetto State volunteers in the Seminole War of 1836, a position that helped win him a stint in the state house of representatives (1840–1844). In 1845 he married Ann Griffin; they had fourteen children....

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Brooks, John (04 May 1752–01 March 1825), revolutionary war officer and governor of Massachusetts, was born in Medford, Massachusetts, the son of Caleb Brooks and Ruth Albree, farmers. John Brooks studied medicine with Dr. Simon Tufts of Medford from 1766 to 1773, leaving at age twenty-one to establish his own practice in Reading, Massachusetts. In 1774 he married Lucy Smith; they had three children....

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Buckner, Simon Bolivar (01 April 1823–08 January 1914), Confederate lieutenant general and governor of Kentucky (1887-1891), Confederate lieutenant general and governor of Kentucky (1887–1891), was born at his family’s home, “Glen Lily,” in Hart County, Kentucky, the son of Aylett H. Buckner, a planter and iron manufacturer, and Elizabeth Ann Morehead. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1844. For gallant and meritorious conduct during the Mexican War Buckner was breveted captain. Before and after that war he served as a tactical officer at West Point and in other military posts....

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Ambrose E. Burnside Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-B8172-1625).

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Burnside, Ambrose Everett (23 May 1824–13 September 1881), soldier and businessman, was born in Liberty, Indiana, the son of Pamelia Brown and Edghill Burnside, a law clerk and farmer. The Burnsides had nine children and only a modest income, so Ambrose received no more than a rudimentary education before starting work as an apprentice tailor in 1840. His father took advantage of a term in the state legislature to have the boy appointed to the United States Military Academy at West Point, which he entered on 1 July 1843. He graduated eighteenth out of thirty-eight cadets in the class of 1847 and was commissioned second lieutenant in the Third U.S. Artillery. His battery was serving in the Mexican War, and he joined it in Mexico City, too late to see action. Bored, he gambled away six months’ pay. Further embarrassment was prevented by a posting, in spring 1848, to Fort Adams, Rhode Island....

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Benjamin F. Butler. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-B8172-1406).

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Butler, Benjamin Franklin (05 November 1818–11 January 1893), governor of Massachusetts and Civil War general, was born in Deerfield, New Hampshire, the son of John Butler, a seaman, and Charlotte Ellison, both of Scots-Irish descent. John Butler died while his son was still an infant, and in 1828 Charlotte moved to Lowell, Massachusetts, to keep a boardinghouse for female factory workers. Butler was educated at Waterville (now Colby) College, which he attended from 1834 to 1838. He studied law while clerking for the Lowell attorney William Smith and was admitted to the bar in 1840. In 1844 he married the actress Sarah Hildreth, with whom he had four children, three of whom survived to adulthood....

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Carroll, William (03 March 1788–22 March 1844), soldier, businessman and governor of Tennessee, was born near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the son of Thomas Carroll, a farmer and businessman, and Mary Montgomery. Although his formal education was meager, his letters, papers, and public documents exhibit an unusual clarity of thought and facility of expression. His father formed a partnership with ...

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Caswell, Richard (03 August 1729–10 November 1789), revolutionary militia general and state governor, was born in Baltimore County, Maryland, the son of Richard Caswell, a merchant, and Christian Dallam. Educated in the Anglican parish school, Caswell at an early age was involved in his family’s mercantile business. In 1745 he moved with his family to North Carolina, and within two years he secured a position as deputy surveyor general. Caswell married Mary Mackilwean, the daughter of his mentor James Mackilwean, the surveyor general, on 21 April 1752. From this marriage he had one surviving son, William. Since he had lived with the Mackilwean family on the Neuse River adjacent to the present city of Kinston, Caswell located his plantation seat nearby and began accumulating property, eventually owning more than 3,000 acres. Following Mary’s death in 1757, Caswell married on 20 June 1758 Sarah Heritage, the daughter of William Heritage, under whose tutelage Caswell read law and passed the bar. Eight children were born to this marriage....

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Joshua L. Chamberlain. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-B8172-1859).

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Chamberlain, Joshua Lawrence (08 September 1828–24 February 1914), soldier, politician, and educator, was born in Brewer, Maine, the son of Joshua Chamberlain, a farmer and shipbuilder, and Sarah Dupee Brastow. After attending a military academy in Ellsworth, Chamberlain entered Bowdoin College in 1848, graduating in 1852. Three years later, after graduating from the Bangor Theological Seminary, he joined Bowdoin’s faculty and taught a broad range of subjects, including logic, natural theology, rhetoric, oratory, and modern languages. In 1855 he married Frances Caroline Adams; of the couple’s five children, three survived to adulthood....

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Churchill, Thomas James (10 March 1824–14 May 1905), soldier and politician, was born near Louisville in Jefferson County, Kentucky, the son of Samuel Churchill and Abby Oldham, farmers. After graduating from St. Mary’s College in Bardstown in 1844, Churchill attended Transylvania University and studied law. He joined the First Kentucky Mounted Riflemen Regiment as a lieutenant at the beginning of the Mexican War. Enemy cavalrymen captured Churchill in January 1847, and he remained a prisoner in the city of Mexico until the war had almost ended. Churchill purchased a plantation near Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1848 and began raising cotton. In 1849 he married Ann Sevier; they had four children. He received an appointment as postmaster at Little Rock in 1857....