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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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Ashe, John Baptista (1748–27 November 1802), member of the Continental Congress and U.S. Congress, soldier, and state politician, was born in Rocky Point, New Hanover County, North Carolina, the son of Samuel Ashe, a jurist, and Mary Porter. His grandfather John Baptista Ashe, for whom he was named, served on His Majesty’s Council of North Carolina; his father was assistant attorney for the Crown, the first judge for the state of North Carolina, and later governor. Ashe, who grew up on the “Neck,” his father’s tobacco plantation, learned about tobacco cultivation and received his education from a private tutor. There is no indication that he pursued a college education....

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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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Champion, Henry (19 January 1723–23 July 1797), political and military leader who played an important role in provisioning the Continental army, was born in East Haddam, Connecticut, the son of Lieutenant Henry Champion and Mehitable Rowley. Little is known about his early life and education....

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Cilley, Joseph (1734–25 August 1799), soldier and politician, was born at “Ledge Farm” in Nottingham, New Hampshire, the son of Joseph Cilley and Alice (or Elsie) Rawlins (or Rollins), farmers. During his youth Cilley worked alongside his father, learning how to farm. A self-taught lawyer, he also was a businessman. In 1756 he married Sarah Longfellow; they had ten children and established a farm, “The Square,” near Nottingham....

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Davie, William Richardson (20 June 1756–05 November 1820), statesman and soldier, was born in Egremont, Cumberlandshire, England, the son of Archibald Davie, a manufacturer of damask fabric, and Mary Richardson. In 1763 he was brought by his father to Waxhaw, South Carolina, to be adopted by his mother’s brother, the Reverend William Richardson, a Presbyterian clergyman. He was educated at an academy in Charlotte, North Carolina—Queen’s Museum College. He then studied at Princeton, from which he graduated in 1776 with first honors. He subsequently studied law in Salisbury, North Carolina. Although he was licensed to practice law in 1780, his service in the revolutionary war deferred his becoming a jurist until 1782....

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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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Ewing, James (03 August 1736–01 March 1806), colonial Pennsylvania assemblyman, revolutionary war general, and state legislator, was born in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, the son of Thomas Ewing, a member of the Pennsylvania Assembly from 1739 to 1741, and Susanna Howard. His family was Scotch-Irish, but unlike most of this group, the Ewings were not Presbyterians. James married Patience Wright, a daughter of a notable local family. In the “Great War for the Empire,” Ewing accompanied General ...

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William Grayson. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-98918).

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Grayson, William (1736–12 March 1790), lawyer, soldier, and statesman, was born in Prince William County, Virginia, the son of Susanna Monroe and Benjamin Grayson, a merchant and factor. He attended the College of Philadelphia (now the University of Pennsylvania), graduating in 1760. Some controversy exists concerning whether he next proceeded to Oxford or to Edinburgh, but the absence of his name from the rolls at Oxford, coupled with his great devotion to the teachings of Adam Smith, seems to militate in favor of the Scottish university. According to tradition, he then received legal training at the Inns of Court. He married Eleanor Smallwood....

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Alexander Hamilton. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-91098).

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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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Huntington, Jabez (07 August 1719–05 October 1786), politician and general, was born in Norwich, Connecticut, the son of Joshua Huntington, a merchant, and Hannah Perkins. The Huntingtons were one of eastern Connecticut’s most prominent families. Jabez’s grandfather and great-uncle, Christopher and Simon Huntington, had been among the wealthiest of Norwich’s original settlers; his father, Joshua, took advantage of Norwich’s strategic location at the uppermost navigable point on the Thames River to become the region’s leading merchant. For most of the eighteenth century, Norwich was the second most populous town in the colony, lagging only slightly behind New Haven and standing ahead of urban centers that were to become better known, such as Hartford and New London. Growing up a Huntington in this thriving river port afforded Jabez great opportunities to excel in both politics and business....

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Jackson, William (09 March 1759–18 December 1828), revolutionary war officer and secretary of the Constitutional Convention, was born in Cumberland County, England, the son of an English father and a Scotch mother (their names have not been identified). Orphaned as a child and having come into some inheritance, Jackson was sent to Charleston, South Carolina, where he was placed under the guardianship of Owen Roberts, a prominent patriot leader. He studied “under private tuition.” In 1775 he joined a Charleston militia regiment and in May 1776 received a commission as second lieutenant in the First Regiment of South Carolina infantry; the next year he was promoted to lieutenant....

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The Marquis de Lafayette. Reproduction of a painting by E. Percy Moran, c. 1909. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZC4-4526).

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Lafayette, Marquis de (06 September 1757–20 May 1834), major general in the Continental army and French soldier and statesman, was born Marie-Joseph-Paul-Yves-Roch Gilbert du Motier Lafayette in Chavaniac, France, the son of Gilbert du Motier, marquis de Lafayette, and Julie de la Rivière. After his father, a colonel in the grenadiers, was killed at the battle of Minden in 1759, his mother moved to Paris. The boy was raised at Château Chavaniac in the mountains of Auvergne until he was twelve. He then spent four years at the Collège du Plessis in Paris in a curriculum emphasizing the civic virtues of republican Rome....

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Lewis, Morgan (16 October 1754–07 April 1844), soldier and politician, was born in New York City, the son of Francis Lewis (1713–1802), a merchant, and Elizabeth Annesley. Lewis’s father, a prominent political figure in New York, served in the Second Continental Congress and was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Young Lewis’s early life showed promise of a brilliant future. He graduated with high honors in 1773 from the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University). Afterward, he studied law in the offices 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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Martin, Alexander (1740–02 November 1807), revolutionary soldier and political leader, was born in Hunterdon County, New Jersey, the son of Hugh Martin, a Presbyterian minister, and Jane Hunter. Both parents were of Irish descent. Educated at the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University), he received A.B. and A.M. degrees in 1756 and 1759, respectively. After a sojourn in Virginia as a tutor, he settled in Salisbury, Rowan County, North Carolina, about 1760. He acquired property there and in Guilford County (now Rockingham County) along the Dan River. He became a merchant and, by appointment of Governor ...