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Alexander, William (25 December 1726–15 January 1783), soldier and claimant to the title of Lord Stirling, was born in New York City, the son of James Alexander, a prominent lawyer, and Mary Spratt Provoost Alexander, a merchant. He grew up in privileged circumstances, receiving an education from his father and private tutors. Although overshadowed by his rich and assertive parents, he loved them and fell into an easy working relationship with his mother in her mercantile business. In 1748 he married Sarah Livingston, daughter of ...

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Allan, John (14 January 1746–07 February 1805), revolutionary war soldier, was born in Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh, Scotland, the son of Major William Allan, a British army officer, and Isabella Maxwell. In 1749, when Allan was only three years old, his father brought him and his mother to Nova Scotia to take part in founding the military colony of Halifax. After the dispersion of the Acadians in 1756, Allan’s father retired from the army and took up a tract of former Acadian land in Nova Scotia. Soon the elder Allan was a prominent and wealthy citizen of the province. In 1762 he sent John, his eldest son, to Massachusetts to round out the latter’s education. Much to his father’s chagrin, John Allan imbibed the political attitudes of the New England people and thus became an advocate of the old Whig cause against Britain. Upon his return to Nova Scotia, Allan settled down as a farmer and Indian trader; his business interests flourished, and soon he was wealthy. In 1767 he married Mary Patton, with whom over the next few years he had five children. He also served in positions of honor in his home county of Cumberland: clerk of the sessions and justice of the peace. Advancing to higher ranks, he was appointed clerk of the provincial supreme court, and from 1770 to 1776 he held a seat in the Parliament of Nova Scotia....

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Angell, Israel (24 August 1740–04 May 1832), revolutionary soldier, was born in Providence, Rhode Island, the son of Oliver Angell, a cooper, and Naomi Smith. A descendant of Thomas Angell, one of the original settlers of Rhode Island, Angell received a good education, developing especially an interest in science. He followed his father into the position of cooper and settled in Johnston, Rhode Island. He married Martha Angell, a second cousin, in 1765; the couple had eleven children prior to her death in 1793....

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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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Benedict Arnold. Engraving from a painting by John Trumbull. Courtesy of the National Archives (NWDNS-148-GW-617).

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Arnold, Benedict (14 January 1741–14 June 1801), revolutionary war general and traitor, was born in Norwich, Connecticut, the son of Benedict Arnold III, a merchant, and Hannah Waterman King. Of his mother’s eleven children, only he and a younger sister survived. At age eleven he was sent away to grammar school, but he left two years later when his alcoholic father lost the family’s fortune. Apprenticed to his mother’s cousin, an apothecary in Norwich, he volunteered in three campaigns (1757–1759) of the French and Indian War, deserting finally to be with his dying mother. His father died soon after, leaving little except debts, but his generous master paid the debts and set Arnold up in business when he decided to move to New Haven in 1762....

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Ashe, John (1720?–24 October 1781), colonial politician and military officer, was born in the Albemarle Sound region of North Carolina, the son of John Baptista Ashe, an assemblyman, and Elizabeth Swann. In late 1727 the elder Ashe moved south from Beaufort County and purchased a 640-acre plantation near the Cape Fear River. There, John Ashe was tutored in Latin, Greek, and French. Entering Harvard as a member of the class of 1746, he proved to be a rebellious student, continually chafing against authority and chronically absenting himself from class....

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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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Barber, Francis (26 November 1750–11 February 1783), revolutionary war officer and schoolmaster, was born in Princeton, New Jersey, the son of Patrick Barber, a farmer and county judge, and Jane Frasher (also spelled Fraser or Frazer). His parents had immigrated from County Longford, Ireland, in 1735. In 1764, while Barber was attending the College of New Jersey (now Princeton), the family moved to a 200-acre farm in Ulster County, New York. Upon receiving his A.B. in 1767, Barber and Stephen Van Voornees established a school at Newbridge, near Hackensack, New Jersey. Considered an able scholar in the ancient languages, especially Greek, Barber was named the master of the Elizabethtown Academy (a Latin grammar school) in 1771. ...

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Barton, William (26 May 1748–22 October 1831), revolutionary war soldier, was born in Warren, Rhode Island, the son of Benjamin Barton and Lydia (maiden name unknown). Information about his parents’ occupations is not available. After receiving a common-school education, he entered the hat-making trade. In 1770, at the age of twenty-two, he married Rhoda Carver and lived peacefully for the next few years. In 1775, upon hearing of the battle of Bunker Hill, he joined the Rhode Island militia. He quickly showed an aptitude for leading men and rose to the rank of captain. A year later, on 19 August 1776, he was promoted to major....

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Beatty, John (19 December 1749–30 April 1826), physician, army officer, and government official, was born in Warwick, Pennsylvania, the son of Charles Clinton Beatty, a Presbyterian minister, and Anne Reading. John attended the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University), where he was one of twenty graduates in the class of 1769. He received an A.M. there three years later. As an undergraduate, he was an original member of the school’s literary club, the American Whig Society. During the interval between his two degree awards, Beatty studied medicine under Dr. ...

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Benner, Philip (19 May 1762–27 July 1832), soldier, pioneer ironmaster, and entrepreneur, was born in Chester County, Pennsylvania, the son of Henry Benner and Dinah Thomas, farmers. For Philip Benner as for many of his generation, the American Revolution was the defining experience of his early life. When his father, a vocal patriot, was imprisoned by the British, Philip went to war in the Continental army wearing a vest in which his mother had quilted guineas in case of emergency. Benner fought as a private under the command of his relative General ...

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Biddle, Clement (10 May 1740–14 July 1814), merchant and army officer, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of John Biddle, a shipping merchant, and Sarah Owen. Biddle’s great-grandfather, who came to America in 1681, was one of the proprietors of West New Jersey. Biddle’s father moved from Mount Hope, New Jersey, to Philadelphia in 1730. Except for some interruption from his army service, Clement Biddle was a lifelong merchant whose family eventually achieved great prominence in Philadelphia. He formed a partnership early in life with his father called John & Clement Biddle. On 6 June 1764 Biddle married Mary Richardson, daughter of Francis Richardson of Chester, Pennsylvania. They had one child, Frances, who died in infancy; Biddle became a widower in 1773. On 18 August 1774 he took as his second wife Rebekah Cornell, daughter of Gideon Cornell, who at the time of his death in 1765 was lieutenant governor and chief justice of Rhode Island. Rebekah lived until 18 November 1831, having borne thirteen children, two of whom died in infancy. Nine children married into prominent families, as did their successors, and this Biddle branch became one of Philadelphia’s most powerful and wealthy families. Clement Biddle’s sister, Ann, married General ...

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Bland, Theodorick (21 March 1742–01 June 1790), revolutionary soldier and politician, was born in Prince George County, Virginia, the son of Theodorick Bland, a planter, and Frances Bolling. In 1753 he was sent to Wakefield in Yorkshire, England, for schooling, remaining there until taking up medical studies in Liverpool in 1759. Two years later he transferred to the University of Edinburgh and received an M.D. degree in 1763. In Edinburgh and later in London Bland cut a fashionable figure, chivied by friends for his “monstrous large Whig.” He was also known as “something of a politician,” and it was with reluctance that he heeded his father’s call to return to Virginia in 1764. There he began his medical practice with all its attendant “distresses, cares and anxieties,” the “immense fatigue” of which caused him to retire from the profession in 1771. Wishing for a “calm, quiet, and philosophical life, in a rural situation,” Bland became a planter in Prince George County....

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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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Brearly, David (11 June 1745–16 August 1790), jurist and revolutionary war officer, was born at “Spring Grove” farm, near Maidensead (now Lawrenceville), New Jersey, the son of David Brearly and Mary Clark, farmers. The family name was sometimes spelled “Brearley.” His early education is unknown, and he may have briefly attended the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University). He studied law and became an attorney at Allentown, New Jersey, where he made his residence. Brearly participated in the revolutionary movement and became associated with men involved in protest against Great Britain before the war who were later dubbed the “early Whigs” and who would dominate East New Jersey politics. In his law practice, he specialized in estate matters; he was appointed Monmouth County surrogate in 1768 and 1771. About 1767 Brearly married Elizabeth Mullen; they had four children before she died in 1777....

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Brodhead, Daniel (17 September 1736–15 November 1809), revolutionary war soldier, was born in Albany, New York, the son of Daniel Brodhead II, a merchant, and Hester Wyngart. When Brodhead was young his father moved the family to “Brodhead Manor” on the Pennsylvania frontier in Bucks (now Monroe) County. In his youth he made many trips over the Allegheny Mountains, and by the time he reached manhood he was a capable frontiersman, learned in the ways of the forest and of local Indian tribes....

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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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Brown, John (19 October 1744–19 October 1780), revolutionary war soldier, was born in Haverhill, Massachusetts, the son of Daniel Brown and Mehitabel Sanford. When he was eight years old his parents moved to Sandisfield, Massachusetts. In 1771 he graduated from Yale College, then the following year studied law with Oliver Arnold, his brother-in-law, in Providence, Rhode Island. Admitted to the New York bar in late 1772, he opened a law office in Caghnawaga (now Johnstown), New York, and that same year was appointed king’s attorney. Also in 1772 he moved to Pittsfield, Massachusetts, where (apparently) he met and married Huldah Kilbourne. He quickly gained a reputation for ardent advocacy of American rights in the growing quarrel with Britain and was chosen in June 1774 to serve on the Pittsfield Committee of Correspondence. A month later he helped write nonintercourse proposals that were adopted by a convention at Stockbridge, Massachusetts; in October he was elected to the Provincial Congress. In February 1775 he was sent to Canada by Boston patriots to encourage Canadians to revolt and to establish communications with others who were inclined to do so. Although he pretended to be a horse dealer during his unsuccessful two-month sojourn in the province, Canadian citizens thought it singular that he purchased not one steed....

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Buford, Abraham (31 July 1749–30 June 1833), revolutionary war officer, was born in Culpeper County, Virginia, the son of John Buford and Judith Early. Although his father was one of the largest landholders in the area, little is known about Abraham until 1775, when he commanded a company in one of the fifteen battalions of minutemen established by the revolutionary Virginia Convention. His unit was involved in the military actions against the last royal governor, ...