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Bedinger, George Michael (10 December 1756–08 December 1843), soldier, legislator, and businessman, was born in York County, Pennsylvania, the son of Henry Bedinger and Magdalene von Schlegel, innkeepers. In 1737 his grandfather had moved to Pennsylvania from the vicinity of Strasbourg in Alsace-Lorraine. At the time of George Michael’s birth, the family name was spelled Biedinger and German was the language spoken at home. Late in life Bedinger was described by a contemporary as a “full blooded Virginia Dutchman.”...

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Chandler, John (01 February 1762–25 September 1841), soldier, U.S. congressman, and senator, was born in Epping, New Hampshire, the son of Joseph Chandler and Lydia Eastman. His father, a subsistence farmer and soldier, died in 1776, leaving a destitute widow and ten children. To help support the family, John, upon turning fifteen, enlisted in the Continental army, engaging in the 1777 Saratoga campaign that resulted in the defeat and capture of General ...

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Cocke, William (1748–22 August 1828), legislator, soldier, and Indian agent, was born in Amelia County, Virginia, the son of Abraham Cocke, a member of the tobacco gentry. As a young man, Cocke studied law and soon became prominent in public affairs. After moving in the early 1770s with his wife, Sarah Maclin (whom he married in 1773 or earlier), and the first of their nine children to a settlement in the Holston Valley near the present Virginia-Tennessee boundary, he served in the Virginia House of Delegates and was an officer in the Virginia militia. Sometime later, he married Keziah (or Kissiah) Sims; they had no children. While in the Holston Valley, he participated in the formation of Sullivan and Washington counties and held several minor positions. In 1776 he raised a company of troops, was commissioned captain, and established “Cocke’s Fort” in the nearby wilderness. He took part in several military encounters with the British and Indians and in 1780 led his troops—along with ...

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Dodge, Henry (12 October 1782–19 June 1867), soldier, governor of Wisconsin Territory, and U.S. senator, was born at Post Vincennes (now Vincennes), Indiana, the son of Israel Dodge, a farmer and businessman, and Nancy Ann Hunter. His father moved the family to Kentucky and then to Ste. Genevieve on the Missouri frontier in 1796. By the time Henry was born his father had become a wealthy landowner. Henry had little formal education, but worked on his father’s farms and in his mills, distilleries, and mines. In 1800 Henry Dodge married Christina McDonald; they had thirteen children, but only nine survived infancy. He succeeded his father as sheriff of the Ste. Genevieve district in 1805....

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Hardin, Martin D. (21 June 1780–08 October 1823), lawyer, soldier, and U.S. senator, was born near the Monongahela River in southwestern Pennsylvania, the son of John Hardin, a revolutionary war soldier and Indian fighter, and Jane Daveiss. The Hardins were a somewhat prosperous Virginia family of French Huguenots who immigrated in 1706 and settled beyond the Virginia border on the Pennsylvania frontier about 1765. In 1786 John Hardin moved the family to Nelson County in the Kentucky District (now Washington County, Ky.) along Pleasant Run, a branch of Beech Fork, near the present-day county seat of Springfield. John Hardin was murdered by Shawnee Indians in May 1792, near present-day Hardin, Ohio, while serving as a peace emissary; he became a celebrated martyr and the namesake of counties in Kentucky and Ohio....

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Oliver O. Howard. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-B8172-3719).

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Howard, Oliver Otis (08 November 1830–26 October 1909), soldier, government official, and educator, was born in Leeds, Maine, the son of Rowland Bailey Howard and Eliza Otis, farmers. As a boy Howard worked in the company of a young black farmhand, an experience to which he later attributed his broadmindedness in racial matters. Howard graduated from Bowdoin College in 1850 and entered the U.S. Military Academy. He graduated from West Point in 1854, ranked fourth in his class. In 1855 Howard married Elizabeth Ann Waite; the couple had seven children. He first served at the federal arsenals in New York and Maine and then as an ordnance officer in Florida. In 1857 Howard returned to West Point to teach mathematics. The same year he experienced the religious conversion that would earn him such sobriquets as “the Christian Soldier.” His distaste for alcohol and profanity hardly endeared him to many of his fellows. ...

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Andrew Jackson. From an engraving by James Barton Longacre. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-117120).

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Jackson, Andrew (15 March 1767–08 June 1845), soldier and seventh president of the United States, was born in the Waxhaw Settlement, South Carolina, the son of Andrew Jackson and Elizabeth Hutchinson, farmers. Like many other Scotch-Irish at the time, Andrew and Elizabeth Jackson migrated to this country from the port of Carrickfergus in Northern Ireland in 1765, landing most probably in Philadelphia and then journeying southward to join relatives living in the Waxhaw Settlement along the northwestern boundary separating North and South Carolina. They settled with their two sons, Hugh and Robert, on a stretch of land on the south side of Twelve Mile Creek, a branch of the Catawba River, and for two years tried to scratch a living from this acid soil. Then, early in March 1767, Andrew died suddenly. Approximately two weeks later, on 15 March, Elizabeth gave birth to her third son and named him after her deceased husband. Later a dispute arose over the exact location of the birthplace of the future president—whether he was born in North or South Carolina—but Jackson himself always believed and repeatedly stated that he was born in South Carolina....

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Miller, James (25 April 1776–07 July 1851), army officer, territorial governor, and customs official, was born at Petersborough, New Hampshire, the son of James Miller and Catharine Gregg. He entered the Andover Academy in 1794, obtained a common education, and briefly attended Williams College in Massachusetts. Miller returned to New Hampshire, studied law under ...

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Mitchell, George Edward (03 March 1781–28 June 1832), soldier and politician, was born in Elkton, Maryland, the son of Abraham Mitchell, a physician, and Mary Thompson. He studied medicine under his father, took classes at the University of Pennsylvania, and on 5 June 1805 received a permit to practice. Soon afterward Mitchell developed an interest in politics, and in 1808 he was elected to the Maryland House of Delegates as a Democratic Republican. The following year he gained appointment as a member of the state executive council, and from 1809 to 1812 he served as president of this body. Mitchell had previously been tendered a captain’s commission in the light dragoons, but he declined military service until war with Great Britain proved imminent. Accordingly, on 1 May 1812 he resigned from office to accept the rank of major in the newly formed Third U.S. Artillery Regiment....

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Porter, Peter Buell (04 August 1773–20 March 1844), politician, soldier, and secretary of war, was born in Salisbury, Connecticut, the son of Joshua Porter, a speculator, and Abigail Buell. He graduated from Yale in 1791 and subsequently studied law in Litchfield under the celebrated Judge ...

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Smith, Samuel (27 July 1752–22 April 1839), soldier and politician, was born in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, the son of John Smith, a successful merchant, and Mary Buchanan. The family relocated to Baltimore in 1760, and their personal wealth enabled Smith to attend private academies in Elkton, Maryland, and Newark, Delaware. Intent upon a commercial career, the young man was apprenticed in his father’s firm both in America and England, and he spent several years traveling abroad....

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Smyth, Alexander (14 September 1767–17 April 1830), lawyer, soldier, and congressman, was born on Rathlin Island, County Antrim, twelve miles off the northern coast of Ireland, the son of the Reverend Adam Smyth. His mother’s name is unknown. In 1775 his father relocated the family to Botetourt County, Virginia, where he served as rector of the Episcopal parish. Smyth read law and in 1787 was appointed deputy clerk of Botetourt County. He passed the bar in 1789, moved to Wythe County, and married Nancy Binkley in 1791. The couple had four children. A vigorous orator, Smyth entered politics and was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 1792, 1796, 1801–1802, and 1804–1808. Success and a mercurial disposition garnered him powerful enemies, however. Foremost among these was John Preston of Wythe County, with whom Smyth dueled in 1795. The confrontation proved bloodless, but the two men and their respective families remained staunch political adversaries....

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Zachary Taylor. Photograph by Mathew B. Brady. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-13012 DLC).

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Taylor, Zachary (24 November 1784–09 July 1850), army hero and twelfth U.S. president, was born in Orange County, Virginia, the son of Richard Taylor, a revolutionary war officer and pioneer political leader, and Sarah Strother, a cousin of James Madison and Robert E. Lee...

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Thomas, David (11 June 1762–27 November 1831), soldier, congressman, and New York politician, was born in Pelham, Massachusetts, the son of David Thomas and Elizabeth Harper. David’s early schooling consisted of the traditional preparatory studies, but he did not go to college. In 1777 he joined an expedition of Massachusetts troops engaged in the relief of Rhode Island. Following this action, he worked as an apprentice to a shoemaker in Worcester, Massachusetts. In 1781 Thomas joined the Fifth Massachusetts Regiment as a corporal. He later served as a sergeant in the Third Massachusetts Regiment, in which he continued for the remainder of the revolutionary war....

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Thompson, Wiley (23 September 1781–28 December 1835), congressman, military officer, and Indian agent, was born in Amelia County, Virginia, the son of Isham Thompson, a soldier in the revolutionary war, and Elizabeth Williams. As a child, Thompson moved with his family to Elberton, in Wilkes County, later Elbert County, Georgia, where he attended the county school. In 1808 Thompson was appointed by the Georgia legislature to be commissioner of the Elbert County Academy....

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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 ...

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Williams, John (29 January 1778–10 August 1837), soldier, lawyer, and legislator, was born in Surry County, North Carolina, the son of Joseph Williams and Rebecca Lanier. He attended schools in his home county and studied law in nearby Salisbury. He moved to Knoxville, Tennessee, soon after the turn of the century and was admitted to the bar in 1803. Two years later he married Malinda Lawson White, a daughter of General ...