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Boyd, John Parker (21 December 1764–04 October 1830), army officer and soldier of fortune, was born in Newburyport, Massachusetts, the son of James Boyd and Susanna (maiden name unknown). He developed military interests as a boy, and in 1786 he was appointed ensign in a Massachusetts infantry regiment suppressing Shays’s Rebellion (see ...

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Browne, John Ross (11 February 1821–08 December 1875), writer, world traveler, and government agent, was born in Beggars Bush, near Dublin, Ireland, the son of Thomas Egerton Browne and Elana Buck. His father was a refugee from British rule. As the editor of three publications, Thomas Browne satirized British tithing measures and earned the enmity of the Crown, a fine, and a jail sentence for “seditious libel.”...

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Harlan, Josiah (12 June 1799– October 1871), soldier of fortune and adventurer, was born in Newlin Township, Pennsylvania, the son of Joshua Harlan, a merchant broker of Philadelphia, and Sarah Hinchman. His parents were members of the Society of Friends (Quakers), and indications are that Harlan followed in their path of independent thought though certainly not the Quaker ideal of pacifism. Almost nothing is known of his early years. The first prominent event of his career was in 1823, when he journeyed to Asia and entered the employment of the British East India Tea Company. He served as an officiating assistant surgeon in the Bengal artillery under British colonel George Pollock during the first Burmese War (1824–1826). This employment ended with the conclusion of the war, and Harlan traveled to northern India looking for other work. He had already, at the age of twenty-seven, traveled more than most Americans of his time period. He continued to expand his knowledge of the wider world in Afghanistan, which was at that time contested by Afghans, Sikhs, and the officials of the British East India Company, who feared an incursion by the forces of imperial Russia....

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Ruxton, George Augustus Frederick (24 July 1821–29 August 1848), soldier, adventurer, and author, was born in Eynsham Hall, Oxfordshire, England, the son of John Ruxton, an army surgeon, and Anna Maria Hay. On 14 July 1835 Ruxton became a cadet at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. After about two years at the academy, Ruxton was apparently expelled and subsequently traveled to Spain, where he participated for a time in that country’s civil war as a cornet of lancers in the British Auxiliary Legion, a unit serving with forces loyal to Queen Isabella II. For his distinguished actions at the Battle of the Bridge of Belascoain, 29 April–1 May 1839, the queen of Spain awarded Ruxton the Cross of the First Class of the National Military Order of San Fernando....

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Wilkinson, James (1757–28 December 1825), soldier and intriguer, was born in Calvert County, Maryland, the son of Joseph Wilkinson and Betty Heighe, merchant-farmers. He spent his early years on his parents’ farm, but his father died when he was seven, and his mother apprenticed him to a local physician, John Bond, to learn medicine. When Wilkinson was seventeen he went to Philadelphia to continue his medical training. In 1775 he completed his studies and opened a practice in Monocacy, Maryland. But his heart was not in it. While in Philadelphia he had been dazzled by the fervor of the growing revolutionary movement, avidly watching militiamen drill and listening to heated oratory against the “Intolerable Acts.” He began to neglect his patients, concentrating instead on drilling with a volunteer corps of riflemen, and soon he had joined colonial forces investing Boston. An affable young man, he received attention from General ...