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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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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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Sevier, John (23 September 1745–24 September 1815), soldier, governor, and congressman, was born near the present town of New Market, Virginia, the son of Valentine Sevier, a farmer, trader, and merchant, and Joanna Goade. He attended school briefly when the family lived in Fredericksburg and in Staunton and at the age of sixteen was married to fifteen-year-old Sarah Hawkins; the couple had ten children. Very shortly after her death in 1780, he married Catherine Sherrill, with whom he had eight children. For a decade after his first marriage, Sevier moved about in the Shenandoah Valley, operating a tavern and store, and farming, trading, and speculating in land. In 1773, joined by his parents and several brothers, he moved to the southwest and settled on the Holston River. Why Sevier and family members would leave the rich lands of the valley is unknown, except perhaps that the valley lands rapidly were filling and the Holston area offered cheap land certain soon to become more valuable....

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Henry Alexander Wise. Engraving by Adam B. Walter. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-89802).

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Wise, Henry Alexander (03 December 1806–12 September 1876), congressman, governor, and Confederate general, was born on Virginia’s Eastern Shore in Drummondtown (now Accomac), the son of John Wise, a Federalist lawyer and legislator, and Sarah Corbin Cropper. Orphaned in 1812–1813, he was raised by relatives and had few resources other than a small inheritance. He received only a meager education until his admission in 1822 to Washington College (now Washington and Jefferson College) in Pennsylvania, where he graduated with first honors in 1825. He attended Chancellor ...