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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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Bragg, Edward Stuyvesant (20 February 1827–20 June 1912), Civil War general, congressman, and diplomat, was born in Unadilla, Otsego County, New York, the son of Joel Bragg, a rural businessman, and Margaretha Kohl. Bragg received his early education at local schools and went on to study law at Geneva College (now Hobart College) in Geneva, New York. He was admitted to the New York bar in 1848. After briefly practicing in Unadilla, he migrated to Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, at the age of twenty-three. He was admitted to the Wisconsin bar and began a lifetime practice of arguing cases before the Wisconsin Supreme Court. In 1854 he was elected district prosecuting attorney. That same year he married Cornelia Coleman; they had four children....

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Ewing, Thomas, Jr. (07 August 1829–21 January 1896), soldier, lawyer, and congressman, was born in Lancaster, Ohio, the son of Thomas Ewing (1789–1871), a lawyer, and Maria Boyle. His foster brother was William T. Sherman, who had been raised by the Ewings. Ewing attended Lancaster Academy and later had a year of schooling in Brownsville, Pennsylvania, at the home of his cousin ...

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Keifer, Joseph Warren (30 January 1836–22 April 1932), soldier, congressman, and Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, was born near Springfield, Ohio, the son of Joseph Keifer, a farmer and sometime surveyor, and Mary Smith. Keifer was educated at home and in the district school. He taught for one term (1852–1853), worked on the family’s farm, and attended nearby Antioch College (1854–1855). In 1856, after studying some on his own, he began reading law with a Springfield firm and was admitted to the bar in January 1858. Following a two-month tour of various midwestern cities, evaluating them as possible sites for relocation, Keifer returned to practice law in Springfield, where he remained for the rest of his life....

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William S. Rosecrans. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-B8172-2001).

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Rosecrans, William Starke (06 September 1819–11 March 1898), soldier and congressman, was born in Delaware County, Ohio, the son of Crandall Rosecrans and Jemima Hopkins, farmers. His father died when Rosecrans was in his teens, forcing the boy to play a major role in supporting his family. Largely through his own efforts, he secured an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy, from which he graduated fifth in the 56-man class of 1842....

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Lovell Harrison Rousseau. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-B8172-2025).

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Rousseau, Lovell Harrison (04 August 1818–07 January 1869), military officer and congressman, was born near Stanford, Lincoln County, Kentucky; his parents’ names are unknown. He briefly attended local schools and worked on neighboring farms before joining a construction crew to build a road from Lexington to Lancaster. Rousseau then studied law in Louisville. He moved to Bloomfield, Indiana, in 1840 and was admitted to the bar in February 1841. He took an immediate interest in politics and became affiliated with the Whig party. Rousseau was a member of the Indiana State House of Representatives in 1844 and 1845. Attached to the Second Indiana Infantry during the Mexican War, he held the rank of captain and in 1847 served with General ...

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Weaver, James Baird (12 June 1833–06 February 1912), soldier and politician, was born in Dayton, Ohio, the son of Abram Weaver and Susan Imlay, farmers. The son and grandson of pioneer settlers, James Weaver grew up in a frontier setting that later would inform his agrarian politics. He spent most of his early childhood on a farm in Michigan, then moved with his family to the Iowa Territory in 1842. The Weavers settled on newly opened Indian lands in what would become Davis County. In 1847 Abram Weaver was elected clerk of the district court, and the family moved to the county seat of Bloomfield. For three years James Weaver rode a primitive mail delivery route that had been contracted out to his father; then he returned to school and began reading law with a local attorney. In 1853 Weaver accompanied his brother-in-law on a profitable overland cattle drive to California, but after a brief experience with western mining he returned home determined to renew his studies. He entered Cincinnati Law School in 1855, and after graduating the following year he established a legal practice in Bloomfield. He married Clara Vinson, a schoolteacher, in July 1858; the couple had seven children....