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Ashe, Thomas Samuel (19 July 1812–04 February 1887), jurist and congressman, was born at “the Hawfields,” Orange County, North Carolina, the home of his maternal grandfather, where his parents regularly spent the summer. He was the son of Pasquale Paoli Ashe, the owner of a plantation in coastal New Hanover County, North Carolina, and a coal mine in Alabama, and Elizabeth Jane Strudwick. His father lost his entire fortune about 1829 as surety for the debts of a friend....

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Baldwin, John Brown (11 January 1820–30 September 1873), Virginia legislator and Confederate congressman, was born near Staunton, Augusta County, Virginia, the son of Briscoe G. Baldwin, a lawyer and judge, and Martha Steele Brown. Baldwin lived his entire life in Staunton, an urban center in the fertile Shenandoah Valley. After attending the University of Virginia between 1836 and 1839, he studied law for two years with his father and soon developed his own practice. In 1842 Baldwin married Susan Madison Peyton; they had no children....

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Barksdale, Ethelbert (04 January 1824–17 February 1893), editor and U.S. and Confederate congressman, was born in Smyrna, Rutherford County, Tennessee, the son of William Barksdale and Nancy Lester. Ethelbert Barksdale was the younger brother of William Barksdale (1821–1863), commanding general of the Mississippi brigade in the Army of Northern Virginia, who was killed at the battle of Gettysburg. Ethelbert Barksdale moved to Mississippi while still in his teens and soon followed his brother William into journalism and Democratic politics. He married Alice Harris in 1843. Whether they had any children is unknown....

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Barnwell, Robert Woodward (10 August 1801–25 November 1882), educator, congressman, and U.S. and Confederate senator, was born at Beaufort, South Carolina, the son of Robert Gibbes Barnwell, a prosperous planter and Federalist member of Congress, and Elizabeth Wigg Hayne. In 1817 he entered Harvard College, where he became friendly with ...

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Judah P. Benjamin. Daguerreotype from the studio of Mathew B. Brady. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-109992).

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Benjamin, Judah Philip (06 August 1811–06 May 1884), Confederate cabinet member, U.S. senator, and lawyer, was born at Christiansted, St. Croix, West Indies, the son of Philip Benjamin, a shopkeeper, and Rebecca de Mendes. St. Croix was under British rule at the time of Benjamin’s birth. He grew up in Charleston, South Carolina. Though his father’s circumstances were always modest, wealthy relatives and other benefactors helped him attend Yale (1825–1827), but he left as a junior under circumstances that remain unclear....

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Brown, Albert Gallatin (31 May 1813–12 June 1880), U.S. and Confederate congressman, was born in Chester District, South Carolina, the son of Joseph Brown. (His mother’s identity is unknown.) The second son of a struggling, ambitious farmer, Brown moved with his family in 1820 from South Carolina to Copiah County, Mississippi. In this raw frontier setting his father acquired land and slaves. After attending Mississippi College and Jefferson College from 1829 to 1832, Brown wanted to attend Princeton or Yale, but when his father refused to pay the costs, he turned to law and politics. He won his first elective office in 1832 as a colonel of militia. He was admitted to the Mississippi bar in 1833 and had just started his law practice in the now extinct town of Gallatin when he was elected a brigadier general in the militia. Soon after his marriage in 1835 to Elizabeth Frances Taliaferro, he entered the Mississippi legislature as a Democratic representative. He began a remarkable record of holding elective office virtually without interruption for the next thirty years....

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Campbell, Josiah Adams Patterson (02 March 1830–10 January 1917), jurist and a founding father of the Confederacy, was born in South Carolina (sources vary as to location), the son of Robert B. Campbell, a Princeton-educated Presbyterian minister, and Mary Patterson. A precocious child, he spent some time as a student at Davidson College in North Carolina before joining his parents at their new home in Madison County, Mississippi, in 1845. After reading law in the office of a local attorney for two years, he was admitted to the bar at the age of seventeen and began practicing in Kosciusko in Attala County. In 1850 he married Eugenia E. Nash; they had seven children....

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Clement Claiborne Clay. Daguerreotype from the studio of Mathew B. Brady. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-110033).

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Clay, Clement Claiborne (13 December 1816–03 January 1882), U.S. and Confederate senator, was born near Huntsville, Alabama, the son of Clement Comer Clay, a lawyer and later governor and U.S. senator, and Susanna Claiborne Withers. He used the designation C. C. Clay, Jr., to distinguish himself from his father. He graduated from the University of Alabama in 1834 and studied law under John B. Minor at the University of Virginia, receiving his degree in 1839. During his father’s tenure as governor of Alabama, 1835–1837, Clay was his father’s secretary. He practiced law with him from 1839 to 1846, after which he became Madison County judge. He resigned in 1848 for financial reasons. Debt was a lifelong problem, along with chronic bad health, particularly asthma. Clay was associated with the ...

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Cobb, Thomas Reade Rootes (10 April 1823–13 December 1862), lawyer and Confederate congressman and military officer, was born in Jefferson County, Georgia, the son of John Addison Cobb, a planter, and Sarah Robinson Rootes. His older brother, Howell Cobb—congressman, governor, and secretary of the treasury under ...

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Davis, George (01 March 1820–23 February 1896), lawyer, Confederate senator, and Confederate attorney general, was born in New Hanover (now Pender) County, North Carolina, the son of Thomas Frederick Davis, a prominent planter, and Sarah Isabella Eagles. He attended W. H. Harden’s school in Pittsboro, was tutored at home, and at fourteen entered the University of North Carolina, graduating in 1838 at the head of his class. After reading law with his brother in Wilmington, he was admitted to the bar at age twenty and licensed statewide a year later....

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Gartrell, Lucius Jeremiah (07 January 1821–07 April 1891), soldier and U.S. and Confederate congressman, was born in Wilkes County, Georgia, the son of Joseph Gartrell, Jr., a planter and merchant, and Eliza Boswell. After attending the state university and Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia, Gartrell read law in the Washington, Georgia, office of another future Confederate commander, ...

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Gholson, Thomas Saunders (09 December 1808–12 December 1868), jurist and Confederate congressman, was born in Gholsonville, Brunswick County, Virginia, the son of Major William Gholson, a planter, and Mary Saunders. Gholson received his secondary education in Oxford, North Carolina, and then returned to his home state, where he graduated from the University of Virginia in 1827. He practiced law in Brunswick County until 1840, when he moved to Petersburg and formed a partnership with his older brother, James Hubbard Gholson. After his brother’s death in 1848, Gholson practiced with Judge James Alfred Jones of Mecklenburg County. By all accounts, Gholson was a skillful advocate and eloquent orator, and he made a name for himself by taking part in many notable cases, including the famous murder trial of William Dandridge Epes, in which Gholson was the prosecutor....

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Gilmer, John Adams (04 November 1805–14 May 1868), state senator and U.S. and Confederate congressman, was born in Guilford County, North Carolina, the son of Robert Gilmer, a farmer and wheelwright, and Anne Forbes. Both parents were of Scotch-Irish descent; their families had come from Ireland to North Carolina via Pennsylvania. His father and both grandfathers fought against the British in the American Revolution. John Adams Gilmer’s name reflected his father’s Federalist political predilections. Young Gilmer worked on the family farm and attended a local subscription school a few months during the winter. When he was nineteen, he enrolled in the Reverend Eli W. Caruther’s school in Greensboro, where he excelled in classical languages and mathematics. For three years afterward (1826–1829), he taught school in Laurel County, South Carolina, to pay debts resulting from his education. In 1829 he returned to Greensboro to study law in the office of Archibald D. Murphey. In 1832 he married Juliana Paisley; they had six children, five of whom survived childhood. One son, John Alexander Gilmer, became a Confederate lieutenant colonel and superior court judge. Also in 1832 Gilmer was admitted to the bar, and he gradually built a lucrative practice. He was listed in the 1860 census as an agriculturalist and lawyer who owned fifty-three slaves and property valued at $112,000....

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Graham, William Alexander (05 September 1804–11 August 1875), governor of North Carolina, secretary of the navy, and U.S. and Confederate senator, was born in Lincoln County, North Carolina, the son of Joseph Graham, a revolutionary war soldier, iron entrepreneur, and major general of a North and South Carolina brigade in the War of 1812, and Isabella Davidson. After attending preparatory academies in Lincolnton, Statesville, and Hillsborough, Graham graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1824, sharing first honors in a distinguished class. He read law with the eminent jurist ...

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Hill, Benjamin Harvey (14 September 1823–16 August 1882), Confederate senator and U.S. senator, was born in Jasper County, Georgia, the son of John Hill and Sarah Parham, farmers. When he was ten, the family moved to Troup County in western Georgia, where he worked on the family farm and attended school intermittently. He entered the University of Georgia at seventeen, graduating with honors in 1843. He was admitted to the bar the next year and soon developed a prosperous practice in La Grange. In 1845 he married Caroline Holt. They had six children....

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Holcombe, James Philemon (20 September 1820–22 August 1873), educator and Confederate official, was born in Powhatan County, Virginia, the son of William James Holcombe, a doctor, and Ann Eliza Clopton. After studying with a private tutor, James enrolled at Yale and later attended the University of Virginia but did not graduate from either school. After studies at the Staunton Law School, he began practicing law in Fincastle, Virginia. In 1844 he left Virginia to join a law firm in Cincinnati, Ohio. While in Cincinnati, he produced an extensive list of publications on legal matters, including ...

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Robert M. T. Hunter, early 1860s. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-B8172-1740).

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Hunter, Robert M. T. (21 April 1809–18 July 1887), congressman and statesman, was born Robert Mercer Taliaferro Hunter at “Mount Pleasant,” his father's estate in Essex County, Virginia, the son of James Hunter, a planter, and Maria Garnett Hunter. Born into a family that had achieved local prominence, he grew up in comfortable surroundings. After receiving his early education through home tutoring, he entered the University of Virginia and graduated in July 1828. Interested in government and history, he decided to become a lawyer and studied under Judge ...