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Alexander, Edward Porter (26 May 1835–28 April 1910), Confederate soldier and author, was born in Washington, Georgia, the son of Adam Leopold Alexander, a planter and banker, and Sarah Hillhouse Gilbert. Educated by tutors in his wealthy family’s household, Alexander entered the U.S. Military Academy in 1853 and graduated third in the class of 1857. He was commissioned a brevet second lieutenant of engineers on 1 July 1857 and was promoted to second lieutenant on 10 October 1858. Marked from the first as a promising officer, he taught at West Point immediately upon graduation, accompanied ...

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John André. A rendering of his capture at Tarrytown, New York. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZC4-2395).

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André, John (02 May 1750–02 October 1780), British officer and spy, was born in London, England, the son of Anthony André, a merchant, and Marie Louise Girardot. His early schooling was with a tutor, the Reverend Thomas Newcomb, and he may have attended St. Paul’s School. In his teens André studied mathematics and military drawing at the University of Geneva, giving vent to his romantic temperament by dreaming of a military career. He was rudely brought back to reality by his merchant father when he was called home to work in the countinghouse before he completed a degree. Despising the family business, he nevertheless labored at it manfully for a number of years. After his father died on 14 April 1769, he felt a particular obligation as the eldest son to continue the business, even though his father had left him financially independent, with a small fortune of £5,000. In the summer of 1769 he joined a Lichfield literary group presided over by Anna Seward, a poet. The group included a young lady named Honora Sneyd, for whom he developed a passion. They became engaged and courted for a year and a half before she suddenly rejected him for another man at a Christmas party in 1770. Shattered by this betrayal, André revived his earlier ambition to become a soldier and in early 1771 bought a second lieutenant’s commission in the 23d Regiment, Royal Welsh Fusiliers. Later he purchased a first lieutenancy in the same regiment....

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Badeau, Adam (29 December 1831–19 March 1895), soldier and author, was born in New York City, the son of Nicholas Badeau. He attended a boarding school in Tarrytown, New York, then he worked at an assortment of jobs, including a position with New York City’s street department. In 1859 he published a short book, ...

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Benjamin Church. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-96233).

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Church, Benjamin (1639–17 January 1718), soldier, was born in Plymouth, Massachusetts, the son of Richard Church, a carpenter, and Elizabeth Warren. He married Alice Southworth in 1667; the couple had eight children. Early in life Church followed his father’s trade, and he first appeared in public records as a trial juror in Plymouth, 25 October 1668. Two years later he was listed as a freeman of “Duxburrow” (Duxbury, Plymouth Colony), where he also sat on trial juries and served as constable. In 1674 he acquired land in Saconet (later Little Compton, R.I.) from the Plymouth General Court and claimed to be “the first English Man that built upon that Neck, which was full of Indians.” Church described himself as “a Person of uncommon Activity and Industry,” though little is known of his personal life at the time. He gained the favor of the local Indians and, by his own estimation, even won their “great esteem.” He became acquainted with Awashonks, the “Squaw Sachem” of the Sakonnet Indians, and their friendship led to Church’s early involvement in ...

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Cullum, George Washington (25 February 1809–28 February 1892), army officer and author, was born in New York City, the son of Arthur Cullum, a coach maker, and Harriet Sturges. In 1817 Cullum’s family moved to Meadville, Pennsylvania, where his father served as an agent of a land company and practiced law. Young Cullum entered the U.S. Military Academy in 1829 and graduated in 1833....

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Denys de la Ronde, Louis (02 August 1675–25 March 1741), French military officer, explorer, and spy, was born in Quebec City, Canada, the son of Pierre Denys de la Ronde, a landowner and merchant (the Crown had given the aristocracy in Canada permission to engage in trade), and Catherine Leneuf de la Potherie. He entered naval service in 1687 as a midshipman in France. During the war of 1689–1697 he served in exiled British king James II’s expedition to Ireland, then off the coast of England, and finally on several voyages to New France and along the coast of New England. Captured at sea in 1695, he was soon released in an exchange of prisoners of war. He served in ...

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Dumont de Montigny, Jean-François-Benjamin (31 July 1696–1760), officer in the French colonial military in Quebec and Louisiana, historian, and memoirist, was born in Paris, France, to Jacques-François Dumont and Françoise Delamare. His father was a magistrate in the parlement of Paris, the most important of the French high courts of appeal. He was the youngest of six sons and something of a black sheep compared with his brothers, who achieved prominence as lawyers and priests....

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Holt, David Eldred (27 November 1843–05 November 1925), Confederate soldier, salesman, writer, and minister, was born on the family plantation at Athlone, Mississippi, the son of Dr. David Holt, physician, and Juliette White. The plantation was located between Natchez and Woodville, the Wilkinson County seat. In 1844 David's family moved to Natchez. There, Dr. Holt's medical practice thrived, and he built a new home called "Oddity Hall" due to its unique and unusual construction. Growing up in that house helped to forge the David's sense of devotion to family. Association with slaves and relatives, attendance of camp meetings and baptisms in the local river, and childhood pranks with friends all molded David's perceptions of life and religion. David was particularly close to his physician brother, Joseph Jackson Holt. His memoirs and correspondence later in life revealed the special bond and relationship the two shared....

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Smith, James (1737–1814), soldier and author, was born in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Little is known of his parents and early life. Apparently he received no formal education, but he did learn a great deal about woodlore and life on the frontier. At the age of eighteen he was captured by American Indians while laboring to clear a road in western Pennsylvania and was adopted into one of their tribes. For four years he traveled with them through the old Northwest, then he managed to escape. Returning to his birthplace, he settled into a life of farming. In 1763 he married Anne Wilson, with whom he had seven children before she died twenty years later. He also became an active military campaigner, serving off and on from 1763 to 1769 as commander of the “Black Boys,” a self-appointed group of irregulars that protected white settlements in his region from Indian depredations. In 1764 he joined ...

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Trobriand, Régis Dénis de (04 June 1816–15 July 1897), soldier and writer, was born Philippe-Régis-Dénis de Keredern near Tours, France, the son of Joseph-Vincent-Pierre-Marie-Dénis de Keredern, Baron de Trobriand, a general in the French army of Napoleon and the Restoration, and Rosine Hachin de Courbeville. As a boy, the younger Trobriand was a page in the restored Bourbon court and was trained to be a soldier until the revolution of 1830 displaced the Bourbon king with the Orléanist, Louis-Philippe. The elder Trobriand refused to serve the new regime and forbade his son to serve in the army. Baron de Trobriand’s disgust with the Orléanists was so great that he dropped Philippe from his son’s name, and the younger Trobriand was known as Régis for the rest of his life....

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Velazquez, Loreta Janeta (26 June 1842–?), purported soldier and spy, was born in Havana, Cuba, to an unknown Spanish father and an unknown French-American mother. Given the degree of hyperbole in The Woman in Battle (1876), the primary source of information on her life, there is even some question as to whether Velazquez herself actually existed, or whether the identity was a nom de plume adopted to describe her at least partially fictional exploits. Recent research into the details of her narrative, however, suggests that although there is some contradiction and inconsistency in her text—which she claimed to have written without notes—enough remains that can be corroborated to suggest that some version of the truth is retold there....

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Lew Wallace Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-32868).

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Wallace, Lew (10 April 1827–15 February 1905), soldier and author, was born Lewis Wallace at Brookville, Indiana, the son of David Wallace, a soldier and later governor of Indiana, and Esther French Test, who died when Lew was only seven years old. His earliest education was unproductive, the boy rebelling against the strictness of a rural schoolmaster for whom, as Wallace described it in his 1906 autobiography, “flogging was a fine art which he seemed fearful of losing.” But his mother encouraged his learning by making available to him Jane Porter’s romantic history ...

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James H. Wilson. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-B8172-2074).

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Wilson, James Harrison (02 September 1837–23 February 1925), army officer and author, was born near Shawneetown, Illinois, the son of Harrison Wilson, a county official and farmer-rancher, and Katharine Schneyder. He attended McKendree College in Lebanon, Illinois, for one year to prepare himself for an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy. Entering West Point in 1855, Wilson graduated sixth in a class of forty-one cadets in 1860 and became a second lieutenant of engineers....