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Reid, Mayne (04 April 1818–22 October 1883), author and soldier, was born Thomas Mayne Reid in Ballyroney, County Down, Ireland, the son of Thomas Mayne Reid, a Presbyterian minister, and his wife, whose maiden name may have been Rutherford. Reid studied at the Royal Academical Institution in Belfast from 1834 to 1838 in preparation for the ministry. He quit, opened a day school in Ballyroney, and taught there in 1838 and 1839. From this point on, details concerning Reid’s life are uncertain, because he boasted about himself, much of his fiction is wrongly regarded as autobiographical, and his widow’s biography of him is sometimes vague and inaccurate....

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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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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 ...