American Civil War Biographies

UNION, CONFEDERATE, PRESIDENTS, TO MAJOR PERSONALITIES
OF THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR

Abraham Lincoln

Overview Born near Hodgenville, Ky. on February 12, 1809, Lincoln was the central figure of the Civil War, and is regarded by many historians and laymen as not only the foremost of our presidents but also the greatest American of all time. With scant formal education, from a poor family, this frontier lawyer held the…

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Robert Edward Lee

Overview The idol of the South to this day, Virginian Robert E. Lee had some difficulty in adjusting to the new form of warfare that unfolded with the Civil war, but this did not prevent him from keeping the Union armies in Virginia at bay for almost three years. The son of Revolutionary War hero…

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Philip Kearny

Overview Kearny was born in New York, 2 June 2, 1815 and after his mother died when he was 9, he spent his childhood and youth with his maternal grandfather, a man of wealth and high social position. Kearny’s uncle, Gen. Stephen Watts Kearny, was a U.S. dragoon and Philip favored a military life, but…

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Joseph Eggleston Johnston

Overview Petty considerations over rank and military etiquette and wounds cost the Confederacy, for lengthy periods, the services of one of its most effective, top commanders, Joseph E. Johnston. The Virginia native and West Pointer (1829), rated by many as more capable than Lee, was the highest-ranking regular army officer to resign and join the…

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Albert Sidney Johnston

Overview At the beginning of the Civil War it was almost universally agreed that the finest soldier, North or South, was Albert Sidney Johnston. But his Civil War career was a definite disappointment to the Confederacy. The Kentucky-born Johnston was appointed to West Point from Louisiana and graduated eighth in the class of 1826. After…

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Stonewall Jackson

Overview Next to Robert E. Lee himself, Thomas J. Jackson is the most revered of all Confederate commanders. A graduate of West Point (1846), he had served in the artillery in the Mexican War, earning two brevets, before resigning to accept a professorship at the Virginia Military Institute. Thought strange by the cadets, he earned…

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Jedediah Hotchkiss

Overview A transplanted New Yorker, Jedediah Hotchkiss became the most famous of Confederate topographers. After a tour of Virginia in the late 1840s he settled there and founded an academy. In 1861 he gave up teaching and offered his services as a map maker to General Garnett in western Virginia. After serving at Rich Mountain…

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Joseph Hooker

Overview One of the most immodest and immoral of the high Union commanders, “Fighting Joe” Hooker frequently felt slighted by his superiors and requested to be relieved of duty. The Massachusetts native and West Pointer (1837) had been posted to the artillery but was serving as a staff officer when he won three brevets in…

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Daniel Harvey Hill

Overview Criticism of his army commander, Braxton Bragg, to Jefferson Davis cost South Carolinian West Pointer (1842) Daniel H. Hill his corps command and his promotion to lieutenant general in the Confederate army. Posted to the artillery, he had won two brevets in the Mexican War before resigning as a first lieutenant in the 4th…

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Ambrose Powell Hill

Overview Known for his red battle shirt and his hard-hitting attacks at the head of the famed Light Division, Ambrose P. Hill proved to be an example of the Peter principle. Military In reserve at lst Bull Run, he fought at Yorktown and Williamsburg before being given command of a division. On the day he…

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Henry Heth

Overview Graduating at the very bottom of his 1847 class at West Point, Henry Heth served 14 years on frontier duty before resigning his infantry captaincy on April 25, 1861, to serve his native Virginia. Military His initial service came in the Kanawha Valley and the Lewisburg area of western Virginia. He joined Kirby Smith…

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Samuel Peter Heintzelman

Overview Born in Manheim, Pa. on Sept 30,1805, Heintzelman devoted over 4 decades to the service of his country, rising from 2d lieutenant to major general and corps commander in the Civil War. While his experience, devotion to duty, and bravery were undeniable, he lacked initiative, imagination, and administrative ability. Leading a squad or regiment…

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William Joseph Hardee

Overview Problems with Braxton Bragg affected only slightly the outstanding record of the premier lieutenant general to serve in the Confederate Army of Tennessee. By the time that this Georgian West Pointer (1838) resigned as lieutenant colonel, lst Cavalry, on January 31, 1861, he was one of the most distinguished and well known officers in…

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Winfield Scott Hancock

Overview Born in Montgomery  Square, Pennsylvania, February 14, 1824, and although named for America’s top military hero of the day, Winfield Scott Hancock was not originally intended for a military career; nevertheless he was destined to become one of the best corps commanders in the Union army. An 1844 graduate of West Point, he had…

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Henry Wager Halleck

Overview The Civil War career of the much-maligned Union commander in chief and chief of staff, Henry W. Halleck, was summarized by Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles as he “originates nothing, anticipates nothing. . . . takes no responsibility, plans nothing, suggests nothing, is good for nothing.” This harsh assessment was shared by many…

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Rose O’Neal Greenhow

Overview Born in Port Tobbaco, Maryland, as a teenager O’Neal moved from her family’s Maryland farm to her aunt’s fashionable boardinghouse in Washington, D.C. Personable, intelligent, and outgoing, she adapted easily to the social scene of the capital, and people in Washington’s highest circles opened their doors to her. Regarded as a beautiful, ambitious, seductive…

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John White Geary

Overview Born in Mount Pleasant, Pa., December 30, 1819, Geary was a man equally at home in politics and the military. He was a student at Jefferson College in Canons-burg, Pa., when the death of his father forced him to begin adult life early. Geary tested a number of professions before settling on law. Enlisting…

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Ulysses Simpson Grant

Overview The best evidence of the changes that had occurred in warfare from Jomini to Clausewitz can be found in the campaigns of Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant. The latter was born Hiram Ulysses Grant in Ohio but through confusion at West Point he became Ulysses Simpson Grant. Appointed to the military academy,…

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John Brown Gordon

Overview Born in Upson City, Georgia, February 6, 1832 he attended the University of Georgia but dropped out to study law and become a member of the Atlanta Bar. A civilian turned soldier, John B. Gordon became a trusted corps commander under Lee in the final days of the Confederacy. Involved in the coal industry…

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John Charles Fremont

Overview Born in Savannah, Georgia on January 21, 1813, Fremont was one four major generals appointed by President Lincoln, he was easily the most celebrated. As a Union general, Fremont’s major Civil War contribution was more political than military when he focused Union attention on the role emancipation should play in the North’s war policy….

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Nathan Bedford Forrest

Born: July 13, 1821, Bedford County, TN Died: October 29, 1877, Memphis, TN Buried: Health Sciences Park, Memphis, TN Battles and wars: American Civil War, Battle of Fort Donelson, MORE Children: William Montgomery Bedford Forrest, Fanny Ann Forrest Overview With no formal military training, Nathan Bedford Forrest became one of the leading cavalry figures of the Civil War. The native Tennesseean had amassed a fortune,…

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Elon John Farnsworth

Born: July 30, 1837, Michigan Died: July 3, 1863, Gettysburg, PA Education: University of Michigan Years of service: 1861–1863 Battles and wars: Utah War, American Civil War, Battle of Chancellorsville, Battle of Gettysburg Overview Elon Farnsworth was an officer who experienced a meteoric rise to a general’s star only to be killed five days later in a suicidal charge. A civilian veteran of the Mormon…

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Richard Stoddert Ewell

Born: February 8, 1817, Georgetown, D.C. Died: January 25, 1872, Spring Hill, TN Education: United States Military Academy Battles and wars: Battle of Contreras, Battle of Churubusco, MORE Siblings: Benjamin Stoddert Ewell Place of burial: Nashville City Cemetery, Nashville, TN, Old City Cemetery, Lynchburg, VA Overview As Stonewall Jackson’s successor, the gallant Richard S. Ewell proved to be a disappointment and the argument as to why…

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Clement Anselm Evans

Born: February 25, 1833, Stewart County, GA Died: July 2, 1911, Atlanta, GA Education: Augusta Law School Battles and wars: American Civil War, Seven Days Battles, MORE Overview A Georgia lawyer and politician, Clement A. Evans became a division commander in the last months of the war. Wounded in the Seven Day Battles, he was back on duty in time to succeed to…

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Sarah Emma Edmonds

Born: December 1841, Magaguadavic, Canada Died: September 5, 1898, La Porte, TX Spouse: Linnus. H. Seelye (m. 1867–1898) Years of service: 1861–1865 Education: Oberlin College Overview Emma Edmonds was one of approximately 400 women who succeeded in enlisting in the army (either Union or Confederate) during the Civil War. Her uniqueness is that she not only succeeded in remaining in the army…

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Jubal Anderson Early

Born: November 3, 1816, Franklin County, VA Died: March 2, 1894, Lynchburg, VA Resting place: Lynchburg Battles and wars: Seminole Wars, Mexican–American War, MORE Siblings: Richard Early, Anne Letitia Early, Robert Hairston Early, MORE Overview Always an irascible officer, Jubal A. Early suffered overwhelming defeats in the Shenandoah Valley and went on after the conflict to wage a literary war with a fellow Confederate corps commander. A…

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Dorothea Dix

Born: April 4, 1802, Hampden, ME Died: July 17, 1887, Trenton, NJ Buried: Mount Auburn Cemetery, MA Life A noted social reformer, Dix became the Union’s Superintendent of Female Nurses during the Civil War. The soft spoken yet autocratic crusader had spent more than 20 years working for improved treatment of mentally ill patients and for better prison conditions. A…

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Jefferson Davis & Varina Howell Davis

Jefferson Davis Born: June 3, 1808, Kentucky Died: December 6, 1889, New Orleans, LA Buried: Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, VA President of the Confederate States of America Jefferson Davis was born June 3, 1808, in that portion of Christian county, Kentucky, which was afterwards set off as Todd county. His grandfather was a colonist from Wales, living in Virginia and Maryland, and…

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George Armstrong Custer

Born: December 5, 1839, New Rumley, OH Died: June 25, 1876, Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, MT Spouse: Elizabeth Bacon Custer (m. 1864–1876) Place of burial: West Point Cemetery, West Point, NY, Woodland Cemetery, Monroe, MI Overview Although better known for his Indian fighting, George Custer compiled a creditable record as a cavalry leader in the latter part of the Civil War….

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Jabez Lamar Monroe Curry

Born: June 5, 1825, Lincoln County, GA Died: February 12, 1903, Asheville, NC Education: University of Georgia, Harvard Law School Life Although he played an active role in the events of 1861-65, Jabez L. M. Curry’s greatest service to the South was performed in the postwar period. Born in Georgia, Curry moved to Alabama and began the practice of law. After…

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Philip St. George Cooke

Born: June 13, 1809, Leesburg, VA Died: March 20, 1895, Detroit, MI Place of burial: Elmwood Cemetery, Detroit, MI Battles and wars: Black Hawk War, Mexican–American War, MORE Children: Flora Cooke, John Rogers Cooke Life Born in Leesburg, Virginia, June 13, 1809, the U.S. Army was Cooke’s life for 50 years. Graduating 23d in the West Point class of 1827, he was a veteran of…

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John Lincoln “Johnny” Clem

Born: August 13, 1851, Newark, OH Died: May 13, 1937, San Antonio, TX Years of service: 1863–1864, 1871–1915 Place of burial: Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, VA Awards: Civil War Campaign Medal, Indian Campaign Medal, Spanish War Service Medal Battles and wars: American Civil War, Battle of Chickamauga Life Born in Newark, Ohio, 13 Aug. 1851, Clem ran away from home in May 1861 to join the…

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Patrick Ronayne Cleburne

Born: March 1828, Killumney, Ireland Died: November 30, 1864, Franklin, TN Place of burial: Maple Hill Cemetery, Helena-West Helena, AR Unit: 41st (Welch) Regiment of Foot Years of service: 1846–1849; 1861–1864 Battles and wars: American Civil War, Battle of Shiloh, MORE Life The most popular Confederate division commander was the “Stonewall of the West”-Patrick R. Cleburne. Appropriately, the native of County Cork was born on…

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Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain

Born: September 8, 1828, Brewer, ME Died: February 24, 1914, Portland, ME Buried: Pine Grove Cemetery, Brunswick, ME Life A Bowdoin College professor, Joshua L. Chamberlain went to the Maine state capital to offer his services in 1862. Offered the colonelcy of a regiment, he declined, according to John J. Pullen in The 20th Maine, preferring to “start a little lower…

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Benjamin Franklin Cheatham

Born: October 20, 1820, Nashville, TN Died: September 4, 1886, Nashville, TN Place of burial: Mount Olivet Funeral Home & Cemetery, Nashville, TN Battles and wars: Mexican–American War, American Civil War, MORE Life Serving throughout the Civil War in what would become the Confederate Army of Tennessee, Tennesseean Benjamin F. Cheatham proved himself to be a highly capable commander at brigade through corps…

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Ambrose Everett Burnside

Born: May 23, 1824, Liberty, IN Died: September 13, 1881, Bristol, RI Nickname: Burn Spouse: Mary Richmond Bishop (m. 1852–1876) Battles and wars: Mexican–American War, American Civil War, MORE Life If there is any mitigating circumstance in the failure of Ambrose E.Burnside as commander of the Army of the Potomac it is that he had twice previously refused the post, recognizing his own inexperience,…

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Napoleon Bonaparte Buford

Born: January 13, 1807, Woodford County, KY Died: March 28, 1883, Chicago, IL Battles and wars: American Civil War Service/branch: United States Army (Union Army) Allegiance: United States (Union) Siblings: John Buford Education: United States Military Academy, Harvard University Life In spite of a truly military name, the half-brother of Gettysburg hero John Buford held the rank of major general for only a few months. Napoleon Bonaparte…

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John Buford

Born: March 4, 1826, Woodford County, KY Died: December 16, 1863, Washington, D.C. Place of burial: West Point Cemetery, West Point, NY Education: United States Military Academy Battles and wars: Utah War, American Civil War, MORE Siblings: Napoleon Bonaparte Buford, Helen Buford, Thomas Jefferson Buford, James Monroe Buford Life Within six months of his having played a key role in the opening of the battle of Gettysburg, cavalryman…

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Don Carlos Buell

Born: March 23, 1818, Lowell, OH Died: November 19, 1898, Rockport, KY Nickname: The McClellan of the West Place of burial: Bellefontaine Cemetery, St. Louis, MO Battles and wars: Seminole Wars, Mexican–American War, MORE Life A highly capable organizer and administrator, Don Carlos Buell lost his field command for failing to follow up the retreating Confederates after the battle of Perryville. But his friendship…

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Daniel Butterfield

Born: October 31, 1831, Utica, NY Died: July 17, 1901, Cold Spring, NY Place of burial: West Point Cemetery, West Point, NY Parents: John Butterfield Education: Union College Overview Thoroughly hated by his fellow officers, Daniel Butterfield was wounded at Gettysburg and “fortunately for him and to the joy of all has gone home.” A New York businessman with the American Express…

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Simon Bolivar Buckner

Born: April 1, 1823, Kentucky Died: January 8, 1914, Hart County, KY Place of burial: Frankfort Cemetery, Frankfort, KY Education: United States Military Academy Children: Simon Bolivar Buckner Jr. Spouse: Delia Clairborne (m. 1885), Mary Kingsbury (m. 1850) Overview The organizer of the Kentucky State Guard, which largely joined the Confederacy, Simon B. Buckner rose to the rank of lieutenant general during the war. The Kentucky…

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Hiram Berdan

Born: September 6, 1824, Phelps, NY Died: March 31, 1893, Washington, D.C. Other work: Inventor Place of burial: Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, VA Battles and wars: American Civil War Commands helds: 2nd United States Sharpshooters, 1st United States Sharpshooters Overview The guiding force behind the creation of the two regiments of United States Sharpshooters was New York inventor and crack rifleman Hiram Berdan. For…

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Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard

Born: May 28, 1818, St. Bernard Parish, LA Died: February 20, 1893, New Orleans, LA Buried: Metairie Cemetery, New Orleans, LA Spouse: Marie Antoinette Laure Villeré (m. 1841–1850), Marguerite Caroline Deslonde (m. ?–1864) Battles and wars: Battle of Contreras, Battle of Churubusco, MORE Overview The services of “The Hero of Fort Sumter,” Pierre G.T. Beauregard, were not utilized to their fullest due to bad blood between…

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John Brown

Born: May 9, 1800, Torrington, CT Died: December 2, 1859, Charles Town, WV Buried: December 8, 1859, John Brown Farm State Historic Site, North Elba, NY Known for: Involvement in Bleeding Kansas; raid on federal armory in Harpers Ferry, Virginia Children: Owen Brown, Salmon Brown, John Brown Junior, MORE Life John Brown was the son of a wandering New Englander. Brown spent much of his youth in Ohio, where…

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Braxton Bragg

Born: March 22, 1817, Warrenton, NC Died: September 27, 1876, Galveston, TX Spouse: Eliza Brooks Ellis (m. 1849–1876) Education: United States Military Academy Buried: Magnolia Cemetery, Mobile, AL Battles and wars: Second Seminole War, Mexican–American War, MORE Overview Of the eight men who reached the rank of full general in the Confederate army Braxton Bragg was the most controversial. The North Carolinian West Pointer (1837)…

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Judah P. Benjamin

Born: August 11, 1811, Christiansted, U.S. Virgin Islands Died: May 6, 1884, Paris, France Place of burial: Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris, France Overview US Senator, Confederate attorney general, secretary of war, and secretary of state. Born a British subject in the British West Indies on August 6,1811, Benjamin was taken to the United States in his early youth. The child…

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Clara Harlowe Barton

Born: December 25, 1821, North Oxford, Oxford, MA Died: April 12, 1912, Glen Echo, MD Education: Clinton Liberal Institute Nicknames: Clara, The Angel of the Battlefield Life The youngest of 5 children in a middle-class family, Barton was educated at home, and at 15 started teaching school. Her most notable antebellum achievement was the establishment of a free public school in…

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Nathaniel Prentiss Banks

Born: January 30, 1816, Waltham, MA Died: September 1, 1894, Waltham, MA Speaker: James G. Blaine Battles and wars: American Civil War Place of burial: Grove Hill Cemetery, Waltham, MA Education: Harvard College Overview Of the 14 Union officers who received the Thanks of Congress during the Civil War, Nathaniel P. Banks was the least entitled. Serving under five different party labels during…

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Joseph Bailey

Born: May 6, 1825, Morgan County, OH Died: March 21, 1867, Nevada, MO Education: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Battles and wars: American Civil War Commands helds: 4th Wisconsin Volunteer Cavalry Regiment, XIX Corps, 4th Wisconsin Volunteer Regiment Service/branches: United States Army, Union Army Overview An Ohio-born Wisconsin civil engineer and lumberman, Joseph Bailey entered the Union army and became one of only 14 men to…

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Lewis Addison Armistead

Born: February 18, 1817, New Bern, NC Died: July 5, 1863, Gettysburg, PA Buried: Old Saint Pauls Cemetery, Baltimore, MD Battles and wars: Battle of Chapultepec, Mohave War, MORE Uncle: George Armistead Wife: Cornelia Taliaferro Jamison wikipedia.org Overview Lewis A. Armistead nearly scuttled his military career when he broke a plate over the head of fellow cadet Jubal A. Early and was expelled from West Point….

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James Jay Archer

Born: December 19, 1817, Havre de Grace, MD Died: October 24, 1864, Richmond, VA Place of burial: Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, VA Education: Princeton University Units: Regiment of Voltigeurs and Foot Riflemen, 9th Infantry Regiment Battles and wars: Mexican–American War, Battle of Chapultepec, MORE Overview A lawyer and Mexican War veteran, James Archer resigned his captain’s commission in the regular army on March 14, 1861, to receive…

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Robert Anderson

Born: June 14, 1805, Louisville, KY Died: October 26, 1871, Nice, France Battles/wars: Black Hawk War; Second Seminole War; Mexican–American War; Spouse: Eliza Bayard Clinch Place of burial: West Point Cemetery, West Point, NY Battles and wars: Black Hawk War, Second Seminole War, Mexican–American War, American Civil War, Battle of Fort Sumter Overview A pro-slavery Kentuckian but absolutely loyal to the Union, Robert Anderson was considered an ideal choice…

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