From the American Revolution to the Civil War, Indian Wars, and everything in between, several men, and even a few women, made names for themselves during these historic periods. Many were career soldiers, such as Generals Sherman and Terry; others went on to make names for themselves as explorers, such as Kit Carson and Zebulon Montgomery Pike; sadly, some died in the line of duty, such as Davy Crockett and James Bowie at the Battle of the Alamo, and yet, a few more gained more fame as U.S. Presidents.
Though hundreds of men have fought and continue to risk their lives for our great nation in various American conflicts, this list focuses on some of the most well-known soldiers, sailors, and officers. However, as new articles are added to Legends of America’s many pages, this list is continually updated.
Army of Northern Virginia (1861-1865) – The primary military force of the Confederate States of America in the Eastern Theater of the Civil War, the army most often battled against the Union Army of the Potomac.
Army of the Potomac (1861-1865) – The primary Union fighting force in the Eastern Theater of the Civil War, primarily in Eastern Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. Its dual mission was to defeat the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia and safeguard Washington, D.C.
Army of the Tennessee – (1862-1865) – A Union army in the Western Theater of the Civil War, it was named for the Tennessee River. When it was first organized in October 1862, it was led by General Ulysses S. Grant.
General P.G.T. Beauregard (1818-1893) – General Beauregard earned early fame for the capture of Fort Sumter, South Carolina, and victory at the First Battle of Bull Run, Virginia. After being defeated at Shiloh, Tennessee, other officers found it difficult to work with General Beauregard, who moved through a series of secondary commands.
Braxton Bragg (1817-1876) – A career United States Army officer and then a general in the Confederate States Army. He was the principal commander in the Western Theater of the Civil War and later the military adviser to Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
John Brown (1800-1859) – Abolitionist who advocated and practiced armed insurrection as a means to end all slavery. He led the Pottawatomie Massacre in 1856 in Bleeding Kansas and made his name in the unsuccessful raid at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, in 1859.
Buffalo Soldiers – Though African Americans have fought in various military conflicts since colonial days, they did not receive the nickname of “Buffalo Soldiers” until they began to battle Cheyenne warriors in 1867.
Christopher “Kit” Carson (1809-1868) – Carson was a daring and brave explorer, mountain man, trapper, scout, soldier, and buffalo hunter.
John M. Chivington (1821-1894) – A hero in the Battle of Glorieta Pass in New Mexico, and the infamous Commander of the U.S. Army troops at the Sand Creek Massacre in Colorado, John Chivington was born in Lebanon, Ohio on January 27, 1821. When he grew up, he became a Methodist minister and was appointed to the Payson Circuit in the Illinois Conference, where he served for ten years.
Buffalo Bill Cody (1846-1917) – Army scout, frontiersman, and Old West entertainer.
William Comstock (1842-1868) – A scout on the central plains in the days of the Old West, he was celebrated by contemporaries for his skills but was killed in the line of duty while working as a scout at Fort Wallace, Kansas.
David Crockett (1786-1836) – Frontiersman, explorer, and American folk hero, Crockett represented Tennessee in the U.S. Congress, served in the Texas Revolution, and died at the age of 49 at the Battle of the Alamo.
George Armstrong Custer – A United States Army officer and cavalry commander in the American Civil War and the Indian Wars. In the Civil War, he developed a strong reputation, and when it was over, he was dispatched to the west to fight in the Indian Wars. His disastrous final battle overshadowed his prior achievements. Custer and all the men with him were killed at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876.
Jefferson Finis Davis (1808-1889) – An American military officer, statesman, and leader of the Confederacy during the American Civil War, serving as the President of the Confederate States of America for its entire history, 1861 to 1865.
Grenville Dodge (1831-1916) – Dodge served in the Civil War, obtaining the rank of Major General and afterward in the Indian campaigns in the West. He later served as a U.S. Congressman and worked as a businessman and railroad executive who helped construct the Transcontinental Railroad.
Jubal A. Early (1816-1894) – A lawyer and Confederate general in the Civil War, he served under Stonewall Jackson and then Robert E. Lee for almost the entire war. He rose to a lieutenant general and command of an infantry corps in the Army of Northern Virginia. He was the Confederate commander in key battles of the Valley Campaigns of 1864, including a daring raid to the outskirts of Washington, D.C.
Richard Stoddert Ewell (1817-1872) – A career United States Army officer and a Confederate general during the Civil War, he achieved fame as a senior commander under Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee. He fought effectively through much of the war, but, controversies over his actions have clouded his legacy at the Battle of Gettysburg and at the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House.
Nathan Bedford Forrest (1821-1877) – A wealthy plantation owner, Forrest distinguished himself in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. A cavalryman, he saw extensive service in the Western Theater and became one of the most feared Confederate officers in the region. He was a master of mobile warfare and is often remembered for his fast attacks and raids.
John Charles Fremont (1813-1890) – Was an explorer, military officer, and politician who led multiple surveying expeditions through the western territory of the United States.
John Brown Gordon (1832-1904) – Serving in the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, John B. Gordon fought in most of its campaign and became one of General Robert E. Lee’s most trusted leaders. At Appomattox, John B. Gordon led Confederate forces during the surrender proceedings.
Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885) – An American General and the eighteenth President of the United States, he achieved international fame as the leading Union general in the Civil War, capturing Vicksburg in 1863 and Richmond in 1865. He accepted the surrender of his Confederate opponent Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Court House.
Henry W. Halleck (1815-1872) – A loyal defender of the Union, Henry Halleck served first as a senior commander in the Western Theater before becoming the General-in-Chief of Union armies in July 1862.
Ambrose Powell Hill (1825-1965) – A noted Confederate corps commander, Hill rose through the ranks of the Army of Northern Virginia, seeing action at most of the army’s major battles. He was killed in April 1865 during the final battle for Petersburg, Virginia.
John Bell Hood (1831-1879) – Hood served the Confederacy in both the East and West, developing a reputation an aggressive leader. Wounded several times, Hood led the Army of Tennessee to its destruction in 1864.
Samuel Houston (1793-1863) – Nineteenth Century statesman, politician, and soldier, Houston was a key figure in the Texas Revolution and acted as the first and third President of the Republic of Texas.
Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson (1824-1863) – A Confederate general during the Civil War, Jackson was the most revered Confederate commander after General Robert E. Lee.
Albert Sidney Johnston (1803-1862) – The experienced and well-respected Albert Sidney Johnston was the commander of all Confederate army operations in the Western Theater when his army was attacked and nearly destroyed by Union forces led by General Ulysses S. Grant at Shiloh, Tennessee, on April 6, 1862. Johnston was wounded in the battle and did not survive his injuries.
General Joseph E. Johnston – Fighting at First Bull Run, Joseph Johnston next led the Confederate army during the 1862 Peninsula Campaign until he was severely wounded at Seven Pines. Joseph Johnston later commanded the Department of the West and the Army of Tennessee.
Stephen Watts Kearny (1784-1948) – One of the foremost frontier officers of the U.S. Army, General Stephen Kearny, is remembered for his significant contributions in the Mexican-American War, especially the conquest of California.
Simon Kenton (1755-1836) – A legendary frontiersman and soldier, Kenton saved Daniel Boone’s life, acted as a scout, participated in Indian Wars and the War of 1812.
Lane’s Brigade, aka Kansas Brigade (1861) – Described as little more than a mob of thieves and adventurers, these troops went on a looting and burning rampage in western Missouri in the summer and fall of 1861, in the end, destroying the city of Osceola, Missouri.
Robert E. Lee (1807-1870) – Lee was a career U.S. Army officer and the most celebrated general of the Confederate forces during the Civil War.
Meriwether Lewis (1774-1809) – Explorer, soldier, and public administrator, Lewis was best known for his role as the leader of the Corps of Discovery, whose mission was to explore the territory of the Louisiana Purchase.
James Longstreet (1821–1904) – Known as Old Pete and Lee’s War Horse, Confederate General Longstreet became one of the Civil War’s most controversial figures. Hard-hitting in the attack, he nevertheless sensed the power of the tactical defense in an age of rifled weapons and field fortifications and preferred to fight from the defensive. His performance at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, drew fire from postwar critics who believed that, when General Robert E. Lee rejected his repeated advice to outflank the strong Federal position, Longstreet sulked and thereby cost the South the battle. Yet Lee never uttered direct criticism of Longstreet, who stood by him to the end at Appomattox, Virginia. He was one of the most valued and trusted lieutenants to General Lee.
George Brinton McClellan (1826-1885) – Serving in the Mexican-American War, McClellan became a Major General during the Civil War, in which he organized the famous Army of the Potomac and served briefly as the general-in-chief of the Buffalo Soldier Army.
Nelson Appleton Miles (1839-1925) – A career soldier, Miles served in the Civil War, Indian Wars, and the Spanish-American War.
Colonel James Montgomery (1814-1871) – A Free-state leader during the Kansas-Missouri Border War, and a Colonel in the Union Army during the Civil War.
Brigadier General John Hunt Morgan – One of the Confederacy’s most notorious raiders, Morgan was captured in 1863, after raiding north across the Ohio River. Escaping, he returned to Southern service and was killed in September 1864, at Greeneville, Tennessee.
Colonel John Singleton Mosby – A noted Confederate cavalryman and partisan ranger during the American Civil War. Enlisting in the Confederate army, Mosby was quickly noted as a skilled leader and swiftly rose through the ranks. Given command of a partisan ranger unit, John Singleton Mosby became renowned for daring lightning attacks on Union.
Frank Joshua North (1840-1885) – Best known for his organization of a group of Pawnee scouts, North was instrumental in the Indian Wars, protecting the wagon trails and later, the railroad crews during the construction of the transcontinental railroad.
John Clifford Pemberton (1814-1881) – John Clifford Pemberton was a career U.S. Army officer, a veteran of the Mexican-American, Seminole, and Mormon Wars, and a Confederate General.
Major General George Pickett – Commander in the Army of Northern Virginia, he is best remembered for Pickett’s Charge during the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863. Pickett was defeated at the Battle of Five Forks in the war’s final days.
Sterling Price, aka: “Old Pap” (1809-1867) – A lawyer, politician, and general from Missouri, he fought in the Mexican-American War and for the Confederate Army during the Civil War.
William C. Quantrill (1837-1865) – A guerilla fighter for the Confederate Forces, active in the Kansas-Missouri border war.
Marcus A. Reno – (1834-1889) – A career military officer in the Civil War and the Black Hills War against the Lakota Sioux and Northern Cheyenne, Reno is most noted for his role in the Battle of the Little Bighorn.
William S. “Old Rosy” Rosecrans (1819-1898) – An inventor, business executive, diplomat, politician, and United States Army officer. He gained fame as a Union general during the Civil War after several prominent battles in the Western Theater. However, his military career was effectively ended following his disastrous defeat at the Battle of Chickamauga in 1863.
Philip Henry Sheridan (1831-1888) – A career military officer, Sheridan served in the Civil War, becoming a Union General. In 1865, his cavalry pursued General Robert E. Lee and was instrumental in forcing his surrender at Appomattox. Later, he became involved in the Indian Wars, tarnishing his reputation with some historians, who have accused him of racism.
James Ewell Brown “J.E.B.” Stuart (1833-1864) – Better known as “Jeb”, Brown was a soldier from Virginia who served as a Confederate general during the Civil War. He was killed on May 12, 1864, during the Overland Campaign, at the Battle of Yellow Tavern.
Zachary Taylor (1784-1850) – Distinguished general and 12th President of the United States, Taylor served in the War of 1812 and the Mexican-American War, where he earned the nickname of “Old Rough and Ready.” He was elected president in 1848, the first to never have held any previous elected office. He was also the last President to hold slaves while in office. Just two years into his presidency he died.
William B. Travis (1809-1836) – A lawyer who settled in Texas from Alabama, Travis strongly disliked Mexican rule and fought in the Texas Revolution. Fighting along with James Bowie and Davy Crockett, he was killed at the Battle of the Alamo.
Earl Van Dorn (1820-1863) – A West Point graduate and career U.S. Army officer, Earl Van Dorn fought with distinction in the Mexican-American War, but, resigned his commission in 1861 to join with his native state of Mississippi, in the Confederate cause. He would make the ultimate sacrifice for his beliefs.
Stand Watie (1806-1871) – Also known as Standhope Oowatie, Degataga “Stand Firm” and Isaac S. Watie, he was a leader of the Cherokee Nation and a brigadier general of the Confederate States Army during the Civil War.
Major General Joseph Wheeler – Serving in the Western Theater of the Civil War, Joseph Wheeler took part in most of the major actions in that region. Returning to the U.S. Army after the war, Joseph Wheeler later was a key commander during the Spanish-American War.
Cathay Williams (1842-??) – When Congress passed an act authorizing the establishment of the first all-Black units of the military, later to become known as “Buffalo Soldiers,” Cathay Williams became the first and only female Buffalo Soldier.
“They do not know what they say. If it came to a conflict of arms, the war will last at least four years. Northern politicians will not appreciate the determination and pluck of the South, and Southern politicians do not appreciate the numbers, resources, and patient perseverance of the North. Both sides forget that we are all Americans. I foresee that our country will pass through a terrible ordeal, a necessary expiation, perhaps, for our national sins.”
— General Robert E. Lee