1779-1820 (shot in a duel)
Commodore Stephen “Pirate Basher” Decatur, in his Navy suit
Stephen Decatur was known throughout the United States as a military hero. He was sent on two occasions to Africa to beat down the pirates that lived over there. He was also successful in commanding a U.S. Navy vessel that captured a British ship during the War of 1812. Decatur was a warrior and gentleman and was well-known in Washington, D.C. However, this high-profile life style eventually got the best of him as he was killed in a duel with another Navy gentleman. Decatur’s military victories on the high seas and his command with the early U.S. Marines make him an Important American.
Decatur was born into a military family in the midst of the American Revolution, during which his father served in the Navy. After the American Revolution his father became a merchant and Decatur traveled with him to Europe, during which time he developed quite the able pair of sea legs. His parents wanted him to live the quiet life of a minister and sent him to school to get a formal education, but that was not exciting enough for Decatur. He eventually dropped out and joined a shipyard that was currently building ships for the U.S. Navy.
Decatur joined the Navy in 1798 and served onboard one of the ships he had worked on at the shipyard. When the quasi-war (series of unorganized battles but not an official war) with France started, Decatur was ordered to sail around looking to start trouble with any French ships he happened to come across. He didn’t find too much action, and the quasi-war ended by 1800. In 1801 President Thomas Jefferson cut down the size of the Navy in order to save a couple of bucks. Luckily for Decatur, he was selected to stick around due to the courage and dedication he had shown during the quasi-war. It’s a good thing he wasn’t fired, because in 1801 Jefferson was looking to kick some pirate booty and Decatur was the man for the job.
The U.S. and French fought during the war that wasn’t really a war
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“Old Tip” was the oldest dude to be President until Ronald Reagan
William Henry Harrison was a celebrated military leader who used his war record to eventually become President. He was a rough, tough son of a gun who was known for taking on Native Americans out West and living to tell the tale. He is also known for having the shortest Presidential term, as he died thirty days after taking the oath. His conflicts against Native Americans, as well as his short-term Presidency, make him an Important American.
Harrison was born into the fancy Virginia planter lifestyle in 1773. By the time he grew up the American Revolution had ended and he was sent away to school by his father. Harrison went to several different schools to study medicine but was forced to drop out after his father died and there was no money to afford his tuition. In 1791 he decided to join up with the U.S. military and was assigned to Cincinnati, Ohio to help fight against the Native Americans.
Harrison served under General Anthony “Mad Anthony” Wayne as he fought against the Miami Native American tribe, and he was eventually promoted to aide-de-camp (assistant). While working alongside Wayne, Harrison learned quite a bit about how to fight Native Americans out West. Harrison was present at The Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794, which ended the Northwest Indian War, and was a signer of the Treaty of Greenville, in which several Native American tribes signed over their land to the U.S. government.
The Treaty of Greenville, where Native Americans got drunk and sold their land for booze
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He never took a drink for granted
Ulysses S. Grant was the eighteenth President of the United States, but he had quite a road to follow in order to get there. His parents forced him to join the Army and he fought during the Mexican-American War. A few years later he re-joined the Army to fight against the Confederates during the Civil War and in the end he was the one who led the Union to victory. He was extremely popular before he became President, but his popularity dropped throughout the course of his term. His military and political leadership, though not always the best examples, make him an Important American.
Hiram Ulysses Grant was born in Ohio in 1822. That’s right… “Hiram” is the first name that Grant’s parents gave him. Also, the “S” in his middle name didn’t stand for anything in particular. Hiram Ulysses Grant became Ulysses S. Grant mostly because Grant was too lazy to correct West Point when they got his name mixed up. Rather than correcting the mistake he went along with it and the name ended up sticking. Grant’s early life was pretty boring as he hung out around home while attending public school. By age twelve his parents had enrolled him in a private school to get a better education. When he was seventeen Grant’s parents shipped him off to the West Point Military Academy because they felt that the education there would help him find a sweet job when he grew up, although he whined to them about not wanting to be a soldier. While at West Point Grant improved upon his math and horseback riding skills (and also improved his name) and graduated in 1843.
Grant’s first assignment as a Lieutenant in the U.S. Army was to a fort in Missouri. One of his bestest buddies lived nearby so Grant frequently visited the family to mooch off free home-cooked meals. It was there that he met and fell in love with Julia Dent, his friend’s sister. When Grant’s unit was reassigned to Louisiana, he asked for Julia’s hand in marriage. She accepted the proposal but kept it under wraps because her father thought she could do better than an officer in the U.S. Army. Eventually Grant’s unit was called to action as the Mexican-American War broke out in 1846.
Those shoulder pads helped him maintain balance after a rough night
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