Military Leaders

Military Leaders are the leaders of the military forces—armed forces, armed services, military, military machine, war machine—of a nation. Military leaders influence others by providing purpose, direction, and motivation to accomplish the mission, and have the legal authority to lawfully exercise control over subordinates by virtue of their rank or position. Warlords who exercise absolute civil power and individual autonomy in regions where the government is weak are also considered to be military leaders. History is replete with the legends of military leaders and revolutionaries who left their indelible marks on human civilization. Alexander the Great, who established one of the largest empires of the ancient world, is undoubtedly one of the best known military leaders. Ancient China’s Sun Tzu was not just a brilliant military leader, but also the author of ‘The Art of War’, an ancient Chinese text on military strategy. While Saladin, William the Conqueror and Henry V were the famous military leaders who lived during the Middle Ages, Oliver Cromwell, Shivaji and Peter the Great were courageous warriors of the Early Modern Period. Even though a majority of military leaders throughout history have been men, brave ladies like Joan of Arc, Boudicca, Laskarina Bouboulina, and Lakshmibai have proven that women too can be powerful military leaders. Read on to discover about the life and works of various famous military leaders from all over the world.
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This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

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 1 Genghis Khan

Genghis Khan
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Famous As: Khagan of the Mongol Empire
Birthdate: 1162 AD
Nationality: Mongolian
Died: August 18, 1227

The founder and first Great Khan and Emperor of the Mongol Empire, Genghis Khan is often considered to be the greatest conqueror of all time. A brutal ruler, he enjoyed exceptional military successes and occupied a substantial portion of Central Asia and China. Besides his military accomplishments, he is also credited with revitalizing the Mongol Empire's writing system.

 2 Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great
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Famous As: Emperor of the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedon
Birthdate: July 20, 0356
Sun Sign: Cancer
Nationality: Macedonian
Died: June 10, 0324

Counted amongst the greatest military commanders of all times, Alexander the Great successfully created one of the largest empires—from Macedonia to Persia and India—of the ancient world. The son of King of Macedonia, Philip II, he ascended the throne at the age of 20 and achieved unprecedented success before he died at the age of 33.  

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 3 Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte
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Famous As: Emperor of the French
Birthdate: August 15, 1769
Sun Sign: Leo
Nationality: French
Died: May 5, 1821
French military leader Napoleon Bonaparte ruled as the French emperor from 1804 to 1814 and again in 1815. He strengthened France’s position in Europe through the Napoleonic Wars and extended his kingdom. However, he was eventually defeated by the Seventh Coalition at the Battle of Waterloo and sent to exile. 

 4 Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar
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Famous As: Former Roman dictator
Birthdate: July 13, 0100
Sun Sign: Cancer
Nationality: Ancient Roman
Died: March 15, 0044

Julius Caesar is considered one of the greatest military commanders in history and played an important role in the events that led to the downfall of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Roman Empire. He assumed control of the government after a civil war. He was assassinated by rebel senators on the Ides of March, 44 BC.

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 5 Che Guevara

Che Guevara
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Famous As: Revolutionary
Birthdate: June 14, 1928
Sun Sign: Gemini
Nationality: Argentinian
Died: October 9, 1967

Argentine Marxist revolutionary, Che Guevara, was a major figure of the Cuban Revolution. A physician by profession, he developed radical views upon witnessing the injustices in the world and joined Fidel Castro’s revolutionary 26th of July Movement. Assassinated in 1967, he remains both a revered and reviled historical figure.

 6 Robert E. Lee

Robert E. Lee
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Famous As: Confederate General in the American Civil War
Birthdate: January 19, 1807
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Nationality: American
Died: October 12, 1870

A commander of the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War, Robert E. Lee commanded the Army of Northern Virginia. He was a skilled tactician who served in the US Army for 32 years. Brilliant from a young age, he was a top graduate of the US Military Academy. In his later years, he became president of Washington College.

 7 Heinrich Himmler

Heinrich Himmler
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Famous As: Nazi Commander
Birthdate: October 7, 1900
Sun Sign: Libra
Nationality: German
Died: May 23, 1945

From being one of Hitler's most trusted confidante to getting termed as a back-stabber by Hitler himself, Heinrich Himmler had an interesting role in history. A powerful man in Nazi Germany, he is considered the main architect of the Holocaust, which killed six million Jews. During World War II, he betrayed Hitler and committed suicide after Hitler ordered his arrest.

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 8 Shivaji

Shivaji
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Famous As: King
Birthdate: February 19, 1630
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Nationality: Indian
Died: April 3, 1680

Shivaji was an Indian warrior-king. He is credited with founding the Maratha Empire, which became a force to reckon with during the 18th century. He is also credited with creating his own navy. Considered one of the most important Indian kings and a hero of the Hindus, Shivaji's life and work have inspired several works of art, including films.

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 9 Douglas MacArthur

Douglas MacArthur
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Birthdate: January 26, 1880
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Nationality: American
Died: April 5, 1964
American five-star general Douglas MacArthur was the field marshal of the Philippine Army. He and his father were the first father-son duo to win the Medal of Honor. after World War II, he became the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Japan and contributed to Japan’s reconstruction.

 10 William Wallace

William Wallace
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Famous As: Military Leader
Birthdate: 1270 AD
Nationality: Scottish
Died: August 23, 1305

William Wallace was a Scottish knight who played an important role in the First War of Scottish Independence. Since his death, Wallace has been viewed as an iconic figure whose story of bravery and valor has inspired several works of art, including the Academy Award-winning film Braveheart. Wallace has also inspired video games and brewery companies, such is his popularity.

 11 Oliver Cromwell

Oliver Cromwell
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Famous As: English Statesman
Birthdate: April 25, 1599
Sun Sign: Taurus
Nationality: British
Died: September 3, 1658
The Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland, and Ireland, Oliver Cromwell was a military leader and a devoted Puritan who belonged to an affluent landowning family. During the English Civil War, Cromwell fought against King Charles I and caused the deaths of at least 3,000 soldiers and civilians.

 12 William the Conqueror

William the Conqueror
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Famous As: King of England
Birthdate: 1028 AD
Nationality: French
Died: September 9, 1087

William the Conqueror was the first Norman King of England who ruled from 1066 to 1087. William's conquest had a profound impact on England; his government merged elements of the Norman and English systems that laid the foundations of the medieval English kingdom. He is credited with building castles, mottes, and keeps, including the White Tower and Tower of London.

 13 George Patton

George Patton
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Famous As: Military Officer
Birthdate: November 11, 1885
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Nationality: German, American
Died: December 21, 1945

George Patton was a general of the US Army, remembered for his work as a commander of the Seventh United States Army during World War II. He is also remembered for commanding the Third Army in the Western Front in June 1944 after the Allied invasion of Normandy. His life and work inspired the 1970 epic biographical war film Patton.

 14 George S. Patton

George Smith Patton, Jr.
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Famous As: General
Birthdate: November 11, 1885
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Nationality: American
Died: December 21, 1945

 15 Hermann Goring

Hermann Goring
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Famous As: German Military Leader
Birthdate: January 12, 1893
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Nationality: German
Died: October 15, 1946

Hermann Goring was a German military and political leader. One of the most influential personalities in the Nazi Party, Göring oversaw the creation of the Gestapo. He also played a key role in the Holocaust, for which he was later convicted of crimes against humanity and crimes against peace.

 16 Spartacus

Spartacus
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Famous As: Thracian Gladiator
Birthdate: 0109 BC
Nationality: Greek
Died: 0071 BC
Spartacus was a Thracian gladiator who led the slave revolt called the Third Servile War, against the Roman Republic. However, historical accounts differ in their portrayal of Spartacus. He has inspired scores of books, films, and series, one of them being a Stanley Kubrick movie based on Howard Fast's novel.

 17 Lindsey Graham

Lindsey Graham
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Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: July 9, 1955
Sun Sign: Cancer
Nationality: American

 18 Reinhard Heydrich

Reinhard Heydrich
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Famous As: Nazi Official
Birthdate: March 7, 1904
Sun Sign: Pisces
Nationality: German
Died: June 4, 1942

Reinhard Heydrich was a Nazi police officer and a high-ranking SS. Heydrich is widely regarded as one of the main architects of the Holocaust, a World War II genocide that killed some six million Jews. Described by Adolf Hitler as the man with the iron heart, Heydrich is regarded as the darkest figure of the Nazi era by many historians.

 19 Kublai Khan

Kublai Khan
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Famous As: Founder of the Yuan dynasty in Mongolia and China,
Birthdate: September 23, 1215
Sun Sign: Virgo
Nationality: Mongolian
Died: February 18, 1294

Also known as the Emperor Shizu of Yuan, Kublai Khan served as the fifth khagan of the famous Mongol Empire. After the division of the empire, Kublai Khan founded the Yuan dynasty in China and ruled as the first Yuan emperor from 1271 until his death in 1294. Hence, he played an important role in re-creating a militarily powerful China.

 20 Francisco Franco

Francisco Franco
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Famous As: Former Caudillo of Spain
Birthdate: December 4, 1892
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Nationality: Spanish
Died: November 20, 1975

Francisco Franco overthrew the Second Spanish Republic by leading the Nationalist forces as their general during the Spanish Civil War. Subsequently, Franco ruled over Spain as a dictator from 1939 to 1975. He had such an impact as a dictator that the period between the Nationalist victory and Franco's death is known as Francoist Spain in the history of Spain.

 21 Erwin Rommel

Erwin Rommel
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Famous As: General
Birthdate: November 15, 1891
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Nationality: German
Died: October 14, 1944

Known as The Desert Fox, Nazi field marshal Erwin Rommel led the Axis forces during World War II. For his plot to assassinate Hitler in 1944, he was given a choice to either commit suicide by consuming a cyanide pill or face a trial and execution. He chose the former.

 22 Dan Crenshaw

Dan Crenshaw
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Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: March 14, 1984
Sun Sign: Pisces
Nationality: American, Scottish

 23 Colin Powell

Colin Powell
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Famous As: 65th United States Secretary of State
Birthdate: April 5, 1937
Sun Sign: Aries
Nationality: American

A veteran politician who served as the 65th United States Secretary of State, Colin Powell was the first African-American Secretary of State. A member of the Republican Party, he was an army man prior to entering politics. He was a  four-star general at the time of his retirement. After leaving politics, he pursued a career as a public speaker.

 24 Otto von Bismarck

Otto von Bismarck
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Famous As: German Statesman
Birthdate: April 1, 1815
Sun Sign: Aries
Nationality: German
Died: July 30, 1898
Otto von Bismarck was a German statesman. Bismarck is credited with masterminding the unification of Germany and served as its first chancellor. He is also credited with creating the first modern welfare state in the world. Regarded as a hero by German nationalists, Otto von Bismarck's life has inspired a couple of TV series.

 25 Hannibal

Hannibal
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Famous As: Military General
Birthdate: 0247 BC
Nationality: Tunisian
Died: 0184 BC

 26 Charles de Gaulle

Charles de Gaulle
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Famous As: Former President of France
Birthdate: November 22, 1890
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Nationality: French
Died: November 9, 1970

Charles de Gaulle was a French statesman and army officer. Charles de Gaulle fought against Nazi Germany in the Second World War by leading the Free French Forces. He also worked towards re-establishing democracy in France. He founded the Fifth Republic, France's current republican system, and rewrote the Constitution of France. He then served as the president of France.

 27 Qasem Soleimani

Qasem Soleimani
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Famous As: Former Commander of Quds Force
Birthdate: March 11, 1957
Sun Sign: Pisces
Nationality: Iranian
Died: January 3, 2020

Qasem Soleimani was an Iranian major general who served as the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' Quds Force from 1998 to 2020. Soleimani was regarded as the second most powerful Iranian. Although he is considered a national hero in Iran, Soleimani was termed a terrorist by the US and was killed in a targeted drone strike in 2020.

 28 Baji Rao I

Baji Rao I
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Famous As: Peshwa of Maratha Empire
Birthdate: August 18, 1700
Sun Sign: Leo
Nationality: Indian
Died: April 28, 1740

 29 Rudolf Hess

Rudolf Hess
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Famous As: Deputy Führer
Birthdate: April 26, 1894
Sun Sign: Taurus
Nationality: German
Died: August 17, 1987
Nazi Party member Rudolf Hess was Hitler’s Deputy Führer and helped in the passage of the Nuremberg Laws. While on a trip to Scotland to initiate peace talks with the U.K. during World War II, he was arrested, and then convicted of war crimes. He eventually committed suicide in prison.

 30 Mustafa Kemal Ataturk

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk
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Famous As: Founder of the Republic of Turkey,
Birthdate: May 19, 1881
Sun Sign: Taurus
Nationality: Turkish
Died: November 10, 1938
Kemal Atatürk, known as the founding father of the Republic of Turkey, was its first president. He unified Turkey into a secular country and invested in education and women’s rights. He also popularized the Latin-based Turkish alphabet and made minorities speak Turkish in public. His policies are known as “Kemalism.” 

 31 Marc Antony

Marc Antony
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Famous As: Roman General
Birthdate: January 14, 0083
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Nationality: Ancient Roman
Died: August 1, 0030

Mark Antony was a Roman politician who played a key role in transforming the Roman Republic into the autocratic Roman Empire. Marc Antony is best remembered as one of Julius Caesar's generals during Caesar's Civil War. One of the most important figures in the history of Rome, Mark Antony has been the subject of several artistic portrayals since his death.

 32 Mark Antony

Mark Antony
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Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: January 14, 0083
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Nationality: Ancient Roman
Died: August 1, 0030

 33 Joseph R. McCarthy

Joseph R. McCarthy
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Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: November 14, 1908
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Nationality: American
Died: May 2, 1957

 34 Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria

Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria
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Famous As: Heir presumptive
Birthdate: December 18, 1863
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Nationality: Austrian
Died: June 28, 1914

 35 Marquis de Lafayette

Marquis de Lafayette
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Famous As: French Aristocrat and Military Leader
Birthdate: September 6, 1757
Sun Sign: Virgo
Nationality: French
Died: May 20, 1834

Marquis de Lafayette was a French aristocrat and military officer, who  is remembered for fighting in the American Revolutionary War, as the commander of American troops in several battles. After returning to France, he played key roles in the French Revolution of 1789 and the July Revolution of 1830. Considered a hero in both America and France, he advocated the end of slavery.  

 36 Rollo

Rollo
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Famous As: King
Birthdate: 0846 AD
Nationality: French, Norwegian
Died: 0930 AD

 37 Richard Winters

Richard Winters
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Famous As: Army officer
Birthdate: January 21, 1918
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Nationality: American
Died: January 2, 2011
Richard Winters is best remembered for his act of parachuting into Normandy on D-Day. He was recalled to the army from the inactive list during the Korean War. Following his retirement, he started selling Hershey Company by-products to animal-feed manufacturers and also taught at the U.S. Military Academy.

 38 Jim Mattis

Jim Mattis
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Famous As: Former United States Secretary of Defense
Birthdate: September 8, 1950
Sun Sign: Virgo
Nationality: American

Jim Mattis is a retired American Marine Corps general and served as the Defense Secretary from January 2017 to January 2019. He avowed the commitment of US to defending South Korea and was a known opponent of China and Russia. He was also known to disagree with certain policies of the Trump administration which finally led to his departure.

 39 Rob Riggle

Rob Riggle
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: April 21, 1970
Sun Sign: Taurus
Nationality: American

 40 Alexander Vindman

Alexander Vindman
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Famous As: Military officer
Birthdate: June 6, 1975
Sun Sign: Gemini
Nationality: Ukrainian, American

 41 Ali ibn Abi Talib

Ali ibn Abi Talib
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Famous As: Prophet of Islam
Birthdate: September 15, 0601
Sun Sign: Virgo
Nationality: Saudi Arabian
Died: January 29, 0661

Ali ibn Abi Talib was the son-in-law and a cousin of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. He played a key role in establishing the Muslim community by participating in almost all the battles that the nascent community fought. He ruled as the fourth caliph and is revered by Shia Muslims even today.

 42 Pontius Pilatus

Pontius Pilatus
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Famous As: Official
Birthdate: 0000 AD
Nationality: Italian, Ancient Roman
Died: 0039 AD

 43 James Hewitt

James Hewitt
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Famous As: Military Leaders
Birthdate: April 30, 1958
Sun Sign: Taurus
Nationality: Irish, British

 44 Tarrare

Tarrare
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Famous As: Showman
Birthdate: 1772 AD
Nationality: French
Died: 1798 AD

 45 George Armstrong Custer

George Armstrong Custer
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Famous As: Military Officer
Birthdate: December 5, 1839
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Nationality: American
Died: June 25, 1876

George Armstrong Custer was a US Army officer. He played an important role as a cavalry commander in the American Indian Wars and the American Civil War. His death at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, commonly referred to as Custer's Last Stand, went on to become a well-known episode of the American Indian Wars.

 46 Stonewall Jackson

Stonewall Jackson
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Famous As: General
Birthdate: January 21, 1824
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Nationality: American
Died: May 10, 1863

Stonewall Jackson was a commander of the Confederate States Army. He played a major role as a Confederate general in the American Civil War, winning several significant battles in the Eastern Theater of the war. Considered one of the most tactically sound commanders in the history of the US, Jackson was idolized by George Patton, Chesty Puller, and Alexander Vandegrift.

 47 Michael Flynn

Michael Flynn
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Famous As: Former United States National Security Advisor
Birthdate: November 30, 1958
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Nationality: American

Michael Flynn is a retired US Army lieutenant general who played a key role in dismantling insurgent networks in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. He also helped shape the US counterterrorism strategy in the wars. He also played a major role in the 2016 US presidential election, serving as Donald Trump's senior advisor throughout the latter's presidential campaign.

 48 Charles Edward Stuart

Charles Edward Stuart
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Famous As: Military Leader
Birthdate: December 31, 1720
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Nationality: British
Died: January 31, 1788
Charles Edward Stuart, also known as "The Young Pretender” and “Bonnie Prince Charlie,” was the son of Prince James, and the grandson of James II. He is best remembered for his role in the 1745 Jacobite Uprising, and his subsequent failure, which became the subject of many folk songs.

 49 William Tecumseh Sherman

William Tecumseh Sherman
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Famous As: General in the Union Army During the American Civil War
Birthdate: February 8, 1820
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Nationality: American
Died: February 14, 1891
William Tecumseh Sherman served as the Union Army general during the American Civil War. He is best remembered for his “scorched earth” military policy and was known as "the first modern general.” His 1875 book Memoir, related his war experiences. He was associated with wildlife conservation in his later years.

 50 Sitting Bull

Sitting Bull
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Famous As: Warrior
Birthdate: 1831 AD
Nationality: American
Died: December 15, 1890
Hunkpapa Lakota leader Sitting Bull is symbolic of the Native American resistance against the U.S. government. After the Battle of the Little Bighorn, he surrendered and performed at Buffalo Bill's Wild West show. The U.S. government, fearing he might join the Ghost Dance Movement, killed him during an attempted arrest.
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