George Washington (1732-99) was commander in chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War (1775-83) and served two terms as the first U.S. president, from 1789 to 1797. The son of a prosperous planter, Washington was raised in colonial Virginia. As a young man, he worked as a surveyor then fought in the French and Indian War (1754-63). During the American Revolution, he led the colonial forces to victory over the British and became a national hero. In 1787, he was elected president of the convention that wrote the U.S. Constitution. Two years later, Washington became America's first president. Realizing that the way he handled the job would impact how future presidents approached the position, he handed down a legacy of strength, integrity and national purpose. Less than three years after leaving office, he died at his Virginia plantation, Mount Vernon, at age 67. James Madison (1751-1836) was a founding father of the United States and the fourth American president, serving in office from 1809 to 1817. An advocate for a strong federal government, the Virginia-born Madison composed the first drafts of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights and earned the nickname "Father of the Constitution." In 1792, Madison and Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) founded the Democratic-Republican Party, which has been called America's first opposition political party. When Jefferson became the third U.S. president, Madison served as his secretary of state. In this role, he oversaw the Louisiana Purchase from the French in 1803. During his presidency, Madison led the U.S. into the controversial War of 1812 (1812-15) against Great Britain. After two terms in the White House, Madison retired to his Virginia plantation, Montpelier, with his wife Dolley (1768-1849). Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), author of the Declaration of Independence and the third U.S. president, was a leading figure in America's early development. During the American Revolutionary War (1775-83), Jefferson served in the Virginia legislature and the Continental Congress and was governor of Virginia. He later served as U.S. minister to France and U.S. secretary of state, and was vice president under John Adams (1735-1826). Jefferson, who thought the national government should have a limited role in citizens' lives, was elected president in 1800. During his two terms in office (1801-1809), the U.S. purchased the Louisiana Territory and Lewis and Clark explored the vast new acquisition. Although Jefferson promoted individual liberty, he was also a slaveowner. After leaving office, he retired to his Virginia plantation, Monticello, and helped found the University of Virginia. James Madison (1751-1836) was a founding father of the United States and the fourth American president, serving in office from 1809 to 1817. An advocate for a strong federal government, the Virginia-born Madison composed the first drafts of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights and earned the nickname "Father of the Constitution." In 1792, Madison and Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) founded the Democratic-Republican Party, which has been called America's first opposition political party. When Jefferson became the third U.S. president, Madison served as his secretary of state. In this role, he oversaw the Louisiana Purchase from the French in 1803. During his presidency, Madison led the U.S. into the controversial War of 1812 (1812-15) against Great Britain. After two terms in the White House, Madison retired to his Virginia plantation, Montpelier, with his wife Dolley (1768-1849). James Monroe (1758-1831), the fifth U.S. president, oversaw major westward expansion of the U.S. and strengthened American foreign policy in 1823 with the Monroe Doctrine, a warning to European countries against further colonization and intervention in the Western Hemisphere. Monroe, a Virginia native, fought with the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary War (1775-83) then embarked on a long political career. A protégé of Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), Monroe was a delegate to the Continental Congress and served as a U.S. senator, governor of Virginia and minister to France and Great Britain. In 1803, he helped negotiate the Louisiana Purchase, which doubled the size of the U.S. As president, he acquired Florida, and also dealt with the contentious issue of slavery in new states joining the Union with the 1820 Missouri Compromise. William Henry Harrison (1773-1841), America's ninth president, served just one month in office before dying of pneumonia. His tenure, from March 4, 1841, to April 4, 1841, is the shortest of any U.S. president. Harrison, who was born into a prominent Virginia family, joined the Army as a young man and fought American Indians on the U.S. frontier. He then became the first congressional delegate from the Northwest Territory, a region encompassing much of the present-day Midwest. In the early 1800s, Harrison served as governor of the Indiana Territory and worked to open American Indian lands to white settlers. He became a war hero after fighting Indian forces at the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811. Harrison went on to serve as a U.S. congressman and senator from Ohio. He was elected to the White House in 1840, but passed away a month after his inauguration, the first U.S. president to die in office. John Tyler (1790-1862) served as America's 10th president from 1841 to 1845. He assumed office after the death of President William Henry Harrison (1773-1841), who passed away from pneumonia after just a month in the White House. Nicknamed "His Accidency," Tyler was the first vice president to become chief executive due to the death of his predecessor. A Virginian, he was elected to the state legislature at age 21 and went on to serve in the U.S. Congress and as governor of Virginia. A strong supporter of states' rights, Tyler was a Democratic-Republican; however, in 1840 he ran for the vice presidency on the Whig ticket. As president, Tyler clashed with the Whigs, who later tried, unsuccessfully, to impeach him. Among his administration's accomplishments was the 1845 annexation of Texas. Before he died, Tyler voted for Virginia's secession from the Union and was elected to the Confederate Congress. James Buchanan (1791-1868), America's 15th president, was in office from 1857 to 1861. During his tenure, seven Southern states seceded from the Union and the nation teetered on the brink of civil war. A Pennsylvania native, Buchanan began his political career in his home state's legislature and went on to serve in both houses of the U.S. Congress; he later became a foreign diplomat and U.S. secretary of state. Buchanan, a Democrat who was morally opposed to slavery but believed it was protected by the U.S. Constitution, was elected to the White House in 1856. As president, he tried to maintain peace between pro-slavery and anti-slavery factions in the government, but tensions only escalated. In 1860, after Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) was elected to succeed Buchanan, South Carolina seceded and the Confederacy was soon established. In April 1861, a month after Buchanan left office, the American Civil War (1861-1865) began. Abraham Lincoln, a self-taught Illinois lawyer and legislator with a reputation as an eloquent opponent of slavery, shocked many when he overcame several more prominent contenders to win the Republican Party's nomination for president in 1860. His election that November pushed several Southern states to secede by the time of his inauguration in March 1861, and the Civil War began barely a month later. Contrary to expectations, Lincoln proved to be a shrewd military strategist and a savvy leader during what became the costliest conflict ever fought on American soil. His Emancipation Proclamation, issued in 1863, freed all slaves in the rebellious states and paved the way for slavery's eventual abolition, while his Gettysburg Address later that year stands as one of the most famous and influential pieces of oratory in American history. In April 1865, with the Union on the brink of victory, Abraham Lincoln was shot and killed by the Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth; his untimely death made him a martyr to the cause of liberty and Union. Over the years Lincoln's mythic stature has only grown, and he is widely regarded as one of the greatest presidents in the nation's history. Andrew Johnson (1808-1875), the 17th U.S. president, assumed office after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865). Johnson, who served from 1865 to 1869, was the first American president to be impeached. A tailor before he entered politics, Johnson grew up poor and lacked a formal education. He served in the Tennessee legislature and U.S. Congress, and was governor of Tennessee. A Democrat, he championed populist measures and supported states' rights. During the U.S. Civil War (1861-1865), Johnson was the only Southern senator to remain loyal to the Union. Six weeks after Johnson was inaugurated as U.S. vice president in 1865, Lincoln was murdered. As president, Johnson took a moderate approach to restoring the South to the Union, and clashed with Radical Republicans. In 1868, he was impeached by Congress, but he was not removed from office. He did not run for a second presidential term. Ulysses Grant (1822-1885) commanded the victorious Union army during the American Civil War (1861-1865) and served as the 18th U.S. president from 1869 to 1877. An Ohio native, Grant graduated from West Point and fought in the Mexican-American War (1846-1848). During the Civil War, Grant, an aggressive and determined leader, was given command of all the U.S. armies. After the war he became a national hero, and the Republicans nominated him for president in 1868. A primary focus of Grant's administration was Reconstruction, and he worked to reconcile the North and South while also attempting to protect the civil rights of newly freed black slaves. While Grant was personally honest, some of his associates were corrupt and his administration was tarnished by various scandals. After retiring, Grant invested in a brokerage firm that went bankrupt, costing him his life savings. He spent his final days penning his memoirs, which were published the year he died and proved a critical and financial success James Garfield (1831-81) was sworn in as the 20th U.S. president in March 1881 and died in September of that same year from an assassin's bullet, making his tenure in office the second-shortest in U.S. presidential history, after William Henry Harrison (1773-1841). Born in an Ohio log cabin, Garfield was a self-made man who became a school president in his mid-20s. During the U.S. Civil War (1861-65), he fought for the Union and rose to the rank of major general. Garfield, a Republican, went on to represent his home state in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served from 1863 to 1881. In 1880, a divided Republican Party chose Garfield as its dark horse presidential nominee. After winning the general election, his brief time in office was marked by political wrangling. In July 1881, Garfield was shot by a disgruntled constituent and died less than three months later. Chester Arthur (1829-1886), the 21st U.S. president, took office after the death of President James Garfield (1831-1881). As president from 1881 to 1885, Arthur advocated for civil service reform. A Vermont native, he became active in Republican politics in the 1850s as a New York City lawyer. In 1871, an era of political machines and patronage, Arthur was named to the powerful position of customs collector for the Port of New York. He later was removed from the job by President Rutherford Hayes (1822-1893) in an attempt to reform the spoils system. Elected to the vice presidency in 1880, Arthur became president after Garfield died following an assassination attempt by a disgruntled job seeker. While in office, Arthur rose above partisanship and in 1883 signed the Pendleton Act, which required government jobs to be distributed based on merit. Suffering from poor health, he did not run for reelection in 1884. Calvin Coolidge (1872-1933), the 30th U.S. president, led the nation through most of the Roaring Twenties, a decade of dynamic social and cultural change, materialism and excess. He took office on August 3, 1923, following the sudden death of President Warren G. Harding (1865-1923), whose administration was riddled with scandal. Nicknamed "Silent Cal" for his quiet, steadfast and frugal nature, Coolidge, a former Republican governor of Massachusetts, cleaned up the rampant corruption of the Harding administration and provided a model of stability and respectability for the American people in an era of fast-paced modernization. He was a pro-business conservative who favored tax cuts and limited government spending. Yet some of his laissez-faire policies also contributed to the economic problems that erupted into the Great Depression. Harry Truman (1884-1972), the 33rd U.S. president, assumed office following the death of President Franklin Roosevelt (1882-1945). In the White House from 1945 to 1953, Truman made the decision to use the atomic bomb against Japan, helped rebuild postwar Europe, worked to contain communism and led the United States into the Korean War (1950-1953). A Missouri native, Truman assisted in running his family farm after high school and served in World War I (1914-1918). He began his political career in 1922 as a county judge in Missouri and was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1934. Three months after becoming vice president in 1945, the plain-spoken Truman ascended to the presidency. In 1948, he was reelected in an upset over Republican Thomas Dewey (1902-1971). After leaving office, Truman spent his remaining two decades in Independence, Missouri, where he established his presidential library George Herbert Walker Bush (1924-), served as the 41st U.S. president from 1989 to 1993. He also was a two-term U.S. vice president under Ronald Reagan, from 1981 to 1989. Bush, a World War II naval aviator and Texas oil industry executive, began his political career in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1967. During the 1970s, he held a variety of government posts, including CIA director. In 1988, Bush defeated Democratic rival Michael Dukakis to win the White House. In office, he launched successful military operations against Panama and Iraq; however, his popularity at home was marred by an economic recession, and in 1992 he lost his bid for re-election to Bill Clinton. In 2000, Bush's son and namesake was elected the 43rd U.S. president; he served until 2009 Bill Clinton (1946-), the 42nd U.S. president, served in office from 1993 to 2001. Prior to that, the Arkansas native and Democrat was governor of his home state. During Clinton's time in the White House, America enjoyed an era of peace and prosperity, marked by low unemployment, declining crime rates and a budget surplus. Clinton appointed a number of women and minorities to top government posts, including Janet Reno, the first female U.S. attorney general, and Madeleine Albright, the first female U.S. secretary of state. In 1998, the House of Representatives impeached Clinton on charges related to a sexual relationship he had with a White House intern. He was acquitted by the Senate. Following his presidency, Clinton remained active in public life. George W. Bush (1946-), America's 43rd president, served in office from 2001 to 2009. Before entering the White House, Bush, the oldest son of George H.W. Bush, the 41st U.S. president, was a two-term Republican governor of Texas. A graduate of Yale University and Harvard Business School, Bush worked in the Texas oil industry and was an owner of the Texas Rangers baseball team before becoming governor. In 2000, he won the presidency after narrowly defeating Democratic challenger Al Gore. Bush's time in office was shaped by the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against America. In response to the attacks, he declared a global "war on terrorism," established the Department of Homeland Security and authorized U.S.-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.