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Bill Thayer

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The following text is reproduced from (the report of the) Eleventh Annual Reunion of the Association of the Graduates of the United States Military Academy, June 17, 1880.

 p90  J. Hansell French
No. 2549. Class of 1874.
Killed, January 17, 1880, in the San Mateo Mountains, New Mexico, aged 28.

J. Hansell French was born in Philadelphia, Penn., on the 14th of March, 1851. He was the son of Clayton French, Esq., of the firm of French and Richards, of that city. The first years of his life were uneventful,  p91 being passed at school in Philadelphia, with the exception of one year spent at the Commercial and Collegiate Institute (General Russell's) in New Haven, Connecticut.

He entered the Military Academy in June, 1869, and was graduated therefrom with the Class of 1874, being assigned as a Second Lieutenant in the Ninth Cavalry.

He served on frontier duty successively at Ringgold Barracks, Fort Brown and Fort Clark, Texas, and at Fort Garland, Colorado, until August 31st, 1876, when he resigned on account of sickness.

Two years after (August 10th, 1878), he again entered the service, being re‑appointed a Second Lieutenant in the Ninth Cavalry. He now served at Forts Union and Stanton, and was for some time on out‑post duty at Tularosa. About December 1st, 1879, he reached Fort Bayard, and remained there until ordered out, January 4th, 1880, in pursuit of Victorio's band of Indians. During this pursuit, he was commended for skill and courage in planning a defence on Sierra Blanco Cañon. The Indians were finally overtaken in the San Mateo Mountains, and were attacked by the troops on the 17th, when Lieutenant French was killed when gallantly commanding Company "M," Ninth Cavalry.

French did not hesitate to perform the most difficult and hazardous duties in letter and spirit. In the Army he soon earned the reputation of a valuable and reliable scout. Among other exploits in this capacity, he led a small detachment of men from the Rio Grande to Fort Garland, during a most fatiguing march of over over 2,000 miles, and in Morrow's Expedition against the Indians, was chosen as the bearer of important dispatches, with which he rode 125 miles in 24 hours through the hostiles' territory.

At the Academy he was popular. He had in the Corps the same reputation which his subsequent career has sustained, that of a reckless, daring fellow, fond of both the dash and hardships of the soldier's life.

By his sudden, yet soldierly death, the service has certainly lost a valuable and faithful officer.


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