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 [decorative delimiter] Class of 1837

Vol. I

(Born Md.)

William H. French

(Ap'd D. C.)


William Henry French: Born Jan. 13, 1815, Baltimore, MD.

Military History. — Cadet at the Military Academy, July 1, 1833, to July 1, 1837, when he was graduated and promoted in the Army to

Second Lieut., 1st Artillery, July 1, 1837.

 p677  Served: in the Florida War, 1837‑38; in the Cherokee Nation, 1838, while transferring the Indians to the West; on the Northern Frontier,

(First Lieut., 1st Artillery, July 9, 1838)

during Canada Border Disturbances, at Ft. Covington, N. Y., 1838, — Troy, Vt., 1838‑39, — and Plattsburg, N. Y., 1839‑40; on Maine Frontier, at Houlton, 1840‑43, pending "Disputed Territory" controversy; on Northeastern Boundary Survey, in command of detachment acting as Sappers, May 26 to Dec. 20, 1843; in garrison at Ft. Adams, R. I., 1843‑45, — Ft. Pickens, Fla., 1845, — and Ft. Wood, La., 1845‑46; in Military Occupation of Texas, in charge of Commissary Depot, at Brazos Island, 1846, — and at Point Isabel, 1846‑47; in the War with Mexico, 1847‑48; as Acting Adjutant-General to Major General Patterson's division, 1847, and Aide-de‑Camp to Brig.‑General Pierce, Sep. 21 to Dec. 4, 1847, being engaged in the Siege of Vera Cruz, Mar. 9‑29, 1847, — Battle of Cerro Gordo, Apr. 17‑18, 1847, — Battle

(Bvt. Capt., Apr. 18, 1847,
for Gallant and Meritorious Conduct in the Battle of Cerro Gordo, Mex.)

of Contreras, Aug. 19‑20, 1847, — Battle of Churubusco, Aug. 20, 1847,

(Bvt. Major, Aug. 20, 1847, for Gallant and Meritorious Services in the Battles of Contreras and Churubusco, Mex.)

— and Assault and Capture of the City of Mexico, Sep. 13‑14, 1847; in garrison at Ft. McHenry, Md., 1848‑49, — and Ft. Columbus, N. Y.,

(Captain, 1st Artillery, Sep. 22, 1848)

1849‑50; in Florida Hostilities against the Seminole Indians, 1850‑52, 1853; in garrison at Ft. Monroe, Va., 1853‑55, — and Ft. McHenry, Md., 1855‑59; as Member of Board to Revise the System of Light Artillery Tactics, which was adopted for the service of the United States, Mar. 6, 1860; and on frontier duty on march through Texas, 1859, — at Ft. Clark, Tex., 1859‑60, — and Ft. Duncan, Tex., 1860‑61.

Served during the Rebellion of the Seceding States, 1861‑66: on march from Ft. Duncan, Tex. (which he abandoned), to the mouth of the Rio Grande, where he embarked his command to reinforce Fts. Jefferson and Taylor, Fla., Feb. 14 to Mar. 20, 1861; in command of Key

(Brig.‑General, U. S. Volunteers, Sep. 28, 1861)

West, Fla., Mar. 27 to Nov., 1861; in the defenses of Washington, D. C.,

(Major, 2d Artillery, Oct. 26, 1861)

Nov. 30, 1861, to Mar., 1862; on the advance upon Manassas and the Rappahannock, Mar., 1862; in the Virginia Peninsular Campaign (Army of the Potomac), Mar.‑Aug., 1862, being engaged in the Siege of Yorktown, Apr. 5-May 4, 1862, — Battle of Fair Oaks, June 1, 1862, — Action

(Bvt. Lieut.‑Col., June 1, 1862,
for Gallant and Meritorious Services at the Battle of Fair Oaks, Va.)

of Oak Grove, June 25, 1862, — Battle of Gaines' Mill, June 27, 1862, — Action of Peach Orchard Station, June 29, 1862, — Battle of Savage Station, June 29, 1862, — Battle of Glendale, June 30, 1862, — in command of Rear Guard on march to Malvern, June 29‑30, 1862, — and Battle of Malvern Hill, July 1, 1862; on march to join the Army of Virginia at Centreville, Va., Sep. 2, 1862; in the Maryland Campaign (Army of the Potomac), Sep.‑Nov., 1862, being engaged in the Battle of Antietam,

(Bvt. Colonel, Sep. 17, 1862,
for Gallant and Meritorious Services at the Battle of Antietam, Md.)

Sep. 17, 1862, — and march to Falmouth, Va., Oct.‑Nov., 1862; in  p678 the Rappahannock Campaign (Army of the Potomac), Dec., 1862, to

(Major-General, U. S. Volunteers, Nov. 29, 1862)

June, 1863, being engaged in the Battle of Fredericksburg, Dec. 13, 1862, — and Battle of Chancellorsville, May 2‑4, 1863; in the Pennsylvania Campaign (Army of the Potomac), June‑July, 1863, being in command of Harper's Ferry District, June 27‑30, 1863, — guarding lines of communication and threatening those of the enemy, July 1‑4, 1863, — and command of 3d Army Corps, from July 7, 1863, on the march to Warrenton, Va., being engaged in the Action of Manassas Gap, July 23, 1863; in the Rapidan Campaign, in command of the 3d Corps (Army of the Potomac), Oct.‑Dec., 1863, being engaged in the Action of Auburn, Oct. 7, 1863, — of 2d and 3d Corps, in forced passage of the Rappahannock, at Kelly's Ford, Nov. 7, 1863, and Skirmish beyond Brandy Station, Nov. 8, 1863, — and of 3d Corps, in Operations at Mine Run, Nov. 26‑30,

(Lieut.‑Colonel, 2d Artillery, Feb. 8, 1864)

1863; in Winter quarters, Dec., 1863, to Mar., 1864, at Culpeper, Va.;

(Mustered out of Volunteer Service, May 6, 1864)

in command of troops assembled at Havre de Grace during the Siege of Washington, July, 1864; in garrison at Ft. McHenry, Md., Dec. 27,

(Bvt. Brig.‑General, U. S. Army, Mar. 13, 1865,
for Gallant and Meritorious Services at the Battle of Chancellorsville, Va.)

1864, to Jan. 5, 1865; as Chief and Inspector of Artillery of Middle Department, Jan. 5 to July 22, 1865; and in command of 2d Artillery

(Bvt. Maj.‑General, U. S. Army, Mar. 13, 1865,
for Gallant and Meritorious Services during the Rebellion)

on Pacific Coast, Aug., 1865.

Served: as Inspector of Artillery for the Defenses of San Francisco Harbor, Cal., 1865‑67; as President of Examining Board at San Francisco, Cal., of candidates for appointment in the Army, 1866‑67; on Court-martial duty at Washington, D. C., June 9, 1868, to June 21, 1869; in command of regiment, headquarters at Presidio, Cal., July 16, 1869, to Nov. 14, 1872, — and Ft. McHenry, Md., Nov. 21, 1872, to Dec. 2, 1876; as Member of Board for the Establishment of Military Prisons, at Boston, Mas., Oct., 1873, to June 23, 1880, — on Heavy Gun Carriages, etc., at New York city, Jan.‑Feb., 1874, — for Examination of Candidates for Appointment to the Army, at Washington, D. C., Sep., 1874, — for Inspection of Military Prison at Ft. Leavenworth, Kan., Sep., 1874, — and for the Establishment of Rules and Regulations for Military Prisons, Dec. 2, 1876, to Feb. 11, 1877; in command of Artillery Battalion at

(Colonel, 4th Artillery, July 2, 1877)

Washington Arsenal, D. C., Feb. 21 to July 18, 1877, — and suppressing riots on Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, July 18‑24, 1877; on leave of absence, Aug. 1 to Nov. 1, 1877; and in command of regiment, headquarters Presidio, Cal., Dec. 6, 1877, to June 27, 1878, — at Angel Island, Cal., June 28, 1878, to Mar., 1880, — and at Presidio, Cal., Mar. 1‑18, 1880.

Retired from Active Service, July 1, 1880,
at his own Request, he being over 62 Years of Age.

Died, May 20, 1881, at Washington, D. C.: Aged 66.

Buried, Rock Creek Cemetery, Washington, DC.

Biographical Sketch.

Bvt. Major-General William H. French was born, Jan. 13, 1815, at Baltimore, Md. Upon his graduation and promotion to the Artillery, July 1, 1837, he served in the Florida War, on the Northern and Northeastern  p679 Frontier during threatened disturbances, and at various posts till the Military Occupation of Texas, where he was placed, 1846‑47, in charge of Commissary Depots on the Rio Grande.

In the War with Mexico, French served on the staffs of Generals Patterson and Pierce, and was engaged in the various conflicts on the line of operations from Vera Cruz to the City of Mexico, receiving for his "gallant and meritorious conduct" the brevets of Captain and Major.

Till the outbreak of the Rebellion, French was in garrison, or on frontier duty in Texas, when he abandoned his post, Fort Duncan, and with his rescued command reinforced the Gulf forts, Jefferson and Taylor.

French, appointed Brig.‑General, U. S. Volunteers, Sep. 28, 1861, was transferred to the Defense of Washington, and subsequently accompanied the Army of the Potomac in the Virginia Peninsular Campaign of 1862, participating in all its operations, and was particularly distinguished in the Battle of Fair Oaks. After the retreat of the Army of Virginia from Manassas, French commanded a division of the Army of the Potomac in the Maryland and Rappahannock campaigns, being engaged in the battles of Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville. Being promoted Major-General, U. S. Volunteers, he was placed in command of the Harper's Ferry District to guard the head of the Shenandoah Valley. After his withdrawal from that command, he joined in the pursuit of the Confederates defeated at the Battle of Gettysburg, and, in command of the Third Corps, was engaged in several sharp actions. After the breaking up of winter quarters at Culpeper, Va., in the spring of 1864, French was mustered out of Volunteer Service, and took command of troops assembled at Havre de Grace, on the Susquehanna. For his "gallant and meritorious services in the Rebellion," French received the brevets of Colonel, Brigadier-General, and Major-General, U. S. Army.​a

From the end of the Civil War till his death at Washington city, May 20, 1881, French, besides the performance of the ordinary duties of his command, was entrusted with many board and inspection services, for which his talents and long experience especially fitted him.

General French was a good disciplinarian, possessed sound military judgment, was firm in his convictions, never failed in the hour of peril, and withal was a jovial companion, full of wit and sparkling humor.

Thayer's Note:

a As often enough in the Register, a less than meritorious career episode has been glossed over — something, by the way, that Cullum does very well: the reader of the Register needs to be alert. Here, what has been coasted by is Gen. French's indecision and delay at Mine Run that ultimately prolonged the war and in any event sidetracked his career, which could have been splendid, to just a good one; see this page at Blue and Gray Trail and elsewhere online.

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Page updated: 7 Apr 16