FULL STANDING CDV OF MAJOR GENERAL WILLIAM H. FRENCH BY BRADY

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Item Code: 259-96

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Image shows French posed by a marble topped table on which stands a statue of medieval king. The General wears a dark double-breasted frock coat with velvet collar and cuffs with brigadier general’s shoulder straps and matching dark trousers. In his left hand is his forage cap with embroidered “US” in a wreath on the front.

Image is clear with very good contrast.

Edges of mount show light surface dirt. Bottom front corners are marked “BRADY” and “NEW YORK.”

Reverse has Brady’s photographer’s imprint and “GENL. FRENCH” in pencil.

William Henry French was born January 13, 1815 in Baltimore, Maryland. He graduated from West Point in 1837 and finished 22nd out of a class of 50. French fought the Seminoles in Florida and was posted to garrison duty on the Canadian border. He helped enforce the removal of the Cherokee from the southeast and in the Mexican War he served under Franklin Pierce, and was brevetted for his actions at Cerro Gordo, Contreras and Churubusco. After the war, French continued at various regular army posts along the frontier, and helped to re-write the army’s light artillery textbook.

French was stationed at Fort Duncan, Texas when that state seceded from the Union. A staunch Unionist, French rapidly led his command to the mouth of the Rio Grande, and then to Key West, where he stamped down on secessionist activities.

In September, 1861 French was commissioned brigadier general, and took command of the Third Brigade, Sumner’s Division, Army of the Potomac. After leading his men ably during Fair Oaks and the Seven Days , French was given command of the Third Division, II Corps. His men were at the center of the fighting at Antietam, suffering 1,700 casualties around the Roulette Farm and “Bloody Lane.” He was promoted to major general in November and led his division against Marye’s Heights at Fredericksburg and at Chancellorsville. His men were stationed near Harper’s Ferry during the Battle of Gettysburg, and made themselves useful by destroying pontoon bridges the rebels would need on their retreat route.

Shortly thereafter, on July 7, 1863 French succeeded the wounded Daniel Sickles to command of the III Corps. Unfortunately for French, his tenure as a Corps commander was short-lived and fraught with controversy. During the Mine Run campaign French’s leadership was poor and his command blundered into battle at Payne’s Farm and failed to reach its objective point. Meade was furious. French blamed his subordinates, but it was too late. When the Army was reorganized and consolidated in the spring of 1864, French was mustered out of the volunteers and returned to Philadelphia to await orders. He remained in the regular army, and for the remainder of the war, he served on military boards in Washington, D.C. French ended the war with the regular army rank of colonel of the 4th U.S. Artillery.

Following the war, French commanded the 2nd Artillery on the Pacific Coast from 1865 until 1872, including an assignment as commander of Fort McDowell in San Francisco Bay. In 1875, he was appointed the commander of Fort McHenry near Baltimore. In July 1880, at his own request, being over sixty-two years of age, he was retired.

French died in Washington, D.C., and is buried there in Rock Creek Cemetery.  [ad]

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