French Family
Papers, 1844-1865

SC23206

Quantity: 1 box (0.25 cubic ft.)
Access: Open to research
Acquisition: Gift: Joan Johnson, Portland Oregon, January 2011
Processed by: Manuscripts and Special Collections, February 2011

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Biographical Note:

Eli French, a bookseller in New York City, was born about 1801 in Vermont. He married Hannah R. with whom he had a number of children. Their eldest, William R. French, was born about 1836 in New York City. He became an army officer during the Civil War. Military service records indicate he mustered in as a captain of Company D of the 165th New York Infantry Regiment and mustered out of service with his company in September 1865.

Scope and Content Note:

This collection consists chiefly of documents related to the military service of William R. French during the Civil War and afterwards. A number of items relate to a fracas between black and white troops that occurred in Charleston, South Carolina, in July 1865. This incident resulted in the confinement of the 165th New York Volunteers at Fort Sumter, and the jailing of a number of officers of the 165th, including Capt. William R. French. As a result, Eli French sent a number of letters to various government and military officers seeking to have his son and fellow soldiers exonerated of all charges.

Later Eli French and others wrote a series of letters to Governor Reuben Fenton and other officials regarding the possibility of William R. French being promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel. Many of these letters detail William R. French's military service during the Civil War.

The collection also includes a diary Eli French had kept while traveling in Europe from June through August 1844. It contains comments and anecdotes about the culture and society in the places he visited.

Inventory of Documents:

Box Folder Description
1 1 Historical information (photocopies from various sources)

  • Reprint of an article from the New York Times of July 24, 1865: "From Charleston: Uneasy state of feeling trouble between white and colored troops" – article details recent disturbances between white and black troops stationed at Charleston, South Carolina; the 165th New York Volunteers was mentioned specifically
  • Military service record of William R. French, obtained from New York State Archives
  • Information from the 1850 United States Federal Census (Ancestry.com)
1 2 Series of handwritten documents/letters (or copies thereof) regarding an incident involving black and white troops which occurred in Charleston, S.C., in July 1865 (after the Civil War). This incident resulted in the confinement of the 165th New York Volunteers at Fort Sumter, and the jailing of a number of officers of the 165th, including Capt. William R. French

  1. Letter to My dear cousin [Col. John Manley], dated July 19, 1865, from [Eli] French
  2. Letter to Dear John (Col. John Manley), written at the Charleston Jail, August 5, 1865, from Capt. W.R. French
  3. Letter to My dear Cousin (Col. John Manley), August 8, 1865, from [Eli] French
  4. Charges and Specifications preferred against Brig. Gen. John P. Hatch – written  at Charleston, S.C., on or about August 15, 1865 – signed by George C. Hubbard, Surgeon, 165th New York Volunteers, and witnessed by numerous officers, including Capt. W.R. French
  5. Letter to My dear Cousin (Col. John Manley), August 30, 1865, from [Eli] French
  6. Letter to Hon. Nathan Sargent, August 31, 1865, from [Eli] French
  7. Letter to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, August 31, 1865, from [Eli] French
  8. Letter to My dear Hannah [Wheeler], September 29, 1865, from [Eli] French (Hannah was the daughter of Eli French and sister of William R. French)
1 3 Series of handwritten letters (or copies thereof) to and from various persons relative to the promotion of Captain William R. French.

  1. Letter to Major General Wm. H. Emory, August 18, 1865, from [Eli] French
  2. Letter to Major General Wm. H. Emory, August 19, 1865, from [Eli] French
  3. Letter to Major General N.P. Banks, August 19, 1865, from [Eli] French
  4. Fold-over sheet of paper containing the following:
    • Letter to Governor Fenton, August 29, 1865, from G…. Carr, Lt. Col.
    • Letter to Maj. Gen. Banks, August 28, 1865, from Maj. Gen. Wm. Hoffman
    • Letter to Governor Fenton, August 31, 1865, from N.P. Banks
    • Letter to [Eli] French, August 21, 1865, from Gen. W.H. Emory
  5. Letter to Maj. Gen. W.B. Franklin, September 15, 1865, from [Eli] French
  6. Letter to Maj. Gen. Wm. S. Emory, September 15, 1865, from [Eli] French
  7. Letter to Governor Fenton, September 19, 1865, from [Eli] French
  8. Letter to Governor Fenton, September 23, 1865, from George Shea
  9. Letter to [Governor Reuben Fenton], September 26, 1865, from Brig. Gen.  Thomas H. Hubbard
  10. Letter to Brig. Gen. James D. Fessenden, September 27, 1865, from [Eli] French
  11. Letter to [Eli] French, Esq., September 30, 1865, from Brig. Gen. James D. Fessenden
  12. Letter to Governor Fenton, September 30, 1865, Geo. W. Blunt
1 4 Series of handwritten letters (or copies thereof) to and from various persons relative to the promotion of Captain William R. French:

  1. Letter, addressee unidentified, September 30, 1865, from Brig. Gen. James D. Fessenden
  2. Letter to Governor Fenton, September 30, 1865, from W.H. Emory
  3. Letter to My dear Sir, October 3, 1865, from Maj. Gen. W.B. Franklin
  4. Letter to Col. B.C. Gilbert, October 4, 1865, from [Eli] French
  5. Letter to Governor Fenton, October 4, 1865, from E.C. Benedict
  6. Letter to Governor Fenton, October 5, 1865, from [Eli] French
  7. Letter to Governor Fenton, October 7, 1865, from W.C. Bryant
  8. Letter to Governor Fenton, October 7, 1865, from William Saint…. (?)
  9. Sheet of paper with copies of different letters on each side:
    • Letter to Governor Fenton, October 11, 1865, from [Eli] French
    • Letter to Hon. William L….., Jr., October 12, 1865, from [Eli] French
  10. Sheet of paper with copies of different letters on each side:
    • Letter to George Shea, October 12, 1865, from [Eli] French
    • Letter to New York State Soldiers Depot, October 12, 1865
    • Letter to Governor Fenton, October 14, 1865, from Brev. Col. Adam Badeau
  11. Letter to W.R. French, Esq., October 25, 1865, from Brev. Col. Adam Badeau
1 5 Journal (diary) compiled by Eli French, a New York City resident, of his travels in Europe, June-August 1844.
Last Updated: November 25, 2014