1st Vermont Cavalry
The French Brothers
George Blood and John Quincy
of Proctorsville, Windsor County, Vermont
John Quincy French was born in Proctorsville (Windsor County) Vermont, 9 June, 1844. His older brother, George Blood French, eight years his senior, was a Civil War soldier who enlisted for service at the very first call for soldiers and eventually was promoted Adjutant. Quincy wanted so very much to join up too, but his parents were reluctant to let both sons take part in this conflict. Besides, Quincy was not doing well in school-- had very little interest in scholastics, unlike the rest of the children, and needed to harness his free spirit before his father would consent to give him freedom. Calvin French, the boys' father was a very domineering man-- a lawyer and Judge of Windsor County-- and the children in the family followed his direction earnestly. Young Quincy, however, was always rebelling. He left home abruptly one day-- took a job in Boston at the age of 18 in a mercantile store and got involved with, what is father called "young whips with bad influences.' In any event, Quincy's enlisted at the age of 19 years. His enlistment took place at Cavendish on the 28 Nov., 1863-- signing up for Civil War service for three years. He indicated his occupation as a "clerk." His father, Calvin, who finally consented, believing it might be a positive step towards a 'growing up experience' for his rebellious son, signed as witness. Dr. Hazelton of Cavendish was examining surgeon. Quincy has light complexion, blue eyes, light hair and was five feet four inches tall at the time of his enlistment. He mustered in as a private at Brattleboro, Vt. 26 Jan., 1864-- a member of the First Regiment, Vermont Cavalry. He served under Capt. Oliver T. Cushman of Company "E", 2nd Brigade, 3rd Division. Eager, brave, impulsive and at the same time, very naive, young Quincy was shot through the head and instantly killed in action at "Craig's Store" on the day of the Battle of the Wilderness, 5 May, 1864. His older brother was also in the battle and was wounded in the arm. But to learn his little brother Quincy had died was devastating for George-- especially in view of the fact that George took the responsibility of recommending to his father Quincy be allowed to 'join up to grow up.' The Army pay roll indicated Quincy had received $112 in total since his enlistment and the family was due $190 bounty at his death. Quincy was buried on the battlefield. Below are the only remnants left of a boy's life--some family letters concerning him and the letters he sent home to his family.
Proctorsville, Vt., June 14, 1861 (Friday)
To: Quincy French, c/o Mr. Barrett in Weathersfield, Vt. [Quincy was working on a farm in Weathersfield at this time]
From: Valeria Blood French (mother)
My dear lad: We have delayed writing you because we had "no certain thing" to communicate. We have not heard from your brother since you was at home. Nor from any of the Cavendish company since the action at Great Bethel of which you have doubtless read. We hope they are all safe-- even if they are, how many are called to mourning and sorrow by every battle. Oh, war is a dreadful calamity!
Your father is having a hard headache today. He worked too hard on the road yesterday, I think. Harriet has not been in school since you left. She is very unwell at home this week. Elder [Richard] Ely was buried yesterday. You know he has been sick a long time. I hope you are very well and very happy doing all the good you can. Kind words and pleasant looks are not costly or difficult but they are valuable to yourself certainly as well as to others. How did you keep your birthday? You were not forgotten by us on that day.
[6:00 p.m.] I have read a letter from Jason [Freeman] received today written last Sunday and Monday. The 5th Company was not in the Bethel engagement as alternate companies were taken, that is the 2nd, 4th, 6th and so on/ While he was writing he could hear the firing so concluded they had found somebody to fight with. He writes that twenty of the company were not on duty on account of sickness. Ten of them had the measles-- Conant among the number. But none were dangerous. The night before he wrote he took care of sixteen in the hospital from different companies. George was well. They were strongly entrenched (perhaps Mr. Barrett will explain this if you do not understand it) and the war steamer Harriet Lane was just against their camp to guard the river. I have been particular to give you all of interest in Jason's letter for I know that you, as well as the rest of us, are anxious to know about all letters from the camp. Did you read one in the [Windsor] Journal last week from Capt. Tuttle? Jarusha went to the Teacher's Institute at Chester last week. Miss Dartt was there. Remember me kindly to Mr. and Mrs. Barrett and Mr. Warren's family. Father and sisters send love to you. Affectionately, V. B. F.
Proctorsville, Vt., July 11, 1861
To: George B. French, soldier, Civil War
From: Jarusha French (sister)
My very dear brother: Do you know it is only sixteen days more to the twenty seventh and then we expect to see our "brave soldier" coming home. The 3rd Regiment has not yet been mustered in the U.S. service, but they were expecting to be inspected this week or first next. Redfield Proctor is to be Quartermaster. Mr. Seaver, postmaster, has gone as his bookkeeper and he wants our own Quincy to go as a servant. Q. is so excited and willing and the fact is he will not be satisfied in the world until he has been away and found out that Vermont is not the worst place in the world. He is very anxious to go into the army some way and he never would do for a private soldier either for hardihood or stature or age and if he has got the offer such a chance, I do not know but it will be best for him to go. He has indeed sent word to Redfield that he may go as father would not hold him back. It seems very bad indeed that he should go so young and my own feelings are against it. Mr. Proctor likes him very much but know nothing when they will be called to action and it may be anywhere but we must trust in our Father who doeth all things well. Perhaps he will be as well there as anywhere. It does not seem quite so bad to have him go in such a way as a regular soldier for I suppose he would probably learn as much.
Miss Tuttle the Captain's sister was just here to call on us. She says her brother writes that he will be coming home about a fortnight now, and of course you will be coming too, perhaps not to go back. School has only three weeks more to keep then I shall be at liberty. Hattie has three weeks more. She is not very strong yet from her sickness. Father has been to Claremont, Concord, Bellows Falls, etc. and came home yesterday with a very bad headache of course, but he sends love to you. With much love, your sister, J.
[from Calvin] It is reported that Hesselton of your company has some sort of a clerkship given him at Washington. Is it so and what is it and his pay? He may turn up one of the lucky boys and hope he may. What should you think about Quincy going as servant for Redfield Proctor? He always seemed to like him and says he'll take good care of him. Mother says send George another dollar.
Camp Lyon, Washington, D.C. Aug. 3, 1861
To: Family at home in Proctorsville
From: Quincy French
Dear Folks at Home: Here I am in the Brigadier General's Smith's tent (Col. Smith who was, but is promoted). So by that you will see I am promoted General's boy. I am to take care of his horse. I commenced on Wednesday and like him very much. He is a man that says very little and thinks a good deal. The reason I am in here is because Mr. Proctor thought he would not need me and the General wanted a boy. I have a much better time than I had before and do not have to work so hard and I am not getting so many cross words. He has not spoken one cross word to me yet and I like much better for before I had to live on pilot bread and mush all the time and now I have the General's leavings and which are tip top. Tell Mary if she wants some good bread to get Anna to make up some flour and waits till it is very stiff then bake it hard; set down with a cup of water from the millpond and make a simmer. The reason I had to live so, was because Mr. P. was mostly at the City and with the company. I could not get anything to eat in only once in a great while. I enjoy my self first rate. I am growing fat. I think we expect two more regiments in here today. I suppose George will be at home before you get this. I was in hopes the 1st and 3rd would come together but they will not, I see. I must write a few lines to Sammy now, so good bye. Give my love to all our folks, Uncle A and B. Grandmothers and all inquiring friends. Write soon. Yours truly, Quincy French. Direct to me at Camp Lyons, 3rd Regiment, Vt. Vols, Washington, DC.
p.s. One of our men got shot while out scouting with leg below the knee and will be sent home as the bone is all shattered. The men caught twelve horses, fifteen or twenty caught from the Rebels in Virginia.
Headquarters, 4th Vt. Regiment, Feb. 9, 1862
(on stationery "UNION, NOW AND FOREVER", with blue-green writing, Union is in large letters with white stars on the letters and the now and forever in a white banner across the word Union)
To: Quincy French, Proctorsville, Vt.
From: George French, In the Field
Dear Quincy: I was glad to receive your letter and to know that you had made such good progress in your studies. You wrote a very good letter but yet not quite such a one as a boy of your ability and former advantages ought to write. Some of the worlds were spelled wrong. I think you can improve upon it if you try. In relation to your coming out here, I am not quite ready to have you come at present. Perhaps you know that I have an application for an appointment in the Regular Service and if I don't get one, there is perhaps some chance of my being Adjutant in the 4th. I don't want anyone with me until I know where I am going to be. If you will go to Springfield Seminary] to school and study hard and improve your writing and spelling, I may be in a position by the end of the Spring term where I shall want you and can afford to pay you something handsome for your services. If you make up your mind to go.
I will see that all your necessary bills are paid, you better board with Jarusha, either in the boarding house or at Mrs. Twitchell's and then you can be where she can assist you. I would advise you to study Grammar, Arithmetic and Bookkeeping. I hope you will make up your mind to go for I know that in the end you will not be sorry. It is the best thing you can do and don't go thinking that it is going to deprive you of any anticipated pleasure, but think that it is your duty to yourself and your friends and besides a privilege which many of your age are deprived of and would gladly embrace.
Your brother George.
Headquarters, 4th Vt. Regiment,
Camp Winfield Scott, near Yorktown, April 29, 1862
To: John Quincy French, Springfield, Vt.
From: George B. French
Dear Brother: I received your letter in due season and was glad to hear from you. In relation to your studies, I would recommend that the last one which you mentioned be discontinued. If you do not attend to your studies depend upon it, you will sometime or other regret it. Your letter was evidently written in some haste. There were several words wrongly spelled. I expected when you went from Camp Griffin last Fall and when you had been attending school so long a time that you could at least spell ordinary words correctly and that by this time you could write a good hand. How do you expect you can be of any service to me in the Adjutant's office unless you can spell and write well? I would not find fault with you unreasonably, but hope that you will take what I have written kindly and as a caution, that in future you may make the most of your opportunities.
I would send you some money to spend if I had any. We have not been paid for some time and I have not had any money for my own use since we left Camp Griffin. Of any account, you had better let father know of your necessities and doubtless he will let you have some. I suppose he has got some by this time. I cannot promise you that you may come out here at present. I would not have you come any way as long as affairs remain in the condition that they now do. If we ever get through this place, I am going to apply for a leave of absence. The perhaps some arrangements can be made.
Write soon, your brother, George.
Boston, Mass., May 31, 1863
To: Jarusha French, Proctorsville, Vt.
From: Quincy French [handwriting poor, spelling and sentence structure very poor, very hard to read this letter]
Dear Sister: I received the few lines written by mother last Monday and do not know what to say in reply. If I had not felt bad before how would such a letter as that from a mother make me feel? I know that my conduct has been such as to receive most anything but do not think that when I am putting forth my best efforts to be a man that I should received such a letter. I have no doubts that she could have gone and finished my voyage with Capt. Sparks and come back alive, but to have gone with such a crew as that would have ruined me as sure as that would. The Captain was the only decent man on board the rest were dirty - drinking, gambling, etc. The crew had two kegs of rum stowed away under the sailor in charge of the mail (the Captain's son) which was pretty used every night watch, and all the men were Irish. The dirtiest set you ever had seen. I did not leave on account of the hardships to be endured (through they were not small). For if I had got in with a good crew, I should have kept on till it's end as is would.
As to my being in Boston and $5 per week not being enough to supply and furnish me in the tobacco houses, etc. The last I do not have anything to do with and have now got a situation where I can lay up $1.25 per week if I am prudent as I mean to be. I am now in a jeweler's store on the Washington Street where I mean to stay for the present. When I heard of this I was obliged to get a chance to do much better and was advised to go, though the man I was with wanted me to stay very much. I hope this will convince you that I am not so very wild, nor so near destruction as you may think. Presume Henry will tell you all about me when he goes home which he means to do in about three weeks.
If you think I deserve it then I wish you would send me a few of my clothes such as I will need in a store like this you know about. What I have got now and will know which of my things to send. Hoping to hear from you soon, I remain, your affectionate brother, Quincy. p.s. Direct your letters to Boston, Mass., or if a bundle, direct to 295 Washington Street., Boston, Mass.
Boston, Mass., June 2, 1863
To: Calvin French, Proctorsville, Vt.
From: Quincy French
Dear Folks: Your letter by Mr. Taylor is just received. In regard to going into the cavalry, I hardly know what to say. If I thought they would take me, I should as soon go there as any where else and a little rather, though I am in a good place now where I am sure to get $1.25 per. Mr. Taylor wishes me to say that he has arrived all right and is stopping at 155 Court Street so if his people ask you can tell them. The things you sent are all right. I am very much obliged to you for them. Your affectionate son and brother, Quincy. Direct to Boston, Mass.
Boston, Mass., July 5, 1863
To: Family at Home in Proctorsville
From: Quincy French
Dear Folks All: I have not received the answer to my last letter yet but as I have plenty of time, I may as well commence one now as ever. Well yesterday was the Glorious Fourth! And a fine time I had! Got up about sunrise and then Henry come up to the store and we went out to spend the first Fourth in great City of Boston and now it is all over I don't know if I have ever had such as good a time in Proctorsville as I did here. The order of exercises were first. The Antiques and then Horribals. Then all ten of the Grand concert by the City Band, and then the great Regatta on the Charles River as five big balloons were set off above. In the evening a display of fireworks, but I was so tired I did not stay to see much of them and there was such a crowd you could not see very much of them anyway. I could not but think how Valeria would like to have been here to hear the musical by the bands and it was splendid and the best I ever heard.
I was quite disappointed that Sammy [Adams] did not come down so as to go back with Henry next Thursday. All Friday afternoon I expected to see him come into the shop, but I suppose he thought he would wait until some other time. Did you know anything about George resigning? I was up on Court Street this afternoon and saw Charlie Read and he said the Lt. Col. had been on there all last week and told him that George sent in his resignation about six weeks ago but did not pass from it until they were about to move and so did not get it accepted or approved. Read said the reason was that George had got sick of the war and wanted to come home, but I do not hardly believe any of it. I suppose you know if it is not so and all about it. Quincy.
Norfolk, Va., March 7, 1864
To: Calvin French, Proctorsville, Vt.
From: Quincy French, Co. "E", 1st Vt. Cavalry
Dear Ones at Home: I wrote you while in Yorktown and mailed it yesterday but as we are now in camp, will write a few lines more. Saturday night while in camp at Yorktown about 11 o'clock, we were ordered to saddle and marched to the wharf and got on transports for this place where we arrived about noon. The reason of our being sent here is because they are expecting an attack from the Rebs on this point, but I guess it has all played out, as we have just received orders to march in an hour. But don't know where we are going. The troops on the road here think we are dreadfully a bad looking lot with the tall marching as we have done in the last few days, they never having seen anything like it and our own men never done it before. When we started from Stevensberg last Sunday night, our company numbered 33 men and now we have just 18. There have not been any killed and only two taken prisoners the rest all played out from fatigue. So you see, we have had to work. I stand it as well if not the best of anyone in the company and feel just as well as I did before starting. It is such work to write here you must not expect much until I have a better chance. Give my love to all. As ever, Quincy.
March 19, 1864
To: Calvin and Valeria French
From: Quincy French, Co. "E", 1st Vt. Cavalry
Dear Ones at Home: I have wrote you once was at Portsmouth and one dated at Norfolk, but there as we have been at both places it will make no difference where you send. I should have written you again but had not opportunity after leaving Norfolk we were transported back to Gloucester Point opposite Yorktown and the next morning started at three o'clock for King and Queens C. H. in order to find out something about the murder of Col. Dalgreen. We were gone five days and burn the place, took several prisoners and took all the provisions and grain we could possibly use. I never lived better in my life than I did part of the time when I would ride up to a nice looking house and stop until they got my breakfast which I had ordered for 8 or 10 of the boys ready and by that time they would all be there. We would have ham and eggs, stake, biscuits and honey and whatever we found we wanted. I think the people in these sections will remember the Raid a long while and in fact everywhere we went we destroyed all the public property.
My horse was not shot but taken prisoner the night we were driven out of camp. We were asleep but our horses, our saddles and bridles, our company was ordered out on the skirmish line and to take nothing but our carbines. It was dark as pitch and raining and when we were ordered back, I did not hear the order and the first I knew the Rebel skirmishers were close to me and firing. I fired my piece once and no more of our men fired I concluded they had gone back so I started and when I got to camp all our men had left but the Serg and he told me to get out of there. I could see by the campfires the Rebels were near my horse than I started afoot but when I got to where the Regiment was rallying, I found a lead horse and was all right excepting the loss of my duds. For the rest of the time I had to take it - rain and cold and all without anything but my jacket. I will write more soon as possible. Quincy.
Stevensburg, March 23, 1864
To: Calvin French, Proctorsville, Vt.
From: Quincy French, Co. "E", 1st Vt. Cavalry
Dear Ones at Home: Since writing the last letter, I have been over to see George. He received a letter from you dated later than my last and he said you had not yet posted the box as you did not know where to send it. I want it. Send here if not started when you get this you may direct as you will see on this slip of paper, but it will come just as well if directed the same as a letter. Never mind where we go too, if the box is sent here I shall get it wherever I am. George is going to buy me a horse and send over to me as soon as possible then shall be all right. George is very well and all people from our town. Have got well rest from the Raid now and am all ready for another. Ten men were detached last night. We go off and look over Stewart, but probably will not be gone long. You wanted I knew who our officers are. Capt. Crishman is the First officer but as he was not on the Raid with us, I do not know much about him, though the old men do not speak very well of him. 1st Lieut. H. H. Hall is one of the best officers in the Regiment so is our 2nd Lieut. Chandler who is brother to the 1st Lieut. in Brattleboro. He called at our house once you know to see George. The non commissioned are all tip top fellows, excepting the Quartermaster and he is the meanest man I ever saw. Too mean to live long and I don't think he will. He drinks so much. Old Kill's picked force you say. The papers speak of over nearly all men those that went in this Regiment so I can't see the Pick for every man that could be mounted was sent. Now be sure to get me that box as soon as possible. If not, send when you get this. Put in a hatchet, ha ha. Little axe for I can't spell the other name and a diary and a little piece of cotton cloth and a pair of socks and direct it to: J. Q. French, Co. "E", 1st Vt. Cavalry, 3rd Division, 2nd Brigade, Killpatrick's Cav. Stevensberg, Va. Washington, D.C.
May 5, 1864 - The Battle of the Wilderness:
From George B. French's Pension papers: George was wounded at this battle in the right arm. A ball entered in front on the outer side of his arm and passed through in front of humerous - emerged on inner side just above condile of humerous. The bone was fractured and the flex nerve of his arm was somewhat contracted and its power lessened. We are not in possession of letters for the year 1864 which could tell us a great deal about the military lives of the two French boys. The Battle of the Wilderness was the severest blow. Young nineteen year old beloved brother of George and young son of Calvin and Valeria and beloved brother of Jarusha and Mary, -- Quincy French was killed instantly by a bullet ball through his head. He fell on the Battlefield and was buried there also.
Contributed by Linda M. F. Welch, Academic Asst. in the Native American Studies Program, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH. She is also a researcher, genealogist/social historian of southern Windsor County, Vermont, including towns of Cavendish, Proctorsville, Chester, Plymouth, Weathersfield, Reading, Ludlow, Gassetts, Perkinsville, Baltimore, Andover, Reading, Felchville.
[Webmaster's note: George B. French applied for an invalid pension on 25 October 1866. In 1880, he was living in Woodstock, Vermont, with his wife, Belle. By 1890, and in 1900, they were living in Platte Township, Dodge County, Nebraska. In March 1911, his widow Belle applied for a widow's pension from Nebraska.]