BORN: 1815 in Baltimore, MD.
DIED: 1881 in Washington, DC.
CAMPAIGNS: Peninsula, Seven Days, Antietam, Fredericksburg,
Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Mine Run
William Henry French was born on January 13,1815, in Baltimore, Maryland. He graduated from the US Military Academy in 1837, and fought in the Seminole and Mexican Wars, acting in the latter as an aide to Gen. Franklin Pierce. At the time of the secession crisis of 1861, French was in Texas, refusing to surrender his garrison to the state. Instead, he led his troops to the federal post at Key West, Florida. On September 28, 1861, he was appointed a brigadier general of volunteers, and commanded a brigade in the II Corps in Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan's Peninsula Campaign and Seven Days' Campaign. At Antietam, French led a division, and was promoted to major general on November 29, 1862. He fought at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, and was given a detachment of the VIII Corps in the Gettysburg Campaign. He sent troops to destroy Gen. Robert E. Lee's Pontoon Bridges on the Potomac River. When Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Sickles was wounded, French replaced him and advised Maj. Gen. George G. Meade. French's advice, however, emphasized caution too much, and Meade lost an opportunity to strike at the Confederates as they were retreating. In 1863, Meade placed some of the blame for the Union failure in the Mine Run Campaign on French. French was relieved of command early in 1864, when the Army of the Potomac was reorganized. He spent the rest of the war on garrison duty and in administrative positions. French died in the District of Columbia, on May 20, 1881.