Antietam National Battlefield

William Henry French

From the Peninsula to Maryland: French's role in the summer of 1862

Photograph of William Henry French
William Henry French
Library of Congress

Quick Facts

Major General commanding III Corps Union Army of the Potomac
Place of Birth:
Baltimore, MD
Date of Birth
January 13, 1815
Place of Death:
Washington, DC
Date of Death
May 20, 1881
Place of Burial:
Washington, DC
Cemetery Name
Rock Creek Cemetery

William Henry French was stationed at Fort Duncan, Texas when the lone star state seceded from the Union, and as a staunch unionist, he rapidly led his command to stamp down on secessionist activities. Rising from his commission as Brigadier General, after demonstrating staunch leadership during Fair Oaks and the Seven Days Battles, French was given command of the Third Division, II Corps in the Army of the Potomac during the Northern Virginia Campaign.

It was French who made the first attack on the Confederate troops in the Sunken Road during the Battle of Antietam, on September 17, 1862. The central role of his division resulted in 1,700 casualties, though French himself emerged unscathed.

William French was promoted to Major General later that year on November 29, 1862.