George W. French was a resident of Mansfield on August 11, 1862 when he enlisted as a Corporal in Co. D of the 21st Regiment Connecticut Volunteer Infantry; he was promoted August 31, 1863 to Sergeant.
The descriptive muster roll of the 21st Regiment Connecticut Volunteer Infantry lists his age as 22 and his occupation as farmer. He is described as 5’7” tall with a light complexion and light hair and blue eyes. His marital status is married.
On November 27, 1864, he was transferred by promotion to Co. H of the 8th Regiment United States Colored Infantry as a 2nd Lieutenant by Major General Benjamin Butler. He was promoted again to 1st Lieutenant on March 5, 1865 by Major General Ord. He was mustered out at Brownsville, Texas on November 10, 1865.
On December 9, 1865, he appeared before an alderman in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and testified that he had never received any pay or traveling expenses for his service in the 8th Regiment United States Colored Infantry.
George W. French was born August 4, 1840 in Mansfield to James H. and Mary (Lamphear) French. In the 1860 U.S. census in Mansfield, he is a 19 year old farm laborer in the household of Nathan F. Palmer. George W. French married Harriet M. Dunham on August 6, 1862 in Mansfield, five days before he enlisted in the army. They had one daughter, Annie L. French, born about 1869. After the Civil War, he returned to Mansfield where he was a farmer and a butcher.
On August 11, 1882, he applied for an invalid pension, No. 458,205 that was granted under certificate No. 522,804.
George W. French died on January 17, 1918 in Mansfield Center and is buried at the Spring Hill Cemetery in Mansfield.
“I have a great deal to do here but like first rate so far. The 8th is well drilled & are good soldiers, have done good fighting & I have no doubt can do it again. The prejudice against colored troops is dying out pretty fast.”Letter, George W. French to Ellery, February 16, 1865. George W. French Letters, 1862-1865, Ms 98132, Connecticut Historical Society
The Connecticut Historical Society has in its archives a collection of eleven letters written by George W. French to his friend Ellery Pike, another soldier from Mansfield. In his letter to him dated February 16, 1865, he writes about the 8th regiment US Colored Infantry. A scan of the full letter is attached, courtesy of the Connecticut Historical Society.
To see transcription: