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Orlando L. French Civil War collection

Identifier: C-115

Scope and Contents

This collection contains the letters written by Orlando L. French to his wife, Lydia, during his service in the Civil War from 1862-1865, and the original transcription of these letters prepared in the 1970s (along with bound working photocopy of transcription). French enlisted as a Quarter Master Sergeant in Co. A., 75th Illinois Infantry. Each of his letters is dated and has the location on it. His service took him throughout the South, especially Kentucky and Tennessee. He records places he travels through, and marches and battles in which he has taken part. French details everything from changes of officers, available food, and any news of the war he has. After the Battle of Cane Springs (Kentucky?), he writes to Lydia on October 10th, 1862, "Oh I tell you it is awfful [sic], awful, and all I can say is damn the war and damn every body that makes war." He continues to express this sentiment in one way or another, throughout his letters, though his loyalty to his regiment prevents him from ever seeking a permanent post or resigning. In the same letter, he also asks her to pass along information about several soldiers from Co. A. he has seen in the hospital whose families are near her. The later letters, by 1864, begin to focus more on French and his relationship with and concerns for his wife. Both of them suffer illnesses at various times. Back home, Lydia is attempting to buy them a house to settle in after the war. In addition to the 173 autograph letters and original transcription, the collection contains two photographic portraits of Orlando French, one of Lydia French, a newspaper mortuary clipping, and a Veteran Button, along with a children's history book written by donor Susan Buckely and inspired by her ancestor's collection.


  • Creation: 1862-1865


Biographical / Historical

Orlando L. French was born in Vermont in 1829. His family later moved to Illinois. Before the Civil War, he was working in the furniture business. Between 1862, when he enlisted in the Union Army, until the end of the war, he was active in a series of important campaigns. He marched with Sherman and saw action in Kentucky and Tennessee. He returned to the furniture business, also serving as Recorder of Harrison County (Illinois), and a Justice of the Peace in Missouri Valley. He died at the Soldiers' Home in Marshalltown, Iowa, 1905.


1.25 Linear Feet (3 boxes)

Language of Materials



Collection consists of three boxes.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Susan Buckley, Middlebury College Class of 1963. Donation included in the 50th reunion class gift total for the Class of 1963.

Materials Specific Details

Flag mentioned in appraisal and donation receipt, potentially missing. Stars and Stripes flag of the U.S.A. with 38 stars. Presumably from the regimental reunion at Dixon, IL in 1887. Cotton or silk (406-571 mm). Framed and glazed.

Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Middlebury College Special Collections & Archives Repository

Middlebury College
Davis Family Library
110 Storrs Avenue
Middlebury Vermont 05753 United States