Person:Benjamin French

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Benjamin French


Painting by Archibald M. Willard
 Revolutionary War Soldier

Born:November 28, 1764, Culpeper County, Virginia
Died:March 21, 1847, Lauderdale County, Alabama
Buried:Barrancas National Cemetery, Pensacola, Florida
Father of:Amos French
Father of:Jesse French


Notes:

•  Son of Samuel French and Mary Johnson - Ancestry.com

•  Married :
     (1.) Sally M. Turner on Nov. 10, 1784 in Caswell Co., NC, born in 1764 died in 1722. They had 11 children. After she died Benjamin remarried
     (2.) Catherine Shoemaker. Catherine was a widow. Born 1777 and died Jan 22 1858 in Limestone Co., AL. No children from this second marriage. - FFA

•  "According to Capt. R. A. McClellan's "Early History of Limestone County" (Reprinted from the Athens Post of June, 1881), Benjamin French and his family settled on Limestone Creek, nine miles east of Athens, in 1808. (p. 13) That was eleven years before Alabama became a state, and it was ten years before Athens was incorporated as a town.
     Limestone was Chickasaw country in those days. White settlers who came into the area west of Madison County were intruders. The federal government again and again sent soldiers to remove the settlers. When forced out, the settlers would temporarily remove to Madison County or to nearby Tennessee. The issue of intruders on Chickasaw lands reached a boiling point in 1810. The War Department sent notice in July that all white settlers were to be removed by Dec. 15. The white inhabitants of what later became Limestone County petitioned President James Madison and the Congress of the United States. The petition, dated Sept. 5, 1810, was signed by more than 400 settlers, including Benjamin French and his son Amos. (Robert Henry Walker Jr., History of Limestone County Alabama, Limestone County commission, 1973, pp. 17-22, 177-181) Neither Indians nor soldiers were successful in removing Limestone's first white inhabitants.
     The Chickasaws ceded their lands in the Limestone area to the federal government in 1816. Congress established out of the Mississippi Territory on March 1, 1817, the Territory of Alabama. On Feb. 6, 1818, Limestone County was designated a political subdivision of the Territory of Alabama. In Dec. of 1819, Alabama became a part of the Union." - FFA

•  "Made the best peach brandy in the community" - FFA

•  "Died, near Rodgersville on the 21st inst., Mr. Benjamin French, aged 84 years, an old faithful Revolutionary soldier." Southern Advocate, Huntsville, April 2, 1847. - ADAH

•  16th Regiment (Lieutenant Colonel Charles Burrus') of the Mississippi Militia. (The 16th regiment was mustered in Madison County, and it reads like a who's who of early settlers of Northern Madison County. Benjamin French was listed as a private. - War of 1812

•  Children of Benjamin French are:
     Samuel French, b. 1793, Barren, Kentucky, USA, d. 13 Aug 1834, Bastrop, Bastrop, Texas, USA.
     Amos French, b. Mar 1787, North Carolina, USA, d. 04 Jul 1869, Limestone, Alabama, USA.
     Milly French, b. 1799, North Carolina, USA.
     Frances French, b. 1806, Limestone, Alabama, USA.
     Ann French, b. 1805, Kentucky, USA.
     Jane French, b. 1807, Kentucky, USA.
     Mary Polly French, b. 1789, North Carolina, USA, d. 1860, Shoal Ford, Limestone, Alabama, USA.
     Mary French, b. 1895, North Carolina, USA.
     Sarah French, b. 1800, North Carolina, USA.
     Amos French, b. 1787, Virginia, USA, d. 04 Jul 1869.
     Emily French, b. 30 Sep 1802, Barren, Kentucky, USA.
     Jeremiah French, b. 1792, Barren, Kentucky, USA, d. 1835, Lawrence, Alabama, USA.
     Jerry French, b. 1797, North Carolina, USA, d., Lawrence, Alabama, USA.
     Polly French.
     Thomas French, b. 1794, North Carolina, USA. - Family Tree Maker

•  This page of Ancestry.com lists different information for his children. This is what this page of Ancesry.com says:      Amos J. French 1785 - 1869
     Polly French 1786 - 1860
     Jesse French 1787 - 1857
     Sarah French 1790 - 1859
     Jeremiah French 1792 - 1832
     Samuel French 1793 - 1834
     Thomas French 1794 -
     Jerry French 1797 -
     Emily French 1802 - 1859
     Benjamin Franklin French 1804 - 1850
     Anne French 1805 -
     Frances French 1808 - 1875
     Jane "Jinney" French 1808 -
- Ancestry.com

•  "My maternal great-great-great-grandfather bearing the name French was born Nov. 28, 1764. He lived in Virginia, probably Culpepper County. At the age of fifteen he enlisted in the army and participated in the Revolutionary War.
     He enlisted between the middle and 19th of Sept., 1780, being mustered in service under Captain Valentine Harrison, and was in Col. John Green's Virginia continental regiment. Col. Green was a native of Culpepper County, born about 1730, and entered the Continental Army as a Captain on Jan. 20, 1776. He was promoted to Colonel, Jan. 26, 1778. (Horace Edwin Hayden, Virginia Genealogies, Baltimore: Genealogical Pub. Co., 1966, p. 548.)
     Private Benjamin French took part in four major battles and a number of skirmishes. When applying for government assistance as a veteran of the Revolution, he listed the following as the battles in which he took part: (1) the battle of Guilford; (2) the battle of Camden; (3) the siege of Ninety-Six; and (4) the battle of Eutaw Springs. ( Photocopies of was record supplied by General Services Administration, National Archives and Records Service.)
     It was on Dec. 2, 1780, that Maj. Gen. Nathanael Greene took command of the Southern Department at charlotte, North Carolina. The Southern Army had about 1600 men at that time. On Dec. 19, Gen. Greene moved 1000 of his men southward to threaten the British under Cornwallis at Winnsboro, South Carolina. The next day Brig. Gen. Daniel Morgan took the remaining 600 men from Charlotte for western South Carolina. Both divisions soon received reinforcements.
     In mid-Jan., 1781, Col. John Green of Virginia brought 400 militia to join Gen. Nathanael Greene's division. The dividing of the Southern Army forced Cornwallis to split his army. Lt. Col. Tarleton took one division and fought Morgan's men at Cowpens, South Carolina, on Jan. 17. Tarleton was soundly defeated, with nine-tenths of his men killed or captured. Morgan moved his men eastward to join Greene. The two divisions of the Southern Army met at the Catawba River on Jan. 30, 1781. Greene decided to retreat northward to escape Cornwallis. He moved his men through Guilford, North Carolina, and into Virginia with Cornwallis in hot pursuit. The Southern Army crossed the Dan River on Feb 14. Cornwallis was forced to give up the chase, returning southward to Hillsboro, North Carolina.
     In a few days Greene moved his army in the direction of Hillsboro, having received reinforcements from Virginia. On Mar. 15, 1781, at Guilford Court House, west of Hillsboro, the British and Americans faced each other. This was the first of the major battles in which Private Benjamin French participated. Col. John green's regiment of Virginia Continentals was placed in the third line but held out of the fighting in case retreat was necessary. Although the British suffered heavy losses, Gen. Greene deemed it wise to retreat. Col. John Green's regiment took on the British while the remainder of the Americans withdrew. "Under heavy fire Green's regiment stood firm until all the rest of the Americans had left the field; then it too retired." (Christopher Ward, The War of the Revolution, New York: MacMillan Co., 1952, Vol. 2, p. 792.)
     Cornwallis was in no position to pursue Greene after Guilford. The British moved southward to Wilmington. Greene decided to concentrate on South Carolina where Lt. Col. Rawdon commanded the British forces. The two armies fought at Hobkirk's Hill on the outskirts of Camden, Apr. 25. This is doubtless the "battle of Camden" to which Benjamin French referred. On the same day of this encounter Cornwallis left Wilmington to march to Virginia. Rawdon evacuated Camden on May 10.
     Ninety-Six was the name of a village surrounded by a stockade and under British control. Lt. Col. Cruger commanded this strongly fortified post. Greene brought his army and put the fort under siege from May 22 to June 19, 1781. The Americans were busy building approaches. Word came on June 11 that Rawdon was coming from Charleston to aid Cruger. Greene tried to storm the fort before Rawdon's arrival. There was bitter and bloody conflict but the Americans were forced to withdraw on the 20th. This was the siege of Ninety-Six to which Benjamin French referred.
     In July and Aug., Greene's army spent several weeks resting in the High Hills of Santee in South Carolina. He now had about 2000 men. Lt. Col. Stuart had succeeded Rawdon as head of the British forces in the Carolinas, having about the same number of men as Greene. The American forces marched to Eutaw Springs where the British were encamped. A battle ensued which turned out to be the last major battle of the Revolutionary War in the South. The date was Sept. 8, 1781. Both sides suffered heavy casualties and both sides claimed victory. This was the last major battle in which Benjamin French fought.
     On Oct. 19, 1781, Cornwallis surrendered his army at Yorktown. Peace was still more than a year away, and troops in the South underwent many hardships.
     Benjamin French was discharged Jan. 22, 1782, having served slightly more than sixteen months. He was seventeen years of age when discharged at Salisbury, North Carolina. His pension records give his term of service as eighteen months. His pension enrollment began Oct. 17, 1818, and was for $96.00 per annum.
     After the Revolutionary War, Benjamin French married in North Carolina. The North Carolina State Census for 1786 lists a Benjamin French and a Samuel French as heads of households in Caswell County. Both families resided in the Gloucester District in the southeast part of the county. It appears that Benjamin and his family left North Carolina before the federal census of 1790. By 1800 he is listed in Barren County, Kentucky. (The "Second Census" of Kentucky 1800, Baltimore: Genealogical Pub. Co., 1970.) Later he moved to the neighboring county of Warren.
     The area known as Kentucky was a part of Virginia until its admission to the Union on Jun. 1, 1792. Settlers from the east had moved into Kentucky through the Cumberland Gap in the 1770s and 1780s. The pace accelerated in the 1790s.
      Warren County, Kentucky, was created out of Logan County, Dec. 19, 1796. Bowling Green was established as the county seat. It was from Warren County that Benjamin French, with his large family, removed to what afterward became know as Limestone County, Alabama. The area was then a part of Mississippi territory. According to records in the Department of Archives and History at Raleigh, North Carolina, the power of attorney for Benjamin French of Madison County, Mississippi Territory, was given to James Kimbrow of Giles County, Tennessee, to recover all sums of money due him, as of Sept. 5, 1814, and was registered in Caswell County, North Carolina, July Court, 1817. This establishes that the Benjamin French who was in Caswell County, North Carolina, in 1786, was the same Benjamin French who came to north Alabama when it was still Mississippi Territory.
     According to Capt. R. A. McClellan's "Early History of Limestone County" (Reprinted from the Athens Post of June, 1881), Benjamin French and his family settled on Limestone Creek, nine miles east of Athens, in 1808. (p. 13) That was eleven years before Alabama became a state, and it was ten years before Athens was incorporated as a town.
     Limestone was Chickasaw country in those days. White settlers who came into the area west of Madison County were intruders. The federal government again and again sent soldiers to remove the settlers. When forced out, the settlers would temporarily remove to Madison County or to nearby Tennessee. The issue of intruders on Chickasaw lands reached a boiling point in 1810. The War Department sent notice in July that all white settlers were to be removed by Dec. 15. The white inhabitants of what later became Limestone County petitioned President James Madison and the Congress of the United States. The petition, dated Sept. 5, 1810, was signed by more than 400 settlers, including Benjamin French and his son Amos. (Robert Henry Walker Jr., History of Limestone County Alabama, Limestone County commission, 1973, pp. 17-22, 177-181) Neither Indians nor soldiers were successful in removing Limestone's first white inhabitants.
     The Chickasaws ceded their lands in the Limestone area to the federal government in 1816. Congress established out of the Mississippi Territory on March 1, 1817, the Territory of Alabama. On Feb. 6, 1818, Limestone County was designated a political subdivision of the Territory of Alabama. In Dec. of 1819, Alabama became a part of the Union.
     Cotton Port was an early landing on the Tennessee River just south of the town of Mooresville near Piney Creek. "In 1808, Benjamin French established his pioneer home on Limestone Creek, but soon removed to the site of the future Cotton Port. A short while later the first cotton was shipped from Limestone County to New Orleans, and cotton Port became an important landing." (W. Stuart Harris, Dead Towns of Alabama, University of Alabama Press, 1985, p. 74)
     Official records show that Benjamin French appeared before the County Court of Madison County, District of Alabama, Nov. 27, 1820, to apply for government benefits according to the Act of Congress of Mar. 18, 1818, for Revolutionary War service. A resident of Limestone county, he listed his property as follows: one mare and colt, twenty hogs, nine head of cattle, and one-half quarter section of land at $6.54 per acre on which the first installment only had been paid to the general government. Living with him at that time were his wife (about 54 years old) and three daughters: Anne (about fifteen), Frances (about fourteen), and Jinney (about twelve). The older children had already left home.
     It appears that this wife died between Nov. 27, 1820, and Sept. 23, 1823. On the latter date a marriage license was issued in Limestone County to Benjamin French and Catharine Shumaker [Shoemaker]. The marriage was solemnized by Albert Higgins, Justice of the Peace. Benjamin was about fifty-eight at the time of this marriage.
     Four years later, on Sept. 7, 1827, he applied to Limestone County Court of Record to have his pension restored. It had been discontinued sometime earlier. He listed his property as follows: one horse (worth $15) and two cows (worth $14). He gave his occupation as a planter, explaining that he was too old and superannuated to follow it. He gave his wife's age as about fifty-seven years, and stated that a youth (about twelve years old), the son of his second wife was living at home. This son would have been about age eight when Benjamin married Catharine. It appears that this was in fact a stepson, and that all of Benjamin's children were by his first wife. He explained that since his earlier listing of his property for pension purposes (1820), he had sold his eighty acres of land to Jesse French in 1823, and had given over two cows, one horse, and $60 in cash to pay a dept due to Jesse French. (Jesse was one of his sons.) The pension was restored in Jan. 1830.
     After living on Limestone Creek and at Cotton Port, Benjamin French settled just west of Dr. Blair's plantation on Elk River. One historian compares him to Daniel Boone, "for one gets the feeling that he didn't like 'crowded' areas." It was around 1830 that he moved "over Elk" and built the log house shown at right. It was a single-pen cabin with a shed room to the rear. A later addition was attached to on side of the cabin. The house was destroyed by fire in the late 1970s. (Chris Edwards and Faye Axford, The Lure and Lore of Limestone County, Tuscaloosa: Portals Press, 1978, p. 149.)
     Benjamin and Catharine French moved to Lauderdale County about ten years before his death. He died Mar. 21, 1847, being eighty-two years of age. Limestone County records show that Catharine appeared before Robert W. Figg, Justice of the Peace, Apr. 29, 1847, to have it recorded that Amos French was given power of attorney for her to receive pension due to Benjamin from the government, with the payment terminating on the day of his death. In June, 1855, she applied for a widow's pension according to the Act of Congress of Feb. 3, 1853. She received $96 per year. She also was granted 160 acres under Act of Mar. 3, 1855, for the services of her husband.
     The following is recorded in 'Revolutionary Soldiers in Alabama,' 1911, from the State of Alabama, Department of Archives and History:
     "French, Benjamin. 'Died -- Near Rodgersville on the 21st inst., Mr. Benjamin French, age 84 years, an old faithful Revolutionary soldier.' -- Southern Advocate, Huntsville, April 2, 1847."
     It should be noted that his age at the time of his death was eighty-two, not eighty-four as indicated in this account. Capt. McClellan erroneously puts the date of Benjamin French's death as 1840. He also incorrectly gives his age as over ninety at the time of his death. A declaration and affidavit filed in Limestone County on Jun. 6, 1855, by Catharine French contains a number of inaccuracies, due to her advanced age and reliance on memory.
     A record similar to that quoted above is preserved in 'The Alabama Historical Quarterly,' Winter Issue, 1944, State Department of Archives and History:
     "French, Benjamin -- Satisfactory evidence was this day exhibited to this Court that Benjamin French was a Revolutionary pensioner of the United States at the rate of eight dollars per month; was a resident of the County of Lauderdale in said State of Alabama and died in said County of Lauderdale and State aforesaid on the twenty-first day of March in the year one thousand eight hundred and forty-seven and that he left a widow whose name is Catherine French; whereupon the same is ordered by the Court to be entered of records which is done. -- 'Minutes of Orphans Courts,' Feb. 1847 - May 1850, p. 18. Recorded at Athens, Limestone County, Ala."
     The will of Benjamin French was filed in Lauderdale County and witnessed by Samuel Lentz, Bennett Rose, and Zacariah Tuten. The will directs that his landed estate of his home plantation be equally divided among his own eleven children, and that Yancy Shoemaker receive an equal share with his own heirs. It is probable that Yancy Shoemaker was his stepson. The only one of his own children who was specifically named in the will was his daughter Ann French.
      Caswell County, North Carolina, marriage records list Benjamin French as marrying Sally Turner, Nov. 10, 1784. James Turner was a witness. Henry Turner had moved with his family from Culpepper county, Virginia, to Caswell County, North Carolina, about 1775. He had twelve children, including a daughter named Sally and a son named James. The date of the marriage is about a year and a half after the birth of Benjamin's son Amos. It is possible that one of the dates is wrong. Discrepancies in dates of birth and ages are rather common in the 1700s and 1800s.
     Benjamin French had five sons and six daughters. Incomplete information makes it impossible to know the exact sequence of their births. Some were born in North Carolina and some in Kentucky...." - Stories

•  Shoals Heritage: Lexington Resident Was a True Hero by Bill McDonald
     "In 1847, Benjamin French was 73 years old when he entered land a few miles north of Lexington in east lauderdale County.
     From then until he died 10 years later, his neighbors learned a few things about him. He not only loved peach brandy, he also had a better recipe for making it than anyone else in this part of the country.
     It didn't take long, either, to learn Benjamin's feelings about President Andrew Jackson. Several of French's sons had been with Jackson in the War of 1812. It seems that Old Hickory had personally humilliated one of these boys at New Orleans. The story goes this way: During the tense moments before the battle began, Capt. Amos French, commanding a company of Alabama volunteers, was drinking a cup of coffee. Without warning, Jackson rushed up to him and knowked the cup from his hand with the tip of his sword. The French family never forgame Old Hickory this insult. They told and retold this story at every opportunity, especially during the heated campaigns when Jackson was running for president of the United States.
     Yet the thing the neighbors around Lexington learned and appreciated most about Old Man French was that he was a veteran of the Revolutionary War. Thus made him a special citizen, and one they enjoyed listening to during those times when they could persuade him to talk about his role in that war of long ago.
     French had a remarkable story. Born in either Culpepper or Orange County. Va., he had enlisted in the Virginia Militia when he was only 15 years old. He went with Capt. Valentine Harrison's company to fight the British in the Carolinas. As far as is known, he never returned to his home in Virginia. By the time he was discharged at the age of 17 in Salisbury, N.C., he had become a seasoned veteran of four battles: Guilford County Courthouse, the Siege of 96. Eutaw Springs and Camden.
     After his wartime service, Benjamin was married to Sally Turner in Casewell County, N.C. As did many young couples during that time of territorial expansion, Benjamin and Sally sought new lands beyond the mountains. Thus began a series of adventures.
     They first journeyed to Kentucky, where they tried farming in two differed counties. In 1808, they were in a wilderness that would become Limestone County. Here they settled on limestone Creek, nine miles east of Athens. A nearby stream used by the Indians for storage of their game kills - originally called 'Meat House Branch' - was renamed French Creek.
     During those frontier days a band of maniuding Indians burned the cabin of Ben's son, Amos. This family managed to escape because they had been forwarned by a friendly Indian in the neighborhood.
     Eventually, east Limestone County became too crowded for French and his family, so they moved westward to the bank of Elk River. In the meantime. Sally died and Benjamin took a new wife, Catherine Shoemaker, whose family lived near Lentzville in west Limestone County.
     The old veteran, always trying to better himself, moved in his elderly years to his newly acquired farm north of Lexington. Here he died, and here he is buried.
     Thus ends the story of Benjamin French, who once lived in Lexington. Life was never easy as he struggled to rear a family of 11 children on the frontiers of civilization. He was truly an American hero.
     William Lindsey McDonald is the author of 12 books and numerous historical articles, mostly about the Shoals area. A retired Tennessee Valley Authority employee, United Methodist minister and U.S. Army colonel, he was appointed city historian in 1969." - Stories


Related Links:
•  ADAH - Revolutionary Soldiers in Alabama, by Alabama Department of Archives and History, page 30.
•  Ancestry.com - Page owned by revvyann1 and can be viewed only with Ancestry.com paid subscription.
•  Family Page - Anthony M. & Sheryl F. Cooper Family Page
•  Family Tree Maker - By Catherine Alanna Crow
•  FFA - French Family Association. Collection of information, stories, and genealogy about the French family (Benjamin was the second generation on this list.)
•  Find A Grave - Page created by dbriggs and photos by William Anthony Watkins.
•  Fold3 - Collection of related ephemera
•  Himmel - From "The French Family: A Personal History" by Irvan Himmel, pages 1-6. This version can be viewed only with an Ancestry.com paid subscription.
•  Pension statement - Southern Campaign American Revolution Pension Statement.
•  Roots Web - Genealogy
•  Stories - This page, owned by StillMcClish, had six stories about Benjamin. One is a diary entry by a descendent. One is a newspaper article (unsure of the original source). These versions of the stores can be viewed only through an Ancestry.com paid subscription.
•  Vintage Vignette - Vintage Vignette by John P. Rankin covers several people in the French family.
•  War of 1812 - A History of Early Settlement: Madison County Before Statehood, 1808-1819,, 2008, page 147.


The Following Pages Link to this Page:
•  Amos French
•  Jesse French



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