This collection contains the papers of Alvin French, a Union Army surgeon from Springfield, Illinois. The collection is primarily made up of typed transcriptions of correspondence, and also includes a small number of original items.
Alvin S. French, born circa 1840, was the son of Alonzo W. French of Pittsfield, Illinois. He lived in Springfield with his uncle, Dr. Amos Willard French, a dentist and early resident of the city. Alvin French enlisted as a corporal in the 114th Illinois Volunteer Infantry in 1862, and served as a hospital steward and then as First Assistant Surgeon for the regiment. He was killed in action in June 1864 at Guntown, Mississippi, reportedly while tending to wounded soldiers on the field.
The collection consists mainly of transcriptions of French's correspondence, dating from 1856 to 1864. Early letters are primarily from friends and relatives who had gone west to visit or settle in territories such as Kansas and the Rocky Mountains. The Civil War letters include Alvin's news from the military front, as well as discussion with friends and family of local and national events. The collection also contains original materials, such as an article from the Richmond Dispatch calling for people to rally behind the Southern cause, and three items concerning Illinois State University in Springfield. This college - which is unrelated to the existing Illinois State University in Bloomington, Illinois - moved its campus to Carthage, Illinois, in 1870, changing its name to Carthage College. Carthage College relocated to its current campus in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in 1962.
Effie French, Alvin French's cousin and the daughter of Dr. Amos French, loaned the collection to the Illinois Historical Survey, predecessor of the Illinois History and Lincoln Collections, for copying from 1910 to 1912.