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William H. French was born in Baltimore. He graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1837 and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the 1st U.S. Artillery. He briefly served in the Second Seminole War and was then assigned to garrison duty along the Canada–US border from late 1837 through 1838, when he was reassigned to other military posts for the next decade. During the Mexican–American War, French was aide-de-camp to General Franklin Pierce, and also on the staff of General R...