Jonathan French journal (1757)

Collection processed and finding aid created by Philip Heslip
Manuscripts Division, William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan

Summary Information

Title: Jonathan French journal
Creator: French, Jonathan, 1740-1809
Inclusive dates: 1757
Extent: 31 pages (1 volume) and 1 document
The Jonathan French journal consists of entries from April 14-October 20, 1757, kept by Jonathan French, a private in the Massachusetts militia during the French and Indian War. French recorded his experiences during his corps' expedition from Boston to Fort Edward, New York, and his duties while stationed at the fort.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use

Acquisition Information


Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information

Cataloging funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the "We the People" project.

Preferred Citation

Jonathan French Journal, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


Jonathan French (1740-1809) was born in Braintree, Massachusetts, to Moses French and Esther Thayer. He enlisted as a private in Captain William Arbuthnot's company of Massachusetts troops, commanded by Colonel Joseph Frye. Between April 30 and June 14, 1757, his company marched from Boston to Fort Edward, New York, where he was stationed during the siege of Fort William Henry. At Fort Edward, French performed routine guard duty until he contracted smallpox in July and was sent home three months later. He eventually returned to the military as a sergeant at Castle Williams, and served as a surgeon at Bunker Hill. He attended Harvard from 1767 to 1771 and became the minister of the South Church of Andover in 1772. He married Abigail Richards (1742-1821) of Weymouth, Massachusetts, in 1773. They had five children.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Jonathan French journal (31 pages) consists of entries from April 14 to October 20, 1757, kept by Jonathan French, a private in the Massachusetts militia under Major General Daniel Webb, during the French and Indian War. French recorded his experiences during his corps' expedition from Boston to Fort Edward, New York, and his duties while stationed there. During his assignment, the French army, under General Louis-Joseph de Montcalm, attacked and overtook Fort William Henry, forcing the British troops to retreat to Fort Edward.

On the march to New York, French recorded how far his regiment traveled each day, the names of the towns where they stopped, meals eaten, the weather, and regimental exercises. On August 9, 1757, French noted that 100 men were sent to defend Fort William Henry, but, in general, seemed unaware of the siege. French documented the times when scouts were sent out from the fort, and mentioned the activities and orders of Major General Daniel Webb (pages 15-16, 20), Captain Putnam (pages 7, 8, 9, and 11), Captain West (page 9), and Major Robert Rogers (page 17-18). He reported a bloody skirmish between the British and the Indians on July 23, 1757, which resulted in the scalping of 7 soldiers and 10 deaths on the British side (page 11). He made notes of soldiers escaping from Fort William Henry to Fort Edward on September 6 (page 15), September 17 (page 16), and September 28 (pages 17-18).

French first mentioned smallpox on July 20, 1757 (page 10) and contracted it on July 27, 1757 (page 13). He was hospitalized sometime before August 30th. Throughout the journal, French commented on religion, preaching, and sermons.

Other notable entries include:

  • Mentions of the Mohawk Indians (pages 7, 8, and 9)
  • Descriptions of two British scouts taking each other as enemies and shooting at one another: one was killed, August 2, 1757 (Page 8)
  • Remarks about a British soldier who was executed for intending to desert to the French army (page 10) and two more who were executed for trying to desert to Fort Ticonderoga, September 5, 1757 (page 15)
  • News of a skirmish between Indians and a group of scouts (page 10)
  • Description of a "sad accident," which occurred on July 26, 1757, when a man was cleaning his gun and fired the gun through three tents, killing a man (page 12)
  • Notes regarding Major Rogers' arrival from Albany with 400 rangers who had been in Halifax with the Earl of Loudoun, September 31, 1757 (page 17)

On page 30, French created brief "Reports of the Guard," while stationed at Castle William (now called Fort Independence, in Massachusetts), noting the parole and the commander and corps stopping at the fort (August 6-14, 1760). Page 31 contains a postscript, dated May 23, 1868, written by Ebenezer Sperry Stearns, grandson of Jonathan French, which identifies the Reverend Jonathan French as the journal's author.

At the back of the book is a loose fragment of a table of 20 men under Captain Francis Brown (undated).

Subject Terms

  • Fort Edward (N.Y.)
  • Fort Independence (Mass.)
  • Fort Ticonderoga (N.Y.)
  • Fort William Henry (N.Y.)--Capture, 1757.
  • Lake George (N.Y.)
  • Mohawk Indians.
  • Putnam, Israel, 1718-1790.
  • Rogers, Robert, 1731-1795.
  • Scalping.
  • Smallpox.
  • United States--History--French and Indian War, 1755-1763--Sources.
  • Webb, Daniel, ca. 1700-1773.
Genre Terms:
  • Accounts.
  • Diaries.

Contents List (Request Materials)

Request materials for use in the Clements Library
Container / Location Title
Volume   1  
Jonathan French journal,  1757 (31 pages and 1 document) [series]

Additional Descriptive Data

Related Materials

The University of New Hampshire's Stearns Family Papers includes another copy of Jonathan French's 1757 journal.

The Clements Library holds six printed sermons written by French:

French, Jonathan. A Discourse Delivered At an Evening Lecture, in the South Meetinghouse, in Portsmouth, N.H. 31 July, 1805: It Being the Evening Succeeding the Session of an Ecclesiastical Council Convened Respecting the Separation of the Reverend Timothy Alden, Junior, from his Pastoral Relation to the South Church and Congregation in that Town. Portsmouth, N.H: Printed by William and Daniel Treadwell, 1805.

French, Jonathan. A Practical Discourse Against Extortion, from Ezekiel XXII, 12: Delivered At a Lecture In the South Parish In Andover, January 1, 1777. Boston: T. and J. Fleet, 1777.

French, Jonathan. A Sermon Delivered On the Anniversary Thanksgiving November 29, 1798: With Some Additions to the Historical Part. Andover: Printed by Ames and Parker, 1799.

French, Jonathan. A Sermon, Preached at the Ordination of the Rev. Jonathan French, June. Over the Church And Congregation in Northampton, in New Hampshire, November 18, 1801. Portsmouth, New Hampshire: Printed at the Oracle-press, by William Treadwell, & Company, 1802.

French, Jonathan. A Sermon Preached Before his Excellency Samuel Adams, Esq., Governour: His Honor Moses Gill, Esq., Lieutenant-governour; the Honourable the Council, Senate, and House of Representatives, of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, May 25, 1796. Being the Day of General Election. Boston: at the State press, by Adams & Larkin, printers to the Honourable the General Court, 1796.

French, Jonathan, and John Howland. A Sermon, Preached ... January 1, 1800. Boston: Printed by Samuel Hall, 1800.