WALTER S. FRENCH, MASTER, USN
Walter French '71
Date of birth: 1852
Date of death: November 24, 1877
The Lucky Bag was first published in 1894.
Walter Seba French was admitted to the Naval Academy from Bangor, Maine on July 27, 1866 at age 14 years 7 months.
Walter was lost on November 24, 1877 when USS Huron (1875) went aground and then wrecked in heavy weather off Nags Head, North Carolina. Ninety-seven other officers and men were also lost.
From Army & Navy Journal on December 15, 1877:
Among the lost on the ill-fated Huron, whose bodies have never been recovered, is Master Walter S. French, of Bangor, Maine, aged 25 years, appointed by the Hon. J.H. Rice, June 27, 1866, and graduated 1871. This young and gallant officer was among the very last to leave the vessel. Not until utterly exhausted in his efforts to save others could he be induced to foresake his post of duty. Although of strong frame and a good swimmer, he had clung too long to the wreck, and, when exhausted the waves received him, he sank to rise no more. One of his superior officers speaks of the deceased as "a loving, generous, noble fellow, kind and gentlemanly, a thorough officer—such as no better could be found in service—beloved and respected by all." A classmate alludes to him "as self-sacrificing to the last, noted for his manly qualities, and a character which gave high promise of a brilliant career as officer." Add to all this, filial attachment to his parents, such as makes his loss far more deeply felt in the family circle than words can express; for no matter how endeared and respected among his comrades and superiors, the crown Walter S. French's estimable qualities culminated in the dutiful son and devoted brother.
Midshipman, 27 July, 1866. Graduated 6 June, 1871. Ensign, 14 July, 1872. Master, 22 August, 1876. Lost on board Huron, 24 November, 1877.
The "Register of Commissioned and Warrant Officers of the United States Navy and Marine Corps" was published annually from 1815 through at least the 1970s; it provided rank, command or station, and occasionally billet until the beginning of World War II when command/station was no longer included. Scanned copies were reviewed and data entered from the mid-1840s through 1922, when more-frequent Navy Directories were available.
The Navy Directory was a publication that provided information on the command, billet, and rank of every active and retired naval officer. Single editions have been found online from January 1915 and March 1918, and then from three to six editions per year from 1923 through 1940; the final edition is from April 1941.
The entries in both series of documents are sometimes cryptic and confusing. They are often inconsistent, even within an edition, with the name of commands; this is especially true for aviation squadrons in the 1920s and early 1930s.
Alumni listed at the same command may or may not have had significant interactions; they could have shared a stateroom or workspace, stood many hours of watch together… or, especially at the larger commands, they might not have known each other at all. The information provides the opportunity to draw connections that are otherwise invisible, though, and gives a fuller view of the professional experiences of these alumni in Memorial Hall.
First Class Midshipman, Naval Academy
Cadet Midshipman, First Class, Naval Academy