At a 90th Birthday Party for my Aunt Lorraine last weekend, my cousin Bob loaned me a book that looks like something out of an old movie. Genealogical History of the French and Allied Families, written by Mary Queal Beyer in 1912, is the kind of book they just don’t make anymore. Even then, there were only 200 copies printed. It’s been read around the family fire for so long that it smells like smoke. It is a treasure trove for us French family descendants, going back to the Frenches who fought at the battle of Hastings in 1066.
When dewlling on the heroes of field, redoubt and trench,
Shall we not tell the story of young Eleazer French?
With fowling piece and powder horn
Under the clear June starlight borne,
They labored till the early morn
On Bunker’s honored height;
Long hours the pick and shovel plied,
And each who, weary, stepped aside,
Found eagerly his place supplied
Throughout the summer night.
No stouter hearts of stronger frame
Were there, with patriot fire aflame,
Than those from Dunstable that came
To battle for the right.
And when th’ invading force was met,
With powder grime and bloody sweat,
The farmers’ flitlocks paid the debt
They owed to Howe’s great guns.
Muskets of old-time minute men!
Ye told the story once again,
How tyrants doubt and falter when
Assemble Freedom’s sons.
Full soon they heard the bugle call
And saw the young Eleazer fall,
Where sped the British cannon ball
Upon its path of harm.
“Fall back! keep safe from further ill!”
They shouted; he, unconquered still,
Quoth stoutly, and with steadfast will,
“No! not without my arm!”
The severed limb all bleeding lay,
But he who fought that glorious day,
Took it upon his anguished way
And left no trophy there;
Racked with fierce pains and bitter qualms,
Fainting, and stunned with war’s alarms,
Bravely he bore off both his arms
To show what soldiers dare
Oh ye who sing our heroes of parapet and trench
Fail not to tell the story of brave Eleazer French!