Samuel F. Few

Samuel F. Few was born on May 26, 1822, in Woodstock, Virginia, to Quaker parents Samuel Few and Mary Ann Prichard. Few studied at Emory and Henry College in Washington County, Virginia, and enlisted in the United States Army on October 14, 1840, in Philadelphia. He apparently lied about his age, claiming he was 21 (he was actually 18). He was discharged “by order” in February 1841. 

Returning home to Virginia, Few studied medicine with Dr. Thomas Goode before enrolling at UVA in 1844. He remained at the university for a year, studying chemistry, medicine, and anatomy. He joined the Whig Party, and in the election of 1844 he cast his first vote for Henry Clay. Few enrolled at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia in November 1845 and earned his medical degree two years later.

After graduation, Few moved to Covington, Virginia, where he lived in a hotel owned by planter John Callaghan. He fell in love with Callaghan’s daughter Annie, and they got married at the hotel on March 8, 1848. They had at least six children over the next seventeen years: O’Callaghan, born 1850; Annie, born 1854; Betsey, born 1857; Mary, born 1859; Ella, born 1862; and Ada, born 1865.

Few began his medical practice in Covington in 1847 before serving as a consulting physician for Hot and Warm Springs, Virginia, from 1850 to 1853. He moved to the newly-organized Kansas Territory in the summer of 1854, staking a claim to land north of Fort Leavenworth. After arriving, he abandoned medicine for several years to focus on real estate speculations. A biographer later recalled that his zeal and success “did much toward strengthening and building up” the village of Leavenworth. 

That November, he published a prospectus for a new newspaper—The Leavenworth Messenger—dedicated to the “Pro-slavery interest in the Kansas Territory.” Few and his partner Jeremiah Clark declared that they had been “old-line National Whigs of the Clay and Webster school,” but the “more immediate and vital” question of slavery had forced them to abandon their old political affiliations. They considered themselves “National men” working for the Union’s preservation, but their “sympathies and convictions are with the South and West.” They “heartily detest[ed]” abolitionists and hoped to turn Kansas into a slave state. 

In January 1856, a pro-slavery mob kidnapped, tortured, and killed free-state politician Rees Perkins Brown. Few examined the body, concluding that he died from a hatchet-strike to the head. Few testified that he “was engaged in building my cabin at the time of the November [1855] election; I know nothing about illegal voting, if there was any, because I voted almost as soon as the polls were opened, and left immediately…I think there was a proslavery majority in this district at that time.” 

Few’s convictions, however, gradually changed, and by 1857 he had grown sympathetic to the Free State Party. In 1858, they selected him as a county commissioner and chairman of the Board of Supervisors. A biographer later praised his “fairness and universally courteous” attitude. During the “early difficulties,” Few treated free-state settlers with “great courtesy and always respected their rights, and was universally respected by them.”

Few remained loyal to the Union during the Civil War, and in August 1862 he was named an acting assistant surgeon for Jefferson Barracks, Missouri. By July 1863, he had returned to Leavenworth, where he was placed in charge of the army’s General Hospital. In November 1864, he asked the army to annul the remainder of his contract, but they did not officially terminate it until October 5, 1865. 

After the war, Few continued to practice medicine in Kansas. He served on Leavenworth’s Board of Education and briefly served as an army contract surgeon at Fort Gibson in unincorporated Indian territory in the early 1870s. Few died on December 3, 1892, in Leavenworth, Kansas, after suffering from a “general deterioration” for the last year of his life.

After his death, his wife filed a pension claim under the 1890 Dependent and Disability Pension Act, but was denied in February 1894 because a "contract surgeon is not pensionable under the act of June 27, 1890, and his widow is therefore not entitled to pension." A subsequent appeal by her lawyer, who argued that contract surgeons were the equivalent of officers according to earlier pension laws, was unsuccessful.


Samuel F. Few Plans a Pro-Slavery Newspaper

Samuel F. Few Autopsy of Rees Perkins Brown, May 22, 1856

Samuel F. Few as Civil War Surgeon

Samuel F. Few Obituary, December 3, 1892

Name:Few, Samuel F.
Alternative names:
  • Soldier
  • UVA (Union)
U.S. Army Medical DepartmentF&S
Branch of service:Army
Enlistment1862-06-19Jefferson Barracks St. Louis, MOaccepted
Muster Out1865-10-05Mustered Out
Residence at UVA:
UVA Begin Year:1844
UVA End Year:1845
Residence at enlistment:
Rank In:Acting Assistant Surgeon
Rank Out:Acting Assistant Surgeon
Highest rank achieved:Acting Assistant Surgeon
Person 1Person 2NumberRelation Type
Few, Samuel F.noneapplication-invalid
Few, Samuel F.noneapplication-minor
Few, Samuel F.noneapplication-parent
Few, Samuel F.567537application-widow
Birth date:1822-05-26
Birth date certainty:Certain
Birth place:Woodstock, VA
Death date:1892-12-03
Death place:Leavenworth, KS
Causes of death:
Person 1Relation TypePerson 2
Few, Samuel F.parent ofFew, Annie
Few, Samuel F.parent ofFew, Betsey
Few, Samuel F.parent ofFew, Mary
Few, Samuel F.parent ofFew, Ella
Few, Samuel F.parent ofFew, Ada
Few, Samuel F.parent ofFew, O'Callaghan
Few, Annie E.wife ofFew, Samuel F.

Staff Officer File for Samuel F. Few, RG 94, National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), Washington, D.C.; Pension Records for Sameul F. Few, RG 15, NARA, Washington, D.C.; 1850, 1860, and 1870 U.S. Federal Censuses, accessed through; Weekly Leavenworth Herald, December 15, 1854; The Leavenworth Standard, December 3, 1892; The Leavenworth Weekly Times, December 8, 1892; The United States Biographical Dictionary: Kansas Volume: Containing Accurately Compiled Biographical Sketches, Into which is Woven the History of the State and Its Leading Interests (S. Lewis & Company, 1879), 543-544.