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Joseph Cavaillé-Coll

CAVAILLE-COLL Joseph (1862 - 1884)


The young sailor, Joseph Cavaillé-Coll enlisted for six months on the battleship "La Galissonnière" in Admiral Courbet's squadron during the Tonkin expedition. This expedition had been mounted to maintain order, following the assassination of Commander Rivière, France's representative in its territories. France wanted revenge. There were twenty battleships in the squadron against the Chinese who had two cruisers and about fifteen gunboats.

His father, Aristide Cavaillé-Coll and his mother, Adèle Blanc/Cavaillé-Coll had built their hopes on him to one day devote himself to organ building. Then tragedy befell them.

Joseph died prematurely on October 25 1884.

"A dreadful and sudden misfortune has just befallen your family. I hope that the Christian will support the man in this terrible trial and that, true to your last letter, you will accept the divine will with resignation".

"Your son died on Saturday October 5 at 2.10 a.m. following an illness of scarcely eight days. The courageous young man, since he was quite tired, must have fallen asleep in his hammock without covering himself properly; it was very hot on board that evening. His fever worsened and his left lung was badly affected and he grew weaker during the day. A temperature of 42o and a respiratory rate of 80 caused us to despair for his life. Your son's burial at sea took place at 2.30 p.m. The coffin was weighted with a 144-kilo cannon ball. And poor Joseph was committed forever to the bottom of the ocean, safe from the profanations of the Chinese - I enclose with this letter a lock of hair I cut from Joseph's head when I closed his eyes. I also have a portrait of the poor boy dressed as a Chinese mandarin. I will send it to you as soon as possible" - signed: Aubriot.

Aristide Cavaillé-Coll, grief-stricken by this tragedy, sent the description to all the members of the family.

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