This letter was written by John B. Freeman (1840-1868), the son of Job Tarleton Freeman (1810-1891) and Eveline Barnes (1820-1896) of Roxanna, Eaton county, Michigan. Prior to their relocation to Michigan, the Freeman’s lived in Allen township, Hancock county, Ohio, where they were enumerated in 1850. John probably wrote the letter to his sister Mary Kay (Freeman) Goit who was married to William Goit, had an young son named LaQuinnis (b. 1862), and still resided in Ohio where she must have known many of the soldiers who volunteered in the 21st Ohio Infantry who were also former friends of John’s.
John enlisted in Co. H, 13th Michigan Infantry which mustered into service for three years in January 1862. The regiment performed well in many engagements in the western theatre. One of the prominent battles in which the 13th served was the battle of Chickamauga where they were under the command of Col. J. B. Culver, and where they helped to hold the rebels in check from early in the morning until 12 noon. When the thermometer stood at 90 degrees, the regiment charged upon the enemy in a most spectacular movement. In this engagement 107 officers and men were lost, either killed, wounded or missing. 217 took part in the engagement. Such a loss tells how the 13th Michigan sustained its part in this historic engagement far more eloquently than words can describe.
In his remarkable letter, John chronicles his time in captivity from the time of his being wounded and taken prisoner at Chickamauga until he was released at the end of the war, including time spent at Richmond, Danville, and Andersonville, and two escape attempts. And though he claims that he was as “tough and hearty” as ever following his release, he died three years later at the age of 28.
See Major Williard G. Eaton and the 13th Michigan Infantry on the Chickamauga Blog.
June 27th 1865
Dear Brother and Sister, nephew, and all enquiring friends,
I enjoy the opportunity of once more being in God’s country and having the privilege to write what I like. I am again at Father’s as tough and hearty as ever. If anything, my health is better. I was a prisoner a long time—from the twentieth of September ’63 until the twenty-eighth of April ’65. I was wounded and captured at the Battle of Chickamauga. I was wounded in the left shoulder and back so that I could not get away or they would not have got me. I was then taken to Richmond and remained there until the 12th of December, then went to Danville, Virginia, and remained there until the fourteenth of April except a little while when I ran away. I got out of prison and was 14 days and very near to our lines.
We arrived at Andersonville on the 20th of April where I remained until I again ran away, was caught, and brought back and put in the prison. I run away from the hospital where I had been for 7 months. I then remained with the other prisoners until we came to our lines and a hard-looking set we was of course for we had wore the same old clothing for near two years—dirty, ragged, and lousy with naught to shelter us from the sun or storm—not even a blanket—nothing but the sand to lay on. It was not hard atall, was it? The second time I run away I was caught by their hounds.
All the 21st Ohio boys that were in prison were with me and many of them died. I will give you the names of a few that I know died. George Brets [Co. G], George McMurray [Co.G], Henry Copus [Co. G], and a young fellow by the name of Davis. I was not acquainted with him. Charles Tonoe was there. I think he got through. And James Copus’s boy, little Joe Copus [Co. G]—he left the hospital last fall. I told him when he left that if he got through, he should let you know about me as I was working in the hospital at that time and had something to do with the sick and dead. They died very fast. I have saw them carry out as high as 172 dead bodies in a day that died in 24 hours. Through July, August, and September, there was not a day passed but there was 152 died.
I must stop. I will send you a couple of songs that I helped to compose in prison. So saying I remain your affectionate brother, — J. B. Freeman