|William Allen Freeman was born 19 Dec 1839 in what was then McKean Co., PA, son of Rebecca C. Housler and possibly Benjamin Freeman. Not much is known of his life but one can surmise that it was similar to many stories played out in NW Pennsylvania during this time period. It would have been filled with chores to keep the farm running, hunting and fishing to put food on the table and the normal pursuits of a young boy on long summer days.|
William was 21 when war was declared in April 1861 and when the call for volunteers to the 84th Pennsylvania came to town, he and many others, including several of his uncles and cousins, filled with the bravado of war, joined the fight to retain the Union. As with all, I am sure he was certain he would return home in a month or so a hero with stories to tell of the great battles he had fought. Perhaps he had a sweetheart whom he planned to marry upon his return, someone special to wave goodbye to him as he marched out of town on his way to the bloodiest war ever to be fought on America soil.
But William did not return from this war, his sweetheart, his mother, brothers and sisters would never see him again. And not for William would be a heroic death, his life lost to a rebel bullet in a charge to take a hill, bayonets fixed and the smoke from hundreds of rifles hanging like a thick fog over the battlefield. William's fate was to be that of so many others who entered this conflict to die not at the hands of a mortal enemy with whom you could fight, but by the ravages of a much more merciless and unfeeling foe, disease.
As with many young boys from the farms in open country, the diseases they would encounter in the cold, wet camps during this war were not common to them, but brought by soldiers from the large cities with whom they mixed in squalid and close conditions. Because they had no resistance it felled them one after another. There is a letter in possession of the historian of the 84th Pennsylvania, which more than likely refers to William's death, along with another. The man, in his letter, calls the two boys the largest and healthiest of their group, brought low and killed by the fever. And so William passed in West Virginia, shortly after his 22nd birthday on 10 Feb 1862, just four brief months after he left Pennsylvania full of glory.
His family was one of the lucky ones, they were able to bring the body home for burial. Many, many men lie in unmarked graves. Their final resting place does not bear their name, their loved ones unable to know where they lie, other than this battlefield, hill, thicket or pasture. And as time has passed, it has erased the scars where once men fought and died, nature will have its way in restoring and obscuring even the deepest wounds to the earth.
At the close of the war, William's family left Pennsylvania forever, never to return. They went first to Iowa and two years later arrived in Pierce County, WI where they would spend the rest of their lives. It must have been hard for Rebecca to leave William and his sister, Mary, a young child who died at age 3, behind. But she left many family members to care for their graves and remember in the years to come, as she must have. I have not been able to visit William's grave in Emporium, PA, nor do I know that I ever will, but I hope that he somehow knows, that even 138 years after his death, someone remembers him, wonders about him, thanks him for the sacrifice he made.