A CIVIL WAR LETTER FROM THADDEUS FREELAND OF MILLERSBURG
Thaddeus Freeland and his brother George served in Company E of the 18th Pennsylvania Cavalry. Their father, James, was a state representative with deep financial interests in the Union war effort. The family also owned Freeland House, which stood on the site of the current Millersburger Hotel. Thaddeus eventually rose to the rank of captain and was captured by General Jeb Stuart's Confederate cavalry at the battle of Hanover, PA on June 30, 1863 in prelude to the battle of Gettysburg. He was released the following day and instead of searching for his unit, he made his way home never to serve again. Thanks to his father's prestigious connections, Thaddeus was never tried by a courts martial for going AWOL. Throughout his wartime experience he sent detailed letters home to his father. The following was written on April 13, 1863. It is left unedited as it was written.
Brother George received a letter this evening from you stating you had not herd from me in four weeks. I have written two letters to you and have not herd from you and I thought I would let you know I was among the living. you wanted to know if I was with my company. I have never been away from it but once since I have been out and then I was ordered to report at Washington to attend a court martial I was there three days and asked to be releived which was granted me and I joined my command immediately. I came to the conclusion that court martials wer to expensive for a man whoes circumstances would not permit him to stay any length of time and I thought it the better
part of valor to bat a hasty retreat and join my Regtiment. Father I and my company was ordered out this morning to make a reconisance and wer – ordered to march as far as the Bull Run battle field and found no enemies except a few bush wackers which we captured. Father we arrived back to camp this evening at half past ten oclock I was from one end of the battle ground to the other human skeletons scatterd all over the field infact a man cannot – walk without treding on the bones of some of his fellow man. when we got to – centrevile I met a Doctor McQuaid of – Westmorland Co and he wanted to visit the Battle field to bring his brothers remains a home I told him I would act as a safe guard for him while he was in my company we had no difaculty in finding his remains as the Doctor had buried him him self. Father you wanted to know if I intended coming home I have done all in my power to get home but it seems
that one grate drawback spoils my expectations and that is my friends donot try to help me get home. Father I should not like to leave the army at the – present when my country kneeds my feeble help but I must see my Wife and child no matter what the cost will be. I must eather get a leave of absence or resign. Father I wish you would use your influence and get me an appointment in the Regular Armie. Father we have had eight inches of snow here in the last ten days. but the weather is getting setteled Brother Georges discharge papers have – been sent in to head Quarters for approval and I think he will soon be home. Father try and get me home in Leave of – absence for ten days. there is nothing of – importance in this department or rather in this Division of the armie at present I will close hoping to here from you soon
I remain as ever your Son.
Thaddeus. S. Freeland
Capt. Comdg Co. E.
The doctor Thaddeus spoke of was Andrew G. McQuaide of Westmoreland County. His brother Joseph L. McQuaide was a member of Company C, 38th Pennsylvania (9th Reserves) Volunteer Infantry and killed on August 30, 1862 at the battle of Second Bull Run. This is only one solitary episode of tens of thousands of similar such sad attempts made by individuals north and south to return their lost loved ones home. Regardless of Thaddeus's less than perfect exit from the military stage, he served his country and provides us a valuable look at one soldier's difficult experiences during our nation's most tumultuous time. He and many of his family members are buried at Oak Hill Cemetery.