The Battle of The Blue

The Battle of The Blue
Rebel forces charge the Topeka Battery at Mockbee farm, original painting by Benjamin Mileham

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

John Freeland, Company B: A Daring Escape

  John Sedwick Freeland found himself in a dangerous predicament: he had just been taken captive by Confederate forces after a pitched battle at the Mockbee farmhouse and was trying to follow the instructions of his desperate captors, who had already killed several unarmed prisoners after the battle.  Would he risk that fate or attempt escape?  He had only a split second to decide. 
  John Freeland was a native of Owens County Indiana, where he was born of pioneer stock in 1826. Seeking cheaper land to the west, John migrated to Illinois in 1847 and then to Kansas in November 1854, settling in Shawnee County.  He was one of the first to arrive at the Monmouth Township and his farm eventually grew to 160 acres.  In 1857 John returned to Illinois to marry his sweetheart, Mary Jane Lindsey and the couple returned to Shawnee County and the farm where they would raise 10 children together. 
  In October 1864 John and his neighbors were called upon to defend Kansas from the threat of the Confederate Army under General Sterling Price.  John became a private in the 2nd Kansas Militia, Company B and was sent across the Missouri-Kansas border to the Big Blue River, where the 300 men of the 2nd would be on guard for the Rebel invasion.  
  On 22 October, the 2nd Kansas Militia was the only thing that stood between the Confederate Army and the Kansas border as the rest of the Union Army had fled north to protect Westport, Missouri.  John Freeland and the rest of the 2nd Regiment were out numbered  and finally out-flanked by the streaming Rebel horde after a battle lasting nearly an hour and order quickly dissolved into chaos .  Rebel Cavalry rode among the fleeing Kansans, attempting to round them up for capture. Some men were disarmed and shot at point-blank range and at least one negro teamster had his throat cut.  In the middle of this storm was John, still holding the reigns of his horse.  What happened next was described in the book, " William G. Cutler's History of Kansas" which featured a biographical sketch of John:   "Made his escape in a novel way. He still held to his horse after capture and having his equipment covered by a citizen's coat that he wore, the Confederates being hotly engaged and wanting all their men, put him on guard duty guarding the prisoners, thinking him one of their men. He accepted the charge willingly, and while their attention was engaged by the action going on, he stole away with his horse and a good shot-gun that a rebel gave him to guard the prisoners, going through a cornfield, and made his escape."   Thanks to his audacity and quick thinking, John spared himself the innumerable hardships he would have suffered had he remained a prisoner.  

                                               J.S Freeland's home in Monmouth Kansas
                                                                              photo courtesy of  Sherrie Warner

  John Freeland remained in Shawnee County another forty years, improving his farm and raising his family.  In the early 1900's John and MaryJane moved to Kingfisher, Oklahoma, following two of their daughters and their families.  John died there in 1922 at the age of 91.
   While researching John Freeland I came across some reminiscences he gave to the Kansas State Historical Society concerning slavery in the Kansas Territory in the 1850's.  This is an interesting insight into Kansas history in John's own words.  Link