The Death of Dr. Jared Free, Asst. Surgeon, 83rd Pennsylvania

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John Hartwell

Forum Host
Aug 27, 2011
Central Massachusetts
[From OR, Series 1, Vol. 29, part 2]

SIR: I have the honor to report the facts and circumstances as far as I am able relative to the death of Dr. Jared Free, assistant surgeon Eighty-third Pennsylvania Volunteers, who was killed in an encounter with guerrillas on the 10th of December, 1863.​
Dr. Jared Free joined the regiment on the 26th of June, 1863, at Frederick City, Md., when the army was on the march to Gettysburg, Pa. He participated in the battle of Gettysburg, and after the battle was retained at the First Division (Fifth Corps), hospital, where he remained until some time in September, when he rejoined the regiment at Beverly Ford, since which time until the time of his death he had been on duty with the regiment.​
On the 10th of December, 1863, Dr. Free, accompanied by E. W. Bettis, quartermaster sergeant, went to the country, in charge of 20 guards and three wagons, for lumber. The pass granting them permission did not arrive at these headquarters very early in the morning, and the wagons started in advance, while Dr. Free, E. W. Bettis, quartermaster sergeant, and guard remained behind awaiting permission from brigade headquarters. By the time the pass returned from brigade headquarters, the wagons had proceeded some distance on the road toward Kelly's Ford. Dr. Free, E. W. Bettis, quartermaster sergeant, and guard followed in the direction of Kelly's Ford, whiter they supposed the wagons had gone. But on the way they met a wagon and some guards of the Forty-fourth New York Volunteers. The guard informed them that the Eighty-third wagons had gone up to Mount Holly Church. Dr. Free and party proceeded to Mount Holly Church, and were informed by some soldiers of the Forty-fourth New York Volunteers that the Eighty-third wagons had gone in the direction of the old camping ground near Captain Payne's.​
Dr. Free and party concluded to take a near cut across the ravine and strike, the road at the nearest point. They passed down into the ravine without molestation, but found the opposite side of the hill too difficult of ascent, so they dismounted and followed the path up the ravine until they would come to a place that they could ascend. While following this path they were attacked by a band of guerrillas, who came rushing down the hill, at the same time ordering the quartermaster sergeant to halt and surrender, or they would blow his brains out; but notwithstanding their threats he quickly mounted his stead and escaped, but not without being shot at.​
The last he saw of Dr. Free, who was in the advance, was in the act of mounting his horse. The quartermaster sergeant distinctly heard two shots fired afterward, but knew nothing of the fate of Dr. Free until the next day, December 11, 1863, when a detachment of men, and an officer of the Eighty-third Pennsylvania Volunteers went out in search of the guerrillas, and to gain some information, if possible, in regard to the fate of Dr. Free. When they arrived at the place where the attack had been seen made the day previous, they saw no guerrillas, of course, but found the body of Dr. Free, pierced by two balls and seven buck shot, lying by the side of a log some 30 feet from where he had last been seen the day previous by the quartermaster sergeant. He was shot in the right hypochondriac region, and all the bullet holes could be covered by the palm of the hand, showing conclusively that his antagonist could not have been more than 10 or 15 feet from him when he fired.​
The body of Dr. Free was brought to camp lat in the evening of the 11th of December, and having been properly cleansed, was confined in a rough board coffin and kept until the 18th of December, awaiting permission for some one to accompany the body home. Nothing having been heard from the papers that were sent up on the 11th of December, we concluded that, having kept the body six days, it would be best to forward it to Washington and have it expressed from there to his friends. His body was sent on the 18th of December in charge of Sergeant McKee, and ordered to be confined in a metallic coffin and expressed to his brother, Dr. John L. Free, Shrewsbury, York County, Pa.​
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,​
Surgeon, Eighty-third Pennsylvania Volunteers.​
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