W.W. FREEMAN was born in Fayette county, Pennsylvania, June 2d, 1823. His parents, Elias and Deborah Freeman, emigrated from New York in the year 1820, and settled in the little town of Monroe, in the county before mentioned, at the foot of Laurel Hill, where the national road crosses the Allegheny mountains. When of sufficient age and strength, he, with his older brother, worked together on a farm during the cropping season, and attended school in winter. His early education was such as could be obtained in the schools of the day, by attending about three months in the year.
In 1837 his father visited the Eelinois, as it was then called by old settlers, and being so well pleased with the country on his return home, he sold out, and with his family came to Illinois in 1838, settling in Canton, Fulton county. On the arrival of the family in Canton, the subject of this sketch was apprenticed to learn the printing business. He continued to work at that trade in Canton, until 1840, when he went to Stephenson, now Rock Island, on the upper Mississippi. IN order to reach there, the whole distance had to be made through prairie of almost illimitable expanse. What road there was led up through Knoxville, Knox county; thence to Hendersonville, Henderson county, where the Indian trail was struck, leading to Black Hawk village on Rock river. Although the village had been burned by the whites eight years before, yet the stumps of the poles that supported the wigwams were still to be seen, as well as the corn-stalks of the Indian cornfields. Mr. Freeman says that that was the most enchanting spot he ever saw. He remained in Rock Island until 1841, when he returned to Canton, and attended school until 1842, and then went to Upper Alton, and commenced a course of study at Shurtleff College. He remained in college two years, and one term in the third year.
In the latter part of 1844, he was invited to visit one of his old schoolmates, Charles P. Hazard, then living at the head of Cahokia creek in this county. He spent his first night in Macoupin county under the hospitable roof of the late Uncle Billy Lancaster. This was the night of the 22d of December, 1844. On Christmas day he came to Carlinville, and on the way back to CAhokia engaged to take a school on Wetherford's Prairie. The school house stood diagonally across the road from where Oakland now stands. He began teaching on the 7th of January, 1845, and continued to teach in various places in the county; a portion of the time in Carlinville, up to 1851, when he commenced to work for the late Henry Fishback, in whose employ he continued until 1854. During the three years he was with Mr. Fishback, he made probably fifteen trips to New Orleans, forming the acquaintance of many of the business men of that city.
On May 19th, 1847, he was married to Miss Lucy S. Fishback, with whom he lived until her death in the year 1849. From that time to Aug. 25th, 1853, he remained a widower, when he married Miss Ellen M. Winchester, who died in February, 1865. In 1854 he entered the clerk's office under Mr. A. McKim Dubois, and remained with him until he went out of office in 1860.
Mr. Freeman has always been an ardent republican, since the organization of that party. On the organization of the 122d regiment in 1862, he received of Gov. Richard Yates a commission as regimental quartermaster, with rank of first lieutenant. The commission dated August 28, 1862, and on Oct. 8th following he started with the regiment to the field. On the 12th of October, 1862, the regiment found itself halted at Trenton, Tenn.
Mr. Freeman, with a small squad of soldiers, was detailed at Trtenton to guard a large lot of quartermaster's goods, and on Saturday, Dec. 20, 1862, Gen. Forrest, with about eight thousand confederate troops, marched in upon them. The little band fought until they were surrounded and compelled to surrender unconditionally by Col. Fry.
Mr. Freeman, together with about three hundred others, were immediately paroled, but allowed to remain in their own quarters that night. About 1 o'clock the next day the prisoners were drawn up in line, and placed in charge of Col. Collins, with a regiment of confederates to escort them through to the union lines at Columbus, Ky. The march continued until 10 o'clock that evening when all went into camp - Rebs and Federals together - at Rutherford, Tenn. Here an incident occurred that will be remembered by many of those who were on that weary march. When the surrender took place, Mr. Freeman had large quantities of camp, garrison, quartermaster's stores, clothing and blankets. He told the men that they had better supply themselves with blankets before the reb's came in. Some of the men availed themselves of the opportunity, while others did not. Many of those who did took two blankets, and had them when they reached Rutherford. On the morning of the 22d of December, Mr. Freeman, having been placed in charge of his fellow prisoners by Gen. Forrest, received orders, through an orderly, directing him to require the prisoners to turn over what blankets they had to his men. While Mr. Freeman was reading the order, the General appeared upon the scene, and was asked by Mr. F., if he expected that order to be obeyed? He answered that he did, and was as promptly told by Mr. F., that he would not himself obey it, nor would he advise or order the men in his charge to do so. That he would concede that they, the rebs, had sufficient force to compel obedience, and by sheer force could take the blankets; but all that they would ever get from him or the men under him, with his or their consent, would be gotten by simple brute force; that an order of that kind was outrageous, barbarous, unmilitary and inhuman; that these blankets were all that the prisoners had to shelter them during these cold December nights, and that no surrender of blankets would willingly be made in obedience to the order. Gen. Forrest then remarked; "I will see about that;" wheeled his horse, and rode off. While the General was gone, and the prisoners awaited developments, an orderly returned with orders modified, stating that the General had observed that some of the prisoners had two blankets each, and required such as had two to surrender one of them to his men. Mr. Freeman had made another observation during the interval, and that was that some of the prisoners had no blankets at all, while others had two. He requested those with two to surrender one of them to a fellow prisoner who had none. This was quickly done, and when Forest's aid came to get blankets, he found no federal with more than one, so that no blankets were surrendered to the rebs there. This was reported to Gen. Forrest and he very promptly sent to Mr. Freeman, a horse, saddle and bridle to use on the march. They reached Union City, Tenn., on the 23d of December, where two companies of the 54th Illinois regiment were stationed. Gen. Forrest met them with his whole force, and demanded unconditional surrender. Nothing could be done, and the two companies were taken prisoners, paroled and added to the number of prisoners. The next day the prisoners marched to Moscow, Ky., twelve miles from Columbus, and went into camp in the town. Col. Collins and Major James F. Chapman went to Columbus, with a flag of truce, to the commander of the post, asking him to send a special train out to receive the men, and carry them to Columbus; Col. Collins guaranteeing the train a safe passage out and back. This however was not done, and the prisoners solicited Col. Collins to take them by the dirt road to Columbus, distance eighteen miles. The boys were anxious to get inside of their own lines, and made the march in a comparatively short time, coming in sight of the blue coats about three o'clock, p.m. the preliminaries were arranged, and the prisoners took leave of their captors, and passed inside the federal lines, and arrived in Columbus about sundown of Dec. 27, 1862.
Mr. Freeman retained his commission, and was with the regiment during the whole time of service, excepting while he was a prisoner with the enemy. The subject of this sketch desires that we should say that he was not exempt from the usual amount of "cuss words," or words to that effect that were heaped upon regimental quartermasters. He was popular with the boys.
Since the war Mr. Freeman has resided in Carlinville, except about nine months spent at Cairo. He has been justice of the peace several years, and now is police magistrate of Carlinville.