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Elbert Free
1841 - 1915

Elbert Free

Elbert Free
Undated photo

Events occurring during the lifetime of Elbert Free

1841 Elbert Free born in Crane Hill, Washington Co., Arkansas
1841-1844 John Tyler president of US from age 0 to 3
1842 Chinese cede Hong Kong to the English at age 1
1844 1st telegraph line message, Washington to New York at age 3
1845-1849 Irish Potato Famine from age 4 to 8
1845 Florida enters the union - 27th at age 4
1845 Texas enters the union - 28th at age 4
1845-1848 James K Polk president of US from age 4 to 7
1846-1848 The Mexican-US War from age 5 to 7
1846 Iowa enters the union - 29th at age 5
1848 NY allows women to own real estate at age 7
1848-1856 1st gold rush in California from age 7 to 15
1848 Oregon organized as a territory at age 7
1848 Wisconsin enters the union - 30th at age 7
1849-1852 Zachary Taylor president of the US from age 8 to 11
1850 US pop reaches 23 million at age 9
1850 New Mexico organized as a territory at age 9
1850 World pop. est. at 1.1 billion at age 9
1850 Utah (included Nevada) organized as a territory at age 9
1850 California enters the union - 31st at age 9
1851 Gold rush in Australia at age 10
1852-1859 3rd Cholera pandemic from age 11 to 18
1853-1856 Franklin Pierce president of US from age 12 to 15
1853 Washington organized as a territory at age 12
1854-1856 Crimean War from age 13 to 15
1854 Nebraska organized as a territory at age 13
1854 Kansas organized as a territory at age 13
1857-1866 Transatlantic cable laid from age 16 to 25
1857-1860 James Buchanan president of US from age 16 to 19
1857 Dred Scott decision: Blacks could not be US citizens at age 16
1858 Minnesota enters the union - 32nd at age 17
1858 India bill transfers government of India to England at age 17
1859 Oregon enters the union - 33rd at age 18
1859 Oil well drilled for the first time at age 18
1859 Darwin pub. "Origin Of Species" at age 18
1860 Rifled barrel invented at age 19
1860 South Carolina Secedes from the Union at age 19
1861 Elbert Free joins Confederate States Army at age 20
1861-1865 Abraham Lincoln president of US from age 20 to 24
1861 North Dakota organized as a territory at age 20
1861 Nevada organized as a territory at age 20
1861 The Apache Declare War on the US at age 20
1861 Transcontinental Telegraph completed at age 20
1861 Colorado organized as a territory at age 20
1861-1865 Civil War from age 20 to 24
1861 Kansas enters the union - 34th at age 20
1862 Sgt Elbert Free taken prisoner at age 21
1862 US Homestead Act at age 21
1863 Battle of Gettysburg at age 22
1863 Idaho organized as a territory at age 22
1863 Arizona organized as a territory at age 22
1863 Emancipation Proclamation frees southern slaves at age 22
1863-1879 4th Cholera pandemic from age 22 to 38
1861 West Virginia enters the union - 35th at age 22
1862 Elbert Free exchanged at Maryland at age 22
1864 Nevada enters the union - 36th at age 23
1864 Louisiana organized as a territory at age 23
1865 Ku Klux Klan founded at age 24
1865 President Lincoln assassinated at age 24
1866 Albert Free relocates to Texas at age 25
1866-1868 Andrew Johnson president of US from age 25 to 27
1867 Elbert Free marries Mary Elizabeth Thurston at age 26
1867 Nebraska enters the union - 37th at age 26
1867 Diamonds discovered in South Africa at age 26
1867 Alaska purchased from Russia at age 26
1867 Elbert & Mary Free have first child, Mary Jane "Janie"
1868-1878 War between Cuba and Spain from age 27 to 37
1869 Trans-continental railroad completed at age 28
1869 Suez Canal opened at age 28
1869 Cutty Sark built at age 28
1869-1876 Ulysses S Grant president of US from age 28 to 35
1870 US black men can vote at age 29
1870 Elbert & Mary Free have second child, Sarah Elizabeth
1870 1st black US senator (Hiram Revels) at age 29
1870-1871 Franco-Prussian war from age 29 to 30
1871 Elbert & Mary Free have third child, Joseph C.
1871 Great Fire destroys Chicago at age 30
1872 Elbert & Mary Free have fourth child, Margaret "Maggie" Lee
1873 Color photographs at age 32
1873-1878 Depression, banks fail from age 32 to 37
1876 American Centennial at age 35
1876 Little Big Horn - Battle at age 35
1876 Telephone Invented at age 35
1876 Colorado enters the union - 38th at age 35
1877-1880 Rutherford B Hayes president of US from age 36 to 39
1877 Wax Cylinder Musical Recordings at age 36
1878 1st commercial telephone exchange in US at age 37
1879 Electric Light Bulb at age 38
1879 Zulu war at age 38
1879 Elbert & Mary Free have fifth child, James McGuire
1880 Elbert & Mary Free have sixth child, John Elbert
1881 President Garfield assassinated (dies of med. care) at age 40
1881-1885 Chester Arthur president of US from age 40 to 44
1881-1896 5th Cholera pandemic from age 40 to 55
1881 James A Garfield president of US at age 40
1883 Elbert & Mary Free have seventh child, Cora "Ora" Elbert
1884 Motorcycle at age 43
1884 1st subway at age 43
1885 Automobile at age 44
1885-1888 Grover Cleveland president of US from age 44 to 47
1886 Induction Telegraph (Grandville T. Woods) at age 45
1887 X-Rays at age 46
1888 70...77 rpm musical records at age 47
1888 Great Blizzard of 1888 - 400 deaths at age 47
1889-1892 Benjamin Harrison president of US from age 48 to 51
1889 South Dakota enters the union - 40th at age 48
1889 Montana enters the union - 41st at age 48
1889 Washington enters the union - 42nd at age 48
1889 North Dakota enters the union - 39th at age 48
1890 Battle of Wounded Knee at age 49
1890 Wyoming enters the union - 44th at age 49
1890 Idaho enters the union - 43rd at age 49
1890 Oklahoma organized as a territory at age 49
1893 New Zealand is 1st to grant women right to vote at age 52
1893-1897 US Financial panic, depression from age 52 to 56
1893-1896 Grover Cleveland president of US from age 52 to 55
1893 Radio invented at age 52
1893 Movies invented at age 52
1894-1895 Chinese-Japanese war from age 53 to 54
1894 Plague in Hong Kong and China - 1 million die at age 53
1896 Supreme Court approves separate but equal segregation, age 55
1896 Utah enters the union - 45th at age 55
1897-1901 William McKinley president of US from age 56 to 60
1898 Spanish American 1-year war at age 57
1899-1902 Boer war from age 58 to 61
1900 Hawaii organized as a territory at age 59
1900 Galveston Hurricane - 8,000 killed at age 59
1900 Boxer rebellion in China at age 59
1901 US President William McKinley assassinated at age 60
1901 First British submarine launched at age 60
1901-1908 Theodore Roosevelt president of US from age 60 to 67
1901 Oil discovered in Texas in significant amounts at age 60
1901 Commonwealth of Australia founded at age 60
1901-1910 Reign of King Edward VII (Saxe-Coburg) from age 60 to 69
1903 Airplane at age 62
1904 Radar at age 63
1904-1905 Russian-Japanese war from age 63 to 64
1907 Plastic at age 66
1907 Oklahoma enters the union - 46th at age 66
1908 Tunguska atmospheric object explosion at age 67
1909 Union of South Africa formed at age 68
1909-1912 William Howard Taft president of US from age 68 to 71
1909 North Pole by Robert Peary's expedition at age 68
1910 Halley's Comet at age 69
1910 Japan annexes Korea at age 69
1911 South Pole reached by Ronald Amundsen at age 70
1912 Arizona enters the union - 48th at age 71
1912 Titanic sinks at age 71
1912 Alaska organized as a territory at age 71
1912 New Mexico enters the union - 47th at age 71
1913-1920 Woodrow Wilson president of US from age 72
1914 The bra invented at age 73
1915 Elbert Free dies in Eastland Co., TX at age 73 yrs 8 months

Elbert Free was born on June 1, 1841 in Crane Hill, Washington County, Arkansas, the oldest son of John and Elizabeth Free. He had eight brothers and sisters: Nancy b: 1840, James b: 1844, Emery b: 1846, John b: 1848, Luilla b: 1851, Walker b: 1853, Frank b: 1855 and Hugh b: 1857.

His father was born in South Carolina and made his living as a blacksmith in Crane Hill, one of the more prosperous points in Northwest Arkansas. His mother was born in Kentucky. It is thought John and Elizabeth met and married in Arkansas in about 1840, although their marriage license has never been located.

Cane Hill was noteworthy as the site of Cane Hill College. The first institution of higher learning in Arkansas, the college had been in operation for thirty years by the time of the Civil War.

During the 1850 and 1860 Federal Census, John Free owned no slaves.

The War Between the States began with the firing on Fort Sumpter by the Confederates on 12 April 1861, and on May 6, 1861 Arkansas seceded from the United States. Six months later on October 12, 1861, at the age of 20, Elbert rode his horse from Crane Hill to Fayetteville, Arkansas, a distanced of about 12 miles, and joined with Company E, of the 1st Battalion, Arkansas Cavalry CSA. It was common that cavalry units required enlistees to furnish their own horses, and the Confederacy paid them for their "serviceable" horses. (See company muster roll below indicating Elbert brought horse). He enlisted as a private; however he would soon be promoted to Sergeant.

Eight months later Elbert's younger brother, James Free at the age of 18, went to Fayetteville on June 16, 1862, and joined the Confederate Army as a member of Company A, 34th Arkansas Infantry Regiment.

On November 28, 1862 James participated in the battle of Crane Hill (his hometown) in which the Union won a decisive victory with 40 U.S. casualties' vs. 435 CSA casualties. This battle was part of the Campaign for Pea Ridge.

He participated in the Battle of Prairie Grove, Arkansas, however during this battle he deserted his Confederate brethren and joined the 1st Arkansas Cavalry Battalion USA as a private in the Union Army. Don't be confused as there was a battalion called the 1st Battalion Arkansas Cavalry on both sides of the conflict.

He served with the Union Army until his death of on March 21, 1863, and was buried in the National Cemetery, Fayetteville, Section 6, grave 433. It is unknown if he died from battle wounds or from natural causes.

The Free family was quite obviously a family divided, and their loyalties were on both sides of the conflict. Truly a brother-against-brother conflict, however these two brothers were never involved in a battle or skirmish on opposing sides. Thank God!

The Civil War in northwest Arkansas began with large-scale military operations and two major battles - Pea Ridge and Prairie Grove - that had a significant impact on the course of the struggle in the trans-Mississippi. After 1862, however, the scale of operations gradually declined on both sides and the nature of the fighting changed. Battles were replaced by raids, ambushes, massacres, and murders. In the final two years of the war most of those who died were civilians, not soldiers.

During the battle of Crane Hill the entire settlement was put to the torch by the Union forces and local collaborators, and the Free family became refugees. It can be assumed they were among the thousands who fled to the relative safety of Fayetteville where they remained for the duration of the war. This family, except for Elbert, has never been located after the close of the war in 1865. It is a real possibility some members were killed during the conflict, and the remainder scattered throughout the south.

Cane Hill Marker

For further information on The Battle of Crane Hill go to:

Battlefields of Arkansas--Map

The following is a proclamation by the Governor of Arkansas, issued on January 31, 1862, encouraging able-bodied men to join in the fight against the Union forces of the north. Three months prior to this proclamation, Elbert joined the Confederate Army in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

By the Governor of the State of Arkansas:
Little Rock, Ark.

Whereas Maj. Gen. Earl Van Dorn, assigned in command of the Trans-Mississippi District, comprising "that part of the State of Louisiana north of Red River, the Indian Territory west of Arkansas, the State of Arkansas, and certain portions of Missouri," &c., has made a requisition upon the authorities of Arkansas for ten regiments of infantry and four companies of artillery for service in the C. S. Army:

Now, therefore, I, Henry M. Rector, as Governor of the State of Arkansas, and ex officio president of the military board of said State, do hereby order and direct that 100 companies of infantry and four of artillery be organized with dispatch, from those persons in the State who by law are subject to military duty, and by the 6th of March next report themselves for duty to General Van Dorn at Pocahontas, Ark., except two regiments of infantry, which will report to General Pike for service on the Western frontier. Each company to consist of one captain, one first lieutenant, two second lieutenants, five sergeants, four corporals, two musicians, and not less than sixty-four nor more than
104 privates. Companies arming themselves will be received for twelve months those armed for and during the war, or three years. Company elections may be held by any commissioned State officer, civil or military, and returns made to me for commissions. The men will be sworn into service by Confederate officers, after organization, where-so-ever one may be found. Subsistence will be supplied by the Confederate Government as soon as company organization is completed, the captain selecting one of the lieutenants to purchase subsistence and forage, who will issue certificates of purchase, approved by the captain, to be paid by the proper officer of the Confederate Government at headquarters.

Two wagons amid teams (four-horse or six-mule) will be hired to transport the baggage, &c., for each company to Pocahontas, with the privilege of purchasing them at fair valuation. Regiments will be formed at Pocahontas, ten companies each, and elections held for general officers, who will be commissioned by the State. Each soldier is entitled to $11 per month pay, one blanket, and $50 a year for clothing, and if he volunteers for the war, to $50 bounty, which I am assured will be paid promptly by the Confederate States. It is desirable that each man bring with him one or more blankets, if possible; when they cannot be thus procured they will be supplied to those received into service by The Confederate States. Companies as soon as organized will report to me, sending a muster roll showing the requisite number of men, that I may report them to the Confederate quartermaster, who will supply them with tents, camp equipage, &c.

At the request of the general in command, I have thus endeavored to be explicit, in detail, as well to those things which fall within the range of State authority as those which belong to the Confederate Government, the better to facilitate the prompt amid patriotic response which we hope to see made by the people of Arkansas to this demand upon their valor and patriotism.

From the best data in possession of the State authorities it is estimated that Arkansas has now 22,000 men in the Confederate Army, which is equal to 37 per cent of her population fit or subject to military duty-the 8,500 called for making 30,500 out of 60,000, being one-half or 50 per cent of her entire military force.

It is undeniably true that the number of men furnished by certain sections of the State is grossly inadequate to the amount of population and to the capacity and bounded duty of those sections to turn out soldiers for the defense and honor of the Government, whilst from other counties and localities almost the entire male population have sprung with alacrity to the first call of their country. The toils and hardships, as well as the blessings of a united people, should be borne and dispensed alike to all. In view of these facts, then, it is esteemed essentially proper that those counties not having heretofore furnished their percentage or proportion of troops be now required, as near as may be, to furnish, with those they have already in service, one-half or 50 per cent of their people subject to military duty. This is a criterion by which each county in the State may know how much under this call it is required to do to save its people the unpleasant reflection of having been drafted in service for the defense of their own homes.

The following military divisions have been permanently organized, to wit: The counties of:

Benton, Crawford, Yell, Carroll, Franklin, Scott, Madison, Johnson, Sebastian, Searcy, Pope, Newton, Van Buren, Marion, Conway, Washington, and Perry compose the First Division.

Saline, Dallas, Hot Spring, Calhoun, Montgomery, Ouachita, Polk, Union, Sevier, Columbia, Pike, La Fayette, Hempstead, and Clark compose the Second Division.

Pulaski, Jefferson, Prairie, Bradley, Monroe, Drew, Phillips, Desha, Arkansas, Chicot, and Ashley compose the Third Division.

White, Jackson, Saint Francis, Independence, Crittenden, Izard, Mississippi, Fulton, Poinsett, Lawrence, Craighead, Randolph, and Greene compose the Fourth Division.

And it is ordered that the counties composing the First Division organize into companies and report, as above directed, 3,500 men by the 5th of March next; that the counties composing the Second Division organize and report, by the same period, 2,000 men; that the counties composing the Third Division organize and report, by the same time, 1,500 men and that those counties composing the Fourth Division report, likewise, 1,500 men.

All or either of which divisions failing to report the number of men respectively assigned to them by the said 5th of March will be subject to a draft, by counties, until their due proportion according to population is furnished to fill the requisition made upon the State by the general in command.

The power to levy such draft is in the military board by the following clause in an ordinance passed by the State convention, entitled "An ordinance for the organization of an efficient military corps for active service," &c.:

SEC. 10. All persons to be hereafter enlisted or drafted shall be hereafter enlisted or drafted for a period to be hereafter designated by the military board.

SEC. 11. In case it shall be necessary to make a draft from the militia to obtain
the required number for service, under this ordinance, or any other ordinance which has been or may hereafter be adopted, the military board heretofore created shall have the power to prescribe the manner and mode in which said draft shall be made.

General Van Horn, in his requisition, remarks:

I desire these troops for active service as soon as they can be organized and put in the field. With them I hope to guard the State of Arkansas, prevent invasion, and, with the co-operation of troops from Texas, Louisiana, and Missouri, I hope to drive the enemy from the down-trodden State of Missouri, our nearest neighbors, &c.

This renders it unnecessary for me to say to the people of Arkansas that the army now called for are for the protection of their own houses and firesides-that those who respond to this call have high assurances that active service will be given them upon the borders of their own State, and for time relief of our "nearest neighbors," the people of Missouri, who have suffered, amid patiently borne their sufferings, because of their adherence to and vindication of the rights of Southern men and Southern institutions.

Shall Arkansas help Missouri, or will we supinely await her final subjugation, and, in turn, take our place beside her in chains and degradation.

Citizens, friends, patriots of Arkansas, look at the condition of Missouri, and picture to yourselves the wretchedness of Arkansas if a brutal army of the North should pass the Rubicon and possess our territory! What living man having the proud title of Arkansans is willing to stay at home and witness the advent of a savage foe, whose mission is to insult our venerated sires, desecrate our hearthstones, and violate the chastity of our wives and daughters? Is this an overdrawn picture? Are not these scenes being enacted in Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, and Virginia? Will it not be so in Arkansas by the ides of May unless Arkansas supports Missouri, driving back the Goths and Vandals from our border? Then I implore my fellow-citizens while there is time to act to do so. Let every man in the State capable of bearing arms regard this humble appeal as being addressed to him in person, until 8,500 gallant men shall enroll themselves to do battle under an intrepid leader unto victory or death. And, further, let me say that I appeal not only to those who are capable of bearing arms, but as well to those whose age and infirmities forbid them this privilege. Age and experience are entitled to and have influence. Those of our public men whose talents and learning secure to them potential sway amongst their people I suggest may avail themselves of this opportunity to do good and add a fresh wreath to the laurels already glistening upon their brows. Counsel and persuade the young men of your neighborhood, your county, to go, and never, never wait to be drafted.

A drafted conscript soldier from Arkansas! Who will write his history? Who so lost as thus to mar the annals of his State?

All organized volunteer companies in the State are required to report under this call, except those in the Confederate service. Commissions will not issue for company officers until muster-rolls are returned showing the requisite number of men, as above numerated, to be in the company.

In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the great seal of the State of Arkansas to be affixed, at Little Rock, this 31st day of January, A. D. 1862.


Governor and ex officio President Military Board.

(Henry M. Rector was governor of Arkansas Nov. 15, 1860-Nov. 4, 1862)

Confederate Flag


 Elbert Free's Civil War  Muster Roll--1862


Joining with Elbert was his friend Manning Davis, who also enlisted as a private. Manning's father was Hiram Davis, a prominent lawyer, (later a judge) and large slave owner in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and one could assume that with his political connections, he saw to it that his son was soon promoted to lieutenant. It is conjecture, but since Manning was a friend of Elbert's, it wasn't long before Elbert was promoted from private to sergeant. There is a street in present-day Fayetteville named for Hiram Davis.

Promotions during the Civil War weren't done as they are today, when a person enters the military at a low rank and over time are promoted to a more responsible position. Rank during the Civil War was based on political connections and/or previous military training and education. Promotions were sometimes even granted by a vote of the men in the company.

The 1st Battalion was organized with five companies in July, 1861 under the command of Major William H. Brooks, and assigned to McIntosh's Brigade in McCulloch's Division in northwest Arkansas.

This unit's first battle with the Union Army was on the Leetown Battlefield at Pea Ridge, Arkansas on March 7-8, 1862. Following the Confederate retreat from Pea Ridge, the battalion was dismounted and reorganized under the command of Lt. Col. Ras Stirman to serve as infantry in April 1862. From this point forward Elbert was no longer a cavalryman but an infantryman.

The battalion was further consolidated with Bridge's Sharpshooter Battalion on August 1, 1862, and the consolidated unit was re-designated as Stirman's Sharpshooter Regiment.

They marched with the "Army of the West" to Corinth, Mississippi later that month where it served in General Dabney Maury's division during the Corinth campaign. They fought in the Battle of Corinth on October 3-4, 1862, and following their subsequent retreat from Corinth, fought a valiant rear guard action at Hatchie Bridge.

They were later engaged at the battle of Champion Hill, but the Confederates retreated eastward toward Vicksburg, until they reached the Big Black River Bridge on the night of May 16, 1863. Pemberton ordered Brig. Gen. John S. Bowen with three brigades to man the fortifications on the east bank of the river and impede any Union pursuit in the vain attempt to keep the Union Forces out of Vicksburg, Mississippi.

Three divisions of Maj. Gen. John A. McClernand's XIII (Union) Corps moved out from Edwards Station on the morning of May 17th. The corps encountered the Confederates behind breastworks of cotton bales fronted by a bayou at Big Black River.

They took cover as Confederate artillery began firing. Union Brig. Gen. Michael K. Lawler formed his 2nd Brigade, Eugene A. Carr's 14th Division, which surged out of a meander scar, across the front of the Confederate forces, through waist-deep water, and into the Confederate's breastworks, held by Brig. Gen. John Vaughn's East Tennessee Brigade.

Battle at Big Black River, MS

Battle at Big Black River, Mississippi
May 17, 1863

Confused and panicked, the Rebels began to withdraw across the Big Black River on two bridges: the railroad bridge and the steamboat, ''Dot'', which was used as a bridge across the river. As soon as they had crossed the Confederates set fire to the bridge and boat, preventing close Union pursuit.

The fleeing Confederates who arrived in Vicksburg later that day were disorganized. The Union forces had captured approximately 1,800 troops at Big Black, a loss that the Confederates could ill-afford. Fewer than half of the Confederates who had fought at Champion Hill made it into the defenses at Vicksburg. This battle sealed Vicksburg's fate: the Confederate force was bottled up at Vicksburg.

The following is a dispatch sent from the Confederate Commanding General, J.C. Pemberton to the President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis relating to the defense of Vicksburg and his defeat at Big Black River.

Vicksburg, May 19, 1863.
President JEFFERSON DAVIS, Richmond:
Against my own judgment, but by instructions from superior authority, sustained by the unanimous voice of my general officers, I felt myself compelled to advance my position beyond Edwards Depot, and to offer or accept battle according to circumstances. The enemy attacked me in very great force about 7 a. m. on 16th.
My position was a good one, but numbers prevailed; at 5 p. m. we were forced to retire. General Loring's DIVISION, which covered the retreat across Baker's Creek, failed to rejoin me, but will probably form a junction with General Johnston.
We were again driven from and entrenched line at east and south head of Big Black Bridge, on morning of 17th; we lost a large amount of artillery. The army was much demoralized; many regiments behaved badly. We are occupying the trenches around Vicksburg; the enemy is investing it, and will probably attempt an assault. Our men have considerably recovered their morale, but unless a large force is sent at once to relieve it, Vicksburg must before long fall. I have used every effort to prevent all this, but in vain.

Elbert's entire outfit, the 1st Arkansas Cavalry (dismounted), was captured at Vicksburg on July 4, 1863, and was paroled later in that month and was declared exchanged on September 12, 1863. (A prisoner would be paroled if he promised to not take up arms against the enemy until such time as prisoner from the opposing side was exchanged.) They were free to return to Arkansas where they reformed their unit.

It was during the battle at Big Black River, that Elbert was captured on May 17, 1863. He was first held in a stockade near the battleground, and on May 25th he was sent to Memphis, Tennessee where he remained until he was moved on to Camp Morton, Indianapolis, Indiana, a prison set up in the former fairgrounds by the Union forces, arriving there on June 22, 1863. He remained in Camp Morton until he was sent to Fort Delaware, Delaware arriving there on September 22, 1863. He remained in Fort Delaware until he was sent 180 miles south where he was exchanged on Christmas Eve, 1863. On December 29, 1863, five days after his release from prison, he was issued a new uniform and sent back to Arkansas, after pledging he would not to engage in any hostile action against the Union forces until he could rejoin his unit in Arkansas. The only additional action he saw was the Price's Missouri Raid (September and October 1864) and Ivey's Ford (January 17, 1865).

His capture was early in the war, so it is probable he was transported by train and barge while a prisoner. Later in the war, it was not unusual for prisoners to be forced to walk and many died along the way.

The opposing forces, during the early part of the Civil War, adopted the European custom of warfare and it was the practice of the day for prisoners to be paroled immediately after capture if they would promise not to engage the enemy until they could be reformed in their original outfit.

Union troops were sometimes allowing themselves to be captured in order to be exchanged and sent back to their homes where they would refuse to rejoin their old units.

This exchange program continued until April 1864 when General U.S. Grant realized that he was releasing the Confederate enemy to fight him again. He is quoted as saying; "By exchange of prisoners we get no men fit to go into our army, and every soldier we gave Confederates went immediately into theirs, so that exchange was virtually so much aid to them and none to us."

Elbert was exchanged in just the nick of time, as Fort Delaware became known as the Andersonville of the north, where 12,000 Confederate prisoners were imprisoned and 2,700 died before the war ended finally ended in 1865. No other Northern prison was as dreaded by southern prisoners as Fort Delaware.

Big Black River Railroad Bridge

Big Black River Railroad Bridge
(Remains of wartime railroad bridge piers below the modern railroad bridge)

Big Black River Railroad Bridge/Remains of Steamer Dot

View from the North of the wartime railroad bridge site. Just south of the pier are the remains of the steamer Dot, which was sunk by the Confederates and used as a bridge during their retreat on May 17.

Fort Delaware Confederate Prisoners

Fort Delaware, Delaware
Confederate Prisoners

North/South Division in the Civil War

Monument to Arkansas Confederate Troops

Monument to Arkansas Confederate Troops
Located at the Vicksburg, Mississippi battleground


Iron Tablet south of the Arkansas Memorial

Iron tablet located on Confederate Avenue south of the Arkansas Memorial

Fort Delaware

Fort Delaware, Delaware
(Present day)

Elbert Free's service record while in the Army of the CSA. These records are on file at the National Archives, Washington, DC.

 POW record 1  POW record 2

 POW record 3  POW record 4

 POW record 5  POW record 6

 POW record 7  Clothing Receipt

At the end of the Civil War, which ended with General Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox Courthouse on 9 April 1865, Elbert returned to Washington County, Arkansas, found his family scattered and the place in disarray so he decided to go to Tarrant County (Fort Worth), Texas with his army and childhood friend Manning Davis

They would eventually married sisters, Margaret Caroline and Mary Elizabeth "Dink" Thurman. Manning married Margaret in 1865 in Tarrant County and Elbert married "Dink" on Feb 10, 1867 in Ellis County (Waxahachie), Texas.

Margaret and Mary were the daughters of Joseph T. Thurman who was born in 1823 in Knox County, Tennessee, and he would die on January 10, 1989 in Kickapoo Ranch, Edwards County, Texas and is buried in the Thurman Cemetery in Kickapoo Ranch. Joseph was not only an early pioneer rancher in the Kickapoo area; he was also the doctor, dentist, undertaker and coffin maker.

In 1840 Joseph was "received into the fellowship" of the Mount Olive Baptist Church in Knox County, Tennessee. This church had been established in 1837.

In January 1846 the Mount Olive Church United in Church Conference, took up the case of Brother Joseph Thurman being guilty of an affray with his father and being labored with this refused to come to the church and moved off - therefore we dismissed him from our fellowship. With that he moved to Jasper County, Missouri in 1846.

June 14, 1847, Joseph wrote a letter to his father saying that his wife, Elizabeth (Tipton) had died four days after giving birth to Joseph Hampton Thurman and Joseph Hampton was living with a Jessie Tipton at that time.

On December 5, 1852, Joseph was in Jackson City, California according to a letter from his second wife, Mary J Dusenberry, to his brother, Preston. She was in Jasper Co., Missouri when she wrote the letter. There is no mention why he was in California, but probably because of the Gold Rush.

Family history says that Lina (Margaret Carolina) recalled when her father, Joseph, and his brother, Patrick returned with gold in their pockets (presumably from the California Gold Rush). She and her brother, Bill, were very young and saw two men approach the house. Lina and Bill watched through a crack in the door and saw the two men pour gold out of their pockets onto the bed. Lina and Bill were plotting between themselves how to kill the men and get their gold, when their mother, Mary Jane, told them to come in and say hello to their father, Joseph, and Uncle Patrick.

While living in Jasper and Lawrence Counties in Missouri, Joseph bought and sold parcels of land, mostly in 40-160 acre plots. In 1860 he lost 80 acres in Jasper Co. Missouri in a Sheriffs sale for $145.12. Soon thereafter he moved to Denton County, Texas in March 1861.

On December 23, 1861, at the age of 41, he joined the Confederate Army, 14th Regiment, Texas Cavalry, Johnson's Mounted Volunteers (subsequently became Company H 14th Regular Texas Cavalry) as a farrier (horseshoer), commencing service for one year beginning February 15, 1862 from Denton County, Texas.

After his year was up, he moved into Tarrant County where he continued to buy and sell land for several years. At the end of 1867 he moved into Ellis County where he again bought and sold land. It was while living here that his daughter Mary Elizabeth married Elbert Free. By 1870 he was living in Washington County, Arkansas (Elbert's former home county) and bought more property there.

In 1873 he sold the Arkansas property and moved to Bell, Comanche and then Eastland Counties, Texas. By 1875 he was in Eastland County with four carriages, 4 horses and 56 cattle and but he owned no land.

In the 1880 Federal Census he lives two houses away from his son, William Preston Thurman.

In the fall of 1882, Joseph and Mary Jane, son Jesse, daughter Addie, son William and his family, Effie, Laura, Joe, Mattie, William and Hattie, brother, Samuel Houston and his wife, Jodie, and their child, Minnie Lee, all traveling together, drove their wagon train into Edwards County, Texas to finally settle down.

After Elbert and Mary were married in Ellis County, Texas, they moved to Johnson County for about three years where they had their first child in 1867. From Johnson County they moved on to Bell County where they lived for the next 10 years, and had five additional children. From Bell they finally moved to Eastland County, Texas in 1881, where their last child was born two years later. In 1900 they bought 160 acres of farmland from the H & TC Railroad for about $1 an acre. They lived on this farm until Elbert died in 1915.

Elbert's good friend, Manning Davis had already purchased 160 acres of farm land in Eastland County on December 21, 1895, and Elbert purchased land adjacent to Manning in the west section of Eastland County, Texas, near the town of Cisco.

The 174 acres of land that is southeast of Elbert's farm (see map) was owned by his daughter Mary Jane "Janie" and her husband John Marble Bolding. On July 10, 1903 the ownership of this farm was 'bought' by Elbert Free for $1.00.

Elbert and Mary's children:


               MARY JANE FREE, b. November 20, 1867, Blum, Johnson County, Texas; d. October 16, 1939, Rising Star, Eastland County, Texas.

                SARAH ELIZABETH FREE, b. 1870, Bell County, Texas; d. Cisco, Eastland County, Texas.

                JOSEPH C FREE, b. September 01, 1871, Bell County, Texas; d. February 04, 1893, Eastland, Eastland County, Texas.

                MARGARET LEE FREE, b. September 29, 1872, Bell County, Texas; d. August 07, 1967, Eastland, Eastland County, Texas.

                JAMES MCGUIRE FREE, b. November 29, 1879, Bell County, Texas; d. February 17, 1939, Sylvester, Fisher County, Texas.

                JOHN ELBERT FREE, b. January 06, 1880, Bell County, Texas; d. May 06, 1964, Callahan County, Texas.

                ORA ELBERT FREE, b. November 19, 1883, Nimrod, Eastland County, Texas; d. August 30, 1974, Colorado City , Mitchell County, Texas.


Elbert and Mary Free

Elbert & Mary "Dink" Free
Undated photo

Plat Map showing land owned by Elbert Free and associates

Plat map of a small portion of far western border of Eastland County, Texas. Showing land owned by Elbert Free, his friend Manning Davis and J.M. Bolding, his son-in-law.

From a newspaper article published in Cisco, Texas on August 4, 1936.


Mrs. Mary E. Free, now approaching her 85th birth anniversary, is one of the early citizens of Eastland County, having resided in Texas since 1861, and in Eastland County since 1882. She and her husband Elbert Free, located in the Nimrod community among the first to settle in that part of the country, and where the couple resided until the death of Mr. Free in 1915. Since her husband's death she has lived with her children. (Nursing homes, rest home, and similar accommodations were uncommon and most "old" folks depending on the kindness of their children to provide for them in their later years.)

She is now spending part of her time with the family of her grandson, A.P. Tipton, where she is slowly recovering from injuries received from a fall on the ice last winter while nursing a daughter in Rising Star.


Mrs. Free was born in Jasper County, Missouri Christmas Day in 1852, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Thurman. She came to Texas settling in Denton County, one day before Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated president. Later her parents moved to Fort Worth, then a federal post. "When War Between the States was declared, the fort fell into the hands of the Confederacy. The able-bodied men either volunteered or were drafted into the Confederate Army, those left at the fort were for the purpose of repelling any Indian raids that might occur, but we never had a raid on the fort," she said "as the nearest raid I ever heard of was about 18 miles away."


"I was married to Elbert Free in 1867, and we lived in Ellis County for awhile, coming to Eastland County, and settled in Nimrod, being among the first to locate in that part of the county. Others came shortly after; among the early comers were Lorenzo Dow Sanaford and family, who still live in that community. Major Munn were there when we arrived, being the postmaster at that place, which at one time was a thriving country village."

"My parents lived in Fort Worth for some time. After the war ended the fort was taken over by the Federal Government and Captain Van Zandt was in command, He liked Texas so well that he never returned north, and I understand there are a number of his descendants still living there."

"Later others came to Fort Worth from the north, and that was the nucleus around which Fort Worth was built. So, it may be said that Captain Van Zandt was really the father of Fort Worth, as John Henry Brown was said to have been the father of Dallas."

Mrs. Free is the mother of seven children, five of whom are still living. They are Jim Free, Sylvester; Elbert Free, Putnam; Mrs. Janie Bolding, Rising Star; Mrs. Maggie Perdue, Eastland; and Mrs. Cora (Ora) Compton, Colorado (TX). She has 85 grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

(Newspaper & date of publication unknown, but was probably around May 26-28, 1938 in Eastland., TX)

Funeral services for Mrs. Mary E. Free, 85, who passed away at the home of her grandson, Drew Tipton, in Cisco Monday afternoon, (May 23, 1938) were held at the Nimrod Baptist Church Tuesday afternoon with Dr. J.T. King, local Baptist minister in charge, assisted by the pastor of the Cisco Baptist Church.

Mrs. Free had been in ill health since sustaining a broken hip in a fall here the past winter. The family were old settlers of the Nimrod community, but for several years she had made her home with her daughter, Mrs. J.M. (Jani) Bolding here.

Internment was made (May 24, 1938) in the Monroe Cemetery (Eastland Co, TX) (She is buried adjacent to her husband Elbert Free).

Surviving children are: Mrs. J.M. (Jani) Bolding, Rising Star; James Free, Sylvester; Mrs. Mary (Margaret "Maggie" Lee) Perdue, Eastland; Mrs. Ora Compton, Colorado; and Ep Free, Putman.

Mary Free's Death Certificate

Family Tree of Mary Free

On December 15, 1913, when Elbert was 73 years old, he declared he was indigent and unable to work, and filed for a government pension based on his honorable service to the Confederacy.

Social Security payments did not begin until January 1, 1940, (first payment was for $22.54 per month) so old people had to depend on the kindness of their children and friends for their support and care in their later years.
Following the Civil War, the Federal Government made a decision to provide a pension for the Union soldiers and sailors, but not to provide a pension for soldiers who fought in the Confederacy.
Confederate veterans applied to the pension board of the state in which they resided at the time of application, even if this was not the state from which they served.
Texas passed the Confederate Pension Law on May 12, 1899. The law stated that a Confederate soldier or sailor was eligible if they were a native Texan or a resident of Texas prior to 1880, and who was either over sixty years of age and indigent, or whose disability was direct result of service during the Civil War. In addition to soldiers and sailors, widows were eligible to receive a pension if they never remarried and were residents of Texas since 1880.
The Texas Confederate Pension law is vague about the term "indigent". Quoting from the printed law, it states; "… that the word 'indigent,' within the meaning of this law, shall be construed to mean one who is in actual want and destitute of property and means of subsistence; and that the applicant has not transferred to others any property of value of any kind, for the purpose of becoming a beneficiary under this law. . ."

Elbert stated he had lived in Eastland County since 1881, and he valued his 80 acres at about $1,000 (he had obviously sold off 80 acres from the original 160 acres he bought previously, and there is no mention of the land he acquired from his daughter and her husband for $1.00). He stated he owned a horse and a cow which he placed a value on of $75.

The county assessor later placed a value on the land and improvements at $960, and his "other property" was valued at $35.

Elbert Free's Pension Application

Pension Application Form A, page 1

Pension Application, Form A, page 2

Assessor's Certificate

Pension Papers

Pension Papers

Pension Papers

Pension Papers

Pension Papers

Pension Papers

Pension Papers

Pension Papers

Pension Papers

Texas Confederate Pension Payments Received by Pensioners

This table shows the annual amount each pensioner was paid from enactment of the cash pension law in 1899 through the fiscal year ended August 31st, 1928, the last year in which payments were made without regard to age or date of marriage:
1899-1900 $22.32
1900-1901 $24.30
1901-1902 $31.60
1902-1903 $29.80
1903-1904 $37.00
1904-1905 $36.00
1905-1906 $55.00
1906-1907 $66.00
1907-1908 $64.50
1908-1909 $61.00
1909-1910 $43.50
1910-1911 $42.00
1911-1912 $42.00
1912-1913 $42.00
1913-1914 $67.50
1914-1915 $67.00
1915-1916 $53.50
1916-1917 $63.00
1917-1918 $66.00
1918-1919 $82.00
1919-1920 $91.00
1920-1921 $96.00
1921-1922 $97.00
1922-1923 $108.00
1923-1924 $127.00
1924-1925 $146.00
1925-1926 $170.00
1926-1927 $190.00
1927-1928 $208.00

After Elbert's death, his widow filed an application for a Confederate widow's pension #30942 on April 7, 1915, and it was approved on the same day. Her first check arrived on March 1, 1915. At the time she lived in Nimrod, Eastland Co., TX.

She collected this pension until May 31, 1938 when she died. After she died her children filed for, and received the burial expense payment that the Texas government allowed for veterans and their wife's/widows.
Mary Free's Pension

Mary Free's Pension Application (Death)

Pension Papers

Pension Papers

Pension Papers

Application for Death Allowance

Funeral Expenses

(Newspaper & date of publication unknown, but was probably around May 26-28, 1938 in Eastland., TX)

Funeral services for Mrs. Mary E. Free, 85, who passed away at the home of her grandson, Drew Tipton, in Cisco Monday afternoon, (May 23, 1938) were held at the Nimrod Baptist Church Tuesday afternoon with Dr. J.T. King, local Baptist minister in charge, assisted by the pastor of the Cisco Baptist Church.

Mrs. Free had been in ill health since sustaining a broken hip in a fall here the past winter. The family were old settlers of the Nimrod community, but for several years she had made her home with her daughter, Mrs. J.M. (Jani) Bolding here.

Internment was made (May 24, 1938) in the Monroe Cemetery (Eastland Co, TX) (She is buried adjacent to her husband Elbert Free).

Surviving children are: Mrs. J.M. (Jani) Bolding, Rising Star; James Free, Sylvester; Mrs. Mary (Margaret "Maggie" Lee) Perdue, Eastland; Mrs. Ora Compton, Colorado; and Ep Free, Putman

Tombstone of Mary Free

Tombstone of Elbert Free

Elbert Free
Monroe Cemetery, Eastland County, Texas

Descendants of Elbert Free & Mary Thurman
(With emphasis on the Perdue line)

Elbert Free was born 01 Jun 1841 in Washington Co., AR, and died 07 Feb 1915 in Nimrod, Eastland Co., TX, the son of John & Elizabeth Free. He married Mary Elizabeth "Dink" Thurman 10 Feb 1867 in Ellis Co., TX, daughter of Joseph Thurman and Mary Dusenberry. She was born 25 Dec 1852 in Jasper Co., MO, and died 23 May 1938 in Cisco, Eastland Co., TX. Both are buried in Monroe Cemetery, Eastland Co., TX.

The cemetery is located north from Nimrod on Hwy 569 one mile. Turn west on the first dirt road. This cemetery is located about one and one half miles down this road, and on the south side. It is fenced and is very well maintained. Twenty six graves were marked with slabs or old funeral markers without names and dates.

Children of Elbert Free and Mary Thurman are:

Mary Jane "Janie" Free, born 20 Nov 1867 in Bell Co., TX; died 06 Oct 1939 in Rising Star, Eastland Co., TX. She married John Marble Bolding.

Sarah Elizabeth Free, born 1870 in Bell Co., TX; died in Cisco, Eastland Co., TX. She married Robert Rutherford.

Joseph C Free, born 01 Sep 1871 in Bell Co., TX; died 04 Feb 1893 in Eastland, Eastland Co., TX. Buried in Monroe Cemetery, Eastland Co., TX.

Margaret "Maggie" Lee Free, born 29 Sep 1872 in Bell Co., TX; died 07 Aug 1967 in Eastland, Eastland Co., TX.

James McGuire Free, born 29 Nov 1879 in Bell Co., TX; died 17 Feb 1939 in Sylvester, Fisher Co., TX.

John Elbert Free, born 06 Jan 1880 in Bell Co., TX; died 05 May 1962 in Callahan Co., TX. He married Nettie Jewell Trout; born 03 Sep 1889; died 16 Jan 1985 in Callahan Co., TX. John is buried in the Putnam Cemetery, Callahan Co., TX.

Cora "Ora" Elbert Free, born 19 Nov 1883 in Nimrod, Eastland Co., TX; died 15 Aug 1974 in Colorado City, Mitchell Co, TX. She married Harvey Compton. She died while in a nursing home in Colorado City, Michell Co., TX


Generation No. 2

Margaret "Maggie" Lee Free was born 29 Sep 1872 in Bell Co., TX, and died 07 Aug 1967 in Eastland, Eastland Co., TX, while a resident of the Western Manor Nursing home, 306 N. Oak St., Ranger, TX. She was buried on Aug 9, 1967 in the Eastland Cemetery, Eastland, TX.

She married (1) Andrew Price Tipton Abt. 1890. He was born Mar 1861 in GA, and died 1898 in Johnson Co., TX.

In the 1900 Eastland Co., Texas Federal Census, Margaret is living with her parents, Elbert & Mary Free. With her in her parent's house were her three children; Ethel Tipton, Lela Tipton & Andrew Tipton. Her first husband had died two years previous.

She married (2) David Thurston Perdue Aft. 1900 in prob Eastland Co., TX, son of David Perdue and Sarah Barnes. He was born 08 Nov 1872 in Terrell Co., GA, and died 10 Sep 1940 in Eastland, Eastland Co., TX when, as a pedestrian, he was struck by a train in Eastland.


Children of Margaret Free and Andrew Tipton are:

Lola Lee Tipton, born 1891 in TX.
Ora Ethel Tipton, born 12 May 1893 in TX.
Lelia Pearl Tipton, born 02 Feb 1895 in TX.
Andrew Tipton, born 29 Sep 1898 in TX.

Children of Margaret Free and David Perdue are:

Barnes Elton Perdue, born 12 May 1906 in TX; died 30 Nov 1980 in Dallas, TX.
Mary Mildred Perdue, born Abt. 1909 in TX.
Albert Blackshire Perdue, born Abt. 1910 in TX.
Doria Perdue, born Abt. 1911 in TX.
Claudafay Perdue, born Abt. 1914 in TX.
David Free Perdue, born 29 May 1916 in Eastland, TX; died 06 Oct 1991 in Eastland, Eastland Co, TX.


Generation No. 3


David Free Perdue (Margaret "Maggie" Lee Free, Elbert, John M) was born 29 May 1916 in Eastland, TX, and died 06 Oct 1991 in Eastland, Eastland Co, TX.
He married (#1) Pauline Cumbie Abt. 1934 in TX, daughter of William Cumbie and Mary Stringer. She was born 02 Oct 1914 in Purvis, Erath Co., TX, and died 19 Apr 1997 in Wichita Falls, Wichita Co., TX. David was divorced from his first wife Pauline, date unknown.

He married (#2) Velma Orgee Faught on Feb 12, 1968 in Midland, TX when she was 65 years old, and David was 53. They were divorced Jun 20, 1968 in Lampasas Co., TX. This marriage lasted less than four months.

He married (#3), Julia Louis Kirk Sparks on Mar 3, 1970 in Bexar Co., TX when she was 53 years old, and David was almost 54 years old. They were divorced Jun 6, 1972 in Bexar Co., TX.

Children of David Perdue and Pauline Cumbie are:

Margaret Ann Perdue, born 25 Jul 1936 in Hutchison Co., TX.
Martha Jane Perdue, born 14 Jun 1938 in Hale Co., TX; died 13 Sep 2002 in Boston, MA.
Mary Sue Perdue, born 05 Aug 1944 in Lampasas Co., TX.
Vicki Lynn Perdue, born 28 Feb 1949 in Young Co., TX.


Generation No. 4

Martha Jane Perdue (David Free, Margaret "Maggie" Lee Free, Elbert, John M) was born 14 Jun 1938 in Hale Co., TX, and died 13 Sep 2002 in Boston, MA. She married Morgan Edward Powell 23 Nov 1957 in Archer City, Archer Co., TX, son of Walter Powell and Lytle Thomas. He was born 07 Jan 1938 in Graham, Young Co., TX.

Children of Martha Perdue and Morgan Powell are:

Lisa Karen Powell, born 31 Dec 1959 in Denton Co., TX.
Adriane Kristine Powell, born 17 Jul 1963 in Denton Co., TX.

Compiled and submitted by: E. Lynn Wright, Scottsdale, AZ

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