Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Rolandus Freet

Rolandus Freet was born 1843 in McCutcheonville, Wyandotte County, Ohio, the son of Henry (b. 1793) and Ruth (b. 1820).

By 1841 Virginia-born Henry and New York native Ruth had settled their family in Ohio and in 1850 Henry was working as a merchant and Rolandus was attending school with his siblings in Tymochtee, Wyandotte County, Ohio. By 1860 Rolandus was attending school with his siblings and living with his mother (she owned $7000 worth of real estate) in Tymochtee , Ohio. Rolandus eventually left Ohio, probably in early 1861, and moved to western Michigan.

Rolandus stood 5’3” with blue eyes, light hair and a light complexion, and was an 18-year-old cook who had just arrived in Grand Rapids from Wyandotte when he enlisted as a Musician in Company C on May 13, 1861. (Company C was made up largely of German and Dutch immigrants, many of whom lived on the west side of the Grand River in Grand Rapids. This company was the descendant of the old Grand Rapids Rifles, also known as the “German Rifles,” a prewar local militia company composed solely of German troopers.)

He was absent sick in a general hospital in October of 1862 and again in December. He was reported to be suffering from “primary syphilis” February 2-6, 1863 but was returned to duty. He was reported as absent without leave in late August of 1863, and listed as treated for gonorrhea September 22 to October 1, 1863, and again returned to duty. He eventually rejoined the Regiment and on December 21, 1863, he reenlisted at Brandy Station, Virginia, crediting Ada, Kent County, and was absent on 30 days’ veteran’s furlough in January of 1864.

He presumably returned to the Regiment on or about the first of February and was hospitalized on April 4, 1864. He remained absent sick, possibly in a hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, through May and was still absent sick when he was transferred as a Musician to Company I, Fifth Michigan infantry upon consolidation of the Third and Fifth Michigan Regiments on June 10, 1864. He was discharged from Satterlee hospital in Philadelphia and returned to duty on February 10, 1865.

On February 11, the day following his discharge from the hospital, Rolandus was arrested and charged with desertion by the Provost Marshal of the Fourth district in Philadelphia. It was alleged that Freet, who was listed as a Drummer in Company C, Third Michigan infantry, “did without proper authority absent himself from a detachment of men at Philadelphia, while on his way to Washington” from February 10 until February 11, “when he was apprehended and delivered to” the Provost Marshal. He was subsequently sent to the Prince Street military prison in Alexandria, where, on February 15 and again on March 2, Rolandus gave his statement in defense against the charges. He claimed that he served with his Regiment, the Third Michigan, until April 20, 1864, when he was taken sick at Brandy Station, Virginia. He was then

transferred to Satterlee hospital at Phila., where I remained until the 10th of February 1865, when I was discharged from the hospital to go to my Regiment. We was [sic] sent to the Baltimore depot. When we arrived there I asked the Sergt. in charge of the squad if I could go to a saloon and get something to eat. He sent a guard with me; the guard met a friend there and detained me some time. I could not leave until he came with me. When we got back to the depot the train had gone. I asked the guard what I should do. He told me that he had nothing to do with me. I then got in the Market Street cars, and on the way a man got in the cars, who wore a blouse. When I got out of the cars on 41st Street, he got out also. I felt someone tap me on the shoulder. I looked around, and this man asked me if I had not been sent to my Regt with a guard. I told him I was and that I had missed the train [and that] I was on my way to report to the hospital, to go with a squad the next day. He then arrested me . . . and took me before the Provost Marshal who committed me as a deserter and sent me to Prince Street Military Prison, Alexandria, Va. I had no intention of deserting if the guard could have let me come back to get on the train.

Rolandus was transferred to Company C, Fifth Michigan infantry on February 28 or March 1 near Petersburg, Virginia, and mustered out on July 5, 1865, at Jeffersonville, Indiana.

After the war Rolandus eventually returned to Michigan and was admitted to Harper hospital (the predecessor to the Michigan Soldiers’ Home hospital) in Detroit on July 1, 1870, with a diagnosis of “ulceration of the cornea and granulated eyelids.” By the end of the following year he had recovered and was discharged on December 10.

He was listed as single and a Protestant when he was admitted to the National Military Home at Milwaukee on June 23 or 28, 1871. Rolandus was expelled from the home on January 14, 1872, for reason(s) unknown. (Interestingly, his next-of-kin was listed as his mother, Mrs. Ruth Freet of Wyandotte. By 1880 she was reported as divorced and living in Burwick, Seneca County, Ohio.) By 1890 Rolandus was living in Delphos, Ohio. He was admitted to the southern branch, National Military Home in Hampton, Virginia, on January 14, 1893. He was reportedly suffering from or had suffered from syphilis in 1897.

In 1870 he applied for and received a pension (no. 622163), drawing $12 per month by 1891.

Rolandus was apparently admitted to the Marion, Indiana, Branch, National Military Home where he died on November 27, 1900, and was buried in the Marion National Cemetery: section 1, row 5 (or 6), no. 10.

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