Sunday, September 21, 2014

52 Ancestors #37 - Revolutionary War Surgeon

Originally published in July, 2012 ~

Dr. James Freeland is my 5th great-grandfather. He lived and practiced in Sutton, Massachusetts. My 4th great-grandfather Dr. Timothy Carter trained with him and became his son-in-law when he married Dr. Freeland's daughter, Frances. Dr. Freeland lived in the northern part of Sutton that became the town of Millbury in the early 1800s. 

Showing James Freeland, surgeon in the First Brigade of the Continental Army
Col. Ebenezer Learned
An overview of the service of James Freeland
I found several sources of information relating to Dr. James Freeland's service during the Revolutionary War period. The pamphlet Jonathan Holman, a revolutionary colonel provides some context for the early war period. If you really want to stretch the familial bonds, Jonathan Holman is my half 3rd cousin, 8 times removed! 

"In comparison with other towns of Worcester County at the beginning of the struggle for American Independence, the old town of Sutton stands well. Resistance to British aggression had often been contemplated by the hardy yeoman of this hill-crowned island town. Within her borders were many veterans of the old French war who had done valiant service at Crown Point, Lake George, and had seen the standards of France go down before the victorious army of England...Hopes of better things had led him [Joonathan Holman] with others to wait for wrong to be righted, but the hand of oppression was not to be easily shaken off. the clouds of a coming storm gathered thick and fast as the months rolled on. Before the shot was fired whose echo spread far and wide, the men of old Sutton stood ready for the call. It came at last, and the minute men of the North and South Parishes saddled their steeds and spurred for Lexington. they had been tutored by one who knew by experience the grim-visaged war meant death to many strong brave hearts. That tutor was Jonathan Holman." 

Ebenezer Learned is my first cousin, 8 times removed

A firm friend of Col. Holman at this time was Ebenezer Learned of Oxford, who, though connected to the patriot cause, bravely espoused the side of freedom. With Jonathan Holman he had bravely fought in the war with France, and had participated in the glory that came by the conquest of Canada. In 1775, Learned was early in the field. As a trusted officer for the regiment which he had organized he sought Jonathan Holman; the latter was chosen major, and the others he threw a line of brave hearts at Bunker Hill to shield patriot homes near that shrine of liberty. For several months Holman served in the region of Boston, preparing for the great conflict he saw was sure to come. An occasional visit to his home in Sutton was made, to look after the business interests intrusted [sic] to others.

From what I've pieced together, James Freeland served several short enlistments and also participated in town affairs relating to the war efforts. He started in 1775 at Roxbury and then went to Rhode Island, the unit was then during the siege of Boston, his unit was stationed on Dorchester Heights until the British evacuated the city. His final active service came when his regiment was ordered to New York to assist in the Battle of Saratoga. After the British surrendered, he went back to Sutton. Also from the Jonathan Holman paper: 

In 1776 Boston was evacuated. In the Rhode Island Plantations this year the regiment of Holman did effective service with other troops from Massachusetts. Gen. William Heath of Massachusetts had been ordered to New York. On the 30th of March he arrived in that city, and under the date of July 17th he writes as follows in his diary; 'A regiment of militia, under the command of Col. Holman, arrived from Massachusetts.' Thus we find the whereabouts of our hero at that time. On 27th of August of that year his regiment received a baptism of fire near New York that steeled its men for harder conflicts to follow. the result was disastrous to the American arms but the spirit of liberty yet burned bright in the men from Worcester County and elsewhere.In October the regiment of Holman met the foe at White Plains. Although no great advantage was gained, it nobly bore its part in the fray. The entire command of the Sutton officer received the commendations of his superiors.

There were a number of documents where he was listed as the doctor who certified someone unfit for service. This is for his Col. Ebenezer Learned and shows Dr. Sutton's signature. 

From Centennial History of the Town of Millbury (bold is mine):

On March 1, 1779, Ebenezer Waters, John Elliot and Nehemiah Gale were chosen on the "Committee of Correspondence, Inspection and Safety." On June 21, Lieut. William King, Ensign Nathaniel Carriel, Lieut. Joseph Elliot, Jr., Samuel Waters, deacon Willie Hall, John Harbeck, Joseph Waters, Dr. James Freeland, James Bond, Nehemiah Gale, and deacon Asa Waters were chosen as a committee "to procure men to serve in the Continental Army. 

On April 10, Lieut. William King, Ensign Nathaniel Carriel, Lieut. Joseph Elliot, Jr., Mr.Samuel Waters, deacon Willie Hall, Mr. John Harback, Mr. Joseph Waters, Dr. James Freeland, Mr. Jonas Bond, Nehemiah Gale, and deacon Asa Waters were chosen as a committee to settle with the nine-months men, since their time had nearly expired.

On May 1, Dea. Tarrant Putnam, Lieut. Wm. King, deacon Asa Waters, Capt. March Chase, Col. Jonathan Holman, Col. Timothy Sibley, Elder Jeremiah Barstow, Dr. James Freeland, and Elder Daniel Greenwood wee selected as a committee "to consider the Constitution and make a report to the Town of what they do approve of and what they do not approve of." - I am assuming this is the Constitution for the state of Massachusetts since the national Constitution was still about a decade away from being written.

A requisition was made upon Sutton for thirty-three thousand six hundred forty pounds of beef. Capt. March Chase, Mr. John Hall, and Mr. Moses Hovey were chosen as a committee to purchase the amount and fifty thousand, four hundred sixty pounds were appropriated to meet the expense. At nearly the same time a call came from the General Court asking the town to furnish thirty-one men to serve for three years in the Continental Army or during the war. Col. Timothy Sibley, Capt. Abijah Burbank, Capt. John Putnam, Capt. Andrew Elliot, Lieut. Solomon Leland, Mr. Abraham Batchellor, Jr., Dr. James Freeland and Mr. Ebenezer Waters were chosen as a committee "to class out the town into classes in order to procure the thirty-one men for the Continental Army." At an adjourned meeting, the town "voted that if any person in any of the classes refuses to pay his proportion as assessed in the class he belongs to he shall be assessed his proportion as he was in said class and half as much more."  - I guess that's one way to get people to pay their taxes!

Dr. Freeland died in 1796 and is buried with his wife, Mehitable (Mellen) Freeland in the Dwinnel Cemetery in Millbury. This is from the Centennial of the Town of Millbury:

The Dwinnel cemetery is located close to the northerly road running from Millbury to Auburn, about a mile from the Greenwood Crossing of the Providence & Worcester Railroad. This quiet spot is the resting place of many members of early families, including Revolutionary soldiers, both officers and privates, as well as soldiers in other wars. the place is now but little used. Among the soldiers of the Revolution here buried are Solomon Dwinnel, Joshua Carter, Robert Goddard, Dr. James Freeland, Capt. James Greenwood, the Hollands, the Bancrofts, and the Bonds. the place was neglected until 1861, when on June 21st, the proprietors deeded it to the town for one hundred dollars ($100). " 

Dr. James Freeland died Oct 5, 1796, aged 52
Mehitable, wife of Dr.James Freeland, died March 1792, aged 44

Sources: - images of records relating to Dr. James Freeland's service
Centennial history of the town of Millbury, Massachusetts including vital statistics, 1850-1899. Published under the direction of a committee appointed by the town. 1915. Accessed 2012 on Open Library.
Jonathan Holman, a revolutionary colonel. A paper read before the Worcester society of antiquity, December 5th, 1893. by John C. Crane. 1884. Accessed 2012 on Open Library

Dr. James Freeland & Mehitable Mellen
Dr.Timothy Carter & Frances Freeland
Elias Mellen Carter & Rebecca Ann Williamson
Augustus Mellen Carter & Rebecca Williamson
Edward Mellen Carter & Fannie May Capen
T. Richard Carter - my grandfather

Ebenezer Learned - son of Col. Ebenezer Learned, Sr.; son of Isaac Learned, Jr. - my 8th great-grandfather - a branch of my Carter line

Jonathan Holman's great-great grandfather was the second husband of my 10th great-grandmother, Amy Glass - a branch of my Cotton line.


  1. Hello,
    I believe we may be related about 8 generations back. My direct relative is Jeremiah, younger brother of Ebenezer. Found your blog by accident today.

    Pam (Learned) Kemp

    1. It's great to find a cousin! Thanks for leaving me a comment. I'm glad you happened to find my blog.

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