Fallen Heroes: Private Daniel F. Freed

If you have read any of my previous Fallen Heroes posts you know that many of the heroes profiled do not die on the battlefield. Accidents and disease occur that take the lives of those prepared to sacrifice it in the service of their country. Sometimes the most heart wrenching losses occur shortly after a soldier has returned to the perceived safety of home. This is one of those stories.

Daniel Francis Freed (1895-1920) was a third-generation coal miner when he volunteered for the 10th Infantry Regiment, Ohio National Guard in June 1917. His coal mining father, also named Daniel Freed (1868-1948), had moved to Ohio in his childhood with his father. The elder Daniel married Ada Lauver (1865-1944) in 1891 and the couple had seven children. The family lived in Dennison where, as a teenager, the younger Daniel would work odd jobs during his teen years.

Daniel Freed served briefly in the 10th Infantry Regiment Ohio National Guard during the summer of 1917 and registered for the draft when he was discharged from the unit in June 1917. He was working for a coal company in Lorain County when he registered for the draft but continued to list Dennison as his hometown. Eventually, in April 1918, Daniel was drafted and assigned to Company G, 308th Ammunition Train and sent to Camp Sherman in Chillicothe, Ohio.

Company G, 308th Ammunition Train, Camp Sherman, Ohio, 1918. Private Daniel Freed is somewhere in this image. (Source: https://ohiomemory.org/digital/collection/p16007coll51/id/5452/)

Ammunition trains were units during World War One that handled transporting the ammunition from the ammunition storage depots to wherever units were actively engaged. The term “train” did not mean a literal train, but any means of conveying ammunition to the front. During World War One this was often carried out using horse or mule drawn vehicles. The Army trained Daniel Freed as a Wagoner; the soldier assigned to driving those wagons.

Daniel Freed, and the rest of the 308th Ammunition Train departed for the battlefields of France in June 1918. Upon the unit’s arrival in France they were assigned to a depot division, and further training, in Nogent-en-Baissigny, France. Not surprisingly, given the nature of their mission, the unit was moved around the theater of operations a great deal during the summer of 1918. That summer and fall the unit served during the Aisne-Marne operation, the Oise-Aisne operation, and the Meuse-Argonne offensive. After Germany’s capitulation, the unit was one of the first to enter and occupy German territory.

A United States Army Ammunition Train struggling through the mud in France, c. 1918. (Source: https://www.loc.gov/item/2016652677/)

Daniel Freed was hospitalized shortly after the Meuse-Argonne offensive (for reasons unrecorded) and he was well enough by January 1919 to return, along with the rest of the 308th Ammunition Train, to the United States on board the USS Orizaba. The unit went by rail, passing through Dennison, on its way to Camp Sherman, Ohio. The army discharged him from the 308th in early May 1919 and, soon after, he returned home to Dennison.

The summer of 1920 Daniel Freed was working in S.A. Little’s coal mine located on the South Water Street extension in Uhrichsville, Ohio. One hot July day, while Daniel and his fellow miners worked, the roof of the mine collapsed and buried Daniel in at least 8 feet of dirt and coal. The other two miners were able to escape, but Daniel was killed instantly. He was engaged to be married the following week. Daniel Freed survived the bullets, shells and disease of the Western Front only to die in a Tuscarawas County coal mine a year later. He is buried in Union Cemetery in Uhrichsville, Ohio.

Coal miner, c. 1920, using a pick to mine coal in a tight spot. (Source: https://www.loc.gov/resource/cph.3b24670/)

If you are interested in reading another local soldier’s account of his service in the 308th Ammunition Train, click here.

© Noel B. Poirier, 2021.


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