Private Freeling Hisen Baker, Co. H
Freeling Hisen Baker was the youngest son of Eligah Baker and Sarah "Sally" Polley. He did not go off to fight early in the war as did the rest of his brothers and cousins; he may have been between fifteen and seventeen years old. When Eligah was murdered by bushwhackers, Freeling may have been on hand when the awful deed occurred. Family oral tradition relates that Freeling was the son who identified the men whom had murdered his father. He joined the 39th either the same day that Andy joined or two days later. In either event, I believe that Eligah's murder took place sometime shortly before Andy and Freeling joined the Union.
The legend states that the Bakers and their neighbors and relatives from Knox Creek all joined the Union after Eligah and another old man named Justus were murdered. I believe that this is the group of men who joined on Dec. 27-29, 1862. They hunted down the men whom were responsible and it is said that those men lie in numerous unmarked and anonymous graves on the hillsides around Knox Creek.
There is a story told about a soldier in the 39th who kept a list of his personal enemies. Whenever his company was not engaged on an official "scout," he would gather up a few of his friends and relatives and get permission to go out and scout on his own. Each time he came back, he would show his list and another name would be crossed off it. Though I don't believe that this was Freeling, it was probably not an isolated incident.
However, there may be a connection to this tale. Freeling was listed as on "detached service" during May and June of 1864. During this same month, his brothers Andy and James deserted the 39th to join Company H of the 10th Kentucky Cavalry, C.S.A., commanded by Hiram Justus. In this company were many of the Bakers' relatives: the Justuses, Smiths, Blankenships, Dotsons, and Esteps. I believe that the Bakers and their kin may have joined this company for the very specific reason of hunting down the group of lawless scoundrels who were responsible for the death of Eligah. Remember that several of them had taken their Enfield rifles with them. Some of these fellows returned to the 39th by December when the 10th Kentucky Cavalry was ordered out of the state.
Freeling married Rachel Markham after the war and moved to Washington state. His first wife died and he married again. Their son Eugene served in the First World War and suffered severely from shell-shock or gas poisoning.
Robert M. Baker
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