Private Jan De Vreede, C Troop, 7th Cavalry – Killed in Action


Private Jan DeVreede, a thirty-two-year-old Belgium immigrant, was the only soldier from Captain Henry Jackson’s C Troop that was killed at Wounded Knee.  By December 1890 he had over four years experience with the unit and the regiment.  Like many enlisted soldiers of that period, he ran afoul of his chain of command often enough to keep him from rising to higher rank and responsibility.  Just two weeks prior to the battle DeVreede was found guilty by a summary court martial in camp at the Pine Ridge Agency and sentenced to forfeit 75¢ of his pay.  This was less than a month after he was sentenced to forfeit $3.00 at a previous court martial at Fort Riley.  DeVreede was killed at Wounded Knee when he was shot in the chest late in the battle when his unit was attempting to round up any prisoners and eliminate any remaining resistance from the ravine.[1]  He was one of the few casualties who were singled out for description by his commander during testimony at the investigation when Captain Jackson stated:

I started due west, up the bluffs, and had to travel over 2 miles to the head of the ravine. Just as we headed it, at the point where the road came in, as we were turning at the head of the ravine, I saw an Indian slide down the bank into it; I had 34 men with me of C Troop. I dismounted them to fight on foot and surrounded the head of the ravine; after we closed up on it, the firing began both from my men and some Indians, and we fought there, gradually closing in, and I sent Lieut. Donaldson and some men to cut off their retreat down the ravine. The Indians were in a hole under the bank, and we could only see the points of their guns, and I thought, from the looks of the place, that it held only one or two Indians. In the fight one of my men was killed.[2]

Captain Jackson's inventory of Private DeVreede's personal effects states that he died from a gunshot wound to the chest.

Captain Jackson’s inventory of Private DeVreede’s personal effects states that he died from a gunshot wound to the chest.

Jan DeVreede enlisted on Dec. 2, 1886 at Jersey City, New Jersey, by Lt. Vroom for a five-year term. Born at Antwerp, Belgium, he was a twenty-eight-year-old laborer with blue eyes, fair hair, a fair complexion, and stood five and a half feet in height.  Little else is recorded of Jan DeVreede in military, census or immigration records.  His personal effects were disposed of by a council of administration, likely by selling the items to fellow soldiers, and the $8.25 collected was turned over to the paying agent.  Captain Jackson made no mention of any family, and DeVreede’s only personal belongings other than clothing items was a deck of cards and poker chips.[3]

Private Jan DeVreede was buried in the cemetery adjacent to the Episcopal Church at the Pine Ridge Agency on New Year’s Eve two days after the battle.  In October 1906, his remains along with those of twenty-seven of his comrades from the 7th Cavalry Regiment were moved to Fort Riley and buried in the post cemetery.[4]

Private Jan DeVreede is buried in the Fort Riley Post Cemetery.[5]

Endnotes

[1] Adjutant General’s Officer, “7th Cavalry, Troop C, Jan. 1885 – Dec. 1897,” Muster Rolls of Regular Army Organizations, 1784 –  Oct. 31, 1912, Record Group 94, (Washington: National Archives Record Administration).
[2] National Archives Microfilm Publications, “Reports and Correspondence Related to the Army Investigations of the Battle at Wounded Knee and to the Sioux Campaign of 1890–1891.” (Washington: The National Archives and Records Service, General Services Administration, 1975), Roll 1, Target 3, Jan. 1891, 687-689.
[3] Ancestry.com, U.S. Army, Register of Enlistments, 1798-1914 [database on-line], Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2007, Record Year Range: 1885-1890, Surname Letter Range: A-D, Image: 281, Line: 430; National Archives, Final statements of deceased soldiers of the U.S. Infantry during and after the Civil War, Digitized from NARA textual records, Record Group 94.
[4] National Archives and Records Administration, Burial Registers of Military Posts and National Cemeteries, compiled ca. 1862-ca. 1960, Archive Number: 44778151, Series: A1 627, Record Group Title: Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, 1774-1985, Record Group Number: 92.
[5] Jana Mitchell, photo., “Jan DeVreede,” FindAGrave, http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=59153005 accessed 27 Jan 2014.

Citation for this article: Samuel L. Russell, “Private Jan De Vreede, C Troop, 7th Cavalry – Killed in Action,” Army at Wounded Knee (Sumter, SC: Russell Martial Research, 2013-2014, http://wp.me/p3NoJy-p7), posted 27 Jan 2014, accessed __________.

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About Sam Russell

I am a fifth-generation Army officer with over twenty-eight years of commissioned service. I have been researching the frontier Army for over fifteen years and am interested in documenting the lives of the soldiers that participated in the battle of Wounded Knee using primarily official reports, diaries, letters, newspaper articles and other primary source documents. My interest in Wounded Knee stems from my kinship to one of the principal participants. I am the great-great-grandson of Samuel M. Whitside, who was a major and battalion commander at the battle. I welcome and encourage comments on posts and pages and am always interested in any new primary sources. If you have copies of letters, diaries, etc, from participants and are willing to share, please contact me. Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog are strictly my own, and should in no way be construed as official Army or U.S. Government positons.
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