1864: John W. Cleland to Mary Jane (“Jennie”) Cleland

How John W. Cleland might have looked

How John W. Cleland might have looked

This letter was written by Corporal John W. Cleland (1843-18xx) who enlisted in Company F, 111th Ohio Ohio Infantry in September 1862 at age 19. He was promoted to 1st Sergeant in March 1863. In April 1864, Sgt. Cleland was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant and in May 1865 to 1st Lieutenant. He was mustered out of the service with his company in June 1865 at Salisbury, North Carolina. After the war, I believe John moved to Decatur, Illinois.

John Cleland (1843-18xx) was the son of Arthur Cleland (1803-18xx) and Mary Clark (1814-18xx) of Defiance County, Ohio. Arthur was born in Killy Leagh Parish, County Down, Ireland, and came to the United States with his parents in 1817, arriving on the schooner Vigilant. They landed at Wilmington, Delaware, and first resided at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, before moving to Jefferson County, Ohio.

John wrote this letter to his sister, Mary Jane (“Jennie”) Cleland (1841-18xx) from Strawberry Plains, Tennessee.

Image 40

Addressed to Miss Jennie Cleland, Arrowsmiths, Defiance County, Ohio

Strawberry Plains, Tennessee
March 20th 1864

Dear Sister,

A sentry guards the bridge over the Holston River at Strawberry Plains, TN (1863)

A sentry guards the bridge over the Holston River at Strawberry Plains, TN (1863)

Once more I address you from Strawberry Plains. Since I last wrote home we have been up the railroad as far as Morristown. My last to James was written at New Market. A week ago yesterday the army moved from New Market and Mossy Creek to Morristown. The distance between New Market and Morristown is 18 miles. The next day after we got to Morristown, they had a little fight. Nothing but cavalry engaged, I believe. The rebs got whipped and had to to leave their dead on the field. There were 9 rebs that lay there on Monday evening unburied. None of our men were killed. Some few wounded.

The army stayed at Morristown until last Thursday. The 9th Army Corps were ordered away from the Dept. and Friday the balance of the army were ordered to fall back to Mossy Creek and yesterday the 4th Army Corps came back to this place and Gen. Schofield moved his headquarters to this place. This morning the 4th Corps started up the [Holston] River on this (west) side. I could not tell where they are going. It is supposed to a station about 16 or 18 miles from here to keep the rebs from flanking us.

We are in a kind of independent position at present. When we left New Market for Morristown, we knew before we started where we were going and when we came back, we had 19 prisoners to bring so we started at daylight, took the railroad back so as not to be with the other troops. We got back to New Market a little after noon, went to our house there again. Next day we came down here having sent our prisoners off on the train when we were at Morristown. We sent some prisoners to Knoxville most everyday. I was down a day or so before we left. We have no prisoners to guard at present. All we have to do is to guard headquarters which requires 9 men a day.

In your last you spoke of a piece of paper being in one of James’ letters telling him about my warrant. I will tell you how that came last fall just before I left the hospital at Louisville. I thought I would send it home so I put it in an envelope and directed it to James but did not seal it at the time and afterwards concluded not to send it. I put it in my portfolio where it stayed until a short time ago. At Knoxville I concluded to use that envelope and forgot to take that paper out. This will account for my speaking of being in the hospital. I have been as well and hearty this spring and last winter as I ever was in my life.

A sentry guards the bridge over Holston River at Strawberry Plains, TN (1863)

A sentry guards the bridge over Holston River at Strawberry Plains, TN (1863)

Morning of 21st.

I received a letter from James last night — No. 33 — dated March 6th. He said you had not got any letters from me for about three weeks. They must have been miscarried for I have written about once a week wit the exception of the time we moved up from Knoxville. Then I had no paper along with me. James said in his letter that I received last night that you had sent my things by Harry Sweet but I do not think he has started yet for Capt. got a certificate from the doctor up there stating that he would not be able for duty for 30 days longer. The certificate was dated March 9th. Such a certificate does not amount to anything more than that he should have sent it to the hospital where he got his furlough as we do not have anything to do with him here until he is dismissed from the hospital or reports to the company in person. I think he is taking a good long stay.

I do not think there will be anything done in this department now for awhile. The 9th Army Corps has left. The 4th and 23rd is all that is left. The 23rd is at Mossy Creek 4 miles above New Market. The 4th is on this side of the [Holston] River. I am glad to learn that Gen. Grant has command of all our armies now.

Ohio Gov. John Brough

Ohio Gov. John Brough

James spoke in his letter about an order issued by Gov. [John] Brough about promotions. We received it some time ago. It makes some difference in arrangements in our regiment. Sergt. Works received notice from Columbus a few days ago that he would not be promoted at present. I will reserve the rest of the story for another time. No 2nd Lt.  commissions has come on yet.

The weather is quite cool here at present for the time of year. I believe I will quit for the present. When you write, direct to: Jno. W. Cleland, Provost Guard at Headquarters, Dept. of the Ohio, In care of Capt. Jno. E. Hill

P. S. If you cannot send those things of mine by any person soon, just keep them and I guess maybe I will go up and get them.

— J. W. Cleland


About Griff

My passion is studying American history leading up to & including the Civil War. I particularly enjoy reading, transcribing & researching primary sources such as letters and diaries. View all posts by Griff

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