1862: John W. Cleland to Mary J. (“Jennie”) Cleland

How John may have looked
How John may have looked

John W. Cleland was born to Arthur and Mary Cleland on June 8, 1843 in Ohio. He was one of four children: James (born about 1836), Mary J. (born about 1841), William (born about 1848), and Margaret (born about 1852).

John Cleland enlisted in Company F of the 111th Ohio Infantry on September 5, 1862. He was promoted several times: to First Sergeant on March 5, 1863, to Second Lieutenant on April 12, 1864, and to First Lieutenant on May 2, 1865. His unit served in Kentucky, in East Tennessee (including the Battle of Knoxville), and in the Atlanta campaign. Cleland mustered out on June 27, 1865 in Salisbury, North Carolina. He returned to Ohio and married Celinda J. Hughes on May 16, 1867. Two of the couple’s children survived infancy: Minnie A. and Arthur B. The family moved to Nevada, Missouri and then to Decatur, Illinois, where John Cleland died suddenly of a heart attack on April 29, 1912.

Two other letters written in January 1863 by Corp. John W. Cleland may be found at 1863: John W. Cleland to Mary J. Cleland.

1862 Letter
1862 Letter

Addressed to Miss Mary J. Cleland, Arrowsmith’s P. O., Defiance Co., Ohio
Postmarked Bowling Green, KY

About 23 miles from Bowling Green [Ky]
October 28th 1862

Dear Sister!

I received your letter a week ago last Monday (the 20th) at Crab Orchard and we left that day and have been going every day since and I have not had an opportunity to answer it and as we are a little later starting this morning than usual, I thought I would commence one and try to finish it by the time we get to Bowling Green so that I can send it there. We have not got any mail since we left Crab Orchard. We have only received mail three times since we left Louisville — once at Shelbyville, once at Frankfort, and once at Crab Orchard. we cannot get mail regular until we stop.

I do not expect to stop long at any place until we get to Nashville, Tennessee. We may stay a few days at Bowling Green. It is supposed we are on our way to Nashville. We went back from Crab Orchard to Danville and round around by Lebanon. We did not go through Lebanon but we went within about two miles of there. We perhaps will get our overcoats at Bowling Green. We have not drawed them yet and we have not had any tents since we left Louisville. We had about two or three inches of snow yesterday morning. It snowed Saturday night but it all went off Sunday and the weather is quite warm again this morning although it is cool at nights. I understood that you had snow  up there a good spell ago. I suppose it is colder there than here.

Sleeping out without tents has not agreed with some of the boys very well. We have 15 or more back one place and another, some at Louisville, some at Frankfort, some at Danville, and some at Lebanon, and I suppose there are some at Bowling Green for yesterday some that were not very well were stopped at Mumfordsville and were to be sent to Bowling Green by railroad. I saw the first train of cars yesterday running that I have saw since I have been in Kentucky.

I am well and have stood the tramp so far very well. I have got to be a musician. Samuel Hughes stayed at Frankfort with his brother who was sick and with the Fife Major’s consent, I take his place until he comes back. I maybe will get to learn to play the pipe by it. Besides that, I do not have to carry gun, cartridge box, ammunition &c., and get my knapsack hauled into the bargain. And taking all these things into consideration, I think it will pay better to be a musician at twelve dollars a month than private or corporal at thirteen. When Sam comes up again (if he ever does), i expect I will have to go into the ranks again. I do not know. I would much rather be a musician, I think, as we don’t have any gun to take care of or anything to do — only on march or parade — and they never play more than two or three times a day when marching. I only took this place day before yesterday.

You said in your letter that if I wanted any more homemade socks to let you know and you would send them if you had a chance. I do not suppose you will have an opportunity now. If you had sent a pair with Foot, they would have come very good as I only had one pair then. I thought when I left home I had two pair with me but when we came down to Covington and I went to take my things out of my satchel to put in my knapsack, there was no socks in it. But I bought a pair at Frankfort. If you have an opportunity to send a pair in course of a month or two, they might be very good. If not, I can get army socks.

If you have an opportunity of sending anything, send a pair of gloves and a pair of suspenders would be very good. Such things are very dear here and hard to begot. If you send socks, send a darning needle and some yarn.

I have not been homesick since I have been in the army. Do not expect to but we would be very glad to hear of peace being declared. So would everyone that is in the army (with a few exceptions) but I feel contented that I enlisted and have never been sorry that I did. It has been reported in camp within a few days than an extra session of Congress had been called. I do not know why Congress should be called now as it is nearly time for the regular session unless there is some business that is very urging.

If we go to Nashville, we may get to see the 21st [Ohio] Regiment.

When we were at Crab Orchard, I wrote to [brother] James. He said in his letter to mention any changes in commanding officers. I did not do it in his letter — I forgot it. We have been changed around so much that it is hard to keep track of it. We are now in the 38th Brigade and 10th Division. We are still under Chapin as Brigadier General and we are under Major General Granger and in M. Cook’s Corps.

He is quite smart
He is quite a smart fellow for a negro. He can sing songs, tell stories, and dance like everything.

I told you in the letter that I wrote from Shelbyville about our orderly and Work’s having a negro and horse — (a train is just now passing near our camp. The railroad runs close by.) — but to go on with my story. The morning we left Shelbyville the negro was stolen and the horse was stolen at Frankfort. Capt., Lieutenants, and Orderly have one now for to cook for them. He has been in the Secesh army about 14 months and ran away from them and came to us. He is quite a smart fellow for a negro. He can sing songs, tell stories, and dance like everything.

You said Cozin Lewis Browning was a volunteer in Kentucky. If you can find out what regiment he is in, let me know, we may come together sometime. Every once in awhile we come across a fellow that we used to be acquainted with. The other day I happened to come across George Pembroke. He is in the 30th Indiana Regiment — the fellow you know that used to live at Solomon Callender’s.

We are going to start again as soon as convenient. When Foot was down, he lent me two dollars. I spoke about it in James’ letter but I thought I would mention it in this as that might not go and this might. Tell them to make it right with Foot. No more at present.

Your brother, — J. W. Cleland

Direct to Co. F, 111th [Ohio] Regiment, in care of the Capt. [John E. Hill], 38th Brigade, 10th Division, Ky.


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