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Alva Cleveland Diary,

Identifier: Ms-2009-113

Scope and Contents

The collection contains Alva Cleveland's diary from March to July 1862. In the back pocket of the diary are several sewing needles and a lock of brown hair. The diary does not indentify whose hair it is.

Cleveland writes that he and George enlisted to "take up arms in defense of that liberty that our fathers fought to Establish (sic)." Due to his position as orderly, however, Cleveland appears to have done little actual fighting. He was most often at the rear of the regiment, tending to and assisting in moving the sick and wounded when the camp moved. He frequently writes of staying behind as the mobile portion of the regiment moves forward and, when they are separated, notes his concern for his young son.

Cleveland's diary entries are lengthy narratives on camp life, moving camps and marches, records of letters and money sent to and from home, and most commmonly, stories of people he meets along the way. He tells detailed stories of positive and negative encounters with Union and Confederate supporters. Although Cleveland prvides some accounts of skirmishes, he does not record any particular battles or battle reports.


  • 1862

Language of Materials

The materials in the collection are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open to research.

Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use

The copyright status of this collection is unknown. Copyright restrictions may apply. Contact Special Collections and University Archives for assistance in determining the use of these materials. Reproduction or digitization of materials for personal or research use can be requested using our reproduction/digitization form: Reproduction or digitization of materials for publication or exhibit use can be requested using our publication/exhibition form: Please contact Special Collections and University Archives ( or 540-231-6308) if you need assistance with forms or to submit a completed form.

Biographical Note

Alva Cleveland was born in Cherry Valley, New York, to Philo and Hannah (Miller) Cleveland, March 13, 1805. On January 24, 1831, he married Maria (Mary) Austin (b. 1809), in Skaneateles, New York. They had eight children: Elvira (Alvira) (b.1832), Edwin (1834-1835), Elvin (Alvin) (1836-1854), Mary (b. 1839), Henry Harrison (b. 1842), Emma (1844-1846), Sarah Maria (b. 1846), and George Washington (1849-1885). Between 1836 and 1840, the family moved to Cook County, Illinois. By 1849, they relocated to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Cleveland appears to have worked for the United States Postal Service in Wisconsin.

Cleveland and his two sons enlisted for Union service in the first years of the war. Cleveland, at the age of 56, enlisted with Company E, 1st Regiment, Wisconsin Infantry, on October 23, 1861. He served as an orderly. George Washington Cleveland, who figures prominently in his father's diary, enlisted as a drummer with the same company at the age of 12. Alva Cleveland and his younger son were both discharged on November 8, 1862, due to an unspecified disability. Henry Harrison Cleveland mustered in with the 10th Independent Battery, Wisconsin Light Infantry, August 19, 1862. He mustered out on June 7, 1865. Following his discharge, Alva Cleveland returned home to Wisconsin. He died between 1880 and 1885.

Historical Note

The 1st Regiment, Wisconsin Infantry organized at Camp Scott, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in October 1861. The regiment spent most of its service in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Georgia. During the period Cleveland is writing, the regiment was predominantly around Nashville and Columbia, Tennessee. The regiment later went on to participate in a number of significant battles including Chattanooga, Chickamauga, and New Hope Church. Veterans and recruits transferred to the 21st Regiment, Wisconsin Infantry in October 1864. The remainder of the unit mustered out.

For further diaries of the Cleveland family and information on Wisconsin and the Civil War, see the Wisconsin Historical Society Library and Archives. Wisconsin Historical has transcriptions of diaries belonging to Alva and Henry Harrison Cleveland.


0.1 Cubic Feet (1 folder)


The collection contains the diary of Alva Cleveland, a 57-year-old soldier who served as an orderly with the 1st Regiment, Wisconsin Infantry. The diary covers March to July 1862 while Cleveland's regiment was stationed around Nashville, Tennessee, and in northern Alabama.


The collection is arranged by material type.

Source of Acquisition

The Alva Cleveland Diary was purchased by Special Collections in June 2009.

Alternate Form Available

This collection has been digitized and is available online.

Related Archival Material

Cleveland's diary makes reference to a previous diary, kept in 1861. A transcript of this first diary, along with a photocopy of a portrait of Alva and George Washington Cleveland, is housed at the Wisconsin Historical Society. A brief description can be found online.


This collection has been digitized and is available online.

Rights Statement for Archival Description

The guide to the Alva Cleveland Diary by Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech, is licensed under a CC0 (

Processing Information

The processing, arrangement, and description of the Alva Cleveland Diary commenced and was completed in August 2009.

A Guide to the Alva Cleveland Diary, 1962
Kira A. Dietz
2009 (CC0 1.0)
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English

Revision Statements

  • 2020-11-06: Finding aid updated to new department standards. juliags

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech Repository

Special Collections and University Archives, University Libraries (0434)
560 Drillfield Drive
Newman Library, Virginia Tech
Blacksburg Virginia 24061 US