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Alva Cleveland Diary

Identifier: Ms-2009-113

Scope and Content

The collection contains Alva Cleveland's diary from March to July 1862 during the American Civil War. 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

The collection is open for 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 American Civil 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.

Administrative History

The 1st Regiment, Wisconsin Infantry organized at Camp Scott, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in October 1861 during the American Civil War. The Union regiment spent most of its service in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Georgia. During the period when Alva 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 information on Wisconsin and the Civil War, see the Wisconsin Historical Society Library and Archives.


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.

Source of Acquisition

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

Related Archival Materials

Alva 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. The WHS also has the diaries of Henry Harrison Cleveland.

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.

Alva Cleveland Diary, 1962
Kira A. Dietz, Archivist
2009 (CC0 1.0)
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

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