William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan
Finding aid for
Octavius Leland Diaries, 1863-1865
James S. Schoff Civil War CollectionFinding aid created by
Rob Cox, 1992, and Shannon Wait, 2010
Octavius Leland diaries
Leland, Octavius, 1822-1865
The Octavius Leland diaries contain entries concerning Leland's service in Company C of the 10th Minnesota Infantry, 1863-1865.
The material is in English
William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Web Site: www.clements.umich.edu
Access and Use
The collection is open for research.
Copyright status is unknown
Cataloging funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the "We the People" project.
Octavius Leland Diaries, James S. Schoff Civil War Collection, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan
The two volumes of diaries are arranged chronologically.
Rank : Musc.
Regiment : 10th Minnesota Infantry Regiment. Co. C. (1862-1865)
Service : 1862 August 15-1865 August 12
Octavius Leland was born July 1, 1822, in Cavendish, Vermont, the son of Otis Leland and Nancy Spaulding. In 1845, he married schoolteacher Adeline P. Burnham (1822-1853) of Johnson, Vermont. They had two sons, George (1849-1931) and Fred (1851-1852), before Adeline died in 1853 at the age of 30. In 1854, Leland married Martha Hayden, and they moved to Racine, Wisconsin, in 1855, followed by a short stint on a farm Illinois in 1858-1859. Octavius and Martha had two children: Willard (b. 1857) and Flora (b. 1859).
In April 1860, the family settled on a farm in Elgin, Minnesota. Against the wishes of his wife, and at the age of 40, Leland enlisted for three years in Company C of the 10th Minnesota Infantry on August 15, 1862. In addition to his regular duties, he played the fife in the regimental band. On March 27, 1863, his wife died of an illness while he was stationed at Fort Snelling. After a brief furlough, he headed south with his regiment to Benson Barracks in St. Louis, Missouri, in October 1863, leaving his three children at home. In St. Louis, his band played at various political and military functions, and Leland had enough time on his hands to carve rings out of bone to sell as souvenirs.
Beginning in May 1864, the 10th Minnesota was sent to a series of camps in Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama. Leland took part in some minor engagements with guerillas, as well as in the Battle of Nashville, the siege of Spanish Fort, and the capture and ransacking of Fort Blakely. Although Leland was plagued by near-constant illness, his repeated requests for a discharge were denied. He died of the effects of chronic diarrhea on August 12, 1865, six days before he was to be mustered out.
Collection Scope and Content Note
The Octavius Leland diaries contain two volumes of near daily entries, spanning October 6, 1863, to June 20, 1865. The two volumes contain a total of 232 written pages. The first volume covers October 6, 1863-September 12, 1864, and the second volume spans September 13, 1864-June 20, 1865. Volume one, which includes 23 newspaper clippings in its front pocket, begins with Leland's travel by train from Elgin, Minnesota, to the barracks at St. Louis, Missouri, during which time, his bag, flute, clothing, and personal effects were stolen. Entries for October 1863-May 1864 describe Leland's time in St. Louis, including his concerts with the regimental band, visits to the city, and military duties. On November 10, 1863, he gave an account of his first visit to downtown St. Louis; he noted with awe the newly built Lindell Hotel with "cars that run to every room," and enjoyed the view of the city from the dome on top of the courthouse. On January 18, 1864, he described a visit to a St. Louis "museum," where he saw a bearded woman and the "Albino Twins of black parents."
Despite the theft of his flute, Leland mentioned playing in several band performances, including the funeral march of "Maj. Brown" (November 7, 1863) and a commemoration of the Battle of Pea Ridge (March 8, 1864). During the latter performance, he was pleased by a "general waiving [sic] of handkerchiefs from the ladies" as he played through the streets. However, on June 1, 1864, a doctor advised him to "quit blowing the fife for awhile" in order to halt dizziness and fainting spells.
During his time in St. Louis, Leland's military responsibilities were light, and allowed him time to sell fruit and carved rings to make extra money (March 9, 1864). By May 1864, however, Leland's regiment was sent to a series of camps in Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama, taking part in some minor engagements with guerillas and with Forrest's cavalry, in the Battle of Nashville, the defense of Memphis during Forrest's raid, and the Siege of Mobile and capture of Fort Blakely. The most notable aspect of Leland's service, however, was his long and ultimately unsuccessful bout with disease. He suffered particularly after July 1864; the second volume of Leland's diary chronicles near constant sickness, including diarrhea and respiratory problems. Too weak for duty much of the time, Leland was assigned to assist ambulance personnel, and to other support roles for the regiment. Despite the length and evident severity of his sickness, his requests for a discharge were repeatedly denied, and his Captain apparently believed that he was attempting to shirk his duty. He died of the effects of chronic diarrhea on August 12th, 1865, three days before he was to be mustered out.
- Fort Blakely (Ala.), Battle of.
- Mobile (Ala.)--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Campaigns.
- Memphis (Tenn.)--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.
- Music--United States--19th century.
- Nashville, Battle of, Nashville, Tenn., 1864.
- Saint Louis (Mo.)--Description and travel.
- Saint Louis (Mo.)--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.
- United States. Army--Bands.
- United States. Army--Military life.
- United States. Army. Minnesota Infantry Regiment, 10th (1862-1865)
- United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.
Additional Descriptive Data
African American clergymen.Armistice--Alabama.Balls (Parties)Brothers--Death.Butchers.Cairo (Ill.)--Description.Camps (Military)--Alabama.Camps (Military)--Tennessee.Children.Clarksville (Tenn.)--Description.Confederate States of America. Army--African American troops.Diarrhea.Dreams.Executions and executioners.Explosions--Alabama--Mobile.Foraging.Fort Blakely (Ala.)--Capture, 1865.Funeral rites and ceremonies.Guerrillas--Tennessee.Heatstroke.Holly Springs (Miss.)--Description.Homesickness.Hunger.Hurricane Creek (Miss.), Skirmish at, 1864.Irish-American soldiers--Alcohol.Lightning.Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865--Assassination.Memphis (Tenn.)--Description.Memphis (Tenn.)--Raid, 1864.Mobile Campaign, 1865.Montgomery (Ala.)--Description.Murder.Museums--Missouri--St. Louis.Nashville (Tenn.)--Description.Nashville, Battle of, 1864.Pea Ridge, Battle of, 1862--Anniversaries, etc.Pontotoc (Miss.), Skirmish at, 1864.Presidents--United States--Election--1864.Prisoners of War--Confederate States of America.Quartermasters--Corrupt practices.Self-inflicted wounds.Snakes.Soldiers--Alcohol.Soldiers--Conduct of life.Soldiers--Recreation.Soldiers--Transport.St. Louis (Mo.)--Description.Stealing.Swearing.Tennessee--Description and travel.United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Destruction.United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Participation, African American.United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Peace.United States. Army--Bands.
United States. Army--Barracks and quarters.United States. Army--Leaves and furloughs.United States. Army--Minnesota troops.Vermin.Veterans, disabled.Washington's Birthday.Women--Missouri--St. Louis.
- 6, 31, 35, 41, 45-46, 177