Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Octavius Leland Diaries, 1863-1865

James S. Schoff Civil War Collection

Finding aid created by
Rob Cox, 1992, and Shannon Wait, 2010

Summary Information
Title: Octavius Leland diaries
Creator: Leland, Octavius, 1822-1865
Inclusive dates: 1863-1865
Extent: 2 volumes
The Octavius Leland diaries contain entries concerning Leland's service in Company C of the 10th Minnesota Infantry, 1863-1865.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1986. M-2312.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the "We the People" project.

Preferred Citation:

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.


Leland, Octavius

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.

Subject Terms

    • Fort Blakely (Ala.), Battle of.
    • Guerillas--Tennessee.
    • 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.
    • Soldiers--Diseases.
    • Soldiers--Minnesota.
    • 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.
    Genre Terms:
    • Diaries.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Octavius Leland diaries [series]
    Volume   1  
     October 6, 1863-September 12, 1864
    Volume   2  
     September 13, 1864-June 20, 1865
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Partial Subject Index
    African American clergymen.
    • 61
    • 202
    Balls (Parties)
    • 19
    • 77
    • 150
    Cairo (Ill.)--Description.
    • 156, 183
    Camps (Military)--Alabama.
    • 195-196
    Camps (Military)--Tennessee.
    • 88
    • 44, 163
    Clarksville (Tenn.)--Description.
    • 162-163
    Confederate States of America. Army--African American troops.
    • 207
    • 89-216
    • 144
    Executions and executioners.
    • 54
    • 211
    • 81
    Fort Blakely (Ala.)--Capture, 1865.
    • 199-200
    Funeral rites and ceremonies.
    • 14
    • 64, 80
    • 101
    Holly Springs (Miss.)--Description.
    • 90
    • 39
    • 154
    Hurricane Creek (Miss.), Skirmish at, 1864.
    • 93
    Irish-American soldiers--Alcohol.
    • 154
    • 192
    Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865--Assassination.
    • 206
    Memphis (Tenn.)--Description.
    • 127
    Memphis (Tenn.)--Raid, 1864.
    • 97
    Mobile Campaign, 1865.
    • 194-200
    Montgomery (Ala.)--Description.
    • 205
    • 210
    Museums--Missouri--St. Louis.
    • 32
    Nashville (Tenn.)--Description.
    • 164, 169
    Nashville, Battle of, 1864.
    • 167, 170-171
    Pea Ridge, Battle of, 1862--Anniversaries, etc.
    • 45
    Pontotoc (Miss.), Skirmish at, 1864.
    • 84-85
    Presidents--United States--Election--1864.
    • 126, 129
    Prisoners of War--Confederate States of America.
    • 200
    Quartermasters--Corrupt practices.
    • 88, 101
    Self-inflicted wounds.
    • 63, 71
    • 203
    • 214
    Soldiers--Conduct of life.
    • 196
    • 22
    • 155, 157-158
    St. Louis (Mo.)--Description.
    • 15-16
    • 11, 12
    • 102
    Tennessee--Description and travel.
    • 78-81
    United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Destruction.
    • 169
    United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Participation, African American.
    • 12, 46, 59, 200, 206
    United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Peace.
    • 203, 207
    United States. Army--Bands.
    • 6, 31, 35, 41, 45-46, 177
    United States. Army--Barracks and quarters.
    • 22
    United States. Army--Leaves and furloughs.
    • 26-29
    United States. Army--Minnesota troops.
    • 130
    • 63, 131
    Veterans, disabled.
    • 38
    Washington's Birthday.
    • 41
    Women--Missouri--St. Louis.
    • 7