When I don't know
something, which, alas, is often the case, people come to my assistance.
Take a recent column about Medal of Honor winner Charles Cleveland.
Cleveland is buried in Utica's Forest Hill Cemetery and his tombstone cites
the fact that Congress awarded him the country's highest medal. This was
because of what Cleveland did during the Civil War at the Battle of Antietam
In a previous column I included all I knew about Cleveland, which wasn't
much. According to a website about the Civil War, Cleveland "voluntarily
took and carried the colors into action after the color bearer had been
shot." That was about it.
But Don Wisnoski has come to my assistance. Wisnoski, who has forgotten more
about the Civil War than I know, gathered information about Cleveland,
including a picture, from a variety of sources.
Cleveland was a private in the 26th New York Infantry, known as the "2nd
Oneida." The 26th, also known as the "Utica Regiment," consisted of
companies A, B, C and E, all of which were recruited in Utica, D from
Hamilton, F from Whitestown, and I from Oriskany.
According to "Glory Was Not Their Companion," the story of the 2nd Oneida,
the regiment was advancing through a Maryland farmer's cornfield when they
were spotted by the Confederates.
"Realizing they had been spotted," the commander of Cleveland's battalion
"gave the command to commence firing. The battalion opened with everything
they had and continued discharging their muskets evenly and carefully for
some 30 rounds. The Confederates sent volley after volley in return,
delivering their fire with promptness and spirit.
"When the regiment's color bearer fell with a bullet wound, Pvt. Charles
Cleveland of Company C voluntarily picked up the flag and continued holding
it aloft, still slowly moving the men forward. In the process, Cleveland
suffered gunshot wounds in the left forearm, left breast, and left foot. His
wounds at Antietam cost him a two-month stay at a Baltimore hospital, but
would later earn him what would be the first of three Medal of Honor awards
for soldiers in the Twenty-Sixth New York."
After the war, Cleveland lived on Blandina Street in Utica and worked as a
marble cutter, something he did until 1874, when he was appointed to the
Utica Police Department.
He was promoted to sergeant in 1882, a detective in 1887, assistant chief in
1896 and chief in 1898.
Cleveland was married and had three sons. The family went to Grace Church.
Cleveland died in 1908. In those days, nobody mentioned cancer but it sounds
like Cleveland might have had it. This is how The Saturday Globe reported
Cleveland's death: "After a long sickness, during which the moments dragged
as hours in an agony of pain, Chief of Police Charles F. Cleveland passed
away at his home, 178 Blandina Street, a 4 o'clock this morning. While the
news of his death will cause no surprise, because the critical nature of his
sickness was known, it will cause profound sorrow.The city which he
conspicuously served for a period of 34 years will mourn him, and thousands
of citizens, who learned to admire his sterling qualities as a man and as an
official, will shed a tear of sympathy over his departure."
Joe Kelly is the editor and publisher of The Boonville Herald & Adirondack Tourist and