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  • PathmakersJames and Mary Jane McCleery
  • Lawrence S. Freund (bio)

James and Mary Jane McCleery, brother and sister born in nineteenth-century Trumbull County, Ohio, set out on sharply different directions to their life’s work—one to war, the other to medicine—but they were true to their shared ideals and pathmakers in their professions. Their lives reflected the times in which they lived as well as the way they hoped to shape those times for future generations.

The storm building on the American horizon began to thunder on April 12, 1861, with the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter. President Abraham Lincoln declared a state of insurrection on April 15 and called for 75,000 volunteers to enlist for three months. Ten days later, on April 25, 1861, James McCleery, an almost six-foot-tall1 schoolteacher, former student at Oberlin College,2 and the son of a Trumbull County, Ohio, farmer, was among the men taking the oath.3

McCleery, born in Johnston Township, north of Youngstown, Ohio, in about 1837, was now a private in the 19th Ohio Volunteers. The unit served with the Union Army under the command of Brig. Gen. William Rosecrans in western [End Page 28] Virginia, the region that would soon become the state of West Virginia. The 19th Ohio marched on June 29–June 30 to the town of Buckhannon, Virginia, which it then occupied as Union general George McClellan prepared for his next battle.

What happened next was described by an Ohio soldier who had been ordered with his Youngstown unit to make an early-morning march to Buckhannon: “On our arrival,” he wrote,

we found quite an excitement existing in our usually quiet Regiment, owing to the disgraceful treatment received by a few members of Company C, of Trumbull county, at the hands of our General and staff. Lieut. [Henry G.] Stratton and some half dozen of his men have been sent home on account of the alleged robbery of a house two or three miles out from here. The facts are briefly these: The family robbed had been away from home, and found, upon their return, their house broken open, and a gold watch and (as they say) $175 in money taken. Unfortunately for the Lieutenant and his command, they had been sent out on a foraging expidetion [sic] with a two-horse wagon for the purpose of procuring provisions, and had stopped at this and other houses on their way home. As they took no pains to conceal who they were, they were recognized as the persons seen at the house, while a thieving Indiana Company, who were out at the same time and who no doubt perpetrated the robbery, managed to escape detection. These Indianians are notorious thieves, and have been stealing all the way along since joining the army.4

On July 7, the entire Company C of Trumbull County volunteers, including McCleery, according to one newspaper report, “was paraded before the regiment this morning, disarmed, and ordered to report at Columbus. They were disgraced for outrages perpetrated on the property of a reputed Secessionist.”5

The following month, on August 27, the men appeared for their court-martial. The Daily Ohio Statesman of Columbus reported: “No witness or specifications of charges having been sent from Virginia, the accused were discharged. It will be remembered that Lieut. Stratton and his men were sent here some time since in disgrace from Western Virginia, on a charge of pillage. They demanded an investigation.”6 [End Page 29]

By the time the Columbus daily reported the conclusion of the case against Stratton, McCleery, and the others, their entire regiment had also returned to the Ohio capital to conclude its three months of service, Company C mustering out on the same day the newspaper reported the end of the court-martial, August 29, 1861. McCleery reenlisted in August 1861 for three years as a second lieutenant in the 41st Ohio Volunteer Infantry, commanded by Col. William Hazen, a by-the-book West Point graduate and career officer.

Hazen’s regiment, the 41st, began its training at Camp Wood in Cleveland before joining its brigade as part of the Army of...


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