John Cleland enlisted into the Confederate Army on September 5, 1861 as a Private and served with Company F, 26th Georgia Infantry. He was appointed 1st Corporal on July 14, 1862, 5th Sergeant on March 1, 1864. Records dated November 6, 1864 indicate that he was later advanced to the rank of 3rd Sergeant of Company F, 26th Georgia Infantry.
John Cleland, born on February 19, 1839 in the Beaufort District of South Carolina, "a raw boned farm boy," and moved to Georgia cir 1850. Too proud to let Union Solders invade his southern homeland without a fight, he joined the Confederate Army. After debarking to Virginia in early June 1862, the 26th Regiment was assigned to the "Confederate Army of Northern Virginia under the command of General Robert E. Lee. The Georgia Brigade was know at different times by the names of its commander, Lawton, Gordon, or Evans Brigade.
This Brigade was involved for three and one/half years in some of the most fearful fighting in our nations history, brother against brother, as evidenced in battles such as Gettysburg, Chancellorsville, Cold Harbor, Shenandoah Valley, Spotsylvania, 2nd Manassas (Bull Run). Their greatest defeat was the surrender of the command by General Robert E. Lee at the Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865. John Cleland's name appeared on the registered of Prisoners of War, and is believed to have participated in the surrender ceremony on April 12, 1865.
John Cleland's wife resided at Quitman (Brooks County) Georgia during the war, and he returned there after the war, as evidenced by the Brooks County census for 1870. Later, before the 1880 census, he moved his family back to Pierce County, Georgia. He died on December 27, 1910, and is buried at the Ben James Cemetery, along with his wife Elender.