By Dale Thomas
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2004, All Rights Reserved
Part 1 of a 3-part article on cemeteries in Cleveland’s western suburbs
Evergreen Cemetery in Westlake, Ohio is located on Center Ridge Road and bordered by greenhouses, a nursery, and soccer field. Across the busy highway, a housing complex sprawls beyond a ridge that once was a farmer’s field. The cemetery is well maintained, but something has been lost in the suburban encroachments around it. The names and dates on many of the old tombstones have eroded away and, like the rural surroundings, are gone forever.
The first burials date back to a time when the area was called Dover, a part of Cuyahoga County that became a township in 1811. One of the first settlers, Jasher Taylor, a veteran of the American Revolution, is buried in the southern part of the cemetery. His weathered gravestone lies flat on the ground, but is still readable. Born in Ashfield, Massachusetts in 1753, he served from time to time in the Continental Army from April of 1775 to the end of the war. The records also show Taylor was a farmer, six feet, one inch tall with a light complexion. He married Dolly Carr and moved to Ohio before the turn of the nineteenth century. At the age of seventy-five, the old soldier died, seven years after the Missouri Compromise helped preserve the Union in 1820.
Sherman Sperry was born five years before the Compromise of 1850, the last major attempt of a nation trying to find the middle ground to avoid disunion and war. However, conciliation failed, and the Civil War was about to enter its third year in January of 1863 when Sperry volunteered for the 124th Ohio Infantry Regiment being organized at Camp Cleveland. The eighteen year old became a musician in Company F and, more than likely, his parents hoped this would keep him out of danger. Within the month, the regiment left for Louisville, Kentucky and then moved on to Franklin, Tennessee in February, joining the Army of Kentucky, Department of the Cumberland. A month after his regiment fought its first battle at Thompson’s Station, Private Sperry died on the 13th of April. He was buried in the National Cemetery near Nashville, Tennessee. Sometime after the war, Sperry’s parents may have moved his remains to Evergreen Cemetery.
Private John A. Clague’s grave is near the soccer field, where today youngsters play and parents cheer, ignoring the tombstones on the other side of a rail fence. Displaying marksmanship with a rifle, Clague joined the 10th Independent Company of Ohio Sharpshooters, which would become Company H in the 60th Ohio Infantry Regiment. In the late winter of 1864, the regiment was reorganized at Camp Cleveland, departing by railroad for Alexandria, Virginia on April 21, 1864.
The 60th Ohio was attached to the 2nd Brigade, 3rd Division, and 9th Corps of the Army of the Potomac. From May 5 to June 12, the regiment saw action at the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and Cold Harbor. It then took part in the siege of Petersburg, which lasted from June 16, 1864 to April 2, 1865. Private Clague, however, did not survive that last terrible summer of the war. Either a victim of disease or wounds, he was taken north to Philadelphia where he died at the age of twenty-three on August 11, 1864. Buried in Pennsylvania, his remains may have also been moved by family members to Evergreen Cemetery.
Surviving the Civil War by fifty-five years, John C. Smith served in Company G of the 18th Regular Army Infantry Regiment. Smith’s tombstone is unique because he wanted to tell his story for future generations:
IN MEMORY OF JOHN C. SMITH
RHODA G. AND SAMUEL P. SMITH
JULY 1, 1838 – APRIL 4, 1920
HERE LIES THE ASHES OF A SOLDIER OF 1861-1864 WHO HELPED TO SAVE THE UNION THAT WAS DONE. WAS ON THE FORCED MARCH SUNDAY APRIL 6, 1862 TO REACH THE BATTLE OF SHILOH, TENN. CALLED PITTSBURG LANDING. WAS IN THE SIEGE OF CORINTH, APRIL AND MAY 1862. WAS IN THE BATTLE OF PERRYVILLE, KY, OCT. 9, 1862. WAS IN ALL OF GEN. BUELL’S LONG MARCHES OF 1862. WAS IN THE STONE RIVER BATTLE, DEC. 31, 1862 AND SEVERELY WOUNDED AND LAID UP FOR REPAIRS OVER A YEAR IN HOSPITALS. THEN SERVED ON DETACHED DUTY ON ACCOUNT OF WOUNDS TILL DISCHARGED.
ENGAGEMENTS OF THE 18TH U.S. INF.
STONE RIVER DEC. 31, 1862
602 MEN IN BATTLE
100 KILLED AND DIED OF WOUNDS
300 TOTAL LOSS TODAY
CHICKAMAGUA SEPT. 19-20, 1863
587 MEN IN BATTLE
45 KILLED AND DIED OF WOUNDS
159 WOUNDED 91 PRISONERS
295 TOTAL LOSS TODAY
P.S. MANY SMALL ENGAGEMENTS NOT MENTIONED.
JOHN C. SMITH OF THE 18TH U.S. INF.
NO COPPERHEAD OR SLACKER FOR ME.
218 KILLED AND DIED OF WOUNDS
252 OF DISEASE – ACCIDENTS
864 MORE MEN WOUNDED – PENSIONED
James Bailey was another survivor of the Civil War. Facing rainstorms out of the northwest, his white limestone marker is badly eroded. Bailey was forty-four years old on August 9, 1862 when he went to Camp Cleveland and became a private in Company H of the 103rd Ohio Infantry Regiment. Ordered south in September, the regiment saw action for the rest of the war in Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, and the Carolinas. Probably due to his age, Bailey was transferred on November 21, 1864 to the 47th Company, 2nd Battalion of the Veteran Reserve Corps and was mustered out of the Union Army on July 1, 1865 in Washington City.
William W. Barnes was living in Michigan when the Civil War erupted. At the age of twenty-six, he joined Company C of the 9th Michigan Infantry, which was being organized in Detroit during October of 1861. His regiment saw action in many of the major battles in the western theater, including Murfreesboro, Chickamauga, Chattanooga, Kennesaw, and Atlanta. Suffering a total of 309 dead from wounds and disease, the regiment was mustered out in Detroit during September of 1865. Perhaps the result of the physical and mental stress of war, Barnes died the following decade on March 1, 1876 and was buried in Evergreen Cemetery, four months before the United States celebrated its centennial anniversary.
Bibliography follows Part 3.