Tag Archives: George Cleage

George Cleage X 2

This is my 7th year participating in the A to Z Challenge. In the 2015 challenge, I wrote about the Cleages formerly enslaved on the plantations of Samuel and his sons Alexander and David Cleage of Athens, McMinn County, Tennessee. Most of the people in these posts are not related to me by blood or DNA, however my ancestors were enslaved on the same plantations with them.

This year I ordered the Civil War Pension files of the Cleage men who served in 1st Regiment, United States Colored Heavy Artillery (USCHA), during that war. Through these files I learned that their lives were much richer and more complex than census, death and other records can show. I am using the information from pension files and records that I found through the files for this years challenge.

Note in the pension file, where both applications reside.

In 2015 I wrote about George Cleage. I thought I had his life figured out. He had served in the United States Colored Troops and had applied for a pension. I sent for his pension along with the others, thinking I would find out more about him. And I did.

When the pension file arrived, it contained the applications of two different men. One George Cleage applied from Athens, Tennessee in 1893. Another George Cleag applied from Corinth, Mississippi in 1894. At first I thought that two George Cleages had served, however there was only one military record so only one of them had served.

From the military records of George Cleage. He is described as “complexion yellow; eyes black; hair black. Click to enlarge

The quote below is from testimony given by Amanda Cleage during her widow’s pension hearing in 1908, gave the names her husband, Abram Cleage’s brothers and sisters.

“The soldier had four brothers, Isaac, Charley, George, Jeff and Jerome Cleag and two sisters Kitty and Sarah Cleag.” Amanda Cleag

This was the George that applied from Athens, TN. He lived his whole life in Athens. He filed his pension application but never followed up on it. He did not appear on the Veteran’s Census of 1890. He was described as “black” on all the U.S. Censuses he appeared in. On the other hand, the military record to the left, describes George Cleage as having a “yellow” complexion.

When Sallie Cleage Marsh gave testimony in Katie Cleage‘s Widow’s Pension case, she mentioned her son George Cleage, who lived in Corinth, Mississippi.

Philip slept in my house upstairs, until he went in the army. He slept with my oldest boy. My boys name was George Cleage, I don’t know whether he is living or not. The last I heard of him he was at Corinth, Mississippi.” Sallie Cleage Marsh

That was the second George and the one that I didn’t discover until I received the pension file. This George appeared in the Veteran’s Census of 1890 living in Alcorn County, Mississippi. He was always designated as “mulatto” in the census records. He filed all of the papers for his file and continued to file, including information that he had an arm amputated because of a war injury. He and his lawyer pursued his case until 1914.


General Affidavit

State of Mississippi County of Alcorn. Personally appeared before me a Justice of the peace within for the County and state aforesaid George Clegg aged 52 years, a resident of the town of Hightown, County of Alcorn State of Mississippi, who being duly sworn according to law, deoses and says:

That he served in the United States being in Co. I First (col.) Artilery and that he was shot through the hand when on a march between Greenville and Ashville N.C. and about six months afterwards was struck by a piece of shell near Athens Tenn. and Dr. Elic Zander (Alexander) taken his arm off at Athens Tenn.

This is to certify that I requested J. R. Bumpass to write the above in the presents of B. G. Taylor and R. C. Cleagg. I was not prompted in the matter by any other person and did not ??? sign a previously prepared statement.

I further declare that I have no interest in said case and am not concerned in its prosecution.

George (his X mark Clegg Affiant

B.G. Taylor
R.C. Clegg (note – George Cleag’s adult son)


I pick George Cleag from Hightower, Alcorn, Mississippi as the true veteran. Neither man ever received a pension.

George Cleage

“The Escaped Slave in the Union Army,” Harper’s Weekly, July 2, 1864, p. 428. (Courtesy of the House Divided Project)
“The Escaped Slave in the Union Army,” Harper’s Weekly, July 2, 1864, p. 428. (Courtesy of the House Divided Project)

For this year’s April A-Z Challenge I am blogging a series of sketches about the free people formerly enslaved on the Cleage plantations in Athens, Tennessee. Most  are not related to me by blood, although our families came off of the same plantations – those of Samuel, Alexander and David Cleage.   Click on any image to enlarge.

George Cleage was born in Memphis, Tennessee about 1845.  He joined the 1st U.S. Colored Heavy Artillery in Knoxville, TN in 1864. His enlistment papers describe him as 19 years old, 5 ft 8 inches with black hair, black eyes and yellow complexion. His occupation was listed as “farmer”. His military record was uneventful, except for being confined to the military prison at Chattanooga for several months. 

When he was mustered out in October of 1865, he had $10.50 coming to him, that would be worth $156.72 today.  Not a lot to start a new life.

The National Archives at Washington, D.C.; Washington, D.C.; Compiled Military Service Records of Volunteer Union Soldiers Who Served with the United States Colored Troops: Artillery Organizations via Ancestry.com

In 1868 he married Martha Rice in Athens, Tennessee.  His first daughter, Sarah was born in 1869.  While looking at him in the 1870 census, I looked to see who his neighbors were and right there above him was Fannie Turk, widow of Isaac and their children! I have been looking for her and not finding her in censuses.  Isaac and Fannie came off of David Cleage’s plantation and Isaac also enlisted in the USCT in Knoxville. To read more about Fannie and Isaac, go to the link above.

In 1880 Martha and little Sarah are gone (presumed to have died) and George has married Jane.  There are three daughters, Anna, 6; Mary, 4 and Lizzie, 2 years old.  George continues to have employment listed as laborer, but by 1900 he is listed as a brick mason. I wonder if George had been doing brick work all along.  Coming off of a plantation known for building with bricks, I expected more of the free Cleage men to be brick masons. (Cleage Bricks to learn more about Samuel Cleage’s brick making and construction business.)

In 1900 George was a widower.  Two of his daughters are enumerated with him.  Although daughter Anna married Frank Cunningham, she is using Cleage.  She has one child, 2 year old Mazinia.  George’s daughter Lizzie is working as a cook.  Both of the daughters are literate, George is not.  Tom and Sallie (Cleage) Waterhouse lived down the street from them.  Sallie was the daughter of Clinton (sometimes Called Dick) and Sallie Cleage, who I wrote about in “D” is for Dick.  I am loving the way people show up in each other’s lives.

That is the last I find of George Cleage. Lizzie ended up in Knoxville. Mary and Anna ended up in Indianapolis where they died in the 1920s.  Anna is listed in the city directories as “Anna Cleage (widow of Frank) and that caused me some confusion because I thought she might have been a wife of my great grandfather Louis’ brother Frank Cleage, but that turned out not to be the case.  She must have gone back to her maiden name after Frank Cunningham died.  My grandfather and 3 of his siblings lived in Indianapolis at this time. I wonder if the two families crossed paths.