Borland, J. A.


    At one point during the Battle of Shiloh, James Borland “held his fire while his eyes searched for a suitable target.”  General William Tecumseh Sherman, who had ridden up unseen behind James, asked why that cannon wasn’t being fired.  Without turning around, James exclaimed, “By God, I command this gun, and as I have no powder to waste,  I shan’t fire until I see something to fire at!”  A few seconds later, Borland found a target, issued orders to correct the cannon’s aim and took out a rebel gun with the shot.  James then turned around to see who had addressed him – “the general expressed satisfaction at what he had seen.”  In Sherman’s report of the battle, he stated “Seeing some other guns to the rear, I sent one of my staff to bring them forward.  When by most providential decree, they proved to be two 24-pound howitzers belonging to McAllister’s Battery, and served as well as ever guns could be.  After the battle ended, General Sherman sent a personal message to the battery saying that "if he could ever do anything for them he would do it – that if any man in the battery ever wanted a blanket to let him know it, and if he had but one he would give half."

   James Ashley Borland was born June 1, 1836 in York Mills, Oneida Co., NY, the son of Andrew and Mary Borland.  The family, which by now included a daughter Anna, were residents of Lockport at the time of the 1850 Census.  Andrew, Mary and daughter Nancy Agnes eventually settled in Osage Co., KS.  James would be employed by a Joliet livery prior to the outbreak of the war.

   At the age of 24, James gathered with the other Plainfield men to add his name to those who enlisted April 19, 1861.  He became a soldier in Co. K of the 10th IL Infantry as well as Battery D of the 1st IL Light Artillery, both of which were commanded by Capt. Edward McAllister.  James stood 5’ – 6 ¾” tall, had brown-colored hair, black eyes and a light complexion.  Following Capt. McAllister’s resignation, James was left in command of the 1st Light Artillery battery, resigning June 19, 1863.  He later served in the 147th Infantry for one year in 1865.

   During a two-day battle at Shiloh, “Liet. J. G. Wood was in command of the right section, and James A. Borland of the left, and Lieut. E. H. Cooper in charge of caissons, and Capt. McAllister in command of all.  Officers and men behaved with great coolness and promptitude.  Borland and Cooper are especially commended in the captain’s official report.”  Capt. Edward McAllister, writing from Pittsburg, TN in April of 1862, stated “Jim Borland had been rubbed twice by bullets and his horse shot,” and that “Jim Borland is a hero and shall have a commission.” Edward also wrote to “His Excellency, Richard Yates” on April 10, 1862 from his headquarters at Pittsburg Landing, stating that two of his men served with the coolness and gallantry of veterans.  Edward felt it his duty to recommend James and Edgar Cooper to be appointed and commissioned to the “offices they so nobly filled on the bloodiest field in American History.” 

      Prior to 1871, James found his life companion when he married Alice Marcia Woodruff. Born on January 16, 1850, Alice was the daughter of Charles and Jane Bowen Woodruff. Charles Woodruff was born in Cooperstown, NY, but by 1848 he had moved to Janesville, WI where he became the Superintendent of schools.  He later became the Superintendent of the school or the blind in Janesville. The family then moved to Kankakee, IL where Charles established the Academy of Kankakee.  By 1859, the Woodruff family settled in Chicago where Charles was employed as the attorney for the W. W. Kimball Piano Company.  Charles died October 5, 1903 and Jane passed away in August of 1937. 

   James and Alice were the parents of four children:  Jimmie, Alice, Harriet and Florence. “Little Jimmie” died at the age of 10 months on December 21, 1877.  Alice would marry Benjamin Wilson.  They lived in Chicago and Winnetka, IL and were the parents of Benjamin, Jr., Dorothy Muriel and Leonard W. Wilson.  Joseph L. Brittain, soon to become well known in the Chicago real estate business, married Harriet Borland June 15, 1896. They had one son, Asleigh Woodruff Brittain.  Florence would marry William Lyon. 

   James was associated with the wholesale department at Marshall Fields and Co. in Chicago for many years.  He died from heart disease at the McCoy Hotel, Chicago, April 16, 1891.  His death notice stated his funeral was “strictly private.”  Following his death, Alice continued to live in Chicago with her mother, Jane, and then with her daughter, Harriet.  Jane was a charter member of the Normal Park Presbyterian Church. Alice died in Chicago October 2, 1937.