Major Eric Bergland was born in Alfta Parish, Helsingland, Sweden in 1844. He was the son of Andrew Bergland, one of the leaders of Illinois' Bishop Hill Colony , where the family settled in 1847. At Bishop Hill, Bergland received his education, served an apprenticeship in a printing office, and belonged to a militia company from the age of 12. In September 1861, Bergland enlisted in Company D, 57th Illinois Volunteer Infantry .as a second lieutenant. He was promoted to first lieutenant after the Battle of Shiloh. While still serving as a volunteer in the Civil War, He was accepted at the United States Military Academy , entering in the summer of 1865. The first native-born Swede to enter West Point, Bergland graduated in the class of 1869 with highest honors. Because of his high ranking, Bergland should have been appointed to the Engineer Corps, but it was closed by an Act of Congress. Instead, he was given a place in the Artillery. When the Engineer Corps was re-opened, Bergland was transferred.
He served two tours as assistant professor at West Point, where he taught Law and Ethics, Mathematics, and Military Engineering. From 1873 to 1875, he assisted the Wheeler Expedition , surveying the territories of Wyoming and Nevada. During the 1880s, he planed and implemented harbor improvements in Tennessee, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Texas. Following the Johnstown Flood, Bergland was ordered to the ravaged community to take charge of reconstructing the bridges that had been swept away. During his final years of service, Bergland was stationed in Baltimore, Maryland, where he oversaw the construction of lighthouses in Districts 5 and 6 (Baltimore, Maryland and Charleston, South Carolina, respectively) In 1878, Eric Bergland married Lucy Scott McFarland, daughter of John and Mary Scott McFarland.and a cousin of First Lady Lucy Webb Hayes . They were the parents of four children: Dr. John McFarland, Eric, Mary-Brita, and William Scott Bergland.
After 30 years of military service, Bergland retired to his family's Baltimore estate in the fall of 1895. He died there November 3, 1918 at the age of 74.