William A. Clark, a hatter living in Danbury, Connecticut enlisted in the 17th CVI on August 8, 1862 when he was 23 years old. Clark served with the 17th until he was mustered out of the regiment due to disability, at which time he was transferred into Company D, 19th Regiment, Veteran Reserve Corps (VRC). He finished the war with the VRC and was mustered out on August 19, 1865.
He returned home to Danbury and his wife Pheebe to resume the life he had left behind 3 years earlier. They had two children (Howard and and Grace) before the untimely death of Pheebe in 1879. Less than a year later William Clark died at the age of 42 of asthmatic consumption (what we know now as tuberculosis). Even as late as the 1920s the death rate from tuberculosis for hatters was 3 times higher than for the general population.
Thanks to the generosity of Clark’s descendant Holly Ludlam Clark’s journal (through July 1863) and some of his letters home are being made available on the site. Thanks as well to Mike Anderson, a descendant of William Clark’s brother, Samuel G. Clark of the same company.
The original spelling has not been changed.
William A. Clark’s Journal
Left Bridgeport Sept 3rd 1862. Arived in Baltimore Sept 5th at or near 11 oclock at night lay on the side walk untill morning got Breakfast at the Relief assosiation rooms then went to the depot and lay until the 7th at a bout 4 oclock in the after noon marched through the city to Fort Martial stayed there until the 16th of October then was marched back to the Depot and was loaded on the cars and went to Washington D. C. where we arrived a bout 11 oclock at night the next 17th the next day we marched through the city also through George town & tanny town and stoped on tanny town hight at camp Neley Suard near Fort Kerney there we stayed working on the breast works & Forts until Nov 3rd marched to Georgetown took the boat to Alexandria then marched to Convalescent Camp stayed over night the 4th we started to Alexandria took the cars and went to Manassas Junction there we stoped drew rations tents and we stayed over night 5th at 2 oclock marched to Gainsville arrived about 8 oclock in the eavening had a ration of Tangle by 6th pleasant 7th snow storm & Rabbit chase had orders to march but counter mandid 9th Marched to Hopewell Gap in the Bull Run mountain what is called Antioch Church or Harrisons Farms stoped here until the 18th Packed up and started marched to within 3 miles of Centervill stoped in logg huts built by Buragorg men the year before. 19th started and marched to Chantilla I was played out but went out on picket rained like every thing. Stayed here until the 10th of December marched to Fairfax Cort House 11th marched to within 5 miles of Occaquan Crick 12th marched to within 8 miles of Dumfries.
December 13the marched to Dumfries. 14th marched to Colses Farms. 15th started at 4 oclock in the morning at 9 oclock arived at hope Landing got some grub wayed out started and arived at Stafford Cort House at 1 oclock got something to eat then marched a bout a mile and a half to support 3 bateries of artillery Samuel had his shoe strings Burned off after he got to sleep. 16th got up it rained like every thing marched to Falmouth 17th started and marched back to Stafford Cort House 18 fixed our shanties and stayed until January 20th 1863. Started at 2 oclock in the morning and marched to the Ammunition train of from 80 to 120 wagons marched to Brooks Station stayed over night rained like the duce started on the train until Feb 10th when the whole guard returned to the Reg. April 26th the Reg mooved and I went to the Corps Hospital at Brooks station after the Chancelorville fight the 8th of May i went back to the Reg but done no duty not regularly until when we June 12 wer ordered to march. Started from Brooks Station at 2 oclock in the After noon marched until 8 oclock at night stoped a bout one mile from Hart Wood Church making a distance of 15 miles that we marched in half a day June 13 started and marched to Fontica Crick where we got dinner resumed ower march and arrived at Catlett Station on the Grange & Alexandria Rail Road a bout sundown making a distance of 42 miles in 1 ¼ days march June 14 started and marched to Bristo Station and had dinner started a gain and marched through manasses and stoped within 3 miles of 15th besster hill. Started and marched to Center Hill hights stoped at 9 oclock in the morning.
I was detailed on fatigue but done very little June 16 lay still all day got a mail wrote 2 letters 17th started at ½ past 4 oclock in the morning marched to Mount Hope Church. Stoped and got dinner very warm General Hearst stoped his Division for they wer dropping down in the road had 20 men die in the Corps from arm strike started and marched to Goos Crick a bout 6 miles from Leasburg here we had a wash 18th mooved 1 mild last of the Crick 19th lay still rained like every thing for 3 days 24th started a gain at 2 oclock marched to Edwards Ferry arived at 5 P.M. on the Balls Bluff Battle Ground stayed over night this is where General Lyon was killed 25th started crossed Goos Crick to the Potomack on Pontoons then we was happy to leave Virginia marched on and crossed the stone Canall and monoxa River stoped and had dinner started and crossed the Baltimore and Ohio R.R. marched to within 3 miles of Jefferson City encamped for the night rained like old mick had my canteen stole came onto 400 Rebs Cavelry they skedadled and we after 26th started marched through Jefferson City arived at Middletown a bout 3 P.M. encamped a bout a mile south of the City and a bout a mile from south Mountain Battlefield 27th Struck tents and mooved a bout a mile 28th I heard the Church Bells ring had orders to be ready to march at 3 P.M. marched to Fredrick City passed around the city to the west or south and marched 6 miles Beyond 29th got up at one oclock in the morning started at 5 A.M. and stoped a long time for the artillery to go a head started passed through Greer town & Utica stoped at hunting Crick for Dinner started and arived at Emmets Burg at 7 oclock P.M. stoped for the night.
June 30th had orders to march rained like the old cat all night of the 29th and morning of the 30th packed up and started passed through the city saw saint Maries Colage & St Josephs Convent there was a large fire the day before we came there encamped for the night raining all the time. July 1st started for Getties Burg at 5 A.M. we started crossed the line from Maryland to Pa at 9 A.M. passed through Miller Town at 10 ½ A.M. Saw a large field of Flax in full Bloom arived at Getties Burg at a bout 12 oclock had but one rest and one stop for water doubled quicked through the City the first corps opened the fight we wer sent off at the right and then the ball opened for us I was one of the skirmishers we fought until near night when the whole column was ordered to fall back and take position back of the city I was on picket with George Bradley & Frank Benson stayed all night July 2nd was not relieved sent to the line of Battle for cartrages was not relieved until a bout 5 oclock in the after noon had some stout shooting in the eavening of the first the Rebs brought a whole Brigade close to us through the high grass and then in the morning they all rose up to look at us and we opened up on them they skedadled with out firing a shot soon the shelling began and you never can imagin the nois there was for several hours at night there was a general attack made the whole length of the lines but the Rebs wer drove back at every point
With heavy loss at 11 oclock at night firing ceased we wer marched back July 3rd cannonading very rapid from 1 PM to 6 P.M. then the Rebs commenced retreating not mutch fighting as yet 4 PM the Ball is open never was there such a rattling in a free state before you would think that the heavens was Breking loos Continues so until after Dark all quiet again out on picket as usual nothing sean 4th rained a little in the morning Lutenant Daniels out on skirmish gives the signall we all start for the City we wer greeted by the ladies with chears ower Reg was the first in the city out on picket again beyond the city Colonel Nobles joined the Reg in the city acting Brigadear 5th at 10 oclock had orders to march but did not start until 5 P.M. marched until 12 oclock at night stoped and had orders to be ready to start at 4 in the morning lay down rained all the while 6th got up at 4 oclock got some coffee and had orders to stop till further orders started at 10 ½ ocklock arrived at Emmits Burg at 3 P.M. stayed over night 7th started again at 5 oclock marched to Creecer town stoped and got dinner started and marched to Fredrick City all night rained all night as usual 8th upon the march again I rode a part of the time in the ambulance stoped at Middletown for dinner started a gain and marched to BonsBorough stoped for the night
July 9th lay still all day was relieved on picket at night had a good sleepe we wer all lowsy as dogs July 10th Sun came out warm the first Corps heavy battery stoped close to us with 32 pound guns drew clothing the boys wer barefoot a great many of them marched at 11 AM and stoped for dinner a bout ½ a mile beyond Boons Borogh after dinner the report sayed the rebs wer on the retreat so we moved 5 miles a head stoped and encamped the nuse came of the fall of Vicksburg then there was Chear after Chear encamped for the night slept on ower arms 11th all quietstill in the rear so reported stoped all day and night 12th got up at 2 in the morning started at 3 on the march for Hagers town wer in reserve for Generall Killpatrick Commander of the Cavelry and a Beteryat 9 oclock AM we stayed in the city until 5 P.M. marched to reinforce the left Flank had seven prisoners taken by Brig Generall Arnes has a thunder shower in the eavening the people very kind to us the young ladies welcomed us as though we wer their Brothers at night fell back one mile to rest on the Fredrick & Hagerstown turnpike towards Boons Borough stayed over night rained all the while 13th got up at 7 AM had breakfast ordered to pack up and be ready to move at a moments notice lay all day in the rain no orders came pitched ower tents and went to bed lay all night some cannonading
July 14th got up and had breakfast had orders to march at 7 AM started and mooved a short distance then the Doctor examined and told me to go to the ambulance then we marched through Hagerstown and went to Williams Port stoped over night rained all the while arrived at 4 oclock 15th got up had breakfast started at 4 AM marched back through Heagerstown at 7 ½ oclock marched on to Wagners Branch Crick or a branch of Beaver Creek had dinner started and passed through Braddocks Gap a pass in south mountain passed through Myersville arrived at camp 8 P.M. 1 mile from Middletown 16th up at 3 AM had breakfast started at 6 oclock marched through Middletown also through Jefferson City the nuse came of the fall of Port Hudson passed to the left of Petersville stoped within 2 miles of Berlin arrived there at 1 PM pitched ower tents got supper went to bed a shower at 9 oclock kept on all night like torrents 17th got up still raining got breakfast rained until 2 oclock P.M. lay still all day 18th was ordered to the Hospital started in the ambulance at 9 AM passed through Jefferson City at 10 AM. Arived at Frederick City at 1 P.M. had ower names taken washed and had supper went to bed I heard there was 1800 in the hospital there is a large number of the sisters of charity taking care of the sick & wounded there is two brothers here in the hospital one has his left arm off the other has lost boath arms and boath leggs iss well as ever he was
July 19th got up and was ordered to go to Baltimore got breakfast and marched to the Depot got on board the cars and started at 8 AM arived at the Fredrick City Junction at 10 AM started at 12 at noon passed Janres Mill there was a very large slate quary monrova station Mount Airy, Waterville, Woodbury Floods Mills. Large tunnel Mariodsville Woodstock Elects Mills Ilchester Elicots Mills the Junctions at Relay house, thence to Baltimore where we arived at 6 in the eavening went to the soldiers relief and got supper then we went to a private house to the agents of New England or Massachusetts Agent his name was Wm Robinson he gave us mattresses to sleepe upon he was a very nise man got up at 4 AM washed and went to the soldiers relief and got Breakfast then went to the Jarvis Hospital got dinner then was sent to Wests Building near the water got supper and went to bed 20th got up and had breakfast saw a Reb General have his legg taken off a great number of Rebs wounded 21st got up and had breakfast and stayed around all day there was a lot of prisoners sent away 22nd clear and pleasant stayed a round a gain all day 23 got up after breakfast we had orders to get ready to go on board The Propeller Philadelphia after Dinner and at one oclock we started past Fort Mc Henry then Fort Carl at 9 ½ at night passed the Blockade squadron then we passed in to the Potomac 24th passed Agui Creek it was on fire it had been set on fire by the rebs there was 2 gun boats lay there on the watch for them passed Mount Vernon passed Fort Washington &b Alexandry passed through long Brige at 3 ½ at 4 we arived at Georgetown was sent to Carver Hospital.
Letter to Pheebe Clark – July 12, 1863
Camp near HagersTown
July 12th 1863
Dear Pheebe as it is the lords holy day I am not on inspection I will try and write a few lines to the only one on earth I have to love. My Dear in the first place this paper was captured from the Rebs after the fight also this brown envelope we are now encamped a bout 2 miles south of Hagerstown, Maryland, and we are in the rear of the armie we was in the advance from December until the 9th of July then we was ordered to stay in the rear as a reserve on account of ower being cut up so in this fight the whole armie is in the best of spirits and sure of success we have driven the rebs 20 or 30 miles since the fight so you sea there is a good luck for us to give them a good threshing and the boys are bown to do it. I can tell you we have true men Corps attached to the armie of the Potomac the 8th Corps & the 22nd Corps so you sea there is a large foree here I will give you the number of Corps the 1st 2nd 3rd 5th 6th 8th 11th 12th & 22nd making in all 9 different Corps so you can imagine whether there is any troops here or not besides the infantry there is from 20 to 30 thousand Cavelry also some 100 or more Bateries of artillery we cannot hear a gun from the enemie today the opinion here is that this war will soon be over and I hope and prey it may be for a battle field is a horid looking place I can tell you where a battle lasts three or fore days and the dead and wounded are left on the field where we have to walk over them day and night until the Battle is over there is nothing of importance I am as well as can be expected under the circumstances and I am in hopes that I can have time to write oftener and let you know what is going on you must excuse me for not giving you more of the particulars a bout the fight for when I sit down to write I expect to get the order to fall in line and it is not very often that we are disappointed for we can hardly get a meal without being alarmed so you sea we have to be on the look out all the while but blessed be god he has thought best to spare me and I am thankful and hope and prey that you will be content and keep up good carage and prey that I may be a better and happier man to return to my dear I am sure this war is on its last legs and whooever lives to sea it settled will not be one year older in my belief and then we shall be happy together when war and rumors of war are no more it is getting late and I must close give my best respects to all and tell them that it is impossible to write
tell Norman Knap to write to me and let me know how he and all the folks are I am sitting on a sheaf of wheat picking out now and then a kernel please excuse this if you have a little money by yo pleas send some to me if you should have a quarter pleas send in a letter now and then for the tobacco trade is dull with me but never mind I will make it up when I get home if it pleases god to spare me it is near time for the mail to go I must close. From your true and loving husband W A Clark
Letter to Pheebe Clark – October 10, 1863
Carver Hospital, Washington, DC
October 10, 1863
Dear Pheebe I now take pen in hand to give you a sort of a history of my days work i started after the doctor had been through the ward you are a ware how we do if not i will give you a history(?) we have revelee soundid at 5 o clock then we have roll call at 6 o clock then we have nurses call for breakfast ½ past 6 o clock then there is the call for the patients at 7 o clock then at 8 o clock is surgeons or Doctors call then you ask the Doctor for a pass he gives 2 to a ward well my selfe and David Bradley went to the City today we visited the Navy yard and while there they wer practiceing on some new brass cannon they wer very nise guns i can tell you for they shot a mile and put a 12 pound shot through 8 inches of solid iron what would you think if one of those struck you a long side of the head I saw while there 2 guns that was captured from two troysolan(?) vesals they wer made of brass and cast in 1797 they wer captured in march 12th 1804 these guns wer a bout as long as acrost the kitchen from the out side dore to the East side towards Anna Watermans so you can sea the length they wer
About as large as the bottom of a waterpail at the Nuzer(?) they wer smooth bore well then after going farther down we came to the foundry so we went in there and there we saw theas trip hammers at work they wer drawing out large bars of iron as long as from youre house to Pat Roon’s is born or rather the house that stands next to Haries then we went to the ancor works and I saw 7 men all at work on one ancor and it was so large they could all swing their hammers and not be in one others wey so you can sea that it was not very small I think they wer weigh a bout 20 feete long and would weigh a bout 3,000 pounds then i forgot to mention the weight of those guns that I spoke of being captured the weight i think was 11097 pounds I am not sure as to the weight for i did not put it down in my book they wer at work on the Capitol they have it now pretty well closed up they will finish in a bout 12 years I guess they expect to now the new Senate Chamber will be finished ibn a bout 20 years the house of Representatives will be done in a bout 2 years the fish pond is done and a bout 500 gold fish in it i saw some thing else but I will weight for some future time to tell you I am about the same i saw Mr Crofoot a gain today he was glad to hear from Danbury he sayed he hoped that
We soon would be in ouer state and well provided for Now to give you the nuse a bout some one that you know I went to sea a bout my selfe there was 4 Doctors at the office and they wer very good they told me that I could get my discharge if i wanted it for I was good for nothing in the service and that i should go to my surgeon and tell him that i wanted to be examined for a discharge or else to go to my reg so i shall tell the Doctor tomorrow morning that I want to go before the Bord for a discharge or go to my Reg as soon as i can go so i shall soon have some nuse for you if there is any sign of my getting my discharge i will let you know in a week or so and then you can keep it still for I may not like to have all the pretty girls after me so kiss me until you get your fill then if there is any to spare I will make arrangements after words I saw some pretty girls down in the city and while I was on the cars going to the navy yard I saw some that wanted to kiss me but i have a very strong mind yet but i will say one thing I did hitch up very close to one lovely little doxie she was as sweet a looking girl as I ever saw and she kept her eyes on me all the while the only thing that kept me from speekeing to her was you my dear i know
if i did it would be deceiveing you and never will i do it as long as i am so far a way if i was at home though i would kiss all the pretty girls and all the long faced old maids and all the the young married women and all the young girls mothers a round and all of the young girls brothers just to make up for lost time but you wait until Bill the Hater gets around old Bean town a gain he will squease the girls till they fart or some thing else isle bet a pint of sider well I guess I have told all that I know and more to so I will close by saying that I am old Bill yet and in a bout the same health as usual Mr Bradley says i must give his best respects to you and sayes you must go and sea his better half and sea how you like her books you must give my love to Mrs Pheebe J Clark and give her a kiss and then kiss all the pretty girls a round there tell Han that I tried all the Book stores on Pennsylvania Avenue to get one of those books with the views of the Public Buildings and to my surprise i could not find one so i shall have to wait for a few days then i will try again it is near 9 o clock and i will close my dear all the love of a true and loveing Husband I send to you with a good night and a thousand kisses to you hoping soon to hold you to my brest and say part no more until death yours truly
Good night W A Clark.