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Saving history, one letter at a time…

1863: William Hall Clarke to James Sheldon Clarke

How Cpl. Wm H. might have looked

How Cpl. Hall Clarke might have looked

This letter was written by Corporal William Hall Clarke (1842-1924), the son of James Sheldon Clarke (1807-1877) and Charlotte Wood (1810-1887) of Greece, Monroe County, New York. William wrote the letter to his parents and to his older sister, Emily M. Clarke (1835-1904) who apparently pre-addressed the envelopes sent to her brother for his use.

Cpl. Clarke served in Company I, 140th New York Volunteers. He was discharged on 22 December 1863 at Ft. Schuyler, New York. After the war, Clarke returned to Monroe County and married Martha A. Foster (1846-1873). He subsequently married Charlotte Janes (1852-1918).

1863 Letter

1863 Letter

Addressed to Mr. James S. Clarke, Greece, Monroe County, New York

Camp near Falmouth, Virginia
March the 25th 1863

Dear Friends,

I received your long looked for letter last Sunday night and calculated to answer the next day but after we had got to bed the order came for me and 8 men to be ready at eight o’clock with three days ration in our cupboard for picket, so you see I had no time to answer it before. You must not worry about me if you do not get letters regular. When we lay down at night, we are not sure of staying there all night. We are in the enemy’s country and liable to be routed at any moment. Oh the horror’s of this war makes me sick most. If you could see the families around here and see what they live on, you might call it hard times. There is one house by the picket lines that we guard. Our boys was on post there. All they [the family] had to eat was some corn pounded up and boiled. Yesterday there was a specimen passed by here — a man and two women in a cart. They had been to Falmouth, I guess. They was guarded by a cavalryman that rode in front of the them. What do you think of that?

Mr. [William] Garbutt ¹ is down here. He came over to see us the other day and stayed all night with us. He gave us a description of the brave Mr. Whiting. ² If you have tar and feathers enough, put them on, and if you have not got enough spare feathers, take my bed for I shall not want any when I get there. We make our beds of sticks and brush and most anything. I wonder how it would seem to get into a bed. But never mind — the time is coming when this war will be settled and the soldiers can return home.

Chauncy Davis and Mort Rowe has returned to their regiment. ³ I have not seen them yet.

Emily, you said I had not answered all your questions. You will have to write them over again. You said in your letter that you could not get such a watch for $18. I don’t know as I ever told you how much I gave for it. I give $12½ for it. Sammy says it cost them about $25. It keeps very good time. It run most too slow when it first came.

You wanted to know about paper and envelopes. My paper is most gone but we have got a sutler that keeps it and I can get it there as cheap as you can buy it and send it here. You directed all the envelopes to Pa so you must not think hard because they are all sent to him. How in the world did Mrs. Perine ever start off alone to go that long journey.

Ma, I am much obliged to you for the stockings you sent. The army socks does not amount to much. You wanted to know if any of the boys would enlist over again. I guess not. Erving may. That is all I guess.

The dried diana grapes is nice as raisons. Was they dried in sugar or not? You wanted to know how the butter and fruit hold out. It holds out first rate. The boys in my tent have all had things sent. John had 2 quarts of butter and dried fruit. Dan 2 quarts and dried fruit and fired cakes. Ira had about 4 quarts of butter and dried fruit, and me 2 quarts and John has had two more quarts which he divided with segar. so you see we have lived pretty well lately. If one gets anything, we all have a share. If Mr. Garbutt has not gone home when I get in camp, I will send Ma a little box that I made.

I took out my warrant and my military book and gave them to Dan and told him to do up some hard tack with them and send them by him. Jo is writing home. Charley is in camp all right. Frank Carpenter is sick. He has gone to the hospital. Billy is not gaining much.

There is not much news to write so I will bring this to a close by bidding you all goodbye. You must excuse this scribbling for I have got nothing but my house wife to write on. tell Pa I am much obliged for the stamps. Write soon. Give my love to all. Yours in haste. — Hall

I have got in from picket. Mr. Gorbutt has gone home. I will send that box in a day or so as soon as I get it fixed. Write soon.

¹ William Garbutt of Wheatland, New York, was married to Elizabeth Dow and had a family of eight children. His son James Garbutt was a member of the 13th New York Regiment and died in the war.

² It appears that many of the soldiers in the 140th New York — including Clarke — believed that Lt. Addison D. Whiting displayed cowardice when he resigned his commission and returned to Monroe County in 1863. This prompted the officers of the regiment to write the following letter defending their fellow officer:

Headquarters, 140th Regiment
N. Y. V., April 24th, 1863.

To THE EDITOR OF THE ROCHESTER UNION AND ADVERTISER:— Dear Sir:—In your paper of the 16th inst. there appears a report of the proceedings of a public meeting of the inhabitants of the town of Greece, held for the purpose of taking into consideration the military conduct of Mr. Addison N. Whiting, late a First Lieutenant in this regiment. At this meeting a preamble and resolutions were adopted, which are exceedingly unjust to Mr. Whiting, and calculated to injure him seriously in the estimation of the citizens of Monroe county. It is but simple justice to him that we, so lately associated with him as officers in the same regiment and who have had an opportunity of watching his military conduct, should give our testimony as to his military character, and make it as public as the charges against him have been made.

It is stated in the first resolution that Lieut. Whiting resigned his commission and left his company in sight of the enemy, thus giving the impression that he left his command while in the immediate presence of the rebel forces. The facts are, that Lieut. Whiting was honorably discharged from the service in consequence of a wound accidentally received near Falmouth. At the time of his discharge the regiment was lying quietly in camp, without any immediate prospect of meeting the enemy.

In consequence of the illness of Captain Wm. F. Campbell, Lieut. Whiting was in command of his company from its arrival at Sandy Hook, Md., until he recived [sic] the wound which caused his resignation. During this time he discharged his duties faithfully, and to the satisfaction of his superior officers. Scores of officers have been discharged honorably from our armies for similar causes during the past winter without any blame attaching itself to them, and there is no reason why Lieut. Whiting should be made an exception. Respectfully yours,

P. H. O’Rorke, Colonel.
Louis Ernst, Lieut. Colonel.
L. E. Force, Major.

³ Chauncey Davis and Mortimer Otis Rowe enlisted at Rochester, New York in Company I, 13th New York Infantry for three years. They were mustered out of the regiment on 13 May 1863. Mort subsequently served in the 21st New York Cavalry.


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This entry was posted on April 4, 2014 by .

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My passion is studying American history leading up to & including the Civil War. I particularly enjoy reading, transcribing & researching primary sources such as letters and diaries.

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