1863: William Warner Clarke to Laura (Turner) Clarke

William Warner Clark (or Clarke), Lt. Col. of 85th New York Infantry
William Warner Clark (or Clarke), Lt. Col. of 85th New York Infantry

This letter was written by William Warner Clarke (1826-1897), the son of Lorenzo Clarke (1787-1856) and Laura Turner (1793-1875) of Naples, Ontario County, New York. William’s obituary, published in the Ontario County Journal on 30 April 1897, reads as follows:

Naples, N. Y. – The death of Col. Will W. Clarke occurred at Brooklyn City hospital on Monday evening. The Wednesday before, while at his boarding place, he had a stroke of paralysis, from which he did not rally. He was nearly 71 years of age, born and reared in Naples, upon the old Clark farm in the northern part of the village. As a young man, he was gifted, and popular as a companion and as a teacher. He loved military life, and before the war, assisted in organizing the Naples Light Guards, a splendid company of militia, of which he was lieutenant, and afterwards captain. Immediately upon the breaking out of the rebellion, he organized a company and drilled them, ready for service, but they were not wanted at that time, and disbanded. But soon men were wanted, and in August 1861, he, with others, raised Company “B” of the 85th regiment, and were soon in active service. He was captain and his previous experience made him a valuable man. The regiment did noble service, and Captain Clarke was promoted to lieutenant colonel and soon was in command of the regiment, which position he held at its discharge in August, 1865, having been brevetted colonel, but not mustered. Returning to Naples in 1867, he was elected sheriff of the county for the term of three years, and removed to Canandaigua about 1874. He received a responsible position in the Custom house at New York, which he held until his death. He was a trusted official and was retained through all changes of administration.

He was a large-hearted, genial man, who won friends wherever he was. He had always claimed Naples as his home, having had no other permanent one since his birth, and his remains were brought here for burial. Of six brothers in the family, four of them served in the war, the two younger ones now surviving. He leaves two sons, Charles L. of Rochester, and Will L. of Chicago, both of whom reached him before he died. His wife was Miss Mary D. Luther of Naples, who died in 1860, three years after marriage. Of the family of nine children, there are left, Dr. N. T. Clarke of Canandaigua; Joseph L. of Momence, Ill., and Edmund C. of Naples; also Mrs. Manly Chase of Cleveland, O., and Mrs. C. S. Lincoln of Naples. Funeral services were held on Thursday afternoon from the Presbyterian church, Rev. B. F. Millard officiating. The remains were met at the station by the post veterans and escorted to the church and to the cemetery where he was buried with military honors.

Addressed to Mrs. Laura Clarke, Naples, Ontario Co., New York

Norfolk, Va.
March 8th, 1863

Dear Mother,

Fearing that when I get to New Bern it will take some time to get a letter home, I will write some today. You may wonder that I am so long getting through — it surprises me some. I thought certainly I should get through in 8 or 10days. I was hindered some time in New York and Albany. Left New York [City] just one week from the night I left cars. In Washington, I was obliged to sleep in a big feather bed every night I was there. I was too warm, uneasy, and got the clothes off and took a severe cold every night. It has made me about sick although now I feel better than I have for one week past. I was obliged to keep my room 3 days in Washington. I left there last Tuesday evening, remained in Baltimore until Wednesday evening 7 o’clock, took the Old Point boat and arrived at that place at 8 next morning. I had a good sleep and pleasant passage down the Chesapeake. I took the 11 o’clock boat for Norfolk and arrived at that place at 12; found upon inquiry that a boat would leave through the canal for New Bern Friday morning at 7, but I could not get my transportation papers through that P.M. Consequently, could not get any transportation until Monday as no boat goes until then.

Mr. Harris, our sutler’s clark, arrived here from New bern Friday morning. He was since Monday getting through and says it may take us a week to get to New Bern yet. So you can see that traveling by government permit and waiting for government officers to furnish transportation is tedious. I should have enough money, I presume, as the expense of board and contingencies on stops and delays is much greater than fare if I had come directly through on my order and paid my own fare. I could not get my baggage moved for less than 6/ and frequently 8/, 4/ for cartage if only 10 rods and 2/ to 4/ for handling; board at $2.00 to $3.50 per day and 10 cents to any nigger that looks at you making an average of from 3 to $5.00 per day. I got no pay at Washington and presume I shall have to borrow some money here to get me through. I have enjoyed my stay about home very much but the expense has been a great one and I have felt it smartly but don’t care and shan’t think of it anymore.

I have been to the camp of the 148th. Find Capt. [Edgar A.] Griswold [of Co. G] and all of the Naples boys well and in good spirits with possibly the exception of Asa[hel R.] Holcomb. He looks poor and depressed. He is either a little sick or trying to be. Charley Wisewell, Lyon, Charley Barker, Bill Henry, the Goodrich boys [James & Peter], ¹ and in fact all the boys I saw were fat — some of them so fat I did not know them at first. The Goodrich boys make good soldiers and are well liked by their officers. I delivered the package to Charley Wisewell which you may mention to Mr. Wisewell when you see him.

I find one of the Fitch boys here dealing quite largely in groceries and provisions.

I haven’t succeeded yet in getting my sword which you’ll remember was mislaid or stolen on my way home at Baltimore. I probably never shall recover it.

Did [my brother-in-law] Lincoln get a dispatch from me relative to my diary from Syracuse? It was found in [my brother] Noah’s barn — forked up in the straw when I had been a packing my trunks. After a series of telegraphing, it reached me at New York.

Are you all well? Do the meetings still continue? How are dear little Willie and Charlie? I shall think of them much oftener than ever before. I don’t know as I love them any more but they certainly seem dearer than ever. Kiss them for me and tell them to remember me until I come back. I certainly shall them. Remember me to [sister] Laura and [her husband] Lincoln. Tell them I will write them and acknowledge my obligations to them as I never even thanked them for their many kindnesses to me.

You will always be remembered with love and gratitude for your care for me. I hope I may yet be able to reward you in some way for your goodness to me.

Respectfully your son, — William

I leave here tomorrow (Monday) morning at 7 o’clock if nothing happens. Mr. Harris goes with me. He tells me that Lieut. Martin had just heard of his dismissal and had gone to Washington to see about it. If he had known he need not have gone as I made it all straight, I guess, when I was there.

Surgeon Elnathan Simoons (1811-183)
Surgeon Elnathan W. Simmons

I visited with Capt. Griswold all day yesterday. He looks well and seems to feel well. I reckon he makes a good officer and is well liked. Dr. [Elnathan] Simmons is at home and it is believed he will not return. He leaves in disgrace if stories are true. ²

Tell ____ we have beautiful plowing weather here and young lambs would skip about and enjoy the warm sun so much. I am now writing in Smith’s store or market. At the market is a large building through the centre the whole length of the street, and from my window I could count I presume 500 negroes stretched out on the walks and benches basking in the warm sun and whiling away the day in this intelligent way. This is a gay climate. We have had a nice thunderstorm this morning and the doors are all thrown open to let in the cool refreshing breeze. Northern traders are getting into Norfolk largely and business is just as lively as the authorities will allow. Groups of Secesh, however, hurry sulkily about the corners listening to some one of their number reading perhaps of the great war meeting in New York or the passage of the Conscription bill or some other unwelcome news. I love to see them writhe and wish I could see them sink.

Now mother, write me immediately at New Bern. Tell me all the news, how you got home from Com. Did Willie enjoy it? Tell all.

Yours, — Will

¹ James Goodrich enlisted at age 38 in August 1862 at Naples to serve three years in Co. G, 148th New York. He was wounded in action on 9 May 1864 near Petersburg and died of his wounds on 5 July 1864 at Fort Monroe. Peter Goodrich enlisted at age 34 in August 1862 to serve with his brother. He was wounded in action on 14 May 1864 at Drewry’s Bluff, Va., and again in front of Petersburg. He was captured at Fair Oaks, Va. and paroled on 8 March 1865. James and Peter Goodrich were the sons of John Goodrich (1799-1893) and Cornelia Cash (1799-1888) of Naples, Ontario County, New York.

² Dr. Elnathan W. Simmons enrolled at age 46 at Geneva to serve three years as the surgeon of the 148th New York Infantry. He was discharged prematurely from the service on 14 February 1863.


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