Martin Clapper

Martin Clapper, also known as “Clopper”, was born January 18, 1836, in New York, the son of Michael (1808-1887) and Mary Ann (Phillips, 1814-1868).

Martin’s parents were married in Geneseo, Genesee County, New York on April 5, 1832, and they lived in New York for some years. The family moved from New York and settled in Michigan sometime before 1848, and by 1850 they were living in Vienna, Genesee County. By about 1853 Michael had settled his family in Shiawassee County and by 1859 the family had settled in Holland, Ottawa County where his father was a farmer and Methodist minister. By the following year Martin was working as a mason and living with his family in Holland. According to his father Martin was something of a musician and played the fiddle. In fact he sent martin away for two weeks in about 1860 to live with a neighbor named Barnhart because the boy wanted to play the fiddle in the house and Michael wouldn’t allow it.

He was 25 years old and probably still living with his family and working in Holland when he enlisted in Company I on May 13, 1861. (Company I was made up largely of men from Ottawa County, particularly from the eastern side of the County.)

From the regiment’s winter camp -- Camp Michigan -- located near Alexandria, Virginia, Martin wrote to his father on January 21, 1862.

Yours of the 12th inst. arrived with today’s post. I read it with care & I assure you that it was very interesting to me. I had my mind made up to how some things was going & I find that I was not a great ___ out of the way. Well I have not much news to write. The weather is very bad. It’s been raining three or four days & the mud is very deep, deeper than the snow is there. I guess you will probably receive a letter from me dated 15th long before you get this with a couple of Uncle Sam’s notes in it. Pretty much all of our pay this time was notes. Next pay it will be specie. Well what I was going to say is this: I thought at the time that I would not trust more than that in one letter & as soon as I had heard . . . that I would send some more and will. But since then I lent some at pretty good interest until next pay day which will be about the 13th of March. They . . . say that Uncle Sam does not pay his boys for its no such thing. He pays each one his just due but some of them spends their money & . . . can’t send it home. I know it must be tough hard times there & money hard to get therefore I wish to send you all that I can. We got our new guns the 19th. I believe that I told you about them well we feel much better with them than with the old musket. These rifles are manufactured in Austria. They are not a very well finished gun outside but they are like a signed cat: a good deal better than they look. The stock is made of beech without stain or varnish. The ball is the regular minie hollow at the butt & sharp at the top. they have a raised sight so as to shoot nine hundred yards. The size of the ball is 35 to the pound. If I have luck to come home I am going to bring one of them. Now I have told you about what kinds of rifles we have got & what shall be the next? Well I hardly know what. Oh. I will give you a little news but perhaps it will be old before you get it. The Baltimore Clipper expects of a battle being fought in eastern Kentucky between the federal forces under General Scheopff & Zollicoffer rebel forces lasting from early in the morning till dark. The dispatch says that Zollicoffer was killed & his army entirely defeated. The loss was heavy on both sides. This rebel general’s force defended the approach to the Cumberland gap & if defeated the road into East [Tennessee] is open to the federal forces. No more of this. Please give me Uncle dick’s post office address in your next [letter]. I would like to write to him. He would answer wouldn’t he if I should send him a post stamp? Tell me which one of the Clark girls is teaching school there in the woods. Well now I’ll tell you the letter that I got today was the best letter that I have had in a long time. I hope you will give me another with as much news. Co. I is well & ready for action as near as I can find out the army here on the Potomac will be co-workers with the Burnside Expedition as soon as the roads will permit for our army to move. George is not very well. I think he is getting better. Nothing more good night & I remain your son, Martin Clapper, my respects to mother and all.

Martin was present for duty with the regiment when it went into action during the Peninsula Campaign of the spring and summer of 1862. From a “Camp near rail road six miles east of Richmond,” he wrote to his father on June 6.

I received your letter this morning & likewise the pills. I am a thousand times obliged to you for them as I was entirely destitute of any kind of medicine are present, it being in my knapsack on the other side of the Chickahominy [River]. Well you may be sure that I was very glad to get another line from home. I have long been looking for one & now that I received one that informed me that you are all well it does me good. I have nothing new to write. I have written twice already this week and I sent out yesterday morning. They will give you a poor description of our late battle. . . . I had forgotten to tell you about our new Chaplain Mr. Anderson of G H [Grand Haven]. Yes he arrived last Friday I think. He was ordered by General Carney [?] to go into the woods & help carry out the wounded, he being in the rear of the battle standing in a wheat field. The Chaplain looked up to the general as much to say I rather guess you do not know who I am. When the general asked him who he was, “I am,” said he, “the Chaplain of the Michigan 3d.” Said Carney, “I don’t care a d______ who you are you start & carry off wounded men.” This is a story that our band-leader tells, he being engaged carrying away wounded & happened to be resting near where the conversation took place. I think it’s rather rough on our Mr. Preacher & perhaps in the coming battle he will keep clear of General Carney. Well I had several chats with him. He seems very sociable & common. Talks a good deal with the boys & I guess will be thought a good deal of. We expect another battle now immediately. Every thing is in readiness for a forward movement although the constant rain may prevent the operations at present. The roads are almost impassable. It hasn’t rained today any to speak of but threatens very hard. Our regiment is now being paid I will leave this unsealed till morning & then perhaps I will send a little. you must not expect to hear from me very often for it is with the greatest difficulty that I can obtain material or find time to write. If God spares my life through this next great battle I am in hopes that I shall see you for if the rebels does [sic] leave Richmond as they have other places this will be the decisive one [and] the rebellion will here receive the death wound. We have whipped them at every other place where we have fought them, we can whip them here at Richmond their Capitol. I will close for the present. I am well & in good spirits. Oh we have been heavily reinforced here within the two last days. The First Michigan regiment is coming; they are back a few miles to the rear. They will probably be in the coming fight. Alonzo Smith, Orie Boughton, Wil Standard [?] & one of the Nelson boys . . . is in this regiment. I hope I shall see them. I hope this will find you all well, no more good by, your son the soldier, Martin Clapper [P.S.] Father I enclose a five-dollar note -- not wanting to risk any more in a letter. And here is a cedar bough. I wish you would give it to Lottie Adams. Tell her that it was taken from a tree that shades Mortimer Markham’s grave. He was an acquaintance of hers & no doubt she will prize it much. He was shot through the breast in the first part of the [present] engagement and died three quarters of an hour after he was shot as near as I can learn & . . . died like a true patriot for his country’s cause. His loss is mourned by his Co & all that knew him.

Martin was killed in action on July 1, 1862 at Malvern Hill, Virginia.

According to Homer Thayer of Company G, a minie ball struck Martin “killing him almost instantly.” He was presumably among the unknown soldiers buried near Malvern Hill, although there is a memorial to him in Pilgrim Home cemetery in Holland.

In 1872 or 1878 Martin’s father was living in Holland when he applied for and received pension no. 204,677. Michael apparently remarried a woman named Elizabeth.