Edgar W. Clark was born March 9, 1833, in Northville, Wayne County, Michigan, the son of New York natives John B. Clark (b. 1808) and Lucinda Hickox (1814-1892).
His parents settled in Michigan by 1832 (possibly Wayne County). John B. may have been living in Vernon, Shiawassee County in 1840. By 1850 Edgar was living with his family and working as a farmer in Dewitt, Clinton County (is younger brother William would also join the Old Third).
Edgar married Ohio native Catharine A. Crayts (1836-1926), on September 9, 1858, in Dewitt, Clinton County, and they had at least four children: Mina (b. 1859), Carrie (b. 1861), Amos B. (b. 1867) and Philo or Milo (b. 1869).
By 1859 they were living in Michigan when their daughter was born, and by 1860 Edgar was working as a sawyer and living with his wife and daughter in Lansing’s First Ward, Ingham County.
Edgar stood 5’9” with hazel eyes, dark hair and a dark complexion, and was a 29-year-old mechanic living in Lansing’s First Ward with his wife and two small children when he enlisted for 3 years in Company G on Monday, August 11, 1862, probably at Lansing, crediting Lansing First Ward, and arrived at Detroit Barracks the same day. (Company G, formerly the “Williams’ Rifles”, was made up predominantly of men from the Lansing area.) Edgar's brother William had enlisted in Company G the previous year. The two were possibly related to Charles Clark who was also from the Lansing area and who joined Company G in May of 1861.
Concerned over the welfare of his family and to keep his wife informed as to his health and whereabouts, Edgar wrote frequently to his family from mid-August of 1862 until August of 1864. Catharine, at first unable to read or write had to depend on others to read his letters and to write for her. But apparently at some point during the war she decided to learn to read and write for herself.
On Sunday, August 17, 1862, Edgar wrote home that he was still in Detroit, probably the Detroit Barracks awaiting transportation east. “We drill two hours every day now from today. I have not done but two hours work this last week. We have very good times here. There’s from 300 to 500 to every table and all eat with their hats or caps on. We have butter, bread, pork and beans for breakfast. Sometimes cold and sometimes warm and every meal is the same. We have fresh beef once or twice a week.” He added that he was “somewhat lonesome” and wished he was back home with her, a sentiment he would repeat many times during the war. Indeed, one of the hallmarks of Clark’s letters home was his frankness in expressing his feelings toward his wife.
On Wednesday, August 20, 1862, Edgar wrote that his “health is first-rate. I got $25 of my bounty today and there are $17 more I will get in a few days. I will send you $20.” He closed by telling her “You must keep up good courage and this will come out all right. A year will pass around and then we will be together again never to part till death removes us. If you can, you must keep all of my letters till I come home. Get somebody to write for you Sunday if you can. I expect a letter from you or someone of the folks every day.”
By Sunday, August 24, 1862, Edgar reported his health to be “very good at present” but that he was still in Detroit.
I have been on guard four hours today and calculate to be on guard four hours tonight. This is the third letter that I have written you. I sent you $20 last week. I don’t know how long I shall stay in this place, perhaps not more than a day or two. I hear that we will go to the regiment tomorrow, but I don’t know. We got so many stories and promises that we do not know what we will do the next minute. Yesterday, I tried to get a pass to go downtown to see if I could get a furlough to come home a few days but could not. I will try again tomorrow and if I can come home and see you again before I leave the state, but if you don’t see me Tuesday night you will not see me for the present. Tonight is the first night that I tasted butter since I left home. I could tell you a great many more things if you would read my writing, but seeing as it is, I must write so as not to offend anyone whom you may get to read my letters to you.
Apparently Catharine had asked in a letter if in fact he could get a furlough to come home. On Tuesday, August 26, Edgar replied that he
tried to get a furlough to come home, but cannot. We will leave this place today or tomorrow. There are 100 new recruits leaving for the West [?] today. I was sorry to hear that mama was sick. I hope she is better now. It would cost me certainly $5 to come home and back here and I think if it was saved and sent to you for your comfort and convenience it will be better for you than it would be for me to come home and only stay a day or two with you and then have to leave again for a long time. You would feel worse than you did when I left first. It was hard for me to part with you and my two little children who are dependent on me for their protection and support. I wish it were not so, but this country must be saved and someone has to go. I see in this morning’s paper that drafting is ordered immediately after the first of September. So it is a sure thing and I am glad that I am a volunteer and not a drafted man. We have very poor fare. I thought I would have a change and bought two good mince pies and they were very good. There is everything to eat when men have the money to buy.
On Thursday, August 28, Edgar wrote home that his health was good, indeed, he had never felt better.
We intend to leave for the regiment tonight and I am glad of it for I have stayed in this place long enough. We are in close confinement, though we have about five acres of land to parade on and that is all. They let four men go out the other day on their honor and they have not come in yet. So they fooled them and they said they would not let another man go out of the barracks until he went to his regiment and then we will have more liberty. We expect to get our money before we go or we will not go. I suppose you think I hope I can’t get my money, but there is no such good luck for you nor me. It is a hard life to live although we do not work any. Perhaps that is the reason it is so hard, because I was always brought up to work. We do not live very well, but if I get it no worse in my life I will never grumble a bit. I suppose your melons are getting ripe by this time and I hope they will not get picked until they get ripe for I am not there to pick them before they get ripe. I wish I was there this morning. You must keep up good courage and get along as well as you can. I shall try to take care of myself as well as I can and you will bet I will be very clear from running into danger carelessly. My love for you is ten times stronger than it ever was before because I miss you every day and know the need of a good wife.
Although he had expected to be sent east on Friday, by Sunday, August 31, he had still not left Detroit. He had been on guard much of the night before. “I have been to sleep all of the morning till now and I thought I would write to let you know about me. I like to write to you first rate. I suppose you are glad of it. We have very good times here.”
He was still in Detroit when he wrote Catharine on Tuesday, September 2, he wrote his wife that he was well. “If I enjoy as good health as long as I am gone away from home, I shall feel glad. There are a good many going out with us, probably about 300. I would be glad to see you before I went out of the state, but it is impossible and we must make up our minds to put up with it.” He was optimistic about how long the war would last. “It is the opinion of all here that the war will not last over nine months. I must tell you to take good care of the children. The horrors of war may find them fatherless and cast them upon the mercies and charities of friends and relatives, but God forbid the thought. I still entertain the strong conviction that someday . . . will see us together again [in] this world of sorrow and trouble. You must not feel melancholy. I thought I would fill up the sheet so you would not say I wrote short letters.”
At about 9:00 p.m. Thursday night, September 4, Edgar boarded a train for Toledo where he arrived about 11:00 p.m. He left Toledo at 5:00 a.m. Friday morning for Cleveland arriving there about 10:00 a.m. From Cleveland he went to Wheeling, West Virginia and they were supposed to on to Baltimore from there. But, according to a letter he wrote home on Sunday, September 7, “the news came the rebels had taken one town on that road and we could not go through. Then we was ordered to go by the Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania Railroad and we had to go back 50 miles to get to that road which made about 100 miles of travel which we got unnecessarily. We then got on the cars at Bolivar, which is four miles below Wheeling on the Ohio River.” He finally joined the regiment on Saturday night. He reported that he found William well and that he was “quite satisfied with the regiment”. He hoped to make himself “as contented as possible” and promised to write home two or three times a week.
Edgar quickly fell into the Regimental routine. On September 11 he wrote Catharine that the day before he had gone to Alexandria “and bought a few notions such as a shirt and a cup for boiling coffee in and a plate and a spoon which is necessary for me to have.” He also had his photograph taken and planned to put it in with the letter. Three days later, September 14, Edgar wrote home that he was still well.
This is a beautiful Sunday morning and I have been to work fetching wood and cooking my breakfast. William is on guard duty this morning. I went to Alexandria yesterday and worked all day helping unload a vessel with wagons for our brigade. It is the first duty that I have done to amount to anything since I have been in the service and probably will be the last for quite a number of days. It is easy work to be a soldier. We are encamped in a very beautiful place and in a secure place as could be selected. We cannot tell how long we will be here in this locality. We have moved three times within the last week and every time we have bettered our condition. Talk is that we will move once more before we come to a final stopping place. Then we will not move until it is absolutely necessary to protect Washington. We are encamped within light [sight?] of Washington and only about three miles between three large forts, so when the rebels come they have got to take four large forts before they can touch us.
On September 17 Edgar wrote home that the regiment was still encamped at what Clark had referred to on the 14th as Camp Wilson and on the 17th as a “camp near Fort Worth”, but was in fact near Fairfax Seminary. He had no idea how long they would stay there, and complained “[w]e get orders every day and then they are countermanded but if the rebels on their return from Maryland should make a dash for Washington, then we will have to protect that place. We are under marching orders with 60 rounds of ammunition in our cartridge boxes, and must be ready at a moment’s warning. So you will see that it is impossible to tell how long we will stay here, but it will come out all right one of these days.” He reported that on Monday, September 15, the regiment “went out on picket duty last Monday [September 15]. We went three miles south of Munson Hill or about six miles from where we were camped. We did not see any rebels, but some rebel woman [women?]. We had a good time. Wild grapes growed as large as ones you saw in your camp, and we see a good many things pleasing and amusing. There is a great many regiments within sight of us and tents as far as you can see in every direction.”
On September 24 Edgar wrote from camp near the Seminary to let his family know he was in good health. After a brief discussion of home matters, Edgar turned his thoughts to more serious matters, particularly in the wake of the horrible fighting that had recently taken place at Antietam.
How soon we may get into a fight, we cannot know, but if we do, I am sure I will come out all right. I was talking to one of our company by the name of Church who is with one of the ambulances that care of [for?] the dead and wounded on the battlefield and he said he went one day this week under a flag of truce into the rebel lines where the Battle of Bull Run was fought about three weeks ago and he said there were hundreds of dead men, Union and Rebel, on the ground, still unburied, with all of their clothes stripped off of them. I thought that was a hard sight to see. I hope I shall never see the likes of it. Should it be my lot to be killed in battle, I hope I shall get a decent burial and not have my bones bleached on this land above ground. We have to drill three hours a day and that is all the work we do. The President has issued a proclamation freeing all the slaves after the first of January in the revolting states. I like that first-rate. If they cannot be brought to honorable terms by mild usage, the Old Book says they must be dealt in a more severe manner.
By the end of the month the regiment had moved to a camp at Upton’s Hill, Virginia, and Edgar seemed pleased with the move. On Sunday, September 28 he wrote Catharine that his
health is first rate at present. I hope it will continue to be good while I am in the army. I have been to work all day, cleaning my gun.The regiment went on inspection this morning. The colonel looked at my gun a little and then gave it back to me. I think it passed because he made no comments about it. William and I have moved, so we have a better bed and we do not have to sleep on the ground as before. We marched into a camp which a regiment had just left. You say you wish you were here to do the cooking for me. I wish you was but I would not have you come and live in camp, as we move from place to place. I have moved about 10 miles in four times. How long we will stay in this position is hard for anyone to tell. Even the field and staff officers are not allowed to know where [we will move] until about a half-hour before we start. Yesterday’s paper stated that there was no rebels within 20 miles of us.
He continued to miss his wife. On October 1 Edgar wrote that “Someone has remarked that we cannot properly estimate our individual blessings until we are deprived of them. So it is with me now. My absence has taught me that deprived of you the world would be a wilderness and life a blank. I have to meditate here in solitude the many joys you have brought me, strewing my pathway with happiness and exalting my soul to a just prescription of the good and beautiful in life.”
Four days later he expressed to his wife his thoughts on the cause of the war. “I think Old Abe has done a good thing in striking at the cause of the rebellion and I would still be in favor of the destruction of the whole rebel property if it would be peace. I think if that does not bring peace by the first of January, slavery will be abolished from the United States and I would think they would come back into the Union before that time so as to save themselves and their institutions.”
Edgar remained with the regiment throughout the fall of 1862 and participated in the battle of Fredericksburg on December 13, 1862. He took the opportunity on December 17 to write home and inform his wife that he was alive and well after the great battle.
On January 12, 1863, Edgar was admitted to the division hospital near Falmouth, suffering from diarrhea and rheumatism. He remained in the division hospital until early February when he was transferred to the regimental hospital and by the first of March had returned to the company. However, he suffered a relapse and just four days after returning to the regiment was sent back to the regimental hospital on March 5. His health improved and by late in the month had rejoined the company.
Edgar was with the regiment during its movement across the Rappahannock River and in its engagement at Chancellorsville. He also participated in the battle of Gettysburg on July 2, 1863. Curiously, beginning in late June his letters become substantially clipped, his topics of discussion taper off to virtually only events in the east and he no longer signs off affectionately.
In late August the Third Michigan was sent to New York City to assist in preserving order during the upcoming draft and from that city they were sent up the Hudson and helped with the draft in Troy, New York. The regiment returned to Virginia in September and participated in the Mine Run campaign in November, after which it took up winter quarters at Camp Bullock near Brandy Station. Edgar continued to serve with Company G throughout 1863 and on into 1864.
Although Edgar was reported absent wounded when he was transferred to Company F, Fifth Michigan infantry upon consolidation of the Third and Fifth Michigan Regiments on June 10, 1864, in fact, according to his letters he remained with his company (F) until he was shot in the left knee shattering the bone during a charge on an enemy position about sundown, June 20, 1864, near Petersburg. Fortunately for Edgar, “William was there close by. I got on his back and he carried me back over a slight rise of ground. Then another soldier was there to help him. I got astride of a gun and they both took me to where the ambulance was waiting to carry me back to the field hospital” at City Point, Virginia. “After lying on the ground all night under a big tree and in the morning about 9 I was put on the table to be examined by the doctors and told if it was necessary they would have to take my leg off, which they did.”
On June 23 he wrote Catharine that after being shot he had laid “on the ground a little while wanting for some to come and help me off. I tried to get some of our own company boys to take me out. They said they could not, but if they were obliged to fall back they would carry me with them. At this moment I got sight of William. I made a loud noise calling his name. He heard me, then I knew I was all right.” He was taken to a brick farmhouse near by and from there transported to Washington, where he was admitted to Harvard hospital.
He pointed out to his wife in his June 23 letter that his leg had been “taken off without the least particle of pain. My dear, it is a sad misfortune to me now to be deprived of half a leg. But it is one of the misfortunes of war for which none are to blame. It would be an honorable misfortune. I would rather it be a leg than an arm.” Edgar remained at Harvard hospital through mid-August, and his leg healed ever so slowly, suffering one bout of gangrene.
On August 22 Edgar was transferred to South Street hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he remained until he was transferred to Detroit on November 26, 1864, and was discharged on account of wounds on February 27, 1865 at Detroit, possibly from Harper hospital.
Edgar eventually returned to the Lansing area where he probably lived most of his life and for many years worked as a clerk. By 1870 he was working as a clerk in a state government office and living in Lansing’s First Ward with his wife and four children.
He was living in North Lansing in 1883 drawing $24.00 for pension no. 41,617 (dated 1865), and still residing in North Lansing the following year.
Edgar was a member of the Old Third Michigan Infantry Association, and in May of 1885 he joined the Grand Army of the Republic Charles Foster Post No. 42 in Lansing.
He died on January 10, 1902, at Lansing, and was buried on January 12 in Mt. Hope cemetery in Lansing: section B, lot 192, grave no. 10 (10-192-B).
In February of 1902 his widow was living in Michigan when she applied for and received a pension (no. 542279).
William Clark was born December 29, 1839 in South Lyon, Oakland County, Michigan, the son of John B. (b. 1808) and Lucinda (Hickox, b. 1813).
Both New York natives, his parents were probably married in New York sometime before 1832 by which time they had settled in Michigan (probably Wayne County). John B. may have been living in Vernon, Shiawassee County in 1840. In any case, by 1850 William was living with his family (so was his older brother Edgar who would also join the Old Third) in Dewitt, Clinton County.
William was probably living in Clinton County and stood 5’11” with hazel eyes, brown hair and a light complexion, and was a 22-year-old farmer when he enlisted in Company G on May 10, 1861. (His brother Edgar would enlist in Company G in 1862; and the two may have been related to Charles Clark who, like Edgar, was from Lansing and who also enlisted in Company G. Moreover, Company G, formerly the “Williams’ Rifles”, was made up predominantly of men from the Lansing area.)
William was wounded slightly in the shoulder on May 31, 1862, at Fair Oaks, Virginia, and by late June he was at home in DeWitt, Clinton County, recovering from his wound. He soon recovered his health and on August 11 William arrived in Detroit Barracks, the transit depot for soldiers returning to and from their Regiments, and on Friday, August 15, left Michigan to rejoin the Third Michigan. He was promoted to Corporal on September 1, 1862, and according to Edgar Clark of Company G, William “honestly” deserved the post. “His pay is no more than it was before but it relieves him of a great many little duties which a private is subject to, such as standing guard.” For much of his time in service William and Edgar shared not only the same tent but the same bed as well, a common use of limited sleeping space in the nineteenth century. Apparently William and Edgar got their pictures taken on April 22, 1863.
On Sunday October 11, noted Edgar Clark, William “was splitting some kindling wood off a rail, when the hatchet made a glance and cut his big toe bad. So they sent him to Washington to a hospital.” On October 24 Edgar reported home that William was in Stanton hospital in Washington and his foot was not doing well. William eventually recovered, rejoined the regiment and reenlisted on December 23, 1863, at Brandy Station, Virginia.
He returned home to Michigan on veteran’s furlough during January of 1864 and rejoined the regiment on or about the first of February.
It is quite possible that while he was home on furlough William married Mary Francis Reynolds; they had at one child, a daughter Gertrude Estelle (b. 1876).
Shortly after William returned to the regiment, on March 5, 1864, Edgar wrote to his own wife, Catherine, “William got a letter from his dear wife last night. She feels quite bad for she says Alice Collins has reported a story that he slept with three girls one night and she does not like it much. I would not either if I was in her place. I think myself there must be some mistake for I do not think he would cut up such a caper as that so near home, much less to tell Alice of it. I do not know what is the matter with him nor do I care much. He knows that I do not like his Mary nor never did see how he can but you know love will go where it is sent, and you know somebody must like her and he may as well be the victim.”
William was transferred as a Sergeant to Company F, Fifth Michigan infantry upon consolidation of the Third and Fifth Michigan Regiments on June 10, 1864. During the movement through the North Anna area by the Army of the Potomac in late May of 1864, William reportedly shot and killed a rebel, possible his first kill.
On May 26, Edgar Clark wrote home to his wife that “William wanted I should tell you he killed a rebel yesterday. He has got a sharp [Sharp’s?] target rifle which will kill a man as far as you can see. He went out on a skirmish line and got a good aim at one and after he shot he saw four men carrying a man off.” William was promoted to First Sergeant on November 2, 1864, and mustered out of service on July 5, 1865 at Jeffersonville, Indiana.
After the war, William returned to Michigan, probably to Dewitt in Clinton County. He was living in Lansing in 1876 (where his daughter was born), but curiously his wife Mary and their daughter Gertrude are reported living with her brother Nelson Reynolds in Dewitt in 1880, with no mention of William.
In any case, William was either widowed or divorced by the time he moved to California where he married his second wife, California native Ida Alice Maloon (b. 1855) in 1887 or 1888; they adopted a baby girl named Irma Viola (b. 1895). By 1900 and 1910 William and his family were living in Oakland, California.
In 1871 William applied for and received a pension (no. 118522).
William died on June 16, 1918, in Oakland, California, and was buried on June 19 in Mountain View cemetery in Oakland.
In July of 1918 Ida applied for and received a pension (no. 864551). By 1920 Ida was listed as the head of the household and living in Oakland; also living with her was her daughter Irma and her husband C. B. Stevens as well as another woman named Gertrude (b. c. 1877), possibly William’s daughter and her 11-year-old son Rennold.