DescriptionCivil War Archive of Charles P. Clark, Acting Volunteer Lieutenant in the Union Navy. An extensive naval archive of approximately one hundred and fifteen letters and documents relating to Charles Peter Clark (1836-1901). It includes eighty letters from Clark to his family, primarily his wife, Caroline, and roughly thirty-five official naval documents from his superiors, including the Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Welles, and Admiral Theodorus Bailey. Clark enlisted in the Union Navy on October 3, 1862, as an acting ensign. He was part of the East Gulf Blockading Squadron and was assigned to the Florida coast, though he also spent time patrolling in the Gulf of Mexico. He was promoted to acting master in 1863 and acting volunteer lieutenant on August 9, 1864. He served on the USS Santiago de Cuba and the USS Gem of the Sea before commanding the USS Rosalie and the USS Sea Bird; the latter was partially responsible for capturing the British steamer Mail in October of 1863. He was discharged in late 1865.
The archive ranges from September 12, 1862 to November 19, 1864, except for one letter from September 1880 which was sent by a family member. They average four to six pages in length, with a handful of exceptions, one of which is seventeen pages in length. His letters discuss the day-to-day duties of a sailor in the Union Navy, military news, and gossip relating to his family back in Boston.
The first letter in the collection is a document from a surgeon in the commonwealth of Massachusetts. Clark attempted to claim a military exception due to an "African Fever," which had left him with an "impaired constitution" however, he enlisted in the navy a mere week after this exception from traditional service was issued. Clark was initially disenchanted with service in the navy, and his medical history was something he continuously brought up in letters to his wife. At the close of a February 19, 1863 letter, he writes, "I am looking every day for a chance to go home & hope to bring it about. I think my African business wants some attention."
After his promotion to Acting Master and his appointment as commander of the Rosalie and Sea Bird, his attitude towards service improved, but he still struggled with the lengthy periods of monotony at sea. On August 7 1863, he writes, "This is rather a lazy life that I am leading - simply sailing about - going no where, - no cargo, simply looking for what we can see. Days pass, & nothing in sight...."
However, the tedium was shattered on October 15 when Sea Bird, Fox, Two Sisters, and the Honduras captured the British steamer Mail after a three-hour chase off the coast of St. Petersburg. The next day he sent a hasty letter to his wife describing the pursuit. "...the Two Sisters was with us...soon we made out a Steamer, & then a few minutes afterward saw another steamer chasing her. I was across his bow, & he had to have off, when as good luck would have it another Tender, the Fox, was in sight & headed him still further off. In a few minutes still a 4th the 'Annie' became visible to him & he had to give in to the Honduras...She has 160 bales of cotton..." His following letter to Caroline on the 22nd elaborates on the capture, "...The P.S. contained a hasty account from taking the 'Mail' an Iron Steamer, English, - Cotton loaded. There was 3 of us Tenders in sight, so we all share. In fact each of us played a part in the capture, for the feller was making for smooth water, & we headed him off, - First one then the other & then the third. Come to look at it it is likely that my share will be about $1000-$1200 which I shall like better to take than to read about. What say you? Well its something to console me for this Exile."
In the summer of 1864 Clark was transferred back to the East Gulf Blockading Squadron in Key West after an outbreak of fever led to the resignation of several other officers. Writing to his wife from Key West on June 21 he explains the transfer. "...the Admiral sent for me, and I came to be asked about as transfer to headquarters for a while. It appears that Mr. Field & Mr. Dunderdale the officers here to supply the Captain of the Fleets place have got frightened at the Fever, and asked to leave! The Admiral hates a coward and asked...what I thought about coming." Clark remained at Headquarters until October of 1864.
The final four war-dated documents in the collection are particularly mysterious. On October 11, 1864, Clark was summoned back to New York by Gideon Welles. In explanation, Rear Admiral Cornelius Stribling sent excerpts from letters sent initially by Lieutenant Commander Clark Henry Wells, who had brought the complaints against Clark's leadership. It reads in part, "Your informant...is Acting Vol. Lt Clark who is entirely destitute of professional Knowledge having reached his present rank by making himself useful to Commanding Officers with his pen...he has assumed to himself an importance which he is by no means deserving of...he did what he pleased, in fact establishing the reputation of being 'the great controlling powers in these waters'...he has obtained his promotion by course of conduct, no officer would resort to..." The final letter from Gideon Wells advises Clark to await orders. The result of this investigation is unknown, although the official record has Clark honorably discharged on November 20, 1865.
After the war, Charles Clark returned to Boston, Massachusetts and worked as a merchant. He and Caroline had five children.
Condition: Very lightly soiled and toned. Smoothed folds.
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