Following a CDV

16 October 2007

Ron Coddington is a collector of (and writer about) Civil War carte de visites (CDVs, history). You probably already knew that. But you may not have known that he also blogs, at Faces of War. He doesn’t update on a regular schedule–and most posts are about the writing and publishing process–but once in a while he blogs about the photographs themselves. My idea of a great use of pixels.

Ron recently talked about buying a CDV of three Clark brothers from Maine. One of them, Charles Amory Clark, was with the 6th Maine Infantry at Antietam and later was awarded the Medal of Honor for extraordinary leadership on the Chancellorsville Campaign.

C.A. Clark
C. A. Clark

Inspired by Ron’s post about the picture–and by that face–I’ve learned a little more about Clark …

Born in Sangerville, a tiny town in central Maine, he was just 20 years old when the War began in the Spring of 1861. A lawyer’s son, he had been been teaching school and preparing for Harvard since he was 15.

In April of ’61, however, he enlisted as a Private in Company A, Sixth Maine Volunteer Infantry–reportedly the first man to do so. His three oldest brothers also served during the War: all wounded at least once. His brother Frank did not survive the combat.

Charles was subsequently promoted through the ranks and commissioned Second Lieutenant in the Company in February 1862. With the regiment, he saw action on the Peninsula Campaign in May and June, after which he was promoted again, to First Lieutenant and Adjutant of the 6th Maine.

In that office he served at Second Bull Run, then on the Maryland Campaign in September, seeing action at Crampton’s Gap and present in reserve at Antietam. They were in combat again at Fredericksburg in December, and on to Chancellorsville in May 1863:

… Here with his regiment he was at the front in the famous charge of the Light Division, through the ” slaughter pen,” over the old stone wall, and up Marye’s Heights into the fortifications of the enemy. The official report records that he was in the first group to enter the works. There he captured from a Confederate officer of the Washington Artillery the saber which he afterwards wore in many engagements. Two days later, in a night fight while Sedgwick was recrossing the Rappahannock, the same report credits him with saving his regiment.

His Medal of Honor was issued 13 May 1896, 33 years after his service at Brooks Ford, Va. (4 May 1863):

Having voluntarily taken command of his regiment in the absence of its commander, at great personal risk and with remarkable presence of mind and fertility of resource led the command down an exceedingly precipitous embankment to the Rappahannock River and by his gallantry, coolness, and good judgment in the face of the enemy saved the command from capture or destruction.

He was at Gettysburg, then on the Bristoe Campaign where at Rappahannock Station, Virginia, on 7 November he was seriously wounded. He was mustered out of service as a result in February 1864, reportedly against his will.

In April he obtained a new commission as Captain and Assistant Adjutant General (AAG) and went to work for Brigade Commander Hiram Burnham, his old commander in the 6th Maine. He served with the General at Cold Harbor and around Petersburg until Burnham was killed in the assault on Ft Harrison on 29 September.

His “health seriously impaired by wounds, exposure, and disease”, Charles Clark resigned his commission for good in November 1864. He returned home to Maine, and studied the law with A.W. Paine at Bangor.

In 1866 he moved to Webster City, Iowa, and practiced law there for the next decade. In 1876 he relocated to Cedar Rapids, where he was prominent in the law and in politics. He argued cases before the US Supreme Court and others of the State Supreme Courts during his career.

C.A. Clark postwar
C.A. Clark (c. 1880s)

In addition to his law practice, he was first active as a “liberal Republican”, being a delegate at their National Convention in Cincinnati in 1872, and afterward as a Democrat until 1896. He was President of the 1888 State Democratic Party Convention and delegate at the National Convention, held in St. Louis. In 1896 he returned to the Republican fold, working for McKinley’s election.

At some point he also served a term as Mayor of Cedar Rapids…

…during which time he made many improvements in the city, especially as to its cleanliness, driving the horses and cows from the streets, and the pig pens from the back yards.

During his medical leave home during the War–on 19 December 1863–Clark had married childhood classmate Helen E. Brockway. Helen’s father Cyrus was a manufacturer in Sangerville, operating Brockway’s Mills. During his life with her, Charles had 6 children who survived infancy. At least one of his sons joined his father’s law firm.

Charles Amory Clark died in Cedar Rapids in 1913, about a month shy of 73 years of age, and is buried there at Oak Hill Cemetery.

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Notes

The photo of Clark at the top is adapted from a scan posted by Gregory Speciale at find-a-grave, which also pictures his gravestone. It looks an awful lot like the pose in Ron Coddington’s new CDV.

Biographical details are from:

an article in Officers of the Volunteer Army and Navy who served in the Civil War (Philadelphia: L.R. Hamersly & Co., 1893) posted online by All Biographies;

Benjamin F. Glues’s History of Iowa From the Earliest Times To The Beginning of the Twentieth Century, Volume IV, Iowa Biography (New York: The Century History Co.,1903). That volume is online in its entirety from Google Books, and also contains the later portrait of Clark used here. I’m guessing its date;

and Biographical Record of Linn County, Iowa (Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1901), extracted online at Iowa Biographies.

5 Responses to “Following a CDV”

  1. Ron Coddington says:

    Enjoyed reading the additional information about Charles Armory Clark. The image you feature on your post is cropped from the original of the three brothers. According to Charles’ diary, the photograph was taken at Brady’s studio on April 27, 1863, a week before he was involved in the engagement at Brooks’ Ford that later resulted in his being awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

  2. Brian says:

    Thanks for adding that Ron – and for stopping in. I’ve been enjoying your work.

  3. Andrea Solarz says:

    Thanks for the very nice summary of my great-great-grandfather’s life! He was a wonderful man, as you can see. FYI, to give you a little back story — the picture of Charles that you have posted here is one that I cropped from a print of the “3 brothers” CDV and posted several years ago on the American Civil War Research Database (a terrific resource!); it was then apparently “lifted” by someone else and posted on the find-a-grave website without attribution (such is life on the web…). BTW, I was later lucky enough to acquire on eBay an original CDV of Charles taken at the same sitting that is of him alone. As Ron noted, the reason that we can date the photos is because Charles mentioned in his diary that they all went to Brady’s on that date (the brothers were very close and made an effort to see each other when circumstances would allow it).

    I appreciate your interest in my ancestor!

    Regards,

    Andrea S.

    P.S. A brief correction: It was Charles’ brother James who didn’t survive the war (dying of wounds suffered at Petersburg); although Frank was also wounded during the War, his wounds were not mortal (you may have taken this from erroneous info that I posted on the First Maine Heavy Artillery guestbook in 2000 when I was just beginning my research and hadn’t yet gotten to “know” all of the brothers). FYI, the order of the brothers, from oldest to youngest, was Whiting, James, Charles, Frank (they also had younger siblings, but these four were the ones who served in the War).

  4. John Hjalmarson says:

    My Great Aunt’s first husband served with the 6th Maine and was killed at the stone wall on May 3, 1863. His name was Sewall Gray, and he was a class mate of Charles Clark at Foxcroft Academy. Sewall Gray was promoted through the ranks and was a Captain when he was killed. Clark mentions him in a speech he made. For your information the diary of Captain Clark is now featured in a book about Fredricksburg. The book was published by Central Virginia Battlefields Trust.

  5. Brian says:

    Thanks for the additions, John. And for poking me about the speech. His paper Campaigning with the Sixth Maine is, thankfully, online in the Internet Archive’s text collection.

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