Letter from Clark, William H.

Soldier: Clark, William H.
Allegiance: Union
Unit/Service Branch: 21st Infantry
Home State: Massachusetts
Date Written: Wednesday, July 23rd, 1862
Location: Newport, Va.
Correspondence Type: Letter
Subjects: Civilians, Commanders, Comrades, Eastern Theater, Patriotism, Politics, Rumors
Camp Lincoln

Dear Father,

I have received three letters from home since I have been here though two of them were quite old (having made a voyage to Newburn in quest of me), but they were most welcome notwithstanding their age. What we are to do or when we are to do it I can form no opinion. I am quite confident that no important movement will be made by McLellan for some time, said length of time to be determined by the alacrity displayed in the North in forwarding reinforcements. I think that the northern citizens and officials and all others who have so longtime been bewailing the enormous expense which our large army (though no so large as they would make the public believe) is entailing on the country, must now see that the South is united and determined to overthrow this government, and that the only way to prevent the accomplishments of this infernal scheme is for all loyal men to tender at once their services to the country in any way in which they can be most useful. And, in their united strength, strike a blow at the rebellion which shall crush it at once and forever. It can be done, of this there is no shadow of a doubt, more than this – it must be done, but it can not be done without an effort and that effort must be a mighty one. It is high time to view this rebellion in its true light – in the fullness of its power, which is by no means to be despised or made light of. It is time to believe what can no longer be doubted – that the rebellion is as wide-spread as the territory that the rebel leaders lay claim to and the spirit of the rebellion, or revolution (as they perhaps term it) is most thoroughly infused into the hearts of the entire population – and that this population will follow and obey and sustain their really smart and skillful, but rascally, leaders with a persistency and desperation which can be contended against successfully only with superior skill or strength. Our army is at present inadequate to the work before us. We have a splendid army, well armed, equipped and organized and made, too, from men who, for the most part, one year ago had hardly handled a rifle. Our army and navy is the pride of our own, and the wonder and astonishment of all other nations. Yet it needs to be increased and everybody knows it. It is perfectly clear to everyone that the South must be subdued by force of arms. Why then delay? The quicker the required number of men are in the field the quicker the war will end—and come must come. Some, of course, must fall victims to disease in camp and some must endure mutilation and death on the field of battle—but why should one wait for another? One man’s life is as dear to him as another’s is to him! all dear friends who would deeply mourn their loss. Must men be bought by a paltry bounty to risk their lives at their country’s call? Do they value their lives only at a hundred dollars? And yet it takes a month or six weeks to get a regiment enlisted. The tardiness in enlisting is entirely unpardonable and also unjust to the soldiers now in the field. We are only waiting for them and the longer they held back the longer we must stay away from home, the longer and more expensive will be the war and the longer the enemy will have to prepare to defend themselves against us. The whole force of 300,000 called for by the President ought to have in camps of instruction in ten days after the quota of each town was announced by the Governors of the several states. It is to be hoped and prayed for that this force may be immediately brought into camp and that our army may never again be compelled to fight for a whole week against a force twice as large as ours and leave all our dead and wounded on the field as they fall during the whole of a continuous and calamitous retreat.
With regard to Gen. McLellan, I will only say that I have seen here and at fortress Monroe many of the officers and soldiers of his command and as far as I can see his entire army have the fullest confidence in his integrity and abilities. Concerning his recent six days fight, I think it is only surprising that his little army did not suffer entire annihilation. I am satisfied that no general could have conducted that retreat more ably than did gen. McLellan. That the retreat was compelled was simply because the force of the enemy was overwhelmingly larger than ours. There are various rumors afloat here, among which is one that Gen. Burnside is to have a larger command and is to operate entirely independent of Gen. McLellan. Whether this is so or not I do not know. I know I am willing to go anywhere under either Gen. and am sure of success if we have anything like a fair show. I think it is now the first duty of every loyal citizen who is not bound to his home by most sacred ties to enter the service of this country in this her hour of greatest need. I will not say they ought to be drafted but they ought to be in a position to give effective aid in the shortest possible time. Troops are constantly arriving and we are impatiently awaiting orders.

Your aff. Son.

W. H. Clark