Richard Albert Clarkson was living with the family of his uncle, Joseph Albert Clarkson, when the Civil War began. He was a young man of about sixteen. His primary service during the war was with the 14th Regiment, Virginia Cavalry from Charlotte county Virginia. Many years after the war, RA was asked to share his war recollections. The first of two letters is addressed to Captain Edwin Bouldin. Captain Bouldin headed RA’s regiment and they remained in touch with each other throughout their lives. Among other anecdotes, he gives this description of Camp life:
. . . In January ’63 I joined the Company, then in Winter Quarters near Salem, Roanoke co, Va . . our Mess was a large one composed, if I remember right, of your honorable self, . . . Roberts of Drakes Branch, Sam Gaines of Charlotte CH [Courthouse], Ad West of Halifax, McMorris of Dupree’s old store, Sam’l McCargo and myself of Wyliesburg, and the two servants . . . your man (whose name I have forgotten) who always indulged in the Indian war-hoop when he got a little “red eye” ahead, and the Negro Gilas employed by Roberts, McCargo and myself. Guard duty around the camp, and the usual morning and afternoon drill was all that bothered us. The remainder of the time was spent in pleasures and sleep. I had a violin, and Ad West a banjo, -by-the-way, I have never seen his equal as a banjoist since, and we used to almost raise the tent with our musical performances the principal ‘air’ being ‘Git up Liza Jane’. This I believe was your favorite instrumental piece, and we gave it to you till you would often cry, “hold, enough”. The music ended, games were taken up, those who liked cards engaging in the ever continued game of bluff, while others would satisfy themselves with checkers, chess, etc. McMorris and I whittled out of cedar, red and white, a set of chess-men and our occupation, when not on duty, or making music, was wholly chess-playing. All over the camp could be heard the terms, “I see you better” and “I’ll straddle you”, etc. etc. Occasionally Sam Gaines and I who were inclined to be ladies-men would, with your permission, visit the young ladies in Salem, and at Hollins’ Institute. Well do I remember the first time I heard the sweet song “Lorena”. Modest, gentle Miss Margy Logan of Salem sang it for Sam and I, to perfection. Never since, have I heard it as she sang it. Association may have something to do with it, I was captivated, just old enough to fall in love, and vain enough to think all girls loved me. Alas! I was mistaken in this case, for the other fellow (Sam) made the impression, and I was left.
The second letter is addressed to Mrs Falconer. Her identity is unknown, but the letter suggests that she was collecting Civil War reminiscences. In this second letter RA shares his experience at the Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. It’s more sobering tones report the death of his great friend, Sam McCargo:
[july 1 gettysburg] Ewell’s corps occupied the left of Gen Lee’s line of battle, and our brigade of cavalry
was placed on his (Ewell’s) left flank, which Buford’s cavalry tried to turn. ‘Twas here that our Brig Gen Jenkins was badly wounded by the bursting of a shell. I saw him brought off the field. Our ammunition gave out and the Captain of my company, Edwin E Bouldin, ordered me to find the ordinance train. After I returned the fighting in our part of the field became fierce. My mess mate, Samuel McCargo, was wounded and throwing up his arms exclaimed “Clarkson, get me off the field.” I tried to support him but had to call help. Meantime he was shot again, and John Roberts, whom I had called was also shot. His wound however was slight, and in taking McCargo off he (McCargo) received a third wound and finally had to be left in the enemy’s hand, where he died.
These letters, in full, are available under the Feature Articles at Family Stories, pamgarrett.com. See Gettysburg Remembered. Richard Albert Clarkson is my great, great grandfather.
Photo: Black and white photograph of Town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, about the time of the Civil War battle; 1863; published 1907; Carl Schurz, Reminiscences, Volume Three, McClure Publishing Co., 1907; author unknown; Wikipedia Commons.