This letter was written by Sgt. William Thompson Clark (1836-1911), of Co. B, 79th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry (also known as the “Lancaster Rifles”).
Clark fought with the 79th Pennsylvania for the regiment’s duration, save for an unsuccessful trip back to Lancaster during the Gettysburg Campaign to recruit a militia company. He was in the middle of the regiment’s three toughest battles at Perryville, Chickamauga, and Bentonville. At Perryville, he was wounded three times but stayed with the regiment until the fighting ended.
William was the son of Thomas Alexander Clark (1805-1885) and Mary Thompson (1812-1881) of Drumore, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. He was married to Jane Porter (1840-1901).
[Note: William T. Clark’s wartime diaries (6 volumes) are housed at the Lancaster County Historical Society.]
Addressed to Miss Maggie R. Thompson, Oxford, Chester County, Pennsylvania
Postmarked Nashville, Tennessee
Camp Andy Johnson
March 16, 1862
Your very welcome letter of the 10th I received while on the march toward this place. I hope that you are all well for I am and would be glad to know that all my friends are in the same happy condition.
Since we left Camp Wood, we have marched 140 miles and are at present two miles south of Nashville. We left Camp Wood on the 14th February & have seen a great deal of country which is as fine as an I ever saw. The houses are well built & the grounds surrounding them well laid out for pleasure.
We arrived at Bowling Green on the evening of the 23rd of February and stayed four days during which time I examined some of their fortifications which would have been hard to take had they stood their ground. But instead of them defending their rights (as they call them), when Gen. Mitchell came there, he found the forts empty and all their brave men gone but one regiment and they were giving leg bail for their security and I do not think they have stopped yet — at least I have not seen any of them yet with arms in their hands or doing anything contrary to the law of the land.
We left our camp on the 27th, crossed Barren River, passed through Bowling Green at 1 o’clock P. M., and camped one mile south of Franklin — a nice little town & county seat, having marched 23 miles in six hours & a half. The next day we started just as the sun shed his first rays upon Mother Earth & crossed the line into Tennessee at a quarter past nine o’clock & marched everyday until the evening of the 2nd of March when we camped two miles north of Nashville near Edgeville — a small town opposite to Nashville where we remained until the 7th when we struck tents, crossed the Cumberland [River] and passed through Nashville at 11 o’clock. Saw those glorious old Stars & Stripes floating over the Capitol where they were placed on the 24th February.
This is a fine town but nearly all business had come to stand still before we came here. But it is now reviving & will soon be as brisk as ever. The rebels had burnt both the railroad & pike bridges. The pike bridge was a wire one. The rebels had used ten barrels of fluid in trying to burn it but finding that we were coming too close upon them, they then cut the wires ¹ and left in double quick for parts not yet discovered.
Give my respects to all inquiring friends and may the blessing of God be upon you all.
Your cousin, — Wm. T. Clark
Camp Andy Johnson, Nashville, Tennessee
¹ William is referring to the suspension bridge that had been constructed in 1853 over the Cumberland River at the site of the present Woodland Street Bridge. This suspension bridge was destroyed in 1862 when the evacuating Confederate Army cut the cables and the bridge fell into the river.