View Full Version : 1864 Letter from Chaplain Orson B. Clark, 83rd PA Vols. -- Writes about 1864 Presidental election

10-03-2010, 11:47 PM
I'm bored tonight, so I thought I'd add to the collective knowledge of the AC. The following is a letter in my collection. Spelling is as written in original letter.

This letter is addressed to D. W. Clard from his father Chaplain Orson B. Clark.

Park Station, VA
Oct. 10, 1864

Dear Brother,

Though it is late and I am somewhat fatigued with the days work and excitement yet I feel inclined to spend a few moments with you this evening. And just here it will be just as well to apprise you at the onset that you will find nothing very new or strange for just now. The organ of Marvel with me is unusually quiet. As you have already see our forces on the left have made another advance. Like all preceding advances it has cost blood yet we hold securely all the ground gained. We have not yet crossed the South Side Rail Road yet we are near enough to it to hear the Reb cars though it is not probable they make any unnecessary noise just now. Our men are all in fine spirits and full of confidence from the Commander in Chief down. To all human appearance, the days of rebellion are numbered and its doom irevocubly sealed. Deserteres are all the time coming in. Both they and Prisoners all tell the same story of destitution and suffering and hopelessness for their caus. This of course elates the feelings of our boys and causes them to feel that the war has not been a failrue. The assertion of the authors of the Chicago platform to the contrary not withstanding. I am told the most rabid secessionists aroudn here snatch at Green Backs with as much avidity as a hungary dog does a piece of meat. What ever may be their feelings in regard to their government one thin is certain they have no confidence in its promise to pay.

I have been at the front all day. Col McCoy got back last night apparently in fine spirits. Our Penna Regiment held their election today. The vote was like a jug handle all on one side. They took an informal vote on President this morning. One hundred and thirty eight voters were present. Of this number one hundred and twenty one were cast for Lincoln and seventeen for McClellan. This is about the way the whole thing will run all through the army. So much for the army vote.

The Third Division has advanced its lines about 3/4 of a mile today. There was heavy cannonading all last night through the day and still continues this evening in the vicinity of Fort Warren. For two days the rebs have been cross as bears.

I saw Harry today. He feels badly enough about your leaving. They expected a great horse race today near the yellow house but for some reason it didi not come off. General Griffin's gray was one of them. Our lines now extend from the Fort on the right of the Yellow House (Fort Wadsworth) to within a mile and a half of the South Side Road. They cross the Vaugn road -- our left resting on the plank road running from Stone creek to the South side road. We have a much better and ___ position than we had when you left. It is said the Rebs charged our center last night three times and were repulsed each time. Thus I have written enough for once I think. My health continues good. Tell Ma and Vernie not to worry about me for I am old enough to take care of myself. Love to Bell and all.

Good night,
Your father
O. B. Clark

10-03-2010, 11:54 PM
The 83rd PA Vols engaged at such places as Yorktown, Hanover Court House, Gaines' Mill, Malvern Hill, Antietam, Fredricksburg and Chancellorsville. They are probably best known for their heroic actions on Little Round Top, Gettysburg, July 2, 1863. It was here that the 83rd PA, Vols, along with brother regiments, the 20th Maine, 44th NY and 16th Michigan helped save Meade's army from disaster. The 83rd lost lost a total of 11 officers and 271 men during the course of the War. Orson B. Clark enlisted 9/1/62 serving with the regiment until his muster out on 5/29/65.

10-04-2010, 01:05 PM
Thank you for sharing the letter.

10-04-2010, 05:14 PM
I find the dialogue about the impending horse race really intriguing. The Presidental election process within the unit is pretty cool as well. It would be neat to see something similar incorporated into an 1864 event.

10-05-2010, 01:45 AM
Great letter. During the spring and summer of '64 when Grant kept trying to move aroud Lee's right the Union troops started calling it "the jug handle movement". I had assumed it meant that they were hooking around in a jug handle shaped curve, but now I see "The vote was like a jug handle all on one side." in this letter and I get where the phrase came from.

10-05-2010, 10:53 AM
83rd's Best action by far and away was at Gain's Mill. Butterfields whole Brigade held on while most everyone on their right melted away. The even fought on the reverse side of their works for a while. Look it up. By the time they got to Gettysburg, they were a remnant of what they were in '62. I guess that was the same for about any AOP unit that mustered in early 1862 though. Brian Shellhammer has recently(couple of years ago) written an new book on the 83rd, it goes from muster in to Gettysburg. http://www.amazon.com/83rd-Pennsylvania-Volunteers-Civil-War/dp/0786414162

Here's a good overview of the 83rd's service in the WBTS(site is good for looking at other regiments too):


Oh, here's an interesting tidbit. If you read the Gettysburg casualty lists for Battery D Fifth U.S. Artillery (Hazlett's) you'll find a member of the 83rd was killed serving those guns. I forget the title, it's the blue book with the KIA's from Gettysburg listed by unit. There's a member of the 83rd listed under the 5th US Artillery.

10-05-2010, 11:36 AM
I find soldier horse-racing to be one of the most fascinating camp activities I've come upon. It seems like it was something that happened constantly. I recently read a diary from a soldier in Griffin's division who also, I believe, mentioned Griffin's horse participating in horse races during 1863-64 winter encampment. Griffin must have had some horse.

I agree with Mr. Galloway: it would be great to have an election at a Fall/64 event.

Thanks for posting this.

Your obed't serv't,

10-06-2010, 04:56 PM
Then there's this, in the first paragraph: "The organ of Marvel with me is unusually quiet."
The rumor mill?

Hank Trent
10-06-2010, 05:34 PM
Then there's this, in the first paragraph: "The organ of Marvel with me is unusually quiet."
The rumor mill?

I think it's a reference to phrenology.

Hank Trent

10-06-2010, 06:08 PM
I think it's a reference to phrenology.

Hank Trent

When I read the letter, that also struck me as being a potential phrenology reference. I checked some of the classic phrenology 'mind charts' online, and none of them listed 'marvel' as being one of the primary organs. However, I looked through a couple of Google books results after I punched in a few keywords and found the following excepts in Phrenology: Or, the Doctrine of the Mental Phenomena, Volume 1 by Johann Gaspar Spurzheim, who developed the early concepts of phrenology. I believe this book was published in 1802.

"The special organs of the mental functions, except those of feeling and of voluntary motion, are all contained in the head." (341)

"We can, therefore, speak of the organs under rubrics: amativeness, philoprogenitiveness, adhesiveness, inhabitiveness, are all in one neighborhood; combativeness is surrounded by amativeness, philoprogenitivness, adhesiveness and destructiveness; secretiveness is between alimentiveness, destructiveness, acquisitiveness, and cautiousness; self-esteem and firmness go together; so do adhesiveness and love of approbation; so also benevolence, reverence, hope, and marvelousness; indviduality and the powers which perceive the physical qualities of external objects are vicinant....." (341)

McLane's Avenger
01-17-2011, 04:49 PM
Reading this letter, a question came to mind. How were soldiers votes tallied? Did people come to the army and count the ballots of the army or did the soldiers' vote get counted with the state and district they came from? How would they vote for congressmen?