1861: Adoniram Judson Clark to Samuel W. Clark

Adoniram Judson Clark

This early war letter was written by Adoniram Judson Clark (1838-1913) who “enlisted in the 1st New Jersey Militia in April 1861, and became a sergeant in Co. F. When the regiment’s three-month enlistment ended, Clark was involved in raising Battery B, 1st New Jersey Light Artillery. It was mustered into service on September 3, 1861, at Camp Olden in Trenton, New Jersey. The battery was assigned to the First New Jersey Brigade under the command of Brigadier General Philip Kearny. Clark became first lieutenant under Capt. John E. Beam, and was then promoted to captain when Beam was killed in the Battle of Malvern Hill on July 1, 1862. Clark commanded the battery to the end of the war.

To read more letters by Capt. Clark while serving later in the 1st New Jersey Battery, go to Spared & Shared 21—1862-64: Adoniram Judson Clark to Samuel W. Clark published on 25 April 2020.

Clark was the son of Samuel Clark (1791-1869) and Livia Drusilla Wellman (1789-1849) of Manlius, Onondaga county, New York. He wrote this letter to his older brother, Samuel W. Clark (1825-1892) of Newark, Essex county, New Jersey—a long time school teacher in Newark and principal of public school No. 3 in 1860. Samuel was married in 1851 to Sarah Mayhew in Newark.

The first four regiments organized in New Jersey, all three-months regiments, were called militia and were brigaded together as the New Jersey Brigade under the command of Theodore Runyon, a Newark lawyer. The New Jersey brigade was one of the best uniformed and equipped organizations to arrive in Washington in early May 1861 and they were greeted with marked enthusiasm. A little over two weeks later, the brigade crossed the Potomac into Virginia and threw up the first fortifications erected by Union troops on Southern soil (Fort Runyon). This letter was written from Camp Trenton on 5 July 1861, just a couple weeks before the Battle of Bull Run. Camp Trenton was located adjacent the tracks of the Alexandria, Loudon and Hampshire Railroad some two or three miles west of Alexandria in a camp formerly occupied briefly by an Ohio regiment. The camp was described by one member of the 1st New Jersey as being on level ground in a grove of cedar trees.

The Jerseymen were not in the fight at Bull Run, but held in reserve and helped to stabilize the panic during the retreat. It has been conjectured that the Jersey troops were placed in the reserve due to the fact that their term of service was about to end.


Camp Trenton, L&H Railroad, Virginia
July 5th 1861

Dear Brother Sam,

I have delayed writing till now that I might tell you what was going on here on the “glorious fourth.” First, I got “home” safe and sound. Reached Washington at 6 o’clock Sunday morning in company with J. Haworth & Tom Leffingwell who came down in the same train with me. Ran around a couple of hours with them after the 2nd Regiment & then breakfasted at the Kirkwood House for which I was sated $0.75. The usual high Washington prices are running up now as the time for Congress to sit is near.

Reached camp at 10 o’clock and of course was besieged for new at home. The officers alone expected me home & they did for when some of the boys were making remarks about my hurrying up so, they were shut up with the remark that, “He obeyed orders,” so that it was full as well that I hurried up so. Lieut. [John E.] Beam & the men were very much pleased that I did not forget their messages, the thanks of part of whom belong to you. My basket hangs in the top of the tent & my “pocket pistol” is in my knapsack waiting for orders. I could myself well armed all around now for anything.

You told Mrs. Beam what I spoken to you about, I hope, because I told him you would.

Well, hurrah for the Fourth! Turned out a little before 4 o’clock & cleared up the tent & washed &c. 5 a.m. reveille & roll call, and at 5.30 or 6 o’clock we had a flag raising on the color line. Lieut. Beam had put up the pole the night previous. The lieutenant put on the color. Col. [Adolphus] Johnson had hold of the rope and at the word, it was run to the top amid a hearty “3 times 3” and for the first time floated on the breeze on Virginia soil. The chaplain [A. St. John Chambre] then made a short speech & Lieut. [George T.] Woodbury with a few others sang the Star Spangled Banner, the Red, White, & Blue, &c. after which we went back to our quarters.

Description of 4th of July Celebration at Camp Trenton published in the Newark Daily Advertiser, 31 July 1861

At half past seven o’clock, the regiment was formed into close column by companies & marched in front of the flagstaff. First in order of exercises, was singing, 2nd—prayer by chaplain, 3rd—speech by General [Theodore] Runyon, 4th—Reading of Declaration of Independence by Lieut. [George T.] Woodbury, 5th—Singing, 6th—Oration by Major Barlow, 7th—Col. [Adolphus] Johnson, and 8th—Dr. [Surgeon] Craven. Major Mikels made his bow to conclude that part & then more singing & the benediction by the chaplain after which were broken for the quarters.

Passed the day as best we could for it was very warm & none were allowed out of the lines. I saw but one or two that were any the worse for liquor. There may have been others but I did not know it. Was invited out to dinner to the orderlies tent in company with Sergeant [William C.] Courter of Co. A. Had a fun time. Our bill of fare was boiled ham, roast beef, bread pudding, picked beets, bread & butter, & iced lemonade. And, “after the cloth was removed,”—cigars.

At night there was all sorts of fun. We had new canteens give out during the day and just after night the boys got all the old ones together & divided into two portions & for an hour had a pitched battle & the way the tin canteens flew was a caution! Neither party would give in & I don’t know how long it would have lasted if the officers had not stopped them.

In the eve we had a “fancy” parade and on the parade ground “big” bonfires were burning. Fireworks were not as plenty but we had some show. One of the fine sights was the setting fire of the tall red cedar in front of the parade ground & see the whole tree one mass of flame. In the direction of the Washington Navy Yard we could see rockets of government blue lights &c.

“Time’s up.” Give love to all. We are under marching orders again today & expect to leave either today or tonight towards Fairfax. Ready for fun or fight.

Your affectionate brother, — A. Judson Clark

Direct (in addition to the usual direction) Care of Col. [Adolphus] Johnson, 1st Regt. N. J. M. to ensure safety, — Jud

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