Today’s featured item is the earliest document (that I’ve seen so far) of the life of Jonathan M. Clark, and it has a great deal of interesting personal information. It is the official copy of JMC’s enlistment in the United States Army.
Except for Jonathan M. Clark’s bold signature, the handwritten information appears to be the writing of the recruiting officer. Transcribed, the document reads:
STATE OF [Seal of the U.S.] TOWN OF
New York City of Utica
I, Jonathan M Clark born in Derby in the State of Vermont aged Twenty two years, and by occupation a Farmer Do hereby acknowledge to have voluntarily enlisted this Nineteenth day of September 1833 as a SOLDIER in the ARMY of the UNITED STATES of AMERICA, for the period of
FIVEThree YEARS, unless sooner discharged by proper authority: Do also agree to accept such bounty, pay rations and clothing, as is or may be established by law. And I Jonathan M. Clark do solemnly swear, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the United States of America, and that I will serve them honestly and faithfully against all their enemies or opposers whomsoever; and that I will observe and obey the orders of the President of the United States, and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to the rules and articles of War.
Sworn and subscribed to, at Utica }
this 28th day of Septr. 1833 } Jonathan M Clark
Before E S Barnum, Justice Peace }
I CERTIFY, ON HONOR, That I have carefully examined the above named Recruit, agreeably to the General Regulations of the Army, and that in my opinion he is free from all bodily defects and mortal infirmity, which would, in any way, disqualify him from performing the duties of a soldier,
John M. Call
I CERTIFY, ON HONOR, That I have minutely inspected the Recruit, Jonathan M Clark previously to his enlistment, who was entirely sober when enlisted; that to the best of my judgment and belief, he is of lawful age; and that in accepting him as duly qualified to perform the duties of an able bodied soldier, I have strictly observed the Regulations which govern the Recruiting service. This recruit has hazel eyes, light brown hair, dark complexion, is five feet 7 1/4 inches high,
Captain [illegible-“Vols” perhaps?]
The final part of the form, a receipt for partial payment of the bounty for a five-year enlistment in the army, was left blank. This makes sense, as the handwritten alteration in the main part of the enlistment form—where the recruiting officer changed the period of enlistment from five years to three—probably disqualified Jonathan from the five-year enlistment bounty.
But what was the U.S. Army’s standard term of enlistment in 1833, and what were the government’s enlistment bounty policies in effect at that time? How much flexibility did the recruit or the recruiting officer have? I do know these policies changed over time, especially during wartime. But even though the Blackhawk War had caused a great deal of excitement in the first half of 1832, the 1833-1836 army was, essentially, a peacetime operation. If you know more information about army recruitment and service of this era, please add a comment or send me a note via the Contact link.
This document tells us a lot about JMC, including where he was born, how old he was, where he migrated as a 22 year-old so that he could enlist in the Army, even what he looked like. Additional Army documents will tell us something about Jonathan’s life in the Army from 1833 to 1836. But for all that this document tells us, it raises even more questions. More on those in future posts.
Revised April 30, 2016. After further research, and another look at the enlistment document, the name of the Utica, NY, justice of the peace has been changed to E. [Ezra] S. Barnum. Revised May 5, added link to open full-size document image in separate window.