Every effective fighting force must be organized, and the United States Army is no exception. In war or peace, the army has to manage a complex array of soldiers, supplies and facilities. This requires bureaucrats and their paperwork. Once Jonathan M. Clark joined the Army in September, 1833, his federal paper trail began.
To find Jonathan among all the other recruits and their paperwork, and to follow him through his army years, we need some kind of guide or index and thankfully, since 1798 the army has maintained just what we need, its Register of Enlistments. Here’s JMC’s entry in the volume covering enlistments from January 1828 through 1835, organized alphabetically by surname. He’s near the bottom—look for enlistee number 189:
Jonathan M. Clark in NARA M233. Registers of Enlistments in the United States Army, 1798-1914. Roll: MIUSA1798_102878. Accessed online via Fold3.com
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I love primary sources. Not only can you learn interesting information—that may include actual, accurate, facts (with allowances for misspellings and such)—but primary sources often convey a flavor or sense of the moment and suggest additional lines of inquiry. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at Jonathan M. Clark’s 1833 U. S. Army enlistment paper as featured in our earlier post “Jonathan Joins the Army” and see what we can infer from the information there.
First of all, how do we know this Utica, New York, enlistment belongs to “our” Jonathan M. Clark? Census and other records show that there are plenty of Clarks from New England, born about the same time as our JMC, some of whom served in the army, and some of whom came to the Michigan/Wisconsin Territory in the early 1830s. My research shows there may even have been a second, unrelated, “Jonathan M. Clark” in the Territory at about the same time. So how do we connect our JMC with this 1833 army recruit?