Veterans Day, 2020

This is a revised, updated, and expanded version of a post originally published at Clark House Historian on November 11, 2016.

One hundred and two years ago, on the eleventh day, of the eleventh month, at the eleventh hour—Paris time—the Armistice of Compiègne took effect, officially ending the fighting on the Western Front and marking the end of the optimistically named “War to End All Wars.”

In the United States, the commemoration of the war dead and the Allied victory began as Armistice Day in 1919, by proclamation of President Woodrow Wilson. Congress created Armistice Day as a legal holiday in 1938. Starting in 1945, a World War II veteran named Raymond Weeks proposed that the commemorations of November 11 be expanded to celebrate all veterans, living and dead. In 1954 Congress and President Eisenhower made that idea official, and this is what we commemorate today. There are many veterans with a connection to the Jonathan Clark house. We honor a few of them in this post.

Jonathan Clark, Henry Clark and the U.S. Army

Jonathan M. Clark (1811/12-1857) enlisted as a Private in Company K, Fifth Regiment of the U. S. Army, and served at Ft. Howard, Michigan (later Wisconsin) Territory, from 1833 until mustering out, as Sargent Jonathan M. Clark, in 1836. In the 1830s, Fort Howard was on the northwestern frontier. JMC’s Co. K spent much of the summers of 1835 and 1836 cutting the military road across Wisconsin, from Ft. Howard toward Ft. Winnebago, near modern Portage, Wisconsin.

Jonathan and Mary Clark’s only son Henry M. Clark (1843-1866) registered for the Civil War draft in Milwaukee in June, 1863. His named was called as part of the “first class” of draftees, from the city’s seventh ward, in November of the same year. It is said that he served in the war, but we have yet to confirm that he was a uniformed soldier.

One tantalizing clue to Henry’s service is an unsigned, undated handwritten note on stationary of the “Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother, St. Alphonsus Hospital, Port Washington, Wisconsin” dating from possibly the 1960s or 1970s:

Henry M. Clark born Feb. 21, 1843 in Ozaukee Co. served thruout war as carpenter with master of bridge construction. Went ahead of soldiers with sharp shooters and built bridges. Was with Sherman on march to sea. Let out in 1865. Contracted dysentery in south and died April 21, 1866 @ Milwaukee.

Is this true? I don’t know, but it is possible. Henry Clark’s circle included many men with relevant experience. His father, Jonathan M. Clark, had cleared trees and built bridges for the Military Road in 1835 and 1836, and was one of old Washington county’s first road supervisors. Henry’s grandfather, Peter Turck, built the first sawmill in old Washington county, and Peter’s son Benjamin remained active in the sawmill and lumber business for much of his adult life. It’s certainly possible that young Henry Clark knew his way around roads, bridges, axes and saws, and may have helped “pioneer” during Sherman’s March to the Sea, but we just don’t know. Yet.

The interment records of Milwaukee’s Forest Home Cemetery—and the diary of his uncle, D. W. Maxon—show that Henry was initially buried in the “Cedarburg Cemetery.” His remains—along with those of his father Jonathan M. Clark, and sister Josie Clark—were transferred from Cedarburg to Forest Home in 1878, when Mary Turck Clark purchased a new lot for the Jonathan M. Clark family.

Clarks in New England

We know very little of Jonathan M. Clark’s ancestors or their military service. According to a biography of daughter Caroline (Clark) Woodward, JMC was “a Vermonter of English descent, who, born in 1812, of Revolutionary parentage, inherited an intense American patriotism.” Unfortunately for us, Vermont and the other New England states sent a lot of men named Clark to fight in the American Revolution. I’ve gone through hundreds of digitized pages of Revolutionary war muster rolls and pension applications, and there are some potential Jonathan M. Clark fathers or grandfathers in those records, but so far we can’t make a solid connection between any of them and JMC.

Mary’s ancestors served

Many of Mary Turck Clark’s ancestors served in the military. Her Turck, Gay, and Groom family ancestors emigrated to the American colonies in the 1600s and 1700s. Her fourth-great grandfather, Paulus Jacobzen Turck, or Turk, was the original Turck immigrant in Mary’s family, arriving in what was then New Amsterdam. In 1660 he married there, and 1689 he received a commission as “Lieutenant of foot, West ward, New York [City].”

From Paulus Turck’s commission in 1689 through the Revolutionary War, many Turck men served in a variety of colonial militias and Patriot regiments. Mary’s father, Peter Turck (1798-1872), was born after the Revolution, but could have possibly served in the war of 1812; I’ve yet to find evidence that he did. He was, however, an ardent abolitionist and Union man. Mary’s granduncle, Johannis A. also known as John A. Turck (or Turk, 1763-1839) was a patriot, and signed the Articles of Association in June or July 1775. He also fought in the Revolution in Col. Snyder’s Regiment (New York) and received a federal pension for his service in 1832.

A number of New York men named Groom and Gay served in the Revolution and the War of 1812. Some of these may be among Mary’s direct ancestors, but I have not yet done the work to connect Mary’s kin to their service records.

“Brother fought brother…”

Two of Mary Turck Clark’s brothers served in the Civil War. Her youngest brother, Benjamin Turck (1839-1926), enlisted as a Private in the 10th Independent Battery, Wisconsin Light Artillery on August 20, 1862. He mustered out after almost three years of service on June 7, 1865. The 10th Battery participated in many battles and operations in the western theater, including Sherman’s March to the Sea. Benjamin Turck’s unit was present at the surrender of Vicksburg on July 4, 1863 and at the surrender of Johnston’s army at the Bennett Place near Durham, North Carolina on April 26, 1865. Before mustering out, the veterans of the battery—presumably including Benjamin—marched to Washington, DC, to celebrate the end of the war as part of the Grand Review of May 24, 1865. As an invalid veteran, Benjamin was awarded federal pension on August 9, 1905.

It has often been observed that in the Civil War, “brother fought brother.” This was true as a metaphor for the conflict as a whole, and it was also true that on many occasions brothers and other close relatives with differing and divided loyalties, ended up on opposite sides of many Civil War battles. As far as I know, “brother fought brother” was never literally true for the Clark or Turck families, but there was one Confederate among them.

Joseph R. Turck, CSA

Mary was the eldest of Peter and Rachel Gay Turck’s eight children; her brother Joseph R. Turck (1823-1902) was their next oldest. Joseph was fourteen years old when the family moved from Wayne County, New York to Mequon, Wisconsin. Around the year 1848, Joseph moved to New Orleans, Louisiana, where he established himself as a carpenter and, in time, a prominent contractor and builder. Why he moved so far from his family in Wisconsin is unknown. During the Civil War, Joseph’s name appears on the one extant muster roll of Co. I, Confederate Guards, Louisiana Militia, dated March 8 to April 30, 1862; in the Remarks section he is listed “Absent without leave.” Even though the Louisiana Militia’s Confederate Guards were considered a “home guard” unit, fit for older men like Joseph—he was almost forty years old at the time—one wonders if his heart was truly in sympathy with the Southern cause. It looks like he left his unit just as Union forces were approaching the city, which was fully occupied by Union troops on May 1, 1862

Peter Turck lost track of Joseph during the war. On July 25, 1862, Peter penned a distressed, heartfelt letter to Union general Benjamin Butler, then commanding the city of New Orleans, asking him to find his son. The letter was received by Butler’s staff and instructions were given to find Joseph; I don’t know if Butler’s soldiers did so. Ultimately, Joseph and Benjamin Turck lived through the war and for many decades more.

Remember the day

Take a moment today to remember those who have served. Remember those that built roads and bridges in the wilderness, or fought for independence, or to preserve the Union. Their dedication to duty should mean something to us all.


Postscript: History Mystery!—Henry Clark’s service

I am still searching for and sorting through historical records to find proof of Henry Clark’s military service. So far, he does not appear to be one of the dozen or so Wisconsin men named “Henry Clark” that served in various Wisconsin regiments during the war, but I still have work to do with all the “Henry Clarks.” Perhaps—as suggested in the note quoted above—he was a civilian contractor, doing work with the “pioneers” of General Sherman’s army; perhaps he served alongside his young uncle Benjamin Turck as Benjamin’s 10th Battery, Wisconsin Light Artillery fought with Sherman. I’m still trying to figure out how to locate records for civilian contractor service such as this.

If anyone knows more about Henry M. Clark’s life or military service, please contact me.