Lest We Forget
UPDATED: May 30, 2022 to correct a few typos and minor errors.
Graves of Unknown Union Soldiers, Memphis National Cemetery, photo by Clayton B. Fraser, (Library of Congress), public domain. Memphis National Cemetery is the final resting place of Mequon’s Watson Peter Woodworth, and almost 14,000 of his Union Army comrades.
Today is the day our nation officially observes Memorial Day. For many Americans, Memorial Day represents “the first day of summer,” and is traditionally celebrated with trips to the lake, picnics, parades, and sales on cars, appliances, and other consumer goods.
But for many of us, Memorial Day remains rooted in its origins as Decoration Day. The first national observance was in 1868, when retired general John A. Logan, commander and chief of the Grand Army of the Republic—the Union veterans’ organization—issued his General Order Number 11, designating May 30 as a memorial day “for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land.”
On this Memorial Day, let’s take a moment to remember what this day truly represents.
Dozens of Ozaukee county men served in the Civil War; more than a few were Clark family relatives, friends and long-time neighbors. Some of these men died in the service of their country. Here is a short, and probably incomplete, list of those in the Clarks’ circle that perished for the Union.
Watson Peter Woodworth (1839-1863)
Watson P. Woodworth was one of the first white children born in Washington (later Ozaukee) county. His parents, Nova Scotian immigrants—James W. Woodworth and Mary Cerena Loomer—were the first pioneer couple to marry in the county, on March 1, 1838. (Mary Clark’s father, Peter Turck, performed the ceremony.)
When the war came, Rev. Woodworth was reluctant to let his eldest child join the army, but eventually relented and gave his blessing. Watson enlisted on November 1, 1861, as a Private, Co. I, 2nd Regt., Wisconsin Cavalry. James Woodworth was relieved that Watson was able to serve in the same cavalry company as their young friend and neighbor, Evander Bonniwell (1847-1930).
Watson lived through his unit’s early skirmishes and guard assignments, but not—as was so often the case in the Civil War—camp life. Shortly before May 22, 1863, Watson took ill and reported to the camp hospital. Evander Bonniwell was there, and wrote to Watson’s father: “He expected to die from the commencement of his sickness, and appeared to be perfectly reconciled to it.” Given his deep religious faith, this gave Rev. Woodworth some comfort, but he was still devastated when he received the news of Watson’s death. In his diary he wrote “May 31. Our house has been made a place of weeping. O, the heavy tidings have reached us that our beloved son and brother has departed; God help us to bear this.“1
Francis H. Rasey (1843-1864)
Charles E. Clark (1844-1864)
Two of the sons and one son-in-law of early Mequon settlers Cyrus and Sarah A. (Strickland) Clark served in the Union army. Two of them died in the war. As we discovered in 2020, Cyrus Clark was born and raised in Massachusetts and is not believed to be related to Jonathan M. Clark. Cyrus and his wife, born Sarah Allise Strickland, were early immigrants to the Mequon area, and patented land close to the Clark House. By the time the Civil War began, Cyrus, Sarah, and their large family had left Mequon and were living in the town of Moscow, Iowa county, Wisconsin.
In June, 1863, Cyrus and Sarah’s son Albert Byron Clark registered for the Civil War draft, as required by law. It appears he was not called up for service immediately. On March 19, 1864, Byron’s younger brother Charles E. Clark enlisted as Corporal, Co. C, 37th regiment Wisconsin Infantry. And on March 24, 1864, Albert Byron Clark and his brother-in-law, Francis H. Rasey, enlisted as Privates in the same Co. C, 37th Wis. Inf.
Less than three months later, June 17, 1864, two of these men, son Charles E. Clark, and son Byron’s brother-in-law, Francis H. Rasey, were wounded in the Second Battle of Petersburg. Private Francis Rasey died of his wounds later that day (or early on June 18, sources differ). He left a young widow and an infant daughter to mourn him. Francis Rasey was buried near the battlefield in Poplar Grove National Cemetery.
One month later, July 17, 1864, Cyrus and Sarah (Strickland) Clark’s son, Cpl. Charles E. Clark died of his wounds at the army hospital at Chester, Pennsylvania. He was originally buried in Sec. 22, Chester Rural Cemetery, Delaware Co., Pennsylvania. His grave may have been moved later; Wikipedia notes that “[m]any of the soldier’s graves were moved to Philadelphia National Cemetery in Philadelphia in 1891.”
Gone to join the army?
[Unidentified young drummer boy in Union uniform.] Unknown photographer, between 1861 and 1865]. Library of Congress. Note: this is not a photograph of Frazer Bonniwell or Evander B. Bonniwell, but of another young, unknown, Union Army musician from their era.
At least two young Mequon lads are said to have joined the Union army and gone missing or died as a result of their service: Frazer Bonniwell and Henry M. Clark. I have not yet been able to adequately document their participation in the war, but it’s plausible that they served, and perhaps died, as a result of their service. Here is what we know about each young man.
Frazer Bonniwell (c. 1848 – 1864/65 ?)
According to Henry V. Bonniwell’s 1888 biographical sketch:
“All [eight of Henry’s children] are living but Frazer, who enlisted in the army in 1864, and has not been heard of since, and doubtless fills a soldier’s grave in the Sunny South.”2
Frazer Bonniwell was the third of eight children born to Clark neighbors Henry V. and Catherine (Reeves) Bonniwell. Little is known of his life. On the 1850 federal census he was enumerated as “F.,” a two-year-old male. A decade later, on the 1860 census, the enumerator recorded him as a 12 year old female [sic], named “Theresa.” I’m pretty sure this is an error; I believe there was only one child in this family that was born c. 1848, a boy named Frazer.3
I have looked without success for records of Frazer Bonniwell as a soldier or sailor in any Civil War unit. He is not listed on any of the Wisconsin rosters or any of the indices to Federal service records to which I have access. In 1864 Frazer would have been only 16 years old, too young to enlist as a soldier. But he could have enlisted as a musician. His cousin, Evander B. Bonniwell, (1847-1930), did just that. Evander was the son of H.V. Bonniwell’s brother James and his wife Phebe (Capes) Bonniwell. He enlisted at age 14, and served four years as a Private (bugler), Co. I, 2nd Regt., Wisconsin Cavalry.
At the tender age of 14, Evander B. Bonniwell would have needed the permission of at least one of his parents in order to enlist as a Union army musician. As a 16-year-old, Frazer could have enlisted as a musician, or he might have lied about his age—and his name—to enroll as a regular soldier without his parent’s permission.4
Henry M. Clark (1843-1866)
Jonathan M. and Mary (Turck) Clark’s only son, Henry M. Clark (1843-1866) was born and raised in Mequon, at the Clark House. Sometime around the beginning of the Civil War, he, his sisters and their widowed mother left the Clark farm and moved to Milwaukee. Henry may have served in the Civil War. He did register for the draft in 1863, and we have a mysterious handwritten note on a scrap of mid-20th-century stationery that states “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 any of this information about Henry’s possible military service true? It’s not impossible, but it’s certainly not yet proven. Last year I wrote extensively about Henry’s life, possible military service and death; see note 5, below, for links to those posts.
Jonathan and Mary (Turck) Clark’s children were part of the generation that made up the majority of the Civil War’s soldiers and sailors. The war had a profound impact on that generation, including members of the Clark family. Daughter Persie A. Clark married an injured and seriously disfigured Union navy veteran, Henry D. Gardner, in 1872; they lived a long and apparently happy and adventurous life together.
Persie’s younger sister, Laura M. Clark, married second husband Sydney T. Wentworth, a four-year veteran of Co. K, 8th regiment Wisconsin Infantry, in 1883. This marriage was a disaster, leading to a very public divorce in 1886, and the disappearance of Laura M. (Clark) Wentworth from the historical record.
Mary (Turck) Clark’s youngest sibling, brother Benjamin Turck (1839-1926), served 2 years, 9 months as Private, 10th Independent Battery, Wisconsin Light Artillery. He survived the war and marched in the Grand Review of the Armies in Washington, DC. After the war he tried marriage and farming. Neither suited him. After some years he divorced and returned to his work as a sawyer and mill operator in Washington county. Benjamin applied for and received a Civil War invalid’s pension in 1905.
More than a “holiday”
[Unidentified girl in mourning dress holding framed photograph of her father as a cavalryman with sword and Hardee hat.], photograph, between 1861 and 1870. Library of Congress.6
On this—and every—Memorial Day, let us remember the sacrifice of the men and women that have served our country and paid the ultimate price. And let us remember what Watson P. Woodworth and his comrades died for. As Rev. Woodworth noted in his diary for February 10, 1862, “O God, save our beloved country in her troubles. O bring the crafty counsels of the wicked to naught, and purge our country from the sum of all villainies, (slavery,) […]
Watson Peter Woodworth died just 14 months later, on May 22, 1863, in a military hospital at Memphis, Tennessee. He was buried in the Wisconsin section of the Mississippi River National Cemetery, now the Memphis National Cemetery, Tennessee, grave number 1778. The cemetery is also the final resting place of 8,866 unknown Civil War soldiers, a portion of whom are represented in the photograph at the top of this post. Altogether, almost 14,000 members of 537 Civil War regiments are interred at Memphis National Cemetery. On this Memorial Day, let us remember the admonition of President Lincoln and
[…] be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.7
- Woodworth, Rev. James W., My Path and the Way the Lord Led Me, privately published, Milwaukee, 1881, p. 204.
- The Illustrated Album of Biography of Meeker and McLeod Counties, Minnesota […], Chicago, 1888, pages 506-508.
- As to Frazer/”Theresa” Bonniwell, I assume that there were no twins born to H. V. and Catherine Bonniwell in 1848, as that would have made nine H.V. Bonniwell children in all. All other sources add up to a maximum of eight children in this family. Only one child born c. 1848 was recorded on either the 1850 or 1860 census; and neither “F.” nor “Theresa” shows up on the 1870 census. My surmise is that the census taker in 1860 was not paying much attention, and when the “informant” said “Frazer” (perhaps with an English accent sounding line “FRAYzah”), the enumerator recorded “Theresa” (pronounced, perhaps, T’RAYzah”).
This explanation is not as far fetched as it might seem. One of Jonathan and Mary (Turck) Clark’s children, the daughter born in 1850, was referred to by more names, in more documents, than any of the rest. On the 1850 census she is “Mary.” In 1860 she is enumerated as “Sarah,” and in 1870 as “Tresa” or “Fresta” (the handwriting is difficult, and the enumerator may not have heard clearly). The Clark “Family Record” of birth dates lists her as “Teresa.” In later life, she appeared to use “Theresa” most of the time, at least on official documents. I blogged about it here: Meet the Children, part 1
I also ran this Frazer/”Theresa” theory past family biographer George B. Bonniwell. His reply: “I can’t shed any further light on the dilemma. Your description regarding the census taker seems most plausible” (GB email to RP, 27 May 2022). Until we can locate additional Frazer Bonniwell records, this is all we know about this missing member of H. V. Bonniwell’s family.
- For more information on the official Union enlistment criteria and the required physical examination, see this post at the National Museum of Civil War Medicine.
Likewise, after listing all the men from Ozaukee county that volunteered to serve—65 of them from Mequon, alone—the History of Washington and Ozaukee Counties, Wisconsin […] Illustrated, Western Historical Co., Chicago, 1881. page 498, notes: “This does not include the [Ozaukee] men who were drafted, or those who enlisted under recruiting officers in the cities of Milwaukee and Chicago. As has been before stated, many of the young men, on being opposed by their parents, would leave the county and go to other towns, where they could enlist without opposition; if these were credited to Ozaukee County, the list would be increased at least fifty.”
- About a year ago I spent quite a bit of time trying to nail down “What we do — and don’t — know about the Clarks’ only son,” Henry M. Clark, including whether or not he served in the Union army. The short answer that last question is: (1) Maybe, (2) It’s complicated, and (3) there is still a lot we don’t know. For the full story, here are links to those posts:
• Part 1: Meet the Children: Henry M. Clark
• Part 2: Henry Clark and the Civil War draft
• Part 3: Henry Clark – Civil War draftee
• Part 4: Henry Clark’s last days
• Part 5: Henry Clark’s final resting place
• and a related tidbit: Avoiding the draft, 1862 style
- The Library of Congress staff adds the following comments: Photo shows a girl holding a framed image of her father. Judging from her necklace, mourning ribbons, and dress, it is likely that her father was killed in the war. (Source: Matthew R. Gross and Elizabeth T. Lewin, 2010)
- Abraham Lincoln, “Gettysburg Address” (conclusion), November 19, 1863, Bliss copy of the address, via Abraham Lincoln Online.