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          23rd Pennsylvania

Rev. Thomas M. Clark Esp. Bishop of Rhode Island
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Rev. Thomas M. Clark Grave, St. Mary's Esp. Churchyard
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"Camp Clark" 1862
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Capt. W.B. Sears , 2nd RI Inf. at Camp Clark
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Camp Clark

February 10th,1862- March 5th, 1862

"Tenting Tonight" (on the Old Campground)

by Walter Kittridge

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Moving from "Camp Graham" to "Camp Clark"

The 23rd Pennsylvania moved to the Clark Farm on February 10th, 1862. This camp was previously established by the 2nd Rhode Island Volunteers, in 1861 and named for Reverend Thomas M Clark, the Episcopal Bishop of Rhode Island. Here the regiment (23rd) began live target practice from 200 yards as well as continuing their Army training and skills, and helping with the nearby fortifications of Fort Totten and Fort Lincoln. The Camp was located on much higher ground than the Queen Farm (Camp Graham), so it was believed that due to more air movement it would dry the mud and make for healthier conditions. In fact, this area was a tranquil, park-like setting where the white, conical Sibley tents of the soldiers looked like tepees gleaming in the moonlit night. “Gales Woods”, as it was known then, was a grove of Large Oak Trees, plenty of Timber for the men to use as resource. On February 17th, 1862,Col. David Bell Birney was promoted to a Brigadier General and the 23rd received a new Col. In Thomas Hewson O'Neil. O'Neil was commanded to detach four companies L , O , P and Rwith Major George Spear to the 61st PA Volunteers and to disband Company M, distributing them amongst the other ten Companies. This order was obeyed under protest with much reluctance. They remained there for 21 days before receiving marching orders on March 3rd, 1862.

The Joshua S. Garsed Diaries

From the Joshua S. Garsed Diaries we learn about the going-ons of the Camp in February of 1862. The camp was located about 200 years outside of Washington D.C.

February 12th, 1862

“There is nothing of interest transpiring in camp except that Keyser of our company is going to die from a blow in the head with a hatchet. Erysipelas is setting in. I regret losing him; he was a good man and attended to duty well.”

Byron G. Keyser was 17 years and seven months old. He was chopping wood in which was being used to build earthworks and fortifications at nearby Fort Lincoln. The hatchet blade flew off and struck him in the head. He died a few hours later.

February 18th, 1862

“Capt. Hillebrand stood near the target to-day in order to mark the shots as they struck. I felt anxious about him as stood very close to the mark, while we were 200 yds. distant. During the firing I took a piece from one of the men and fired at the mark; it struck the ground at the foot of the board, scattering the earth in every direction and all over Capt. H . He appeared quite satisfied with the way in which a mince ball could plough up the earth and he retired to a respectable distance in consequence.”

March 3rd, 1862

“We have received marching orders and will have to leave our tents behind us; the officers can only take a carpet bag with them. All our rations are being cooked. The instant the roads get a little dry we shall probably start. Destination unknown.”

Camp Clark” Washington, DC

Camp Clark” Washington, DC
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Today the old location of the 23rd PA area of the Camp is called Lincoln Heights Park. The location of the 23rd PA Camp was where the Tennis Courts are today. Many of the men remembered viewing the Unfinished Capitol Dome in the distance.

Modern View of Camp Clark
Washington D.C.
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23rd PA Encampment Site
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Modern View of Camp Clark
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View of Capitol Dome
Camp Clark Location
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Just South of them was the 2nd Rhode Island Volunteers who set up Camp Clark when they arrived on June 22, 1861. It was there that one of the most inspiring letters was written by Major Sullivan Ballou to his wife in Smithfield.

Major Sullivan Ballou

Headquarters, Camp Clark

Washington, D.C., July 14, 1861

My Very Dear Wife:

Indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days, perhaps to-morrow. Lest I should not be able to write you again, I feel impelled to write a few lines, that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more.

Our movement may be one of a few days duration and full of pleasure and it may be one of severe conflict and death to me. Not my will, but thine, O God be done. If it is necessary that I should fall on the battle-field for any country, I am ready. I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in, the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American civilization now leans upon the triumph of government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution, and I am willing, perfectly willing to lay down all my joys in this life to help maintain this government, and to pay that debt.

But, my dear wife, when I know, that with my own joys, I lay down nearly all of yours, and replace them in this life with care and sorrows, when, after having eaten for long years the bitter fruit of orphanage myself, I must offer it, as their only sustenance, to my dear little children, is it weak or dishonorable, while the banner of my purpose floats calmly and proudly in the breeze, that my unbounded love for you, my darling wife and children, should struggle in fierce, though useless, contest with my love of country.

I cannot describe to you my feelings on this calm summer night, when two thousand men are sleeping around me, many of them enjoying the last, perhaps, before that of death, and I, suspicious that Death is creeping behind me with his fatal dart, am communing with God, my country and thee.

I have sought most closely and diligently, and often in my breast, for a wrong motive in this hazarding the happiness of those I loved, and I could not find one. A pure love of my country, and of the principles I have often advocated before the people, and "the name of honor, that I love more than I fear death," have called upon me, and I have obeyed.

Sarah, my love for you is deathless. It seems to bind me with mighty cables, that nothing but Omnipotence can break; and yet, my love of country comes over me like a strong wind, and bears me irresistibly on with all those chains, to the battlefield. The memories of all the blissful moments I have spent with you come crowding over me, and I feel most deeply grateful to God and you, that I have enjoyed them so long. And how hard it is for me to give them up, and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when, God willing, we might still have lived and loved together, and seen our boys grow up to honorable manhood around us.

I know I have but few claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me, perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar, that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, nor that, when my last breath escapes me on the battle-field, it will whisper your name.

Forgive my many faults, and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless, how foolish I have oftentimes been! How gladly would I wash out with my tears, every little spot upon your happiness, and struggle with all the misfortune of this world, to shield you and my children from harm. But I cannot, I must watch you from the spirit land and hover near you, while you buffet the storms with your precious little freight, and wait with sad patience till we meet to part no more.

But, O Sarah, if the dead can come back to this earth, and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you in the garish day, and the darkest night amidst your happiest scenes and gloomiest hours always, always, and, if the soft breeze fans your cheek, it shall be my breath; or the cool air cools your throbbing temples, it shall be my spirit passing by. Sarah, do not mourn me dear; think I am gone, and wait for me, for we shall meet again.

As for my little boys, they will grow as I have done, and never know a father's love and care. Little Willie is too young to remember me long, and my blue-eyed Edgar will keep my frolics with him among the dimmest memories of his childhood. Sarah, I have unlimited confidence in your maternal care, and your development of their characters. Tell my two mothers, I call God's blessing upon them. O Sarah, I wait for you there! Come to me, and lead thither my children.

- Sullivan

View of Capitol Dome
Camp Clark Location
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23rd PA Encampment Site
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Modern View of Camp Clark
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View of Capitol Dome
Camp Clark Location
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