Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Brevet Brigadier-General G. W. Clark



George Washington Clark, the original colonel of the 34th Iowa Infantry, is a native of Johnson county, Indiana, and was born on the 26th day of December, 1833. He was educated at Wabash College, Indiana, and resided with his father's family at the place of his nativity till the year 1856, which is all that I know of his early history. In the spring of 1856 he removed to Iowa, and became a resident of Indianola, Warren county, where he has since made his home. He is a lawyer by profession. Subsequently to his removal to Iowa, and prior to the spring of 1861, when he entered the service, he practiced his profession in Warren county. He was, I am told, a successful lawyer, and had, at the time of entering the service, a paying practice.

At the outbreak of the war, General Clark was the first man in Warren county to enroll himself a volunteer. In May, 1861, he assisted in raising Company G, of the 3d Iowa Infantry, which was the first company that went out from Warren county. He was commissioned a first lieutenant, and, on the organization of his regiment, was appointed regimental quarter-master, which position he held till the first of September, 1862, when he was commissioned colonel of the 34th Iowa Infantry. For meritorious services, he was, in the spring of 1865, made a brevet brigadier-general.

Up to the time of the capture of Arkansas Post, the history of the 34th Iowa is not very dissimilar from those of the 25th, 26th, 30th and 31st Iowa Infantry regiments. Late in the fall of 1862, these regiments had all, under orders, arrived at Helena, Arkansas, at which point General Grant was concentrating troops preparatory to making a descent on Vicksburg by way of Chickasaw Bayou. The expedition, which started late in December, under command of General Sherman, was a failure; but through no fault of the troops; for, during the three days' struggle in the brush and swamps that border Chickasaw Bayou, soldiers never fought better. The fact is, General Sherman did not succeed, simply because the obstacles to be overcome at that point were insurmountable. Had General Grant maintained his line of communication, and threatened Vicksburg from the east, the result would doubtless have been different; for he would have drawn a large portion of the rebel army out from the Walnut Hills.

Immediately after the unfortunate operations at Chickasaw Bayou, the Arkansas River Expedition was organized, which terminated in the capture of Arkansas Post. This brilliant affair was accomplished on the 11th of January, 1863, and partially atoned for previous disasters. The capture of these formidable works, in which the 34th Iowa took a prominent part, was a great disaster to the enemy in Southern Arkansas, and disconcerted him in his previously arranged plans of harassing the flank and rear of General Grant in his operations against Vicksburg. The following is from Colonel Clark's official report of the part his regiment took in the capture of this strong-hold:

"We had just returned from the bloody battle-field of Chickasaw Bayou, where we had been repulsed with terrible slaughter. Sherman's entire fleet came out of the Yazoo River on the 3d of January, and on the 9th steamed up the Arkansas River, to operate against Arkansas Post, arriving near there the same day. The following day was occupied in reconnoitering and skirmishing. Our (Steele's) Division marched all that night through the woods and swamps, through which it was impossible to take baggage-wagons or ambulances. At day light the next morning we found ourselves within range of the enemy's guns, from which he immediately opened on us. Our batteries were soon put in position, and commenced a vigorous reply. The artillery continued until about 12 o'clock M. At this time I received an order from General Steele to move my regiment rapidly to the front, which was promptly obeyed. I moved the regiment forward in line of battle, to a point within one hundred and fifty yards of the enemy's intrenchments."

This position was held till the place surrendered, and during this part of the action the gallant Captain Dan H. Lyons fell.

During the three weeks that followed the capture of Arkansas Post, the 34th Iowa saw their hardest service. After the capitulation, Colonel Clark was detailed with his regiment to escort the captured prisoners from that point to Camp Douglas; and, on the way, both the prisoners and their escort suffered untold hardships. Only three miserable transports were allowed the colonel, in which to convey his own command and the prisoners (numbering between five and six thousand) from the point of capture to St. Louis. It was mid-Winter, and on the trip the small-pox broke out. The boats were so densely crowded that they could not be policed, and became shockingly filthy; and in this accumulation of filth this loathsome disease was raging, adding each half-hour one to the list of mortality. The scene was most wretched and revolting. In writing to a friend Colonel Clark said: "During those two weeks, I witnessed more human suffering, than I had seen in all my life before."

On returning from Chicago to St. Louis, Colonel Clark was ordered with his regiment, in the early part of April, to Pilot Knob, to anticipate the reported movement of General Marmaduke on that place. For two months after, he commanded the Post and District of Pilot Knob and then joined the command of General Herron, which was en route for Vicksburg. General Herron arrived at Vicksburg on the 11th of June; and was assigned a position on the extreme left of General Grant's army. The 1st Brigade of his Division, to which the 34th Iowa belonged, was stationed near the Mississippi, which position it held till the surrender of the city.

On the morning of the 11th of July, General Herron's Division was embarked on transports, with orders to report to General Banks, at Port Hudson; but news now arriving of the surrender of that place, these troops sailed up the Yazoo River, constituting the force which captured Yazoo City, and subsequently marched out across the Big Black River, to Canton, to make a diversion in favor of General Sherman before Jackson. These operations closed, Colonel Clark sailed with his regiment down the Mississippi River; since which time he has served in the Gulf Department and the trans-Mississippi.

During the latter part of the fall of 1863, and through the following Winter, the history of the 34th Iowa savors somewhat of romance. Stationed at Fort Esperanga on Matagorda Island, which lies at the head of the Gulf of Mexico, and at the mouth of the Guadeloupe River, the men, when off duty, passed their time in wandering on the beach, and gathering curious shells. They even talked of associating Ceres and Flora, as consorts with their patron war-god, Mars. But these scenes closed on the opening of the Spring Campaign under Major-General Banks.

The troops, who joined in the Red River Campaign, have never had full credit for their heroic endurance of the perils and hardships they encountered, which may be attributable to the fact that, the campaign was only fruitful of disaster.

In the battles that were fought near Alexandria, the 34th Iowa took an active part, and sustained itself with credit; but the sufferings of the regiment in these battles and in the early part of the campaign, were not to be compared with those experienced on the memorable nine days' retreat to Simmsport and Morganzia. During these nine days and nights, there were no halts for rest and sleep, or only such as were required for repairing the roads, and constructing pontoons.

On the 28th of May, 1864, the 34th Iowa left Morganzia for Baton Rouge, where it remained till the latter part of July, when it sailed with the command of General Granger against the rebel forts at the mouth of Mobile Bay. The operations of Rear-Admiral Farragut and General Granger against Forts Powell, Gaines and Morgan were brief and brilliant; and the troops who joined in these operations may well feel proud of their achievements. On the 2d of August, 1864, General Granger effected a landing on Dauphin Island, and within twenty-one days from that time, each one of these forts was in the possession of our forces. The 34th Iowa was the first regiment to disembark on the west point of Dauphin Island. It was soon joined by the 96th Ohio, and a colored regiment; when the entire force, under command of Colonel Clark, with skirmishers well advanced and extending from shore to shore, marched forward in the direction of Fort Gaines. The night was dark and stormy, and an east wind beat a drenching rain directly in the faces of the troops. To any but soldiers, the occasion would have been dismal; but these brave fellows, trudging on through the mud and rain, were jocose and merry. Colonel Clark advanced about six miles, and to within two miles of the fort, when he halted and rested his command in line of battle. At day-light he was joined by the 67th Indiana, the 77th Illinois and the 3d Maryland; when, after slight demonstrations, the fort surrendered.

In the reduction of Fort Morgan Colonel Clark with his command also took a conspicuous part; and on its capitulation, on the morning of the 23d of August, led the escort, composed of his own regiment and the 20th Wisconsin, which was marched out to receive the garrison as prisoners of war. Subsequently to February, 1864, he has commanded a brigade. With this command, he distinguished himself at the battle of Middle Bayou, and was highly complimented for his coolness and bravery.

The Fall and Winter following the operations at the mouth of Mobile Bay were passed by the 34th Iowa on the Gulf coast and along the Mississippi. In January, 1865, the regiment was consolidated with the 38th Iowa Infantry, and under the new organization retained its old name and colonel.

For many months, the 34th Iowa was stationed at Barrancas, Florida: from that point, it marched with General Steele against Mobile, and took part in the assault and capture of Fort Blakely.

General Clark is a little above six feet in hight, and has a fine, well-developed form. He is a fine looking man, though, when I saw him, he was a little too fleshy; but at that time he was just from his home, and on the way to re-join his regiment.

General Clark is a man of gentlemanly deportment, and, I am told, has good ability, and much shrewdness. He has a good military record. One who has visited all the Iowa troops in the Gulf Department, speaks thus of him: "Colonel Clark stands high, and, with the officers in general, seeks not only the highest military efficiency, but also a good moral character for his regiment." The general took great pride in the drill and discipline of his old regiment. His regiment were proud of their name, and designated themselves the "star regiment."

In politics, General Clark is a Republican; though, I am told, he was never a political aspirant.

SOURCE: Addison A. Stuart, Iowa Colonels and Regiments, p. 501-6

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