Chapter 13 - The Soldiers of Clarion County in the Rebellion

Created: Thursday, 25 March 2010 Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 February 2014 Written by Nathan Zipfel Print Email




IT has been said that human history never has been and never can be written. Let this sentiment here apply. The history of Clarion county’s soldiers never has been written, and it never can be written in such a manner as justly to pass down to future generations all that was done by them worthy of emulation, or deserving of condemnation.

Every community has a history; which history, if written, would not all be clean, honest, noble, and inspiring. It could not be. A true history is a record of motives and purposes that bring about events, as well as a record of transpired events. Alas! too often, therefore, history, if truly written, would bear upon its pages the sophistical palaver of the knave, and the untempered harangues of the fool; the unjust murmurings of disappointed ambition, and the unwept tears of broken-hearted love; the midnight skulkings of the coward, and the inhuman acts of the villain and the murderer.

Concerning a community of 24,988 souls, which was the population of Clarion county in 1860, posterity would scarcely expect to find the history of that community’s nearly three thousand soldiers to be entirely without some of those darker pages. As they went forth to the struggle well might it be said:

Some few may cause a noble wife to weep;
  Some few may break a mother’s Spartan heart;
Some few may fail their martial vows to keep;
  Some few, too weak, may play the coward’s part;
                           But see the HEROES in that band!

Heroes, indeed! The writer has in mind instances of suffering and devotion, of patriotism and bravery, and of complete and perfect manliness as exemplified by the lives of some Clarion county soldiers, that would stand in splendor on history’s page side by side with the most notable exploits of the soldiers of Miltiades at Marathon, or those of Leonidas at Thermopylæ, or of those of Napoleon, at Austerlitz. It is a truth of history, for which every true son of Clarion county has cause to be proud, that the number of dishonest men, cowards, or worse men, who went to the war from Clarion county was exceedingly small.

Believing that human inspirations and aspirations are identical the world over, when human beings stand on the same plane of civilization and enlightenment, it is reasonable to conclude that some of our soldiers entered the army for gain, and some for mere adventure. It has been so in all time. Men have, in other times, walked over the ground sanctified by the blood of the slain, to gather indications of a "deal," and why not some of these? Men have, in other times, shared the prison of comrades and intensified that prison’s damnable memories by setting unnatural and unholy prices upon that which they had "to sell" to a suffering companion, and why not some of these? Men have in other times, stolen a fellow soldier’s meager pay, or stolen away from duty; willing to be known as a "deserter," and why not some of these?

Some did make for themselves records like these in the memories of their comrades, and that fact emphasizes the grandeur of the lives of the great majority, who had kindled upon their hearthstones the fires of patriotism long before they ever thought of seeing them burn upon the battle-field; who would scorn to traffic for profit where the dead were buried or where the wounded suffered, while they were not armed and equipped to defend the flag; who shared their last pinch of salt, for nothing, with a comrade; who would sooner die than rob a soldier; and who would rather stand by the flag and suffer than forsake it.

The following rolls are an eloquent tribute to the twenty-nine hundred men and more whose names constitute the honor roll of Clarion county. The man who deserted because he expected to get "bounty" by returning, certainly deserved a death ignominious. The man who fled the carnival of death because of mortal terror, deserved to be pitied. God made him as he was. The man who forsook the flag, fearing that his loved ones at’ home would not be cared for, might well renounce his share of the government in which he had not faith enough to trust it with his all. These things are all a part of the history of the wars in which mankind participates.

To judge of the deed, the motive should be known, so if by the following pages any one soldier is shown in the light of facts to have been not a true soldier, it is hoped that the mantle of charity will be thrown over the errors of both the living and the dead, to the end that the descendants of the dead may not feel the iron in their souls, but may be loyal, patriotic, brave and useful citizens; and that the undutiful living may live down the mistakes of the past and bequeath to their children a correct conception of duty to our country.

The noble women of Clarion county who kept watch by day and vigil by night during these four deathless years, deserve a more fitting tribute than this poor pen can give. Their reward is for the future.

The sturdy yeomanry who remained at home to work and to encourage the bereaved ones, and care for the widow and the orphan, and do the duties that devolved upon them as civilians, are worthy of commendation, and no true history will question the motives or challenge the sentiments of that honorable class of our population, unless perhaps it might be to call in question the loyalty of some particular individual or individuals. With the hope that this sketch of the military achievements of the men of Clarion county may have a correct influence upon posterity, it is respectfully dedicated to the soldiers of Clarion county, by their friend,

                                                                                             THE AUTHOR

* This and the following chapters, giving the history of Clarion County military organizations in the War of the Rebellion, are prepared by Mr. W.A. BEER.

SOURCE:  Page(s) 142-144, History of Clarion County, A.J. Davis, A.J.; Syracuse, N.Y.: D. Mason & Co. 1887