Letter written by the former Chaplain Edward Lord Clark of the 12th MA Infantry to Mrs. Caroline Webster, from Andover, MD. Clark is writing to express his sympathies at the death of Mrs. Webster’s husband, Colonel Fletcher Webster. Clark speaks very highly of the colonel, and writes of how loved he was by his men. He concludes by mentioning the Websters’ daughter Julia, who also passed away.
Andover Sept. 5th
I have thought that the sad news which has cast a cloud over the friends of our brave Col. might not prove to be true. It did not seem possible that he had fallen, but this afternoon the last hope has been disappointed, and I can only express my warm sympathy with you in this terrible affliction.
While no words can relieve the sad pressure upon your feelings, I am sure that even the humblest praise cannot but be pleasing in the midst of sadness. And I should be ungrateful to him for his many kindnesses if I did not tell you how much we admired his remarkable talents and his splendid accomplishments. His generosity and his sympathy with even the poorest of his soldiers endeared him to the entire regiment. Many times have I spoken of the devotion of his men, and I never knew a Col. so universally
loved and so cheerfully obeyed as our col. In all my intercourse with the different companies, under all circumstances, and at all times since we left home, I never heard an angry or disrespectful word spoken of him. His power over them was such that I believe they would have followed him everywhere, and yet they never feared him as a commander. With a warmth of heart, which knew no distinction of religion or politics, he drew all men to love him, so that I used to feel proud to observe how much of his father’s genial kindness came to men, and pleased to see how much he had for all beside.
Never shall I forget the rides we took in the late afternoon at Darnestown. The ease and skill with which he explained to me many things I had not understood in my reading or studies; the warmth and earnestness he threw into his gestures and tones as he expounded the “Lord’s prayer,” and the “Sermon on the mount;” the interest he displayed in
the details of his regiment- how they thought, and wished and hoped – the enthusiasm and pride he felt as he led his splendid men under some unexpected order, perhaps to a scene of trial; the fondness he expressed for his dear Julia, and all his warm friends at home. These and a hundred things besides are so recent, so fresh in my heart, that I cannot feel the loss enough, or be thankful enough that I have seen and known it all. I wish for nothing so much as to have done something for your husband. I used to think if we went into battle I should never lose sight of him. But this privilege I could not have. Now it is too late.
When I returned, I was too sick to leave my room, and on my becoming better the Dr. sent me back into the country, so that hoping from day to day to return and see you I did not write.
You have met two trials, and both together. I cannot tell you how bravely he fell, nor need I remind you that
this would have been his choice. If I could see you, I should feel that words were a mockery, but I would rejoice to press your hand, and tell you that I should always respect and admire the warm, generous hearted and talented impulses, and zeal, of our own dear Col. While I remember your precious daughter [Julia] as I do the rare days of sunshine in our stormy winter at Frederick. They were not separated.
With the warmest sympathy ad deepest gratitude for your personal kindness to me, I have the honor to remain,
Your obedient servant,
Edward L. Clark
Edward Lord Clark, from Andover, MA, aged 23, enrolled as chaplain in the 12th MA Infantry on June 26, 1861. He resigned on June 16, 1862. Died Feb. 4, 1910.
Fletcher Webster was the only surviving child of the famous Massachusetts Senator and orator, Daniel Webster. He organized the “Webster Regiment,” the 12th MA Infantry in 1861 at the age of 47. He was killed in action on the afternoon of August 30, 1862 at the Battle of 2nd Bull Run.