Letter written by Chaplain Edward L. Clark of the 12th MA Infantry to William Dehon, from the camp of the 12th Regiment MA Volunteers in Frederick, MD. Clark’s letter focuses on the politics of the Webster Regiment. He begins by stating that the 12th MA and its colonel, Fletcher Webster, are “the envy of all,” though he annoyed that some members of the regiment are speaking ill of himself. He concludes the letter by mentioning that Dehon’s son, Lieutenant Arthur Dehon, has recently arrived, and praises the young Dehon for his diligence and hard work.
Frederick, Md. Jan. 31, 1862
Camp 12th Reg. Mass. Vols.
On my last visit “home” I tried frequently to see you, but failed every attempt. Mr. Butler requested me to write to you or himself concerning the regiment. I take therefore, great pleasure in saying that both at division Head Quarters and among the other officers our regiment and Col. [Fletcher Webster] are the envy of all. Col.[George H.] Gordon, [2nd MA Infantry] last of all men to say such a thing, confessed to me that our men were far superior to his own. You could hardly expect him to compare cols., but our own “boys” do with delight, and his boys with longing! In discipline, in materiel, in spirit, there is nothing wanting. Order and propriety are the orders of the camp.
I need not tell you how much loved our Col. is, or how much we admire his kindness and greatness of heart. As a gentleman he did not surprise, but I have not ceased to wonder at the power of the man. In the one, all are pleased, but
[in] the other only his friends are delighted, because they only feel it. I was called at home extravagant for the terms I used in his praise, but to you they would seem justice. From my personal observation I assure you that as a military man he stands here, as he does everywhere, for his social qualities.
But one thing has annoyed me very much. If it could be met, I would bear it alone. As it now comes it is not only without foundation, but the more vexatious, because it misleads by opinion and influence. I feel confident that time would adjust it, but before then it might be unpleasant if not injurious. Could you imagine that within a plan to separate any who might have mutual interests and consequently lend somewhat of strength to each other, such and imputation might be cast and pressed day after day as this, that one has secretly injured the other. It is not uncommon, but unfortunate. Because it is called “secret,” no proof is called for. You are one of the Col’s. best friends. Do you think or know I have by my public or private letters or conversation cast a shade on my own Col. and regiment?
If you have a suspicion, please let me know on what it rests. If not, will you not write to the Col. and say so. Mr. Butler and Mr. Eaton expressed their entire disbelief in any such accusation, and Mr. Eaton mentioned as an example
a certain report believed to have come from Dr. Clark, which was found out to be untrue. Now a chaplain is a scapegoat for the sins of a thousand. He is not always with Col. Bryan [Lieut. Col. Timothy M. Bryan] and Adj., and does not lean on such men. But they make him bear what they can. I know that I have quietly but resolutely set my face against such reports, not only among the authorities, but at home, and among business men. Therefore, I do not write for the sake of myself, but the Col. Beside this, my remaining with the reg. is a matter of so much uncertainty that I feel the more anxious to dispose all such things while I am still a chaplain.
Mr. Butler gave me $14 for the express of my library to the regiment. It just paid the freight. At present we have 400 books and 500 magazines in circulation among our boys.
I saw Mrs. Webster and family yesterday. They leave for home tomorrow or Monday. The col. hopes to get 8 days leave of absence and return with them. Mrs. W[ebster] will explain many things which I have not time to write.
Hoping to hear at least a line from you,
I remain with deepest respect
Your old servant
Chaplain, 12th Mass. Vols.
P.S. Your son [Lieut. Arthur Dehon] has so recently arrived that I had forgotten for the moment his joining our regiment. He applies himself with the utmost diligence to his “Hardee’s” and feels much delighted with his progress. He has been put on duty for several days. The men who always express themselves about such things in a democratic way, warmly give their approval! Of course, their opinion is quite independent of means, but one token of it.
May I take the liberty of calling your attention to a little article “Charity” in the Courier. It may possibly give more fully the condition of the reg. in two respects – comfort and intelligence.
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.
Arthur Dehon was William Dehon’s son and a 2nd Lieutenant in Webster’s 12 MA Infantry.