Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Dying Far From Home: Clark Witt, 116th USCI

If you have read many of my posts about soldiers dying far from home, you have likely realized that Civil War soldiers expired far more often in hospitals from disease than from wounds received on the battlefield.

Yet another of these tragic stories is that of Clark Witt, who is buried at the City Point National Cemetery in plot 2230. Witt was born in Estill County, around 1844. Clark was owned by David Witt. The 1860 census shows David Witt owned eleven slaves, one of which was an eighteen year old "black" male, who was likely Clark Witt.

David Witt was sixty-one years old in 1860. He lived with his wife, Nancy, and their three sons. David owned $6000 in real estate and $7425 in personal property. Among Clark Witt's service records is a claim for compensation by David Witt for Clark's service. In it he provided a hint of Clark's family history. David wrote, "said slave was born as my property I having previously owned his mother having purchased his mother of Mr. Russell of Garrard County, Ky that he remained uninterruptedly in my possession up to the date of his enlistment."

Clark Witt enlisted on June 12, 1864, at Camp Nelson, Kentucky. He formally mustered into service on June 28. He was placed in Company E of the 116th United States Colored Infantry. Clark was noted as being twenty years old and was described as five feet six inches tall and of black complexion.

Clark was present for duty, being charged $1.79 for losing two haversacks and a canteen, in November and December 1864. He was noted as being in a field hospital in November but apparently recovered as he was shown as again being in the hospital around February 3, 1865. Clark Witt died of chronic diarrhea on February 24, 1865, at the general hospital at Point of Rocks, Virginia.

It appears that David Witt found out about Clark's fate when he filed for compensation for Clark's service. One wonders what emotions David had upon finding out that Clark had died as soldier. Did David have kind feelings toward his former slave and express sadness.  Or, since he had not provided consent for Clark's enlistment, was David resentful? From what I have read about the wide variety of relationships between masters and slaves, either response could be possible.

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