My great-grandfather Jacob Ash was a member of the 183rd O.V.I. and his commanding officer at the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee was Mervin Clark. Jacob survived his war, Mervin, a true war hero, did not.
Mervin Clark was born November 5, 1843 in Cleveland, Ohio. According to the book Itinerary of the Seventh Ohio Volunteer Infantry by L. Wilson Mervin’s “mother died when he was 3 years old. When he was 9 years old his father crossed the river, (assume the Cuyahoga River) and camped on the other side leaving Mervin an Orphan. He was taken into the family of Henry W. and Emily Rowena Stanley-Clark, an uncle. Mervin was educated in the common schools of Cleveland.” Henry was born in Connecticut in 1807.
The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History says the Mervin was the son of Mervin and Caroline Guptil-Clark.
According to family historians a great-grandfather, a few times over, was a pilot and mate on the “Mayflower” that sailed in 1620. He made several crossing of the Atlantic and was held captive in Havana and Madrid in 1611 and 1616. That man was named John Clark and his son. Thomas Clark, born in Middlesex, England, arrived in Plymouth, Massachusetts in July of 1623 aboard the “Ann.” He was a master of many trades; carpenter, yeoman and merchant. He was taxed in 1632 and in 1633 he took the oath of a Freeman. In 1643 he was listed as one able to bear arms.
It certainly appears, if that is true, Mervin Clark was born of stock that laid the first blocks that built our country, so to preserve it was born in Mervin.
At the age of 17 Mervin enlisted in the SpragueZouave Cadets who became Company B of the 7th Ohio Infantry in June, 1861, just weeks after the firing on Fort Sumter. After a three-month enlistment spent, for the most part, in training at Camp Dennison near Cincinnati he reenlisted for three years. The 7th had an honorable record of service at such places as Cedar Mountain, Antietam, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Lookout Mountain, and Mission Ridge. It was ordered home to be mustered out, which was done on July 8, 1864, at Cleveland. During its term of service 1,800 men had served with the regiment, and now only 240 able-bodied men remained to bring home their colors. After his training and at the very beginning of his three years’ service Mervin was promoted to 1st Sgt. He was discharged as Captain!
Mervin Clark decided that he was not through serving his country and its cause. Shortly after returning home he volunteered again, as a private in the infantry. However, his previous service did not go unnoticed. The Governor of Ohio appointed him second in command of a new regiment being formed at Camp Dennison, the 183rd O.V.I. Lt. Col. Clark would now lead a new regiment of green, untested recruits, hastily assembled near Cincinnati, into battle in Middle Tennessee about six weeks later.
During the Battle of Franklin the 183rd was positioned to the west of the main line’s center, in reserve. However, one company was moved forward to fill a gap in the works. When the Confederate Army rushed forward to meet their enemy on the afternoon of November 30, 1864 that one company, in fear and confusion, turned and ran. As the enemy began to climb through the hole left Mervin Clark ordered his men on the reserve line forward. As they rushed ahead the color bearer fell to the ground, shot in the arm and leg. Clark gathered the colors from the ground and stood up, flag in one hand, and called out to his men to retake the works. As his men responded to his call a single bullet ripped through his head and killed him instantly. Inspired by Clark’s leadership the 183rd continue to rally and helped withstand the attack and turned the enemy back.
As the fighting subsided Lt. Col. Clark was wrapped in a blanket and buried on the battlefield. Eric Jacobson, in his book Baptism of Fire, writes that his grave was carefully marked in a manner that his body was able to be exhumed by family in the spring of 1866 (now shown to be much earlier) and taken home. Burial records in Cuyahoga County show he was first interred at Erie Street Cemetery in January 1865, and later in June of 1866 he was reinterred at Woodland Cemetery, Cleveland, Ohio.
Most of the Union Army troops killed at Franklin were removed from the battlefield and reinterred at Stones River National Cemetery nearby. To this day records at Stones River indicate that Mervin Clark is buried there. A couple years ago, through no real intended action on my part, I was able to connect persons at Stones River and Woodland together to make correct the National Cemetery records. It is possible that he was taken to, even buried at, Stones River and gathered there by family.
Buried near him are Henry and Emily
Near the end of the war numerous forts were built around Louisville, Kentucky to protect it from invasion. In recognition of Mervin Clark’s valor on the battlefield one of them was named for him. It was located at (now) 36th and Magnolia Streets.
As a country we have taken to recognize that in 1620 a group of people landed on our shores with a cause and purpose. Our country grew from that landed place. From those causes men like Clark, (and I do acknowledge millions more) decided that preserving what was built was a worthy thing that demanded resolute fearlessness, fortitude, and endurance.