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Bill Thayer

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[image ALT: A head‑and-chest photograph of a thin, serious-looking man maybe in his late fifties. His hair has receded a good ways, and he has a small bristly moustache. He is wearing a double-breasted uniform jacket with braided epaulets and with eight pairs of brass buttons tapering towards the waist. He is Charles Hobart Clark, an American Army officer, whose career and life is sketched in the obituary on this webpage.]

Charles H. Clark

The preceding image, and the text that follows, are reproduced from (the report of the) Forty-Sixth Annual Reunion of the Association of the Graduates of the United States Military Academy, June 11th, 1915.

 p148  Charles Hobart Clark
No. 2558. Class of 1875.
Died, January 15, 1915, at Springfield, Mass., aged 63.

Charles Hobart Clark, son of Leonard Clark and his wife, Althine Woodward Clark, was born in Hubbardston, Mass., April 29, 1851. He was descended from good, English, Colonial stock in both the paternal and maternal lines. His ancestor, Hugh Clark, born in England, 1613, came to the Massachusetts Colony, settled first at Watertown and afterwards at Roxbury, where he died in 1693. Captain John Clark, great-great grandson of Hugh Clark, born at Hubbardston, Mass., 1730, was a delegate from Hubbardston to the First Provincial Congress of Massachusetts that met at Salem, October, 1774. He was also a member of the Second Provincial Congress that met at Cambridge, February, 1775. William Clark (1753‑1812), son of Captain John Clark, was a gallant soldier of the Revolution and marched with his regiment, Colonel Doolittle's, on the alarm of the 19th of April, 1775 (Lexington). He served in the same regiment for eight months during the siege of Boston in 1775. Another ancestor of the same name, though on the maternal side, Lieutenant Samuel Clark (1743‑1830), rendered good service first in Colonel Jonathan Smith's regiment and later in the Fifth Middlesex Regiment, Colonel Perry. Charles Hobart Clark's great grandfather on his mother's side was Daniel Woodward (1760‑1853), who was in the Continental Army at Saratoga and at the surrender of Burgoyne. This brief record of Colonel Clark's ancestry is here given because the writer considers it proper to preserve the record of those Americans, who are descended from men, who helped to establish our Republic; for these, if any, are of the true American nobility. One of Colonel Clark's uncles was the  p149 well-known millionaire philanthropist, Jonas Gilman Clark, the founder of Clark University at Worcester, Massachusetts. Charles was a great favorite with him and a beneficiary under his will. After the founder's death, Colonel Clark was elected a trustee of Clark University and served as such from 1904 to 1907, while he was stationed at the Springfield Armory. He resigned his office with the University when orders took him to duty in Texas. President G. Stanley Hall, of Clark University, in a letter dated January 29, 1915, to Colonel Clark's mother, after expressing his sorrow and that of his colleagues at her son's death, says:

"His death removes another link between our founder and the institution. While on the Board Colonel Clark took the greatest interest in every matter that came up, and was of very great assistance in developing and carrying through a number of important matters. He was always so broad-minded, sympathetic, generous and gentlemanly, that he came to occupy a very high place in the esteem of his colleagues on the Board, and that for his own sake, quite apart from the fact that he was a nephew of the founder, who, it was thought, would have been pleased had he lived to see him on the Board."

While he was still but a child Colonel Clark's parents moved from Hubbardston to Springfield, where he lived until he went to West Point. He received his early education in the excellent public schools of Springfield and graduated from the High School in 1867, at the age of sixteen. As he had then decided on a business career he secured employment in the office of the Springfield Republican, one of the leading newspapers of Massachusetts and, indeed, of the United States, whose editor was then and for many years afterwards, the Honorable Samuel Bowles. Later Clark decided to finish his education and he entered Dartmouth College in 1870. In his first year there he gained his appointment as cadet at the U. S. Military Academy, in a competitive examination instituted by the Honorable Henry L. Dawes, M. C., for his  p150 Congressional District, and later the distinguished Senator from Massachusetts. Clark passed the entrance examination successfully and was admitted as a cadet in 1871. He was graduated in 1875. His subsequent military career, in brief, was as follows:

Second Lieutenant, First Regiment of Artillery, June 16, 1875. Served in garrison at Key West, Fla.; Fort Warren, Mass.; Fort Adams, R. I.; Summerville and Charleston, S. C.; Washington Arsenal, D. C.; Fort Monroe, Va., October, 1875 to May, 1880. Engaged in suppressing railroad disturbances in Pennsylvania, July to October, 1877. Honor graduate U. S. Artillery School, Class 1880.

He successful passed the required examination and was appointed First Lieutenant, Ordnance Department, June 16, 1880. His subsequent promotions in the Ordnance Department were as follows:

Captain, June 15, 1890; Major, Aug. 1, 1903; Lieutenant-Colonel, November 12, 1906; Colonel, October 23, 1910. Served at the U. S. Military Academy as instructor and assistant professor, Department of Ordnance and Gunnery, 1880 to 1884; Springfield Armory, Mass., 1884 to 1889; Chief Ordnance Officer, Department of the Columbia and Commanding Officer, Vancouver Barracks, Ordnance Depot, Washington, 1889 to 1893; Assistant Ordnance Officer, Frankford Arsenal, Pa., 1893 to 1895; Assistant in the Office of Chief of Ordnance, Washington, D. C., 1895 to 1898; Assistant Ordnance Officer, Benicia Arsenal, Cal., 1898 to 1903; on duty at Rock Island Arsenal, Ill., February to August, 1903; at Springfield Armory, Mass., 1903 to 1907; Chief Ordnance Officer Department of Texas and Commanding Officer, San Antonio Arsenal, 1907 to 1913. He was retired from active service, at his own request, February 19, 1913, after more than forty‑one years' service.

 p151  Clark was one of the first candidates I met at the West Point Hotel, in 1871. We took an immediate liking for each other and there began our close friendship, which lasted, without a jar, as long as he lived. At that time he was a handsome youth, with a beautiful, intellectual head; with refined, regular, clear‑cut features; with frank blue eyes, which bespoke his even temper and good nature and easily twinkled with humor. His dark-brown hair was abundant and inclined to curl; his complexion was clear and clean, without blemish. All in all his personality was most attractive and even the most careless observer could not fail to feel the calm poise and strength of character that lay behind his simple, natural manners, his modesty and his friendliness to all.

He was of middle height, strongly built and generally well developed physically. He was an excellent oarsman, a good all‑around athlete, and a remarkable swimmer. Frequently he swam from Gee's Point to Constitution Island, touched a hand there and returned to the starting point, apparently with ease and without discomfort. Afterwards when we were classmates at the Artillery School at Fort Monroe (1878‑1880), he was unrivalled among the swimmers there. One day a young girl was drowned near the Baltimore Wharf while bathing with her father and others. The grief of the parents and their despair at the loss of her body were pitiable. Clark volunteered his services for the search, and with rare good judgment and tremendous exertion for several hours, much of the time under water, found the body, caught against one of the piles of the wharf, and restored it to the grief-stricken father and mother.

During our first-class camp in the summer of 1874, the Commandant of Cadets, General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Emory Upton, made a special feature of "double-time" in the training of the new cadets. One day the Plebes were assembled in one body and double-timed a mile without halting. An order was read to the  p152 Corps reciting and commending this performance, and rewarding the Plebes therefor by excusing them from attendance at parade the next day. We first-classmen smiled when the order was read. Clark and three other classmates arranged to try a little unofficial running the next morning immediately after reveille. A track had been measured around the plain and Fort Clinton — a little more than a mile in length. They started with the intention of going four miles and were timed by the Officer of the Guard at the Guard Tents. As no one was tired when the four miles were finished, they concluded to keep on and trotted around the course, without a break, eight times — making about nine miles in seventy-nine minutes. This was before the time of long-distance walking and running in the United States and was regarded as a notable achievement. General Upton sent for them, questioned them as to the details, stated it was a fine proof of the high physical training of cadets and filed a report of the event in the archives of the Academy — but he did not excuse them from parade.

Clark's mind was keen, clear and logical. Sophistry he punctured half apologetically and half humorously, with a twinkle of the eye and a delicate modesty, which carried conviction better than strenuous opposition. He learned his cadet lessons easily, never neglected them but was no hard "boner." He recited clearly and modestly and stood well in his class from first to last. Finally he graduated No. 9 in a class of forty-three members, of which the first ten were men of exceptional ability.

On the 29th of April, 1880, Lieutenant Clark was married in the little Church of the Centurion, at Fort Monroe, to Helen Maxwell DeRussy, daughter of the late Brevet Brigadier General René E. DeRussy, Colonel, Corps of Engineers. At the same time and place were married Lieutenant (now Major General) Arthur Murray and Sara Wetmore DeRussy. This double wedding was made more than usually interesting  p153 from the fact that the brides were sisters, the bride-grooms were both Lieutenants of the First Artillery and the ceremony took place on the 29th birthday of both Lieutenants Clark and Murray.

From that day until the death of his beloved wife in 1901 Clark's home life was ideal — Love reigned and her handmaid Happiness controlled every hour. He never remarried. Two children were born to them — Helen DeRussy, now the wife of Lieutenant Thomas Donaldson Sloan, Coast Artillery Corps, and Miriam, the wife of Lieutenant Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.James E. Chaney, Twenty-Fifth Infantry.

Among the marked traits of Colonel Clark's character was his devotion to duty, and his abounding charity in the broadest sense. Every duty, great or small, he performed with efficiency, with constant conscientiousness and always with an eye to the best interests of the Government.

I do not remember ever to have heard him speak harshly of any man, woman or child. If people fell below his expectation, he shrugged his shoulders and smiled. If others berated them he would say, "Perhaps we don't know all of the other side." It was as if he believed that there must be extenuating circumstances in every case of wrong-doing. Certainly he obeyed the injunction "Judge not, lest ye be judged," though he himself needed no lenity of judgment. His charity in speech was no more marked than his material charities. To many he extended a helping hand, hidden from its fellow, and only my intimacy with grateful recipients brought these helpings to my knowledge. He was universally beloved and esteemed by his classmates, by his associates in the Army and by his friends in his home city, with whom he never lost close touch. If he had a single enemy on earth I never knew it, and few men leave this world so sincerely mourned and regretted.

For many years he endured silently and uncomplainingly an almost constant derangement of the functions of the  p154 stomach. Despite these years of suffering he continued to fulfill all duties with utmost fidelity, seldom even spoke of his trouble and maintained his usual brave front and habitual cheerfulness. Two days before the end, a crisis arose wherein his virile mind, clouded by physical agony, yet made the decision for a well-nigh hopeless surgical operation, which, though pronounced in itself successful, overtaxed his remaining strength and the brave heart, which had been strong in meeting every issue of a long life, ceased its beating and the wearied body lay at rest.

His funeral was held January 18th, at the home of his aged mother, Mrs. Leonard Clark, 163 Forest Park Avenue, Springfield Mass., and was attended by his relatives and many friends, by representatives of the Sons of the American Revolution and the Hampden Lodge of Masons, of which orders he was a member, and by the officers of the Army, stationed at the Springfield Armory, in full dress uniform.

The Rev. A. P. Reccord, pastor of the Church of the Unity, conducted the services and made an eloquent and touching address on the noble life of his intimate friend. His remains were taken to the historic West Point Cemetery and there interred with military honors beside the grave, where rests all that is mortal of the wife of his youth, whom he never forgot and whom he loved so well.

How can such a life be summed up in mere words?

Charles Hobart Clark was the soul of honor, of honesty, of integrity. In more than forty-three years of intimacy and of constant and confidential correspondence, I never knew him to do an unworthy act nor to give utterance to an unworthy thought. As son, brother, husband, father, friend and comrade and as a soldier he was a model for all and for the best. He was as near the perfect man and gentleman as it is permitted us poor mortals to be.

 p155  To him, as his soul winged its way Heavenward, it could be said in truth, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord."

To us, who knew and loved him best, is left the consoling hope, that we, though much less worthy, may some time, through divine mercy, meet him there.

He is not dead, though gone from life.

A life like his lives on forever,

For what he did will brace for strife

Against the wrong, full many a heart,

That feels or shall feel soul's endeavor

To do the right — the true man's part.

Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.E. D. H.

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Page updated: 13 Dec 13