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Christopher Columbus Clark, Civil War Era Ancestor of Barack Obama
Posted by: Loretta-Marie Dimond (ID *****3928) Date: February 02, 2008 at 16:30:33
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What follows are some ruminations regarding the service, political unit history, and fortunes before the Bureau of Pensions of one who will soon be a very popular Civil War individual.

Christopher Columbus Clark was born in Missouri ca 1846, and at the time of the outbreak of the American Civil War was probably a resident of Lewis County, Missouri (the 1860 census enumerates him aged 14 years with his immediate family at Canton Twp, Lewis County, Missouri). For those unfamiliar with the geography of the state, this is in the far northeast corner of Missouri and is near the confluence of the Mississippi and Des Moines Rivers at Keokuk. Columbus Clark, as he called himself during the Civil War years, would marry the daughter of a minor Southern slaveholder and was perhaps of mixed opinion on the vital issues of the day. Many others in Missouri were in this same position.

At the outbreak of the war Missouri became a hotbed of conflicting opinions. No less than eight different varieties of state militia for those of Union sentiments were called throughout the war. Confederate recruitment was vigorous and successful. Depending on local conditions, individuals could fight with one, or the other, or both, or neither--irregular or "bushwhacker" detachments are legendary.

Following the war, it was the province of the Bureau of Pensions to sort out which service, and which circumstances, would be considered honorable and qualifying for Federal pension purposes. The State of Missouri did the same for state pension purposes. Extensive records are available on-line of the state enrollments and how they fall into the various categories of service. See, in particular, the assessments of Kirby Ross at But notable for this article is the Enrolled Missouri Militia (EMM), a paper army maintained from 1862 to 1865 of legal residents of the several counties.

The EMM was a Unionist response to 1862 Confederate recruiting efforts in the northeast of Missouri staged by Colonel Joseph Porter. Military operations in the eastern theatres had been increasing and many Missouri volunteers had been transferred to other departments, leaving those at home seemingly defenseless. (A similar trend in the American West followed the withdrawal of Federal troops to the east, leaving frontier settlers at the perceived mercy of native American depredations.) Militia home guard units arose spontaneously in 1861, but severe hardship in providing state payment for the enrollees resulted in dismissal of the units. To avoid repeating the mistake, Governor Hamilton Gamble ordered an organized response. His adjutant, Brigadier General John Schofield, directed the enrollment of every able-bodied male. This had a dual effect. It created a "Missouri state line" similar to what had been generated in Southern states (see, for example, Georgia under Joseph Brown). It also forced the males of the state to get off the fence: support the Union, or support the Confederacy; refusal to enroll was a clear sign of Confederate sympathy.

The EMM eventually reached 85 regiments with an estimated enrollment exceeding 50,000. The EMM would be subject to call-up and would be paid only for actual days in service. Women and children would be defended, any threat could be met without bankrupting the state, and partisans would be identified.

The 69th EMM, raised in Clark and Lewis Counties, was a part of this broad tradition. It was called to active duty only once, in response to a threat of Confederate partisan rangers (the Price Raid, 1864). Its service was not under the direction and oversight of Federal officers. Individuals from the 69th EMM were called to the full-time Northeast Missouri Provisional EMM (2 PEMM) but such detail was not universal.

The Bureau of Pensions secured an Attorney General opinion on 18 Jun 1903 on the standing of the EMM. According to the opinion, the enrollees were declared not to have been part of the Civil War Federal army, but instead part of a co-operative force acting only from time to time. EMM service was rejected as qualifying service for membership in the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) by resolution at the 1905 National Encampment (Proceedings, GAR, 39th Annual Encampment, p 141-146). Despite a 1908 bill which made it through hearings and committee in the House of Representatives, and petitions throughout the early part of the 20th century, EMM service was never regularized for Federal pension purposes. Those individuals who could prove additional service beyond the EMM itself, say detail to the PEMM, became eligible for Federal pension based upon that additional service. Those who had EMM service alone were rejected for Federal pension.

Such was, apparently, the case with Barack Obama's ancestor, Christopher Columbus Clark. He enrolled in the EMM on 30 Apr 1864, probably the day he "came of age," his 21st birthday. He served 51 days of active duty during the Price Raid from 4 October to 6 December under command of Colonel Hayward and General Fisk, officers of the state of Missouri. His days of active duty make him a Civil War veteran in the eyes of the state of Missouri. The 1930 census of El Dorado, Butler County, Kansas includes the attestation that Christopher C Clark considered himself a Civil War veteran.

The index card contained in Bureau of Pensions, later VA, records (Series T288) for Columbus Clark of the 69th EMM has a handwritten notation of his death on 11 January 1937, but no location is given (Kansas, his last residence, is likely). His application for Federal pension occurred in 1891 from the state of Missouri. The certificate space is blank, indicating no pension certificate was granted. A "C" file was built in 1924 and a pension attorney was engaged. However, the index card does not affirm that a pension award was ever made. No doubt the details of Clark's service and battle for pension are contained in the "C" file--and custody of that file, given the late date of his death, probably still rests with the Department of Veterans' Affairs, not the National Archives. Researchers should expect restrictions on the use of this information.

My acknowledgment to co-researcher and husband, James L Dimond, for his insights and perspectives. Civil War Forum folks, please assess and comment.

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