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Civil War Stories

A Fallen Hero - Calvin James Clack

While taking tea with Cynthia Rivers Carter on May 15, 1861, the night before he left for war, Calvin James Clack predicted, "I do not feel that I will be killed, but that I will return to my friends." Like so many from Giles County, Tennessee, who left their loved ones behind and joined in the fight to resist northern invasion, Calvin Clack did not return. Pierced by a bullet just over the left eye in August, 1864, he did not fulfill his prophecy of returning to "Dear Old Giles."

Born around 1830, the son of Spencer and Lucy Jones Clack, Calvin spent his boyhood days in Giles County. He moved to Mississippi in 1849 and returned to Giles County in 1858. As he grew into early manhood, he became a lawyer and was junior partner with his uncle Thomas McKissack Jones in the firm Jones & Clack, Attorneys and Counsellors at Law. Their office was on the south side of West Madison Street, in the first block off Second Main Street, just west of the J. P. May building.

When President Abraham Lincoln announced his plans for invasion of the South, Calvin J. Clack joined a military company from Pulaski under the leadership of Captain John C. Brown. His prominence in the community soon led to his being elected 1st Lieutenant of the company, second in command. This company left Pulaski by train and went to Lynnville, in northern Giles County. There, on the 16th of May, 1861, the Third Tennessee Infantry Regiment was formed, consisting of Captain John C. Brown's company and nine other companies from Giles and surrounding counties. Captain John C. Brown was elected Colonel of the Third Tennessee Infantry Regiment and Calvin J. Clack took Brown's place as Captain of the company.

Captain Clack's military career was consistent with that of the Third Tennessee Infantry, for he was a good and faithful soldier and fought in practically every battle in which the Third Tennessee was engaged. He led his company well and was respected and loved by the men who served in his command. When the Third Tennessee Infantry was reorganized in late 1862, after being released from northern prisons where they had been held for seven months following their capture at Fort Donelson, Calvin James Clack was elected Lieutenant Colonel of the regiment. Colonel John C. Brown had been promoted to Brigadier General and Giles Countian Calvin Harvey Walker had replaced him as Colonel of the Third Tennessee Infantry.

Lieutenant Colonel Clack fought with his regiment throughout the Mississippi campaign and through most of the Georgia campaign. On June 22, 1864, Colonel Harvey Walker's head was shot off at Kennesaw Mountain in Georgia, just north of Atlanta. Lieutenant Colonel Clack assumed command of the regiment and was appointed Colonel, but did not live long enough for his appointment to Colonel to be confirmed by Confederate authorities.

Lieutenant Colonel Clack led the Third Tennessee Infantry for most of the remainder of the campaign that led to the fall of Atlanta. At Jonesboro, Georgia, on August 31, 1864, Lieutenant Colonel Calvin James Clack was killed by an enemy bullet. He was buried on the battlefield. Lieutenant Colonel Clack had served as the last commander of the Third Tennessee Infantry, for it was soon consolidated with the 18th Tennessee Infantry commanded by Colonel Reuben Butler.

Calvin Clack's remains lay in Georgia soil for nineteen years. In 1883, a group of his old friends and comrades in arms began an effort to locate his remains and bring them home. Sam C. Mitchell and John W. Dyer, former members of the Third Tennessee Infantry, went to Georgia in search of his grave. General, later Governor of Tennessee, John C. Brown gave them a map which led exactly to his grave on the battlefield. They found that his grave had been removed to a nearby soldier cemetery by Georgia citizens. After much effort, they found his grave with the headboard fallen and hidden in the grass, but still legible. They exhumed the remains and were enabled to identify them. The bones had nearly perished and they found only a few bones, including his skull, showing the fracture over the left eye made by the ball that killed him. They recognized also his peculiar English boots, one sleeve of his coat and a brass spur, well preserved. They took all there was left of him, packed it, and returned to Pulaski.

On Saturday, November 10, 1883, the remains of Calvin James Clack were reinterred in Maplewood cemetery in Pulaski. His remains were taken from the undertaker to Antionette Hall, now known as the Opera House on the east side of Pulaski's square. Addresses were made by his old friends and religious services were conducted. The remaining members of his old company served as bodyguards as he was taken to the cemetery. His remains were finally at rest at home, but one important detail was forgotten - his grave was not permanently marked. Perhaps he is buried in the family plot of his uncle, Thomas M. Jones. Perhaps he is buried in a plot owned by one of his former friends and comrades. We will probably never know.

Bob Wamble

October 18, 1997


(This Article was produced in "Our Old Town" Magazine History, Stories & Tall Tales of Southern Tennessee, Vol. 9)- Permission to Reproduce this Article on Giles County Genealogy Page from Bob Wamble.

Submitted by Bob Wamble