History was still being written
Most Civil War experts will express anger after taking a look at one particular epitaph on a solidier’s tombstone in historic Monongahela Cemetery.
They do so after reading the inscription on an obelisk marking the grave of Lt. Henry W. Clark, who died two days after being wounded July 4, 1863, at the Battle of Gettysburg, because every military historian worth his salt knows that battle came to an end a day earlier.
“History was still being written,” explains John “Jack” Cattaneo, vice president of the cemetery’s board of directors, about how the mistake was made when Clark’s body was returned to Monongahela a year after he died.
His Irish-Presbyterian father, Henry, had immigrated to Monongahela and become a prominent farmer by the time he died when his son was 12 years old, Cattaneo said. In his will, he left young Henry a gold pocket watch with instructions for it to be given to him when he turned 21.
“What intervened was the Civil War,” Cattaneo said.
At age 18, Clark traveled to Wheeling, W.Va., to enlist in the 1st West Virginia Cavalry, as did many other local young men.
“Henry was at Gettysburg,” Cattaneo said, noting the officer survived the infamous Pickett’s Charge, which dealt a heavy blow that July 3 to the Confederacy.
Clark’s commander, Maj. Gen. George G. Meade, ordered him the next day to harass Conferate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s retreating wagon train, mistakenly thinking his troops were carrying supplies while unarmed, Cattaneo said.
But instead, Clark met up with Lt. Gen. James Longstreet’s infantry and was wounded in what would become known as the Fight at Monterey Pass during a severe thunderstorm in Washington Township, Franklin County.
Regardless, Clark was buried in the then-new cemetery with great honor after dying at age 20.
“He never got the gold pocket watch,” Cattaneo said.
The cemetery will celebrate its 150th anniversary with a weeklong schedule of events during the last week of this June, including tours, a picnic, band concerts and a recognition of Pennsylvania State University’s mascot, the Nittany Lion, whose creator, Harrison D. “Joe” Mason, also was buried here.
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