Silas Clack Manuscript

 Collection — Box: 1
Identifier: MSS.0941

  • Staff Only

Scope and Contents

This collection contains a fictional manuscript narrative from 1885 detailing the history of Silas Clack, a common Federal soldier in the Civil War, written and illustrated by Phillip M. Radford of the 5th Tennessee Cavalry, Co. A, and 1st Alabama Vidette Cavalry, Co. F.

Description from the vendor:

In the preface of the book, he wrote: The experience of Si Clack recorded in this book is the story of thousands. Since the war numerous histories of prominent Generals have been written. Desperate and bloody battles have been recorded and spread broadcast for the information of the world. The history of the common soldier has yet to be written. The privates in the Army we may liken to those who dig and delve and pass out of existence, leaving hardly a mark that they ever lived. Yet each one played an important part in the every day life of their contemporaries. P.M. Radford 1st Lt. Adjutant Post No. 1 Dept. Tenn. G.A.R. Nashville, Tennessee November 16, 1885

The protagonist, Clack, enlisted in the army based on patriotism, serving for three years. Before his departure, his family tearfully gave him gifts they thought he would need at the front. His mother knitted him a few pairs of socks, his sisters gave him soap and a family photo album, and his father had the shoemaker make him the best pair of boots. During his service, Clack took a prisoner and saw action at the Battle of Stone's River. In between the stories, Radford drew over 70 illustrations, both comical and mundane, that were familiar to every soldier.

Radford's prose is poetic and and poignant, as in this description of the aftermath of the Battle of Stones River: "The deepening shadows of that awful night settle down upon the bloody field, upon soldiers weary and worn, blackened by smoke and grime but yet undismayed, upon great hospital camps filled with thousands of torn and mangled men...upon other thousands of wounded who yet lie among their dead comrades between the hostile lines chilled by the pitiless December frost. It is New Years Eve 1862-3." Nearing the story's conclusion he writes of the soldier's reverence for the flag, no doubt inspired by his own experience in the Civil War: "The sight of the Stars and Stripes waving amidst the smoke of battle is a sublime inspiration. It is the very embodiment of the cause for which they are fighting and bleeding and dying. The emblem of liberty and the unity of a great nation....Those who have never stood beside the flag amid such scenes as this can know little of the emotions that thrilled the heart of the patriotic volunteer."


  • 1885

Conditions Governing Access

This collection may be viewed only in the reading room of Special Collections in the Jean and Alexander Heard Library. Collections should be requested 2-3 days prior to visiting in order to facilitate easier access. For questions or to request a collection, contact

Biographical / Historical

Phillip M. Radford was born in Tennessee. He enlisted in the Union Army in Nashville on August 19, 1862 and mustered in as a private in the 5th Tennessee Cavalry, Co. A, commanded by Colonel W.B. Stokes. During the war, he was first promoted to sergeant major and later took command of the 1st Alabama Vidette Cavalry, Co. F as first lieutenant.

In the May 17, 1862 issue of the Nashville Daily Union, Radford detailed his experience narrowly escaping capture from Morgan’s Raiders while on a recruiting mission in Tennessee. During this mission, Radford suffered an internal injury and infection that made him unfit for service. He was honorably discharged on June 16, 1864 and became a clerk until the end of the war.

After the war, he became commander of Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) Post No. 1, Department of Tennessee and Georgia. Inspired by his service, Radford published this fictional narrative in 1885.


1 Linear Feet (1 flat box)

Language of Materials



This collection contains a fictional manuscript narrative from 1885 detailing the history of Silas Clack, a common Federal soldier in the Civil War, written and illustrated by Phillip M. Radford of the 5th Tennessee Cavalry, Co. A, and 1st Alabama Vidette Cavalry, Co. F.

Physical Location

Special Collections & Archives

Finding Aid for the Silas Clack Manuscript
Zach Johnson
2019 January
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Vanderbilt University Special Collections Repository

Special Collections Library
1101 19th Ave. S.
Nashville TN 37212 United States


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