The end of the Civil War brought on a period of great upheaval in the lives of the American people. Soldiers in particular had to find a way to resume their day-to-day existence after experiencing the horrors of war. Many chose to flee west to start a new life.
One such man was James Maxwell Clark, who settled in the Union Colony in June 1870. In his wartime diary, J. Max Clark described in detail the horrendous conditions on the front lines and in reserve. When not engaged in military action, Clark’s entries focus primarily on the cold weather and absence of food. He described how “both man and beast are suffering for food. The hillsides and hollows are covered with dead mules and horses.”
Clark also underwent spiritual and mental hardship when faced with his own mortality. While preparing for a march, he pondered “if I should receive marching orders from the other world if I should find my spiritual affairs in as nice marching order as my knapsack now.… I am afraid not.”
Faced with such conditions, it is no surprise that veterans like Clark chose to uproot their lives and start fresh in the American frontier.
Originally published in the Greeley Tribune, April 5, 2015
Written by Ashley Baranyk, former Archives Specialist