Clement Abner Boughton papers  1839-1906 (bulk 1861-1864)
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Boughton, Clement Abner, 1842-1864

Rank : Pvt.

Regiment : 12th Wisconsin Infantry Regiment. Co. E (1861-1865)

Service : 1861 October-1864 July 21

Clement A. Boughton and his twin brother, Clarence, were born in Herkimer County, N.Y., on November 17th, 1842. Their father, Newell Boughton (d. 1854), was a young Baptist preacher from upstate New York who was still seeking a congregation. In about 1851 or 52, after having ministered for several years in Connecticut, he finally moved his family to Delton (now Lake Delton), Wisconsin. Two years later, however, Rev. Boughton died, leaving his wife, Eliza, twin sons and young children Augustus and Anna Wakely on their own. Despite receiving some assistance from Baptist friends in Connecticut, and from family members in Michigan and Iowa, life appears not to have been easy for the family, and Clement, most of all, appears to have assumed the role of father, as they turned to farming to make a living.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Clem Boughton enlisted in Company E of the 12th Wisconsin Infantry (the Wisconsin River Rifles) under Captain Vanderpoel. Mustering into the U.S. service at Camp Randall, Madison, the regiment was assigned to post duty at Lawrence, Topeka, and Fort Riley, Kansas. Distant from the seat of war, the regiment faced greater problems from poor water and unruly civilians than they did from Confederates, and there was a strong sense of laxness in preparations for war. In June, 1862, the regiment was ordered closer to the front, when they were set to work repairing railroad lines in southwestern Tennessee, and from July until October, 1862, the regiment formed part of the force occupying Humboldt, Tenn. They engaged in some skirmishing with Confederate cavalry and guerrillas, but otherwise managed fairly well for themselves, jay-hawking freely when opportunity presented, maintaining order and overseeing the administration of the oath of allegiance to civilians and deserters. Clement became well liked by his comrades and officers and seems to have been a thoroughly well-behaved, well-motivated soldier. He considered his regiment to be one of the most pious in the army, even though they had no chaplain for much of the time they were in the field, and he held some contempt for the drunkenness he saw among the soldiers of other regiments. While he came to feel that most boys fall into bad ways in the army, Boughton seems largely to have held himself apart from the temptations of camp life.

From October through December, 1862, the regiment were stationed at Bolivar and LaGrange, Tenn., where again they had a few brushes with cavalry. Their first major expedition was taken into northern Mississippi early in December under miserably cold and wet conditions. On low rations and with many soldiers wearing shoes inadequate for the march, the expedition bogged down and accomplished nothing. Boughton's morale fell precipitously during the march, and he began to complain more volubly about the traitors at the north and the poor state of conditions in the army. Returning to Collierville and, later, Memphis, the regiment remained in Tennessee until May, again serving as part of the occupying force and taking part in minor skirmishes and a second, brief expedition into northern Mississippi.

With the escalation in the drive to Vicksburg in May, 1863, the regiment was called to Grand Gulf, Miss., where they were assigned to the extreme left of the Union emplacements in the rear of the city. Taking turns in the rifle pits and supporting artillery batteries, they were present at the fall of the city on July 4th and took part in the investment and capture of Jackson, Miss., on July 16th, but with the closure of the Vicksburg and Jackson campaigns in August, the regiment was again sent to a quiet, almost serene assignment, in the occupation of Natchez. They remained in Natchez until the end of the year when Clement reenlisted and was sent home on recruiting duty. By this point, Clement had become something of a personal favorite of Col. George Bryant, and when he returned to active duty in May, he was assigned to act as Bryant's orderly during the "sever" campaign on Atlanta. On July 21st, while running cartridges along the lines during the assault on Bald Hill, Boughton was shot three times and was killed instantly.