Charles Clark was born in Lebanon, Ohio, near Cincinnati, on May 24, 1811. After graduating from Augusta College, in Kentucky in 1831, Clark moved to Mississippi, where he taught school and studied law. After being admitted to the bar, Clark practiced law and became active in politics as a member of the Whig Party.
During the 1840s, Clark accepted a large tract of land between Beulah, Mississippi, and the Mississippi River as his legal fee for a case that appeared before the Mississippi Supreme Court. He developed a plantation there named “Doe-Roe,” which locals called “Doro.” Clark became a slave owner and one of the wealthiest planters in Mississippi.
When the Mexican-American War began, Clark organized the Thomas Hinds Guards, an infantry company that became a part of the 2nd Regiment of Mississippi Volunteers. Clark initially served as a captain and later as a colonel.
Mississippi State Legislator
During the controversy over the extension of slavery in the American Southwest after the Mexican-American War, Clark remained a Unionist and supported the Compromise of 1850. In 1856, voters elected him to the Mississippi State Legislature, where he served until 1861. In 1860, Clark joined the Democratic Party and became an advocate for secession. He was a delegate to both Democratic conventions in Charleston and Baltimore that year, and he supported the presidential candidacy of John C. Breckinridge.
When the Civil War began, Clark received commissions as a brigadier general and later as a major general of Mississippi state troops. When the Confederate Army absorbed the Mississippi militia, Clark became a brigadier general, effective May 22, 1861.
Clark initially served as a brigade commander under Albert Sidney Johnston in Kentucky. Clark suffered a shoulder injury while commanding the 1st Division of the Army of the Mississippi at the Battle of Shiloh (April 6-7, 1862). Upon returning to active duty, federal troops wounded Clark and captured him while he commanded a division during the Battle of Baton Rouge (August 5, 1862). Union authorities imprisoned Clark at New Orleans until February 1863. Clark’s injuries cost him the use of his legs for the rest of his life and forced him to leave active service.
Governor of Mississippi
On October 5, 1863, voters elected Clark as Governor of Mississippi. He served in that capacity for the rest of the Civil War. As the Confederacy disintegrated, federal authorities arrested Clark in the spring of 1865 and imprisoned him at Fort Pulaski, Georgia. On September 2, 1865, Clark signed an oath of allegiance to the United States. Union officials paroled and released Clark from prison in late September or early October of that year.
After his release from prison, Clark returned to practicing law and managing his plantation. When Reconstruction ended, Clark received an appointment as the chancellor for the fourth judicial district in 1876. He served on the bench for the rest of his life.
Charles Clark died on December 18, 1877, in Bolivar County, Mississippi. He was buried on his plantation in Mississippi (now Clark Cemetery).