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Adna G. Clarke letters

Call Number: RH MS 1520


This collection contains letters written by Captain Adna G. Clarke of Company H of the 20th Kansas Volunteers to his wife and other family members while serving in the Spanish-American War in the Philippines. Also in the collection are some ephemera from Clarke's time in the war and some news articles by and about Clarke from later in his life after he moved to Hawaii.


  • 1898-1953 (bulk 1898-1899)


Conditions Governing Access

No access restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Spencer Library staff may determine use restrictions dependent on the physical condition of manuscript materials.

Biography of Adna G. Clarke (1874-1953)

Adna Girard Clarke was born May 27, 1874 in Kansas City, Missouri. In 1897 he both graduated from the University of Kansas and married Birdie Baxter (1874-1958), also known by her penname Jane Comstock. They had three children, and Mrs. Clarke became a well-known poet, as well as serving as territorial vice president of Hawaii.

Clarke briefly served as a deputy clerk in the Douglas County District Court in Lawrence, Kansas after graduation in 1897. In 1898, however, he was sent to Manila Bay to serve as captain of Company H in the 20th Kansas Volunteers, under the command of Colonel Fred Funston. While in the Philippines, Clarke was shot in the shoulder and badly wounded. His service earned him one of the first University of Kansas' alumni citations for distinguished service, in 1947.

In World War I, Clarke held roles as second in command at a prisoner of war camp in Georgia and overseeing the pictorial section of the historical branch of the war plans division for the Army general staff in Washington, D.C. By the time of his retirement from military service, he held the rank of colonel.

Clarke and his family eventually settled in Hawaii, where Clarke worked as a lawyer and taught military science and tactics, receiving emeritus status from the University of Hawaii. In 1937 he served as a member of Hawaii's House of Representatives, and he also served several years on the traffic commission. Clarke remained an active alumni of KU, establishing the Kansas Club of Hawaii.

Adna G. Clarke died in September 1953, his wife in 1958. They were both buried in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, which they helped establish.


.25 Linear Feet (1 document case)

Scope and Contents

The bulk of the collection consists of Clarke's handwritten (occasionally typed) letters to his wife Birdie. These letters are organized chronologically and date from April/May 1898 until July 1899, with a gap in June-November 1898 because Birdie was apparently in San Francisco with Clarke at that time.

The letters describe Clarke's impressions of the geography and cultures surrounding him, from his journey through the western United States to San Francisco, Hawaii, and the Philippines. He has a stereotypical white Euro-American regard for this era toward the Hawaiians, Japanese, Chinese, and Philippinos he meets. Terms and language used in his letters is representative of when he was writing and has not been replicated in this finding aid. Clarke expected some of his letters to be printed back home in newspapers in Lawrence, Kansas, so wrote detailed accounts of battles and what he saw on his travels.

Clarke discusses camp life, the other officers and "his men," studying Castilian Spanish, his activities as an officer (including drilling, serving as officer of the day, outfitting the men, food and water rationing, movements of various companies from across the United States, ensuring the soldiers got paid, etc.), military and political gossip, etc. Colonel Funston is one officer mentioned with some frequency. Other officers, including Funston, brought their wives to Manila Bay; Clarke disapproves and states that he will not ask Birdie to join him.

Clarke discusses his seasickness on the voyages to Hawaii and then to Manila Bay and otherwise mentions his health, as well as that of other soldiers; smallpox and malaria affected many soldiers. He also discusses the weather and social events and entertainments, including the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Clarke frequently provides reassurances that he is well, requests that his family not worry, and describes his homesickness. He asks after friends and associates back home in Kansas, as well as providing directions for information to give them, and worries about his wife's health. He also discusses their future after the war, at times considering settling in Manila Bay, at times returning to Kansas, or remaining in the military. Clarke also provides lists of his expenses on a regular basis and lets his wife know when he is sending money home.

Clarke's company traveled to the Philippines on the steamer Indiana, arriving on the shores of Manila Bay in late November/December 1, 1898. He served on a court martial in January 1899, and his company saw battle in February and March 1899, "in the field beyond Caloocan." He was wounded in late March and spent April-July in the hospital and convalescing.

The collection also includes a few pieces of ephemera, mostly from 1898, and a few articles written by or about Clarke from later in his life after settling in Hawaii. There is also some secondary reference information about locations Clarke mentions in his letters and two letters from other individuals to Birdie Clarke.

Physical Location

RH MS 1520

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift, Leilani Pyle, 2016.

Related Materials

Jane Comstock (Mrs Adna G.) Clarke collection, RH MS P674, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas

Papers concerning the 20th Kansas Volunteers and photograph, RH MS P166, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas



Guide to the Adna G. Clarke Collection
Adna G. Clarke letters
Finding aid prepared by mwh. Finding aid encoded by mwh.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Finding aid written in English.
Finding aid permalink
Preferred citation
Adna G. Clarke letters, RH MS 1520, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas

Repository Details

Part of the University of Kansas. Kenneth Spencer Research Library Repository

1450 Poplar Lane
Lawrence KS 66045-7616 United States