Historical Marker #562 in Franklin commemorates Jerome Clarke, who is said to have impersonated a woman to spy on the enemy during the Civil War. There are various ways to win a war, perhaps none as crucial as having spies infiltrate the enemy lines. It is possible, most would agree, the best spies are those whom the enemy least suspects - women and children. Simpson County’s own Jerome Clarke may have been one of those spies.
Mary Hail, wife of Brigadier General Hector M. Clarke, gave birth to Marcellus Jerome Clarke, known as Jerome, August 25, 1845, in Simpson County. By age ten, Jerome was an orphan, being raised by family members, and received a common education. As the Civil War broke out, a young 16-year-old Jerome joined the Confederate Army. On July 4, 1861 at Camp Burnett, near Clarksville, Tennessee, he was mustered into Company B, 4th KY Infantry, 1st Brigade. At the surrender of Fort Donelson, Clarke was among the prisoners taken to Camp Morton near Indianapolis. It is said he escaped after six-months of captivity and this is where the story gets a bit muddled and contradictory.
According to Clarke, he was exchanged in a prisoner swap and continued to fight for the Confederate cause with various units until his capture, trial, and hanging in Louisville in 1865, just short of his 20th birthday. However, according to an editor for the Louisville Daily Journal, George D. Prentice, during the war, Clarke was associated with a guerrilla group, which included Henry Magruder and John Hunt Morgan, who terrorized several Kentucky counties and masqueraded as a female spy.
A person who was described by those around them as having “eyes large and dark, hair black as a raven’s wing that hung in clusters about their shoulders”, a person who was “of a restless nature, bold, daring, fearless and brave as a lion yet gentle as a tender woman” hardly conjures thoughts of a feared guerrilla during war time; yet, that very thing happened to a seemingly unknown, young, Southern Kentucky man who would later go down in history as a spy, murderer, soldier and legend known as “Sue Mundy.”