HENRY ALBERT POTTER
CAPTAIN: 4TH MICHIGAN CAVALRY
Edited by Michael Palmer Ruddy, his
Letters 1-7 written August - December 1862
Letters 8-13 written January - March 1863
Letters 14-27 written April-October 1863
Letters 28-37 written November 1863 - April 1864
Letters 38-53 written May 1864 - August 1864
Letters 54-65 written September - May 1865
|Henry Albert Potter got a quick promotion from 2nd LT to 1st LT and writes home to tell about it. The Confederates he is fighting daily never seem to get him angry, however, "Coppeheads", the Northern Democrats, which in our day are called "Doves", do set him off every time he hears of their opposition to the draft or the war.|
|Headquarters Co H
Apr 3rd 1863
I suppose I should inform you of all my good luck, well then. I am now a 1st Lieutenant and in command of "H" company. The Capt (Abeel)[Alfred Abeel taken prisoner supposedly under a flag of truce before Stones River on Dec 21, 1862] is a prisoner in Atlanta, Ga. and will probably stay there some time. I am in full command and will be responsible for (--?) the same as Capt. I take Lt Leachs[Wesley H Leach] place, he is now Capt of Company "A" -- There are few who are doin as wel as I am and I have friends on every hand. Pay is the same as 2nd Lt. With the addition of $10 extra as Comdr of Company. I was not expecting another honor so soon and it took me entirely by surprise. I do not like to take so much responsibility but can do it, if I must. I have a good lot of boys. I will get along without any trouble.
I have not been well the past week, was taken with chills and fever and fearing it would end in a regular course of fever, I took a heavy dose of Calomel and now I have a sore mouth. It is much better than it was and I feel better myself, shall soon be as well as ever again.
The Brigade and Regt are but out on a five day scout. I was not well and therefore did not go. It is the first one I have missed in a long time.
What are your sentiments as regards conscripts law and the prosecution of the war. I cannot believe are opposed to either altho claiming to be a Democrat.
I tell you the men in the army are death on the Copperheads. By these I mean men who are opposed to every move of the government and are crying for peace and compromise. What Peace can we have? What Compromise can we make? We can have peace by recognizing them as a government. We can have compromise with them in no other way and then they will claim Ky and Tenn are the people searching for such a peace as this would be? Are they satisfied with such terms?
Then why not rise in union and crush them out.
Is this the time to argue about politics? Verily; no! The business of the North should be to stop their traitorous mouths and let not another work go in the hungry ears ot the South and to send us more ment. They can hold out not much longer, I believe things are approaching a crisis already and ere long the affair will be solved. Right will triumph.
My love to all. If you could send me a small trunk instead of a box it would be better as I need one very much.
From Your Affectionate son
Direct Lieut H. A. Potter Comdg Co
[In the margin of the letter is the following]
[written vertically on the 3rd
page is the following]
|Henry Albert Potter, always a Repulican, carries a metaphoric cliche on the"ship of state" to ridiculous lengths in another tirade against the Democrats of Ovid, Michigan. Proud of his new promotion he signs his letter as 'commanding Co H'.|
|Headquarters Co. "H" 4th
Apr 14th 1863
Dear ones all
I recd a letter from hom to night. We just came in from a scout. Have been out since last Thursday morning. Our Brigade has not done much. We were over near Franklin. Van Dorn is hovering around to see what he may devour. He made a dash into Franklin on Friday. But got rather severely handled. We killed about on hundred, officers and all, while our loss was but a trifle compared to theirs. The Fourth Regulars captured a Battery of six pieces but they were not supported and consequently were obliged to give it up again. Although they succeeded in disabling a part of it by cutting the spokes in the wheels.
I am feeling firstrate again. I got a letter from John Gilbert also today. He gets along slowly. Im afraid he does not have as good treatment as he should , would like to go him but cannot at present. He has a good appetite, but cant get enough to allay it.
We have had several nice showers & the woods are beginning to look quite green. Apple and Plums trees are in blossom. The fields of wheat and grass are starting up. And all nature is looking pretty. You well see the negro women out in the field planting corn and holding plow. Ive got used to it all here but it would seem odd at home.
I am sorry to hear that Ovid is so far gone. Although I think the Democrats of Ovid are generally loyal and vote accordingly. They still cling to the old ship "Democracy" not knowing seemingly how rotten a hulk she now is. They seem to think that the NAME is sufficient to carry them safely through but after having been afflicted with a dry rot ever since 1850. And running into the old ship Constitution at Charleston, thereby losing the most of their important machinery and causing such a leak, That ever since they have been going down. I should think the passengers would be getting uneasy and want to take passage in a safer boat. Such a one for instance as the "Liberty Union" a double decker capable of carrying more than any other boat in the world. And sailing the fastest with or against the current. Passengers on board this boat have confidence in their pilot as his compass never fails and they are certain of reaching their destination sooner than any other boat for they have taken the nearest route. Consequently they have no reason to argue among themselves or to find fault with others who are doing better than they can do.
I would like to have seen H C Smith elected as Supervisor and John Gilbert a justice, they deserve it. They are unconditional Union Men. Wm Shepard is not safe he is running fast but he is in a wheelbarrow runing on the planks of the treacherous ship "Democracy."
I am sorry you cant send a box. I had got my mouth fixed for Maple Sugar. Hiram Knowles is getting better. Alf Shepard also Billy Egleston is tough as ever. Lorenzo is now first Sergeant of Co "B." I commenced on nothing and am now spun out. Write often. My love to all my friends. Tell Frank Shepard to write me a letter.
I remain as ever
Lt Comdg Co. "H"
|Headquarters Co "H"
Columbia Tenn Apr 20 
I recd your letter today acknowledging the reciept of the likenesses. Glad to hear from you. Ben Shepard is not worth a decent mans notice and he makes such remarks. I dont care what he or any of that stripe say about me they cant hurt me. Their ravings cannot be helped. The expressions they get off about me is but the scum and foam from the large amount of Copper and Malicious Jealousy, mixed together of which they are mostly made up.
Mrs Longcor need not be alarmed about my boy Eds coming up north. I sent his likeness up to you more for the novelty of the thing than anything else. Thought it would amuse you. but if I should bring him Yes! Suppose I should commit such an awful act, whose business would it be but my own! -- I dont believe I think more fo the negro, than Mrs Longcor -- but I do believe and say they ought to have their freedom and they shall have it not only because they are human and have souls, but because their masters have forfeited all right to them and their loss is our gain And again they make good soldiers, good Fighting soldiers, and I say let them fight. They are no better to stop a ball than I am --- If working men are so opposed to arming the negro let them take the musket out of their hands and come along.
Show one a man, who is down on our negro soldiers and who keeps hanging back and shirking and I will show you a coward. Yes a moral coward and I believe God hates a coward.
I am expecting some photographs, soon, I will send you one when they come. We have a very pretty camp here. Know nothing of the prospects of moving at all.
How many people have died since we left Starkey and how many since I left Ovid. of those that left and those who staid we all hurry away and know not when our own time may arrive.
My constant love to you and mother and father
|Headquarters Co "H"
Camp Minty near Murfreesboro
Sunday Apr 20th 1863
I must write and tell you that I am well although nothing else of interest presents itself. I Have recd no letters from home in some time. None I believe recognizing my promotion and change to another company. The regiment has been out since last Monday. I was about half-sick then and did not go, but I feel all right now and am having a long rest with nothing else to do but write or read.
I enjoy myself firstrate have a wall tent all to myself. Good bunk etc. and I am living well too. Good bread and butter ham potatoes onions tea and coffee. And we get mackerel for supper sometimes which is very nice.
I have not been mustered yet as an officer and have only recd pay up to Dec 31. As I was mustered in the payrolls before I had really recd my commission. They refuse to pay me. But as soon as I am mustered as an officer I will get my Discharge papers as an enlisted man and draw pay on thru up to the date of discharge. Which will be up to the 6th of April as I recd my commission as 2nd Lt as that day. I also got my 1st Lieuts on Apr 15th after I mustered and have no need for them I will send them home and you may have them framed if you like. [I believe he is talking of his Commission Papers-MR]
Our fine weather still continues. The trees are newly leaved and grass has quite a start.
I sent you a Nashville Union some time ago. There is a letter in ti that will perhaps prove interesting. I have also written to the Clinton Paper and sent them some exchanges. The copperheads get a slight touch, but not as much as they deserve. You may be assured they have no sympathy here. The Traitors! And if they forcibly try to miss the conscript in any other legal law they will bitterly see the day. If they have a spark of Patriotism left they had better at once enlist to save their now doubted loyalty and honor. There is no use of their trying to oppose the great fact that this Union will be preserved and that the Sacred Constitution will suffer if it is not actually destroyed and the more they oppose this fact the more will they be left out in the COLD. I can see it plainly.
I just recd your letter Amelia, and was glad to hear of your health, but was pained to hear of the loss in Georges family. I sympathize with them sincerely. They think so much of their children and I am also very sorry to hear of Aarons death. He was always apparently hearty He was a good hearted boy and I am glad of the protracted meeting. I hope it will do much good. I would like to be at her school house and hear a good sermon and see all of my friends, It would be a Pleasure.
Aunt Nep is very foolish. I hate to hear a woman talk so. I supposed she had more faith in the People. She seems to think the whole country is utterly depraved. Entirely sinful. She is mistaken and is getting to be a real croaker. Dont tell her so, for pitys sake.
I will look for the Box now soon. Hiram is getting better. Billy is well as ever. As soon as the Col gets back I am going to try and see John. From what I hear and he writes he is not getting along very well.
Give my love to all. Sam, you must write, tell Hiram and Mary Longcor, I dont like them at all because they dont write
-----? and never wait for
Camp Minty Murfreesboro, Tenn
Wednesday May 6th 1863
I received your letter some days ago, but have not written as I thought I would wait until I recd the box you sent. It has not arrived yet so I will write a line today.
I am hearty and well, never felt better. It is [--?] today and cloudy with some rain. I am "officer of the day" we had a Brigade Inspection and Review yesterday. Everything went off well. Genl Turchin [J B Turchin] is comdg the cavalry in lieu of D.S. Stanley Brig Gen Now Maj Gn.
I was glad to hear of our good luck in Virginia and at New Orleans in Banks command. I think we will have a battle here ere long whether we advance or the rebels attack us is not certain. Probably we will advance, the confederates are receiving re-inforcements, we understand, but there is no such thing as getting whipped in this Army we are bound to push our way through until Tennessee is reclaimed from the hand of her enemies.
Doct. C.T. Armstrong [Charles T Armstrong, asst Surgeon, Ovid] maybe you will see him. He will tell you how I am getting along. Stephan Nyman was here last night. He is in the 22nd Mich Inftry, is well and tough.
I have not heard from John Gilbert since I wrote last, Hiram Knowles cannot live long[died May 12 in Murfreesboro] he has got the consumption or very near like it. His is at Genl Hosp. in town, has a confortable place but he cannot stand it long. I did not know he was so bad, he is a skeleton. He may possibly get well, but, in my opinion, cannot. I am sorry Hiram enlisted he was better off at home. George McClintock is dead of "B" comp. he lived in Ovid near Fitcher, I believe.
I wonder sometimes that I am well and hearty, while those much tougher are dead, I believe I shall come home safe and sound. I have not been mustered yet and therefore have not recd any pay as Lieut. I am paid up to Dec 31. US owes me about $175. now but I have had to borrow some. There are so many paper to get out fro a muster, it takes some time. I am waiting now for any, in the company muster roll it shows that I have been mustered as an enlisted man, it is in Detroit. It has been sent for. I just got a letter from Ben the folks are all well. I will write to him this day.
Our camp looks very nice. We have rows of cedar trees set out between the tents and around my tent I have got quite a bower of trees and bushes. The tent poles are twined with a wreath of cedars, you know I like to be fixing such things. My quarters are as nice as any of the officers and as clean. I had no news to write today, just wrote to let you know I was well. Mother, I want to see you, Im coming home in the fall
[the following written in the margin]
I send you a card that I had made for you with the Lords Prayer written in the size of 3 cents. I paid 25 cts for it.
Camp Park, Murfreesboro
Thursday May 14, 1863
I must write you a line today. We have moved our camp farther from town in a nice piece of woods, cool and shady. We call it Park Camp and like the name it is appropriate, it is a park and we like to Honor our Col that soon will be [Josiah B Park, Ovid, mustered as Lt Col May 23, 1863].
I am telling you the same old story. My continued good health, but you dont get sick of it do you? It is a good story. I hope I may always hear the same from home and be able to write it every time . But with my health I must tell you of death. Hiram Knowles is gone! He died Tuesday morning . So we pass along! Consumption was his disease as near as I could judge. I visited him last week. He looked very bad. Coughed and ??ed a good deal and was weak. His discharge papers were made out some time ago and forwarded, but nothing has been heard of them since. He wont need them Now. He was anxious about them when I saw him. Spoke of home and did not seem to think he was going to die. I could not bear to tell him. He was worried about the ??. I told him it would be all right and not to worry and not to be uneasy. I shook hands with him and said Good Bye I knew it would be the last time. But He did not.
I will see that his business is arranged as much as I can. I will speak to Lieut. Carter [Julius M Carter, Ovid] about it. He has not drawn much pay. I dont know how much is due him - quite an amount.
I have to borrow all the money I use. I have not been mustered. I have Pay due me from Dec 31 and Lieuts pay from Apr 6th. I have bought me a new sash, $10.00 and a new Dress Coat and Straps. I have not got a Bill of that yet about $35, I expect.
I was out on Picket last Sunday and had quite a little adventure. Captured 3 Rebels and their Horses and Saddles and arms complete. Quite a feather in MY cap . Several of the rebs had been seen for 2 or 3 days back, on the road in front and they nearly all stopped at a home about a mile beyond my videttes. I thought perhaps I could nab them, so I took a Relief, mounted, and went to our outpost a little before Daylight. I then dismounted tied my horse and had seven of my men do the same, ordering the remainder to come to our support if they heard firing. We went down cautiously to the house. I sent a man to the left and right of the road, for you know, we were outside of our lines and did not know what we would come across. We got to the house about daylight, surrounded it. No one there, but , the owners, strong old sesesh, Alexander by name. Presently we saw 3 horsemen come up the road. We secreted ourselves so that if they came to the house we could surround them. They came on, my men ran out in the road in the rear of them cried surrender. One of them, who had had his gun in his hand all the time, raised it as if to shoot. When quicker than thought my boys fired. One ball struck his hip and came out just below his belt in abdomen. Another one struck his wrist another one struck his horse. I hollered at the men to stop firing or they would have killed him. I felt sorry for him, smart good looking, if he had not raised his gun the boys would not have fired. He died in a day or two. I expected the firing would draw more of them upon us and when the ambulance came, I took 20 men with me and went down. But no one came in sight. Since then they have kept a ?fire there all the time.
I must close if my letter is published in the Clinton Rep., send me a copy. My box has not come. I am asking for it. Write soon.
|Camp Park 5-17-1863
I like to get letters from home. I like to hear that you are well. I am sorry if there is any one offended by my letters in the Republican. I only stated my own individual opinion and in saying that the army as a whole concurred in those views. I told the truth, but the Cutting truth is not prudent at all times and especially in these dark times in regard to politics. Here in the army we all think alike in regard to the offended ones as a balm for their grief, I would respectfully recommend the conscript law. Let them come. They need enlightenment.
I am well. We are enjoying quite a rest here in our Brigade. We have not had a Scout since McMinnville. Only Picket and guard duty to perform. Our Horses are feeling nice. We take them out once a day to graze, besides the oats and corn they get. We are ready to move at a moments warning, but there are no signs of it at present. Our position in Virginia is not changed a great deal. There seems to be a clog somewhere in that Army what do you suppose it is?
The Band have received their new instruments. They are splendid. They play every evening here in the woods. It sounds so nice.
I am sorry that there should be any feeling shown of the kind George S exhibits. It looks very much like jealousy if he were in my place he would also have a "nigger waiter". I wrote to Esquire Shepard not long ago. I expect a heavy shot. That is if he deigns to answer at all. It matters not. Why dont Mr Gilbert write me a letter of (my letter) The Rep[ublican] I have almost forgotten what I did write. I am going to write again soon. What did you say about Josh Rapler.
I was not surprised for I expected it, but I did not know that Johns[John Gilbert, Ovid] leg had been amputated. It is awful. I can hardly believe it. He has not wrote me in a long time. I suppose he has not been able to. I have not recd my box yet, am looking for it still.
Do you suppose that Mr Gilberts people blame me for influencing John to enlist? As it has turned out, I am sorry he did and poor Hiram [Hiram Knowles, Ovid] too.
Thank you Frank, for the flowers but we have all kinds here. Dont flatter yourself mother on an early closing of the war. I expect to stay my three years out. But I am coming home this fall, if possible, and all things work well, I am going to have my likeness taken again to send you before long.
Give my love to all my friends, if I have any and write soon.
Your affectionate son
The stamps came good
|Camp Park, Murfreesboro
May 26th 1863
I will write you a line tonight telling you I am well. I have not been feeling firstrate lately, caught a bad cold which ?? some and I have rather a bilious turn not much appetite but I begin to be all right again.
We are getting glorious news from Grant
if it is only true. We have the word here today
that Vicksburg is ours with 20 or 30,000 prisoners. I do
hope it is so. But he has certainly done a big thing if
it is not so and everybody is encouraged.
We are ready to move at anytime and I believe the army here will do something soon. There is a possibility that the 1st Cavalry Brigade will be stationed here thro the campaign but we know not for a certainity. We have had orders to burn a supply of charcoal to last at least two months. That looks like staying ..
We done a good thing the other day down at [Vicksburg did not fall until July 4th, 1863, what had actually happened was that on the 14th of May, Grant captured Jackson, MS and effectively cut off all chance of CSA General J E Johnston getting reinforcements to Pemberton in Vicksburg]Middleton near Shelbyville. You will see it in the papers. We traveled all night through the roughest country you ever saw and came on them at daylight, the 1st Alabama and 8th Confed found them in bed and such a scampering but I was not there, but was sorry I was not well enough. We captured over 100 prisoners and all their camp and some fine horses, 200, I believe. We got their colors (1st Ala). Some of Co Bs boys[Ovid Company] had a hand in that. Lew Wilcox [Lewis H Wilcox, Ovid] was one of them. We are going to send it to the governor of the state as a relic. With some resolutions which you will also see in the papers. It was a good strike. I hear that the account of the capture of the 3 rebs that I took is in the Tribune. I have not seen it. It is in the 19th.
Our captain Abeel is back[Alfred Abeel, Dearborn, taken prisoner on the move toward Murfreesboro before Stones River] to the company again. He is tough and fat, so I am not in command now. The boys do not like him very well. I dont know how I will like him. But Col Park[Josiah Park] told me he was going to transfer me to the command of "M" Co for the present as the officers in that Co are sick. I dont know how it will be dont care much but I like this Co firstrate .
I wish you could come down and see us, we have warm weather, rather too warm now but such nice nights. Moonlight now. Maj Gen Stanley [David S Stanley] visited us and is visiting with the Col now. The band are getting out now to serenade him. We have got the new instruments. Silver. I will tell you they are handsome. Our band is going to be the best in the Dept. The instruments cost $800.
I believe this thing will be nearly wound up this summer. All things look bright now. If Hooker would only do something to count. You see the rebs are pressed at every point. They are in hot water. We are on every side of them and it does look as if they could not stand long against us.
Col Park told me he wrote you a long letter, have you got it? I have no news to tell you and will wait till morning before I finish
Write soon all the news
| Henry Albert Potter
and his comrades get in over their heads out on the
Alexandria Pike. Seems after meeting the Rebels with
artillery on the other side of Lebanon, the Col (Robert
Minty, Commander of the Regiment) decided the orders only
told them to go to Lebanon, and "orders is
orders" so they
returned, rather hastily, it seems, to Baird's Mill safely on the Murfreesboro side of Lebanon. Knowing high troop estimates always coincide with wise decisions, I would question the rebel force being at 4000, and in my opinion 1500 (or less) Rebels with artillery attacking a nightime Union encampment at dusk that far away from the Union base at Murfreesboro, would make any Col have second thoughts about the prudence of staying there. In Minty's report which I enclosed following the letter, Minty laments not
having any artillery and that he could have taken Alexandria if he had had such.
|HeadQuarteres 4th M.V.C.
Camp Park, June 17/63
We just got in from our 6 days scout and it has been a hard one -- I tell you. We did not start until about 3 pm and went to Lebanon 28 miles distant that night. We traveled out six miles from town where we halted and fed. We had heard from our scouts in that direction that there was about 1000 or the rebels at Lebanon and we intended to clean them out. On dismounting, when we halted, one of the 5th Iowa boys was almost instantly killed by his comrade next to him. His Carbine caught in some manner on the saddle or stirrups and went off. The ball passing thro his left lung and out on right side cutting one of the large arteries. Poor Fellow! He never spoke. One cannot be too cautions. I would hate to be killed by my friend or by myself.
After feeding at about ten oclock we started again. We had about 1500 all told. We had a passable road and went along pretty good jog. Got into Lebanon just daylight. No rebels there. All went away last night was what the citizens told us. Went off on the Alexandria Pike. It is a mystery to me how they get their information for they heard of our coming even before we knew where we were going ourselves, for we never know where we are going until we move. But they did. We followed after them on the Alexandria Pike came upon their near guards about 11am had a little skirmish in which one to the 4th regulars was killed. Then went back a short distance and fed our horses, gave them wheat in bundle about noon we started again.
It was a very hot day and our poor horses were tired in the forenoon our Regt was on the left as skirmishers and the ground was very rough, stony and hilly. We moved cautiously skirmishing all the way about six miles into a nice valley with good feed and the Col concluded to stay there all night.
We had orders to move only to Lebanon and our coming any farther was at our own risk. Well, we posted our pickets in front and in the right and left strongly and were settling down to rest when Bang! Bang! Came their artillery from a hill. Our pickets rushed in letting us [know?] there was
quite a force in front with 5 pieces of artillery. They were mountain howitzers I thot by the sound. We immediately formed and went out to see what was there, but they had run back again and it was growing dark. The Col had also learned that they were about 4000 strong with artillery at Alexandria and so of course it would not be prudent to move after them and their demonstration in front was only to divert our attention while they were trying to FLANK US on BOTH SIDES. So we moved back after calling in our pickets by a cross road and an ugly one too. Bairds Mill on the Lebanon Pike 21 miles from Murfreesboro. Got there 3 ½ am this morning as tired a lot as you ever saw -- not a wink of sleep had we. I never was so sleepy in my life and when we got to the Mill I just lopped down on the
ground and slept about two hours as sound as a log. When we moved on and got into camp about 3pm tired and dusty--- Wheat is ripe, partly cut, corn is growing very fast. I saw some drawing
in hay as we came along. Their wheat is poor.
It is very dark and I will stop. I am well until now
I got a letter from Amelia today, it is as you say. I dont get all the
letters you write and you dont get all that I write. I have not got the
For background here is the Colonel Minty's
report of the skirmish at
JUNE 15-17, 1863.-Expedition to, and
skirmish near, Lebanon, Tenn.
I arrived at Lebanon at 4 a. m., and
had some difficulty in learning
At 11.30, I again moved forward, the
Seventh Pennsylvania in advance,
At Lebanon, and at all points along the
road, I received information that
Up to this time we had marched 56
miles. Some of the men had had one hour's
If I hand a couple of pieces of
artillery, John [H.] Morgan should either
|Henry Albert Potter writes a short note to his sister in which he explains the problems of shipping butter through the mail.|
|HeadQuarters 4th Mich
Camp Park June 19th 1863
It is after Taps and I am all alone in the office so I will write a line. I received your letter and Mary Longcors by todays mail and of course was glad to hear from both of you. Mrs Longcor need not be ashamed of her letter I am sure, for I seldom get a better one. I am well and contented as long as I am so. We were out on a scout this week but I wrote to Father about that the day after I got in. We are all just as glad to get back to camp from a scout as I used to come home from a hard jaunt or a days work in fact it is our home. I got my box yesterday. I am sorry [to tell?] you but in the butter it was all oil and run over everything. Spoilt nearly all the paper and greased and scented the shirts and handkerchiefs most beautifully. But it is all right. Dans sugar was nearly all dissolved, the apples were rotten but, hold on, I am telling the bad side. The Maple Sugar was all right much obliged to Mrs L for the plums and to Malbone and John for the Paper and envelopes. The tie is very nice. Tell Emma, the one I did have was burnt with my things. The coffee and Tea, combs and pencil suspenders [lost]
[On outside of letter]
Headquarters 4th MVC June 19th 1863 Potter Lieut and Actg Adjt Writes home sending love and acknowledging rect of box and letter etc etc.
Respectfully forwarded "via" Uncle Sam
|Henry Albert Potter writes his sister and tells of his recent illness. He reflects on the rumored death of Jeff Davis and the positive morale of the Union forces in Tennessee and his (incorrect) forecast of a speedy end to the war.|
|Camp near Salem Tenn
July 23rd 1863
|Henry Albert Potter, in a tradition still followed today, blames the government and not the people for the problems they are in. This letter was written about one month before the battle of Chickamauga. Potter is writing from a courier line set up between Rosecrans' army (General Crittenden) moving toward Chattanooga and Burnside's army moving toward Knoxville.|
|Courier Station No 4
Sunday, August 30, 1863
I have no news to tell you this morning only that I am well. It is a cool sunshiny morning rather too cool, in fact, for comfort. I dont see that but you have as warm weather at home as we do down farther south. I am stationed on the courier line yet, dont have but little to do as the whole company is here. I have written aunt Sarah Ann this morning. The people here are a poor and ignorant set as you ever saw. They are to be pitied more than blamed for their disloyalty. They have always lived in the mtns and know nothing of what transpires outside of their own little world. They were told by leaders that there was no Union or government and as we had no advocates or army here, what could they see? They believed it. But now they see they were mistaken, nearly all have taken the oath of allegiance once more and glad to have their property and persons protected from confiscation and conscription. How long we will remain here I cannot say. We are liable to move at any time. I think we will move as soon as we get sufficient supplies to reach Chattanooga. I will write as often as I can write.
I remain, as ever,
Yours in love,
Henry Albert Potter
|Henry Albert Potter takes time out from chasing CSA General Wheeler to scribble a note. (We needn't worry about General Wheeler: he survived without being "gobbled" as Potter put it and played a prominent role as always in CSA cavalry operations in the west.) On the day this letter was written one part of the brigade under Colonel Minty was in Murfreesboro due to a mixup in command which left Minty relaxing instead of joining up with the rest of the brigade at Farmington, TN where a battle was in progress. When the orders got unscrambled Minty took off and arrived at the end of the fight, for which tardiness Minty was arrested. Minty was later cleared of all charges at a courts marshal and returned to command of the brigade. Minty's brigade consisted of the 4th Mich(Potter's unit), the 7th Penn and the 4th Regular Army Cavalry regiments and, sometimes, the Chicago Board of Trade Artillery battery.|
|Murfreesboro Oct 8th
I am in the above place in chase of Wheeler. Have been after him from the Tennessee. They are making a big raid. Have cut communications with Chattanooga now. Have had a couple of fights. Think we will succeed in gobbling all of them. We have enough to do it. I am tough and rugged.
In love and haste
|In this letter to his uncle Evan in Ovid, Henry, amid catching lice, tells of how the cavalry lived off the land and as much as admitted it went too far. For the curious, Colonel Minty (the Irish Brigade commander from Westport, County Mayo, Ireland) was absolved of the charges and returned to lead the brigade again.|
Camp near Maysville, Alabama
Sunday Oct 25th 1863
E M Potter [Evan Malbone Potter, his Uncle]
This is a cold wintry uncomfortable Autumn day and I feel ill-natured but I am going to scratch off a line to you, for it has been a long time since you have heard from me - or I from you. I wrote a letter to John [John N Gilbert, Ovid, Mich] the other day and one to father[ Edward Coke Potter]. They are the only two I have written this Month. My Health has been excellent except for two or three days last week I caught cold but feel better now. We have had a very different Fall from what we had last. It has been cold cloudy, windy and rainy mostly all the
month - decidedly uncomfortable. The brigade has not seen a wagon or piece of a train since it left Washington, East Tennessee Sept 30, 1863 to chase old Wheeler day and night from that place to Pikeville in the Sequatchee Valley, to McMinnville, to Murfreesboro, to Shelbyville, Lewisburg, Pulaski from there to the Tennessee river at Lambs Jenny 3 miles above Muscle
Shoals where they got away from us. I rather think they got worsted. We captured mostly all their artillery and took about 600 prisoners and killed. I have not seen a clean shirt or pr of drawers or socks since the 30th ult. The consequence I need not tell you for Oh! I feel I feel
a louse in my pantaloons this minute.
True as preaching by Hokey
have not had any news that can be relied upon in a long
time. We hear Rosecrans is sent to the Potomac and Grant
succeeds and that Stanley is relieved of his command. I
know that Col Minty[Robert H G Minty, Ireland] is under
arrest for not moving the brigade up in time at the fight
with Wheeler and Wharton below Shelbyville, but he had
rcd orders, they want to
I would hate to be a citizen living
in this country about this time. We have moved so fast
and so meteor-like Uncle Sam couldnt touch us
consequence was didnt draw any rations and
Uncle Jeff had to suffer. We had to forage on the
country. We lived well but I admit the thing went
We have lost one good Officer this month. Lieut. Tucker[Edward L Tucker, Macon Mich] wounded in skirmish near Washington Sept 30, died at Chattanooga seven after he was a 1st Lt and comdg Co. I am now in command of two Co.s H and B. Lt Carter[Julius M Carter, Ovid Mich] is sick & at Murfreesboro. I presume Mrs Carter has heard from him ere this.
We have four months pay due us Nov 1st I am going to apply for a leave of absence as soon as we are paid. Going to try hard to come and see you. Cant tell how it will end. Suppose our folks would like to see me dont know.
Maysville is about 10 miles north
east from Huntsville, Ala, near the line of the
Charleston and Memphis RR. The cars run now as far as
Paint Rock 15 miles from here and 35 miles from
Stevenson(?) where the road intersects the Nashville and