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THE LETTERS

OF

HENRY ALBERT POTTER

CAPTAIN: 4TH MICHIGAN CAVALRY

Edited by Michael Palmer Ruddy, his great grandson.
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

CIVIL WAR LIST Home Page
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38

 
Columbia Tenn
May 3rd 1864

Dear Father

I rec’d a lettr from you a few days ago, but have lost it. Am glad you are all getting well again. I am not very tough at present but am felling better every day. The regiment and Brigade has moved to the front, I think to Chattanooga as soon as they get where I can rejoin them, I shall do so by rail. Col Park[Josiah B Park, Ovid Mich] told me he would telegraph me to what place to come. Lt Carter[Lt Julius M Carter, Ovid, Mich]is with me. We are boarding at a Rivalto(?) house, a Mr Sheppard, very nice people especially Mrs Shepard. We have plenty of music and singing, a piano and plenty of girls. They are all Southern here at heart but they are loyal with the tongue. The girls sing us southern songs with our permission of course, we allow them to sing what they choose. They have a brother in the Southern Army and they feel a certain sympathy which is natural and right. I think of my own home very often and how anxious you all are and I can but admit that if we had all been born and lived down here that probably we would have been just as these people here are, Rebels. Perhaps you will think I am getting tainted with treason myself but you know me better than that. I do not approve of the course Tennessee has taken. She has brought ruin and desolution upon herself, but people here are so different. The flower and the pride of Tennessee is in the Rebel Army. Her educated and enlightened class are there and I believe them to be conscientious. They think or thought they were right and now their Pride will not let them come back. K cannot blame the mother or sister who will sympathize for the cause their sons and brothers are engage in under the circumstances.
You must give up the idea of seeing me before Autumn. I cannot come if my health is good. The army has a great deal to do this summer and I have a company’s responsibility to attend to. I cannot come. I believe the rebellion will be ended theis summer. I have all confidence in Grant if Lee outgenerals him on the Potomac and we cannot get Richmond, I believe the Rebels will be recognized by foreign powers. But Grant knows that as well as anybody this summer will tell the story.
Write as often as you can. Direct as usual via Chattanooga -- Albert

Love to all – the stamps prove very acceptable.C

39

 
Columbia Tenn
May 3rd 1864

Dear Sister
I have written one letter today to Father but I will also write a line to you.
We are having very pleasant weather but rather cool. My health is not extra but gaining. Our regiment has moved. They went on last Saturday. I got permission to join them by railroad. I expect they are going to Chattanooga, it will be much easier for me than to march all the way on horseback. I expect to be here nearly a week yet. You must give up all ideas of me coming home this summer. It is impossible. I am in command of a company and am responsible for the Property and now the Army will move soon. You must [wait?] until next autumn.
Columbia is a real pretty place but nearly all Sesech. Gen Pillow’s[CSA General Gideon Pillow] place is only about six miles from here. The Rebel. Our government has taken possession of it, I believe.
I must close as I am writing nothing of any consequence to anybody.
Write as often as you do to your brother
Henry A ---

40

 
Columbia Tenn
May 7th, 1864

Dear Sis
I am going to the front today to join my reg’t. Expect to find it at Chattanooga. Rec’d a telegram last night from Stevenson. Carter[Julius M Carter, Ovid, Mich] is going with me. Don’t know when I shall have a chance to write again. There has been some hard fighting already - near Ringold and Dalton. I believe the future of this once great country will be decided this campaign. I am feeling as well as ever and am anxious to join my company. Do not look for me home until next Autumn. I shall come then CERTAIN. Give my love to mother dear and father and all my friends at home.
Write to me often this summer.
I send you a Recipe for making a Pudding and waffles - the last are excellent.
Love to you
Your affectionate
Brother Albert
The recipe is from Mrs Shepard where we have been boarding
Very nice woman

41

 
Camp 4th Michigan Cavalry
Near Villanow, Ga May 13/64

Dear Father
I wrote home last from Columbia, Tenn. And a letter to John[John Gilbert, Ovid, Mich] from Chattanooga on Sunday the 8th. I started from Columbia last Saturday for the front by the RR. Reached Stevenson that night about 2 pm Staid at Soldier’s Home the only hotel in that place and that was kept free of expense by Uncle Sam. Reached Chattanooga at 5 pm Sunday found our Train then but the regiment was at Lafayette, Ga. Staid all night and part of Monday when we moved out to Rossville and camped for the night. Tuesday marched all day steady - found the regiment at Lafayette about 5 pm. Got a letter from Amelia. From [there] we marched that night 11 miles over Taylor’s Ridge to Villanow where we are now. We had the most terrific storm of rain, thunder, and lightning I ever experienced that night. The column marched very fast which kept the rear on a trot. The darkness was so intense you could not distinguish ANYTHING above or below. The rain pound down so that gullies were formed even under the horses feet. The road was rough, steep, and rocky. The poor horses, urged onward by the men and blinded by the vivid and incandescent flashes, were totally bewildered. When the lightning flashed and lit up the path they would make a rush for the horse ahead of them, when the darkness, thick enough to be felt or cut, closed down they would stop like stocks or, still goaded, would pitch blindly into the bush on either side. The road in the morning was strewed with hats, caps, canteens, haversacks, rubber blankets, etc. with here and there a poor horse or mule who had given up the ghost. I cannot tell you – it was the worst night I ever saw of the kind. I have suffered with cold and hunger many nights, but this was ahead in honor and grandeur, in light and blackness, in cursing and laughing that I ever saw or hope to see.
We have had no fighting yet, but are kept in readiness to move at a moment’s notice. I send this by Dr Armstrong [Charles T Armstrong, Surgeon, Ovid, Mich] who has a leave of absence granted. There has been more or less cannonading at Dalton for 3 or 4 days. What the result is I do not know. The report is today that the Rebels are evacuating the place. By looking on a map you can see our position. We are SW from Dalton 12 miles. McPherson is reported in Sugar Valley near the RR to Atlanta at Resaca. Gen. Thomas Hd Qrs are within a mile of here. Sherman is near here. I believe we have the advantage of them at every point. Last night we recd a dispatch from Grant that he was within a mile of Richmond with 25,000 prisoners. I can hardly believe it is so. It is too early to speculate much yet. One more week will tell on way or the other. We are expecting to move every moment. I am feeling firstrate.
Love to All
Yours Affectionately
Henry A Potter
Lieut USA

42

 
(For Morris H Palmer from his grandfather)
[written at the top of the letter --this letter must have been given to my Uncle Morris by Henry Albert Potter--mr]

HeadQuarters 4th Mich Cavalary
Camp near Kingston Georgia
Sunday May 22nd AD 1864

Dear Sister

I wrote a letter to John[John Gilbert, Ovid, Mich] a few days ago telling of our hard fight the other day. But to day as we are in camp I will write to you. My health is good. We are having very warm weather at present. Our Division moves tomorrow with 20 days rations, as does the whole army. I believe.
I send you some Photographs. My company was in the extreme advance the 18th. I had my men deployed as skirmishers on the left on a hill our attention all directed to the front when a regiment of rebels came charging around to my left and near. Yelling like incarnate fiends. My men saw the situation as soon as I and giving orders to fall back to the road we succeeded in reaching amid a perfect shower of leaden hail which cut the boughs and twigs above my head in every direction. We had run upon two Brigades of Confederate cavalry and with in mile of their permanent camp. The road runs between two hills all the way we had no support (that was the [truth] of it) for four miles back. But were obliged to fight it out alone. They flanked us badly and had us entirely surrounded all but breaking the column. I did not expect to get out without being wounded or captured. But the bullets slighted me that time. Billy Egleston[William R Egleston, Lapeer, Mich, Captain Co B] was wounded in the fight near Rome, nothing serious however. Carter [Julius M Carter, Ovid, Mich] is doing well I hear and on his way home. I had one brave sergeant shot dead. I have some of the coolest and bravest men in any Co I ever saw. I saw many a rebel bite the dust from their shots, well-aimed. They lost a Col killed 2nd Georgia.
We are resting today. The Army will advance in a day or two. The Trains are running regular to Kingston four miles north of us. We are about 60 miles from Atlanta. Report says Johnson[CSA General J E Johnston] will make a stand not far below here. No betting. We will know when we try them. We have flanked them out of Dalton and Resaca, two very strongly fortified places, naturally and artificially and we can flank them again or, if they will fight, we can whip them. They say Johns[t]on is reported to have said if he got whipped again he would retreat to Atlanta and hoist the stars and stripes.
I have not recd any letters in a long time. Don’t know where they are. You must keep writing.
We are encamped in a good place. Plenty of shade and a beautiful spring of cool water near. Whatever the rebel have preached and said about holding this country against the whole Yankee army. I know one thing, the citizens have lost all faith in them or their army, as is proved by the fine deserted residences, beautiful gardens or flowers, superb carriages and plated harness left in the flight from the ‘invader.’ I tell you Southern Aristocracy is "played out" after this war is ended this country will be peopled by a different set of people.
Write to your Brother
Love to one and all
Albert

43

 
In the field near Dallas Ga.
May 30th 1864
Dear Father

My health is good but we are all about tired out. The Cavalry has never had such hard wor[k] or so much fighting. Our horses have not had a feed of grain in four days. They cannot go much further.
The whole rebel army is in front of us. They are determined to drive us back or die. Night before last they made an assault upon our lines but were repulsed with a loss of 800. Last night there was the most terrific fighting I ever heard. The whole rebel army I should judge was charging upon our lines. I have had no report of the result yet. Only that we held our line firmly. Their loss must be terrible. Such firing and crashing and moaning was never heard. Our Cavalry fell back to the left and we were four miles in the rear when the assault was made. The whole sky was lit up as if the world was on fire. A sullen and continuous roar was heard. The sound would rise and fall like the waves of ocean. The earth fairly trembled and shrunk from the shock of hundreds of cannon. I am confident of success. We CANNOT fail. Our Army is large, larger than you imagine and our cause is just. From the Potomac I hear nothing. The 4th Mich has been in four fights at Kingston, Rome, Dallas and near Pumpkinvine Creek. We have had one Maj. (Grant)[Horace D Grant, Jackson, Michigan] captured. Our Maj. Robbins [Richard B Robbins, Adrian, Michigan] wounded, one Capt. (Lawton)[George W Lawton, Antwerp, Michigan] severely wounded and Lieuts. Carter[Julius M Carter, Ovid, Michigan] and Randolph[Smith Randolph, Madison, Michigan]. Carter is coming home, he is badly wounded, but not fatally. Our loss may be near 75 men, killed, wounded, and missing, 5 officers and about 100 horses.
I have not had but one nights good rest in a week. We marched all last night. I am tough or I could not stand it.
We are receiving reenforcements enough to more than make up for their loss.
Gens Howard and Johnson were wounded day before yesterday.
The rebels were cut to pieces with grape and canister when they charged. Dallas is full of rebel legs and arms. They were struck in the thigh and bowels mostly.
Joe Johnson says if whipped here he will raise the stars and stripes in Atlanta.
Thomas is the center. McPherson the right. Schofield the left and our cavalry has been on the right.
Our Army is now concentrated.
The war will close in 1864.
Write when you can.
Yours affectionately
Henry A Potter

44

 
Camp on the Etowah River
Near Cartersville, Georgia
Sunday June 5th 1864

Dear John [John Gilbert, Ovid, Michigan]

I rec’d your humid letter Friday. It was the first from Ovid in some time. Am sorry to hear of the brave boys of the 27th so many wounded and killed. It is hard. Has George [Barck?] arrived home yet? I suppose Lieut Carter[Julius M Carter, Ovid, Mich] is home ere this. He was badly hurt, but I hope he will get along well. He fought well and is a brave man. He will tell you of our fighting. Our loss has been 4 officers wounded, 1 captured, and about 50 killed and wounded enlisted men. Billy Egleston[William R Egleston, Ovid, Mich] was wounded, but slightly in leg. We have a great many horses shot, have been in two fights since Carter was wounded. I have escaped without a scratch so far. Our Cavalry has suffered much. We have been eight days without forage for our horses excepting green wheat which is bad and weakening.
[US Cavalry General] Stoneman went out with 4000 splendidly mounted men. I understand he has but 1500 now. We have been nearly as bad off. My health is good - first rate. I live well now. Have had young potatoes, green peas, strawberries.
If report is true, our forces are now in Marrietta. We are somewhat to the rear now. We had to get back on left[?] of our horses, are guarding an important Gap in the Allatoona Mts and protecting the RR. The cars run down to the River now. As soon as the Bridge is built we will have clear sailing to the Chatthoochee.
Everything is working as it should. I believe by the 4th July our Army will be in Atlanta and Grant in Richmond. If we whip them thorough, I hardly think they will concentrate again. They may make a show until after the election in hope that some other man will get into the presidency than Old Abe, but they will be disappointed and this I think will [--- unintelligible—]
I have rec’d but 3 letters in over a month. Write when you can and tell E M and to write. I am well.
Yours Affectionately
Henry A Potter
Lieutenant

45

 
In Camp 6 Miles from Marrietta
Saturday June 18th 1864
Dear Father
I rec’d your letter a few days ago also Amelia’s[Potter’s Sister] yesterday and you know I was glad to hear from you. To know your were well. Why can’t Uncle E.M.[Evan Malbern Potter, his uncle] write once in a while? Tell him I shall go back on him soon if he don’t and others around him there too. I am tough and healthy and black and am getting as gray as a rat. I shall have to come home soon or I shall never be able to marry. I’m getting so OLD. I am glad to hear of uncle Abe’s nomination and believe Johnson’s[Andrew Johnson -VP nominee] also good. That is I believe it to be policy. I don’t really like old Andy. He is an office seeker, but he stands square for the Union and the War so he’s allright. They will be elected. I think less of John C Fremont[Nominee of the Radical Republicans - later withdrew] than ever – to think he would accept a nomination from such a source. It looks as if for an office he would endanger our country, for I believe that our country’s salvation rests1stly with the army and 2ndly with the election of Lincoln. To elect any other man will encourage the rebels to hope for a change of policy in their favor and would look as if there was a division and loss of confidence in the North is to be and should be avoided.
It is amusing to read some of the Free Press editorials about Mr. Lincoln losing confidence of the Army. All bosh They will see this fall. We expect to be in Atlanta by the 4th of July. Yours Truly
Your affectionate Son
Albert

[Written around the edge of the letter]
Stamps are very welcome – hard to get
US owes me nearly $700 - I want to send $600 home when we are paid.

46

 
Lines to-------------- In Camp July 1864

When the day’s work’s done and the sun is gone
To sleep in the western sky,
When we rest in camp and the night comes on
And the firefly flashes by,
When all is hushed save the picket’s gun
And the cricket’s chirp on the lea,
Then, I think of the friends I love
And the one I think of first is thee.

When the rays of the moon thro’ the leaves are seen
And the stars peep out thro’ the blue,
Then my musings of friends fade away to a dream
As my thoughts so my dreams are of you.
When the morning breaks and the bugles peal
Thro’ the hills and vales resound,
Mid the cannon’s roar as the sunbeam’s steal
To my couch on the leafy ground,

I awake from my dream to the din of war
And the rattling of musket’s dread.
I see the dust and the smoke afar
And the sunshine overhead.

Then I think of my native land, my home,
of the brave boys by my side,
And I long for the happy time to come
when Peace may still the tide
Of war, the blood and carnage stay,
The Union safe - our country free.
The boys at home – Oh God! I pray
To see it, then I think of thee

47

 
Roswell Georgia July 10 /64
Camp 4th Mich on Chattachoochee

Dear Father

I have not written I some time as we have been so busy in moving all the month. I wrote the last I think before the Evacuation of Marietta and the Mountain Kenesaw. I have been well all the time. We have had no fighting of any consequence since the 20th June. –are having very hot weather. I never saw such intense heat. The Army seems to stand it firstrate. –hardly any sickness. It seems a little like Sunday today and but a Little too we are resting today. I got up at 8 o’clock feeling as tired as if I had been mowing and cradling all yesterday. Had a breakfast of Pork, Potatoes, Onions, Coffee, and lots of Blackberries and apples are getting ripe too. Harvest apples sweet and sour. I will give you a little journal of our moves this month so far.
July 1st In camp all day, very warm five miles from Marietta
July 2nd In Camp showery. At 8 pm. Moved towards Big Shanty four miles and encamped instant unsaddling.
July 3rd Sherman with nearly all the army is moving to the right and flanking the mountain. The 2nd Div Cav moved to the left of the mt. The road was clear, rebels all gone. Took possession of Marietta at 11 am. Which is a handsome place built in a grove of trees. The villages are all built in the woods as one might say. The rebs left last night at 12m. We captured 400 I understand from news a deserter brought in as to their position. Report says Johns[t]on is falling back eight miles beyond Atlanta to a position of Cedar mt. Moved out three miles east of town and encamped.
July 4th Reveille at 2 am eat breakfast. I don’t like to get up so early. Our band played Hail Columbia and Yankee Doodle. This morning on soil which we have not occupied before since the Rebellion. Very warm did not move.
July 5th Moved back towards town and took the Roswell Factory road. Marched 9 miles without any resistance and encamped
July 6th In camp all my 1st Sergt Hazelton rec’d a commission as 2nd Lieut. The rebels are all across the river. Our pickets extend to it. This is a good section of country.
July 7th In camp
" 8th Detailed for picket at 2 pm ordered in at dusk and moved to Roswell 2 miles and encamped.
Saturday July 9th Reveille at 2 am. We were ordered to move dismounted to leave our horses in camp. We moved thro’ the town down to the river. When we found out we must ford the river and hold our position until the Infantry came up to relieve us. Our skirmishers moved ahead and met with very little opposition. A picket of 30 men was all there was at the ford. We caught 3 o4 they said the Yankees were the "goldarndest gelleas they ever seed" they would fire and then dive to load, then fire and dive under again and I suppose it really seemed so to them. We had sevenshooters. The men would fire and dodge down. The center was about 3 feet deep, very rough bottom I rode across we took a postition and built breastworks. But the rebel did not molest us. We are 20 miles above Atlanta. A division of Infantry came up at dusk and we recrossed and came to camp where we are now. Very hard work. Yesterday no breakfast. Ford the river – climb the steep bluff and build works. Have no news. Have got no mail in a week. Love to all
Your aff son Albert

48

 
 Camp 5 miles from Atlanta
August 1st 1864

Dear Father

I have not written any letter in some time nearly – yes a little over two weeks I think. The last I wrote we had not crossed the Chattahouchee River. My health is a good as ever. Two weeks ago yesterday our Division Crossed the river. Since that time we have done a great deal of service and hard work but not much fighting. The Next day after crossing we moved down and struck the Charleston RR from Atlanta About 12 Miles between Decatur and Stone Mountain. Tore up 3 miles of track thus effectively cutting communications on that line – without any loss on our side. And our Army followed up the advantage and moved after us capturing Decatur the next morning. Six miles east of Atlanta on the RR. In a day or two we started on another raid. To Coventry, a place on the same road 42 miles S.E. from Atlanta and 60 across to Macon. Our object to cut the road farther away and hinder their retreat via Augusta, if such might be their intention. We succeeded in effecting our object without serious loss. Burnt the bridges, tore up the track and burnt ties. Captured over 200 prisoners, two trains of cars, a large amount of horses, mules and cattle. Gone four days. While we were gone the rebels pitched on our left which was left exposed by our absence, with nearly their whole army, but they got enough and too much for them. But we lost one of our best Generals. McPherson was killed instantly by a volley of rebel muskets from an ambush. His loss was no sooner known than our men, maddened rushed like an avalanche upon them and drove them back. Our loss was about 2000, rebel loss 5000. On the 27th Gen Stoneman with his Div from our Right crossed over and joined us and we started on another big raid to cut the Macon RR. The only line of communication left the rebels from Atlanta. Stoneman with his Div moved on while our Div made one days march and halted to attract the attention of the rebel Cavalry and Keep them from Stoneman until he had accomplished his intention. We went into camp about 12 m. The rebs run upon our pickets. We were ordered out. Our regiment put up breastworks of rails and staid behind them the rest of the night. In the morning the rebs could be seen in every direction around us. We expected to have a big fight. Our whole Div was out and built works. Our line was like a horse shoe. The rebs around us as soon as they found out our whole force was not there they sent nearly all of theirs after Stoneman. It is supposed Wilder’s men charged them. Broke their line and we moved back got in camp yesterday . Our Train will be up to day with rations. Our Horses are about played. Have not heard from Stoneman. Don’t know whether he is successful or not. We expect the mail today – and some papers. You have later news from Atlanta, I presume, than I have. I know nothing only that we have not got the place. From Richmond we have nothing later than the 20th July. I got a letter from Amelia[Amelia Potter - his sister] last week telling me that George Zwick[?] was not expected to live. I am very sorry. Hope he will get along. We have had broiling hot weather down here and dusty perfectly awful. You don’t know about dust or heat up there and I am too lazy to tell you.
Write often
Yours affectionately
Albert

49

 
 On the left flank, in earthworks
Friday Aug 5th 1864

Dear Father
The battle is raging on the right of us while I am writing. The intention I believe is to take Atlanta today. It is about 3 pm. Our Cav Division has been in the rifle pits since Monday. Our horses are four miles in our rear.

I wrote a letter to you on Monday but it has not been sent. I have been in good health since you heard from me last. I rec’d a letter from Amelia the day before she was to start for Milo and also on from John A and John Gilbert. Poor George nothing has affected me so much since I entered the service as the news of his death. It seems so sudden and premature and I loved him. His family must feel it so hard too. I sincerely sympathize with them all.

We have been doing hard work since we crossed the Chattahoochee. Raiding nearly all the time. Our division has done goo service to the cause and with very little loss.

Our Army, the heavy part of it, is engaged on the right and rear of Atlanta. Do not know whether we have been succeeded in gaining the RR or not. Stoneman is reported to have cut the road below Macon and to be making for Anderson and Americus to release the Federal prisoners, but we have nothing official. We are confident of our ability to take Atlanta whenever we are ready to do so.

And now I will tell you something pleasing to you as well as gratifying to my hmble self. I was promoted this a.m. to Captaincy in my own company. Carter[Julius M Carter, Ovid, Mich] is transferred to "M" Co. and I take his place. It was an entirely novel thing to me and unexpected as there are three 1st Lieutenants who had commissions older than mine. I fill the vacancy made by Capt Mann’s[Joshua W Mann, Owosso, Mich] resignation. I could not have suited myself (If I had my choice) any better. I prefer "H" Co to any other and I think the men are all well pleased and I have two as good officers as there is in the regiment for my Lieutenants. In every promotion I have had I have jumped from three to half a dozen officers who ranked me and I have never been jumped. I do not tell you this in a bragging spirit, but merely to give you an idea of my standing in the regiment. I have no more responsibility now than I had before, for I have been commanding Company and responsible for Property some time. It only puts one more bar on my shoulder and changes my title. Do not let all read this some might think I am vain – but you will know I am not.

Our guns are thundering away. I will write you soon,
affectionately Albert

50

 
 Left Flank of the grand armee
August 5th 1864
Dear Sister
Your late letters have all been rec’d. I believe your last was dated July 25th the day before you stated for Milo and found me just returned from a raid down on the Augusta RR to Covington. Since we crossed the river we have had hard work and I trust have been of good service to the cause. Last Monday night we were dismounted leaving our horses four miles in the rear and marched out to the rifle pits where we have been since. We are guarding the extreme left flank. Our line runs at nearly angles with the main one there are no rebels in our front. Our skirmishers have seen nothing but scouts.

While I am writing the great battle and siege of Atlanta is going on. Cannon and small arms have been crashing away all day at the rebel stronghold. Our boys in the treetops around can see all the city the forts and batteries. I was in an observatory on a large house near our lines yesterday where I could see the City, its spires and domes. Encircled by its defenses and forts also. Kenesaw Mt. In the distance and Stone Mt. to the left. Which is the most singular formations I ever saw being in truth what its name says – all stone. With hardly a green thing upon it.

Sherman can take Atlanta when he chooses. The main part of the Army is on the right and rear of the City. Fighting for possession of the Macon RR, the only means of escape which the rebel have whether successful or not I cannot say. [He is talking of Stoneman’s Raid]

And now for something to surprise you, your boy brother is a Captain!! in the US Army. He was promoted today which was an entirely unexpected honor to him. He is assigned to Co. "H" which will suit him exactly, if I know anything about it. He has jumped some half dozen Lieuts. whose commissions were older than his. Well, I will only say one word for him: I believe he always tried to do his duty and I know one thing he has always stood on his own bottom and is not dependent upon any one for what he has got.

It is growing so dark I cannot see. I will write to John Timinns[?], hope you had good luck in your journey. Love to all the folks, grandmother in particular, one kiss for her. Write me often. I’ll write more fully to John,
your brother
Albert

51

 
 [Fragment of letter probably written August 5th 1864]

Our boys are up in the tree tops looking at the battle. They can see Atlanta plainly. I was upon an Observatory over a large house yesterday. Could see all of the city. Kenesaw and Stone Mt.. Can see the rebel Batteries and forts. The boys just say they see the rebels carrying off their wounded men from our shells. Our batteries are playing hot. I have not been out of the sound of cannon every day for a month and over. We do not notice it. The skirmishers have kept up a continual rattle night and day since we have been here. There are no rebels in front of us at all. Our skirmishers have not fired a shot. We are on the extreme flank. Our line runs nearly at right angles with the main one. The plot below will give you a faint idea.
[in the letter here is a sketch of the front lines, the RRs, and Stone Mountain. He shows the 4th Michigan as being perpendicular to the tangent of the investment half-circle and about 1/3 the way to Decatur on the extreme left flank of the Union Army encircle ment of the north-east of Atlanta]
of our position. We are in the left. The news has just come in that Stoneman and his command are captured. It may or may not be true. There is somewhat of a lull now in the firing. I shall come home as soon as the campaign is over Love to all
["Capt" was written then scratched out] Potter

52

 
 Head Quarters in the field
Wednesday Aug 11 1864

Dear Sister

Your letter of the 31st was rec’d yesterday. Found out where I was when I wrote you last – in the pits it seem they are bound to make Infantry of us whether or no. We’ve been here for now for nearly two weeks.

I would like to see Struble very much. You did not tell me his rank or regiment. Would write him if I knew where he was.

The battle around Atlanta will end in a regular siege, I think, the rebels are strongly fortified and altho’ we hear stories of their evacuation almost every day – yet the fighting still continues.

There is no doubt now about Stoneman. He is captured and his command was scattered. Many falling into rebel’s hands and many getting thro’ and into our lines. The 8th Mich Cav was with him.

You did not tell me where Fanny was – whether maimed or dead – tell me.

I have been having a sort of a bilious attack for a few days back. But feel better now. Some pills done it.

You must give my kindest regards to all my old boyhood acquaintances and friends in Starkey and Milo. If you see Miners or Miles Rapler[?] remember me to them, also Byron Valentine – the Beardsleys, Hazards and all. Ask Jacob Oyns[?] if he remembers the time we had a fight on the hill. With our dinner baskets! I shall never forget it and a thousand other recollections seem as fresh today as if yesterday occurrences.

If grandmother would only come home with you. I think I could see her for I shall be home before long. The very first opportunity that offers ----

I should think they all might come. Ben and Aunt Nep. Why Can’t you!

I told you of my promotion in my last – have not received my commission yet. My men are all very well pleased. I have some as good fighting men as there are in the regiment trusty and true as steel and I will stand by them to the last.

Still we fight, fight, fight the Lord only knows when where or how it will end. Still we feel that somehow it cannot last much longer.
Much love to all
Your Brother
H. A. Potter
Capt "H" Co.

Milo a long letter of news everything will be new to me

53

 
 Head Quarters "H" Camp near Atlanta Ga. Aug. 24/64
Dear Father;
Since writing we have been in another ‘raid’ and it has been the hardest
one, we ever were on. The expedition was commanded by Gen. Kilpatrick, the
1st and 2nd Brigades of the 2nd Cav Division(note 1) were along -- Marched
all night the 17th and reported to Kilpatrick in the morning -- laid in
camp all day the 18th and rested. At 8 PM moved out, it was a beautiful
night the moon at its full -- and a clear sky. At daylight we struck the
Montgomery RR below Atlanta and commenced tearing up track, but as the
column was not closed up as it should have been, a brigade of rebels cut us
in two for a short time. They opened up on us with artillery and shelled us
rather too close for comfort. We had to cross over where the bullets were
flying thick and fast. We charged over it without any loss and formed up
at a church to protect the Ambulances. The rebels had got possession of
the road which we wanted and the 3rd battalion was ordered to advance in
line and retake it -- which we did in good style but I lost my 1st sergeant
Cole he was shot through the lungs, is alive yet, but I have no hope of his
recovery. The other Co’s had several wounded and horses shot. From there
we moved on across to the Macon RR towards Jonesboro, where drove out about
400 rebels and burnt the depot and took up the track for a mile -- had
orders to stay there until 11PM about that time were attacked by a division
of rebel cavalry. They charged our lines twice but were unsuccessful both
times. After the first charge our regiment was ordered out as a support
for our line and everything again was quiet. You must know we were all
very tired -- when you march all night in your saddle without any sleep --
you would be tired wouldn’t you? Well we were resting, I was asleep on a
lot of ‘shake’ spread over two logs when they charged again. it was like a
thunderbolt I jumped and you ought to have seen the shake fly as did
everyone else to our horses -- but our line stood like a rock unyielding
and now to show his contempt for the rebs, Kilpatrick brought out his band
out to the line and they played Yankee Doodle, Hail Columbia and a number
of others for the johnnies -- no doubt to their supreme disgust -- it was
as much as to say come and take us if you can, but you can’t -- they
thought the had us tight but they were mistaken, for we dived out of a hole
before they knew it and were gone to the east and soon as they found it
out they followed us. Overtook us about 10 AM next day. Here the general,
who by the way is about a match for any body I ever seen in coolness and
impudence, left colonel Murray with his division to fight and hold them
back while he made another drive for the RR about ten miles below to
Fayetteville -- our Brigade in advance -- we struck and charged their
pickets killing some and drove them back -- when the 4th was ordered in the
night to make a big show as possible and tear up a few rails while the
attack was to be made by the 7th Penn and 4th Regulars. They advanced and
charged the enemy’s line but were repulsed with loss and our boys were
obliged to fall back hastily. We had struck two divisions of infantry,
which had been sent there to take us-- you see we had struck a snag -- the
7th Penn lost about 40 and the Regulars 36 in that fight -- they charged
dismounted. Well they drove us back so we had to leave one piece of
Artillery in the ground but not so far but that our skirmishers covered it
with their fire and with some loss we got it back. A number volunteered
to retake it and they rushed down and pulled it off with their hands. Well
shortly we begun to hear firing in our rear. It increased and soon we
found we had their cavalry in our rear and Infantry in front -- in fact we
were surrounded. They were forming to play Stoneman(note 2) on us ‘Yanks’
too -- but Kilpatrick held a consultation with his officers and a decision
was agreed at which we soon found out we were to charge! through their
cavalry and cut our way out -- and here I must say -- there was no time to
be lost either -- for their infantry were moving up and extending their
line and every minute made the matter worse. Col. Minty volunteered to
charge with his Brigade. The offer was accepted. We formed in column of
regiments facing to the rear -- the 7th Penn on the Right, the 4th Mich in
the center and the 4th Regs on the left. We held a hill yet in our rear
which hid our movements from the enemy. The 2nd Brigade was to support us
then was to come the command, Artillery, and Ambulances etc. with Pack
mules and all. While we stood there waiting the order a man in the
Regulars was shot dead by a bullet. He stood about 6 feet from me and
although it misses even shot there by random shots, there is a certain
feeling which I cannot tell you of -- when a man stands waiting the wind
which perhaps will send him to Eternity in an instant. You never will know
or feel it until you are there yourself (and I hope you will never be)
there is a sort of instinctive bracing of the nerves and an air of
sternness in a brave man’s looks which soon tells you his calibre. There
is the place to detect a coward --I pity them -- they dodge at every sound
and sight they see like a turkey looking for bugs. It is laughable as well
as sober. Presently you hear the command Draw Saber! and then the command
Charge! -- and away we went. As we raised that hill a shower of shot
greeted us -- but with a yell enough to wake the dead -- we spurred on to
their line. Their artillery belching forth grape and canister into our
line. The regulars were directly in front of the battery and suffered
badly. Capt. McCormick and Lt. Sullivan and a file of men in their van
were mowed down by one shot. The ground grew rough and stony. On we
pressed -- keeping up that deafening yell -- our Sabers flashing in the sun
a thousand rays of light -- and as we got within 30 rods of their works
they threw their arms down and run -- but on we go dashing over their
works. The work commences -- they surrender by dozens -- but many of them
were cut down without mercy. for my part I could not strike them after they
had given up and but very few did hit them in our regiment -- but the
Regulars slashing right and left and many a poor devil’s brains lay
scattered on the ground. From there it was nothing but a panic, their
Battery we got , spiked the guns except the 12 LB Howitzer which we brought
along. The rest after spiking we tumbled into a ditch. They had but one
Inf. Brigade got in position in our rear but they were hurrying up and we
were just in time -- as we got the order to charge , a flag of truce we
seen coming from the Infantry for our surrender -- but we didn’t wait .
Well we only picked up 100 of them the rest got away. We were getting away
ourselves and didn’t stop to pick up much. The brigade we run over was
Texans. We captured their battle flag. Well we marched nearly all that
night -- camped about 3 AM the next evening. It rained nearly all night and
we were wet as rats. Soon we came to a creek which was swollen so we had
to swim across. Two of our men were drowned there and some negroes. I
came very near losing a man there. He was on a mule which floundered and
kept him under some time but he at last got out all right -- were out five
days and nights and went entirely around the whole rebel Army going out on
the right and coming in on the left. In all that time I got about nine
hours sleep as I calculated
We received orders to be ready to move out again and the rumor is current
through the camp that the rebels are evacuating Atlanta -- at least I
believe our whole .......(?).. either they are running or Sherman is going
for them with a vengeance

I received my commission as Captain yesterday. I’ll be mustered tomorrow
to date from the 23rd --
You must consider the matter well this fall before you cast your vote for
Uncle Abe -- I must admit that things look different than they did six
months ago -- to me. I will write you my ideas and thoughts about matters
and things before long -- I must close -- Write soon -- I have recd but one
letter in two weeks nearly

Love to all,
affectionately
Albert

-- I am commanding the 3rd Battalion and probably will be for a month or
so. Major Mix was wounded and the Battalion commander take.......(lost at
edge of page)....

NOTES:
1)The 'Kilpatrick raid', led by General Judson Kilpatrick (affectionately
called "Kill-Cavalry" by his men), consisted of 4700 cavalry and 8 pieces
of artillery with support. The 2nd Division was 2300 men with 4 pieces of
artillery and the 3rd Division were 2400 with 4 pieces of artillery. The
objective was to destroy the rail lines leading into Atlanta. They ran into
Both Confederate infantry and Pat Claiborne's cavalry (Sul Ross's Texans, I
think) sent out by CSA General Hood, who learned of the expedition almost
before it began. The expedition was lucky in that the CSA infantry got lost
on the way to engage Kilpatrick.

2)Stoneman refers to an earlier raid where the Confederates captured a
Union cavalry expedition. Minty’s Cavalry by Vale page 526 (published 1886)