1862: Thomas Corwin Potter to Sister

This letter was written by Union artilleryman Pvt. Thomas Corwin Potter (1841-1863) of Battery B, 1st Ohio Light Artillery. [See also 1862: Thomas Corwin Potter to Sister and also “Wiley Sword’s War Letters Series

[MWIA Chickamauga, 9/20/63 both his arms were blown off by pre-ignition of his cannon, buried Chattanooga National Cemetery].

Addressed to Mrs. R. L. Robinson, Tekonsha, Michigan

Camp Walker, Tennessee
April 18, 1862

Dear Sister,

As I cannot have the satisfaction of receiving any letters, I will revenge myself by writing one to you to assure you that I am still within the land of the living and enjoying a reasonable share of good health. The last letter that I received was from home dated March 4th. We have been in this camp nearly two weeks and I have not received a single line from any source. But as I wrote you in my last from this place, our letters all come to Columbia to the Captain and he was to forward them. We have not heard from them since we came here.

We are 14 miles south of Columbia [Tennessee] on the Savannah Road and two miles south of Mt. Pleasant. We are in a splendid place and I think we stand a fair chance of staying here for some time yet. The weather is warm and pleasant, and one finds it very agreeable to look for the north side of one of our cherry trees between the hours of 10 and 2. But this reminds me of a little adventure that I had yesterday. Well, after dinner, I found a very comfortable place under one of our wild cherry trees and after taking a short nap, I was startled by a rustling in the leaves near my head and on looking up, behold a large snake eyeing me and appeared to be more frightened than myself but determined to hold his position, and I was about to make agnatic on him at once, but reflecting that he might have the oldest claim, I concluded to fall back which I did in good order and left his snakeship sole possession of the field. But I will close for the present.

Saturday the 19th [April]

It is raining this morning — warm and June-like. The grass and flowers are growing finely. No news from the late battlefield. By our being here, we have missed the grandest scene of the war.

Sunday 20th [April]

Still raining with a prospect of a severe flood. Our sutler went to Columbia last evening. He was to return today. We all expect more or less mail and if the Captain does not send it along, he will hear from it.

Our cavalry has brought in three or four prisoners — members of the rebel army who after the Battle of Pittsburg Landing [Shiloh], being scattered, they made tracks for home but were picked up by our scouts. They all seem to be heartily tired of this warfare.

10 o’clock a.m., Monday, [April] 21st.

Still raining with occasional intermissions. It is a little cooler with some prospects of fair weather. I think that this must be our equinoctial storm, although rather late.

It is just six months ago today since our engagement with the rebels at Wild-Cat and three months since last Saturday (19th) since the Mill Springs affair. ¹ A party of ten teamsters belonging to General [William (Bull)] Nelson’s Division arrived here last night direct from Savannah. They report that Jeff Davis has arrived at Corinth with 30,000 troops to reinforce General Beauregard and that he is to command in person, and that he has now — in and about Corinth — about 160,000 troops and that we have a force of 200,000. Furthermore, that our troops have burned bridges in their rear, thus entirely cutting off their retreat. They will be obliged to fight or surrender. No news from Columbia.

Tuesday, 22nd [April], 1 p.m.

The weather has cleared up beautifully. The sutler has arrived — came in last night but his wagon did not come in until this morning. We were all disappointed about mail matters as he brought only a few letters. But I was more fortunate than the most of my comrades for I received a letter from William dated April 6th. They are all well but rather desponding. Wm. would like to be here but he had better stay at home and fight his battles there for I think that our battles are about over with although there is rebels enough yet at Corinth to make the welkin ring again with the discordant sounds of war. No interesting news from Columbia or the seat of war and what is the worst of all, we receive no papers. But he is going back again tonight and perhaps he will do better next time.

Wednesday, 23rd [April], 8 a.m.

We had quite an excitement last night or ____ by the arrival here of a party of Union refugees from Clinton County, Tennessee. 110 in number — poor fellows — they were in a bad condition without arms, clothing, or starve enough to eat to keep soul and body together. They were obliged to leave their defenseless families to the tender mercy of their former friends — but [who are] now demonized and relentless foes — and travel by night, and during daylight they concealed themselves in a place in the woods. But at last they arrived within our lines where they were welcomed by deafening cheers and were well cared for. On this morning, they leave for Nashville where they are to be furnished [weapons] and mustered into service. ²

Same day. 6 p.m. We have just returned from a General Inspection and Review. At one o’clock this afternoon, we were harnessed and in a few moments were marched off towards the village accompanied by Acting Brigadier General [John Converse] Starkweather and staff with his full command fully equipped as if on a march. Arriving at a large clover field about one mile from camp, we were drawn up in line of battle and for three hours our able comrades put us through the various movements of an imaginary conflict, at common, quick, and double quick time.

Well sister, it is of no use for me to attempt to describe it, but I wish you could see one of our Grand Reviews, and particularly at this time. It was in a large clover field containing about 40 acres or more and was surrounded on two sides by woodland, now thick with foliage. On the north side in full view lies the town of Mt. Pleasant and presented a view that a painter would love to sketch. On the other side lies a large and beautiful plantation and everywhere around us the ground was covered with a rich carpet of vegetation, bespangled here and there by wild flowers.

Well I am wasting time and paper. Therefore, I will close. Weather here is warm and pleasant.

Thursday, 24th [April] 3 p.m.

We had a Brigade Drill on our [  ] yesterday & paraded around under the eye of the General. Returned to camp about noon. There is no more appearance of warfare here than as if we were lying in Camp Denison. And if we lay here much longer, I do not know what will become of us when we are discharged. We are getting so now that it is a hard lot for us to do the least things in the world. I think I shall have to get me a servant or two to take home with me. But enough of this. I will bring my long and senseless letter to a close. Do not look for letters from me very often. Write as often as convenient. Remember me to all enquiring friends.

This from your madcap brother, — Thomas C. Potter

Direct as before to Nashville, Tennessee

¹ Pvt. Potter wrote a letter to his sister on 24 January 1862 describing this affair:

Somersett, Ky. January 24, 1862

Dear sister,

I have but a few moments to spare and I must be brief. We are ordered to march tomorrow for Tennessee. I am in good health and hope this will find you the same…I suppose you have heard of our late battle in which the noted rebel General Zolicoffer was shot through the heart and left on the field. They made the attack on us last Sunday morning about 7 o’clock am about 6 miles from his camp. The engagement lasted about two hours and 40 minutes when the enemy retreated in great confusion leaving everything behind. The ground was literally covered all the way to their camp with… muskets, sabres, blankets, knapsacks, haversacks, canteens, cartridges, horses and everything that they could throw away to facilitate their escape.

We followed them to their camp and played upon it with shot and shell from 16 pieces of artillery from three p.m. until dark when we lay by our pieces untill daylight when we went into their camp and found that they had all crossed the river leaving 14 pieces of artillery, a large lot of ammunition, several hundred baggage wagons & about 3,000 horses and mules, all of their camp equipage, a large lot of commissary stores, provisions and clothing. Their camps were on both sides of the river and covered a space of ten square miles and there was tents and baracks enought fore 25,000 men to winter in. This they have strongly fortified but they left it without doing it any damage. Our loss is about 80 in killed and up to the present our troops have buried 350 of the rebels. I was within rods of Zolicoffer when he fell and cut three buttons off from his coat — one of these I sent to Wm, and another to father. I have several things that i would send to you but i have not go the means. i must close.

Our battery was the first one on the field and took the advance and our piece (no. 1) fired the first shot that was thrown from a cannon at the long to be remembered battle of Logansfield. Our piece took the extreme ________ and I loaded it 117 times. But i must close. Write to me often. Direct as before. This from your brother, Thomas Corwin Potter.

² The Nashville Daily Union of 19 April 1862 reported the following under the heading, “The Rebel Barbarities in Clinton County.”

Burksville, Ky., April 11, ’62.
Editors Democrat: Gentlemen—Our usually quiet town seems yet doomed to be the theater of much discord and confusion; it is already being thickly crowded by refugees from Clinton county, who were driven hither by a lawless marauding band of ruffians from Tennessee, commanded by the notorious Camp Ferguson, whose hands were long since dyed in the blood of more than a half a dozen of as innocent and unoffending citizens as Kentucky ever produced.

Their statements in regard to the destruction of life and property all concur, and it is utterly impossible to give any adequate or correct account of the fiendish deeds committed by these outlaws, who neither have a heart or conscience, or any of those essentials which it requires to constitute even a shadow of a true man.

They deliberately shot down the following persons while attending peaceably to their domestic affairs, without even assigning any other reason than that of sympathy for the Union: wm. Huff, Lewis Pierce, Henry Johnston, two of the Shellys, John Syms and several others, besides a promising little boy, twelve years old, by the name of Zachary, who was taken out of a sick bed, supported by two of the demons, while a third cut his abdomen wide open. Such cruelties and barbarities were seldom ever equalled even in an uncivilized nation. Col. Woolford went in pursuit of them, but as usual they fled back into Tennessee.

I think it prudent that we should have a force stationed here on the border, as they have repeatedly invaded this and one or two adjoining counties.
Yours, &c. Q. K.


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