1864: Henry Langdon Potter to Quartermaster

This letter was written by Henry Langdon Potter (1828-1907) who was commissioned as Lieutenant Colonel of the 71st New York Infantry on July 18, 1861, and rose to Colonel and commander of the regiment, being promoted on 1 May 1863. He was wounded three times during his service. In June 1862, at Burnt Chimneys, near Fair Oaks (VA) he was wounded in the left leg below the knee. He was wounded again at Bristoe Station (VA) in August 1862 when a musketball shattered the bones of his left wrist. And finally,  on 1 July 1863 while in command of his regiment on the first day’s fighting at Gettysburg, he was wounded a third time. In December 1863, he was dismissed for the service as being unfit for field duty due, presumably, to his injuries and chronic health issues.

In his book, Curmudgeons, Drunkards, and Out-right Fools: Courts Martial of Civil War Union Colonels, Thomas P. Lowry provides significant detail regarding the court martial of Potter in March 1862. In that trial, numerous charges were levied against Potter that suggested he had a serious drinking problem which led to irrational behavior. Due to extensive conflicting testimony presented at his trial, Potter was found guilty on only some of the charges and he was suspended from command for 15 days and docked his pay for thirty days.

TRANSCRIPTION

345 East 49th Street
New York City
Jany. 26th [1864]

Dear Quarter Master,

Your letter of 23d came today. You do not write me if you got the letter I wrote to Major [Thomas] Rafferty or not — or anything about my horses — or about the Gen. Orders O. P. commencing with 105 and the index for 1863. I want them complete and nice clean ones to bind.

I did not hear from Aaron Brewer in Washington in reference to the War Department Orders yet. About the ordnance returns, I am sure that the vouchers &c. were all sent, and they must have been lost in the Depts. tho’ retained copies are in Washington so that I can not make up duplicates at present. Let the papers be carefully preserved until I give further directions. Say to the Adjutant that I have his two letters and will answer them soon when not so very busy.

Twitchell

Joseph Hopkins Twichell was the chaplain of the 71st New York

I have not seen the chaplain yet. That brazier ought not to be allowed to come inside the regiment again, and it is lucky for him that I am not there.

About the bitter feeling in the regiment and your remark that “some that should have worked for me &c. have taken advantage &c., to make it worse &c.” I care but little. I have no idea to whom you allude, except it be Rafferty and we all know his double facedness of old. As he is expecting some favor of me, I wish to know his record since I am absent. In fact, there are all of them more in want — or likely to be in want — of favors from me than I am from them, and I wish to know the exact record that I may settle all accounts. I have done too much for them and now will not do a thing more except to reward the faithful or in return for services of considerations.

As for leaving the regiment for the Invalid Corps — should I get the appointment in the Invalid Corps — which is very uncertain — should this regiment be filled up — I shall decline the Invalid Corps appointment and stick to the regiment. Should the regiment not be filled up, then I shall — if appointed in the Invalid Corps — get permission to see my regiment out of service next July before giving it up. So that any in the regiment who think I will not have an opportunity to settle with them in full for any of this bitter feelings or anything else, will find themselves much mistaken.

And about that sword, I shall look upon it to be a privilege or a favor to any of them to be allowed to make up this deficiency, and I wish every one to have the chance offered to them, and I wish to know who declines that I may know who is who — and get a list from the adjutant of those who subscribed before and the amounts. I hope you will soon have it attended to — as Mr. Wakeman spoke to me about it a few days since, he wants it off his hands.

I shall make up this money after the 1st myself anyhow, though am short as the devil.

I wish you to write me all about the officers — who is to be depended upon and who not. I have been without much information from them since I left — that is, that I could rely upon. How does [Thomas] Rafferty and [William H.] Elwood get on? It seems that it was Elwood (or Lt. Col. [William R.] Brewster) who wrote the letter that put a stop to Rafferty’s promotion. Have you seen [Thomas] Leigh yet? If not, I would do so for the sword’s sake of no other — also Mr. Blair. Write me all the news — send all the orders and tell the horse &c. &c. and have matters attended to as soon as possible.

Write me how the sutler makes it go and all about matters. I have no news to write. Am busy yet at the house.

Any letter not of value or not containing valuable papers — send to me here. 345 East 49th Street. Put it on plainly.

Any documents of value — box 2556 N. Y. P. O. as I am not down town every day. Give me all the news next time.

Yours sincerely, — H. L. Potter

Let me know what the officers have to complain of and what they are bitter about. Let my intentions in reference to leaving the regiment and about the Invalid Corps be known.

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