Letters to the Cortland Gazette and Banner
from "JFP" (John F. Potter, Co. A)

April, 1862


THE GAZETTE AND BANNER
CORTLAND, NEW YORK
APRIL 10, 1862
VOL 1, NO. 28
Pp 3, COL. 1,2

FROM THE SEVENTY-SIXTH REGIMENT.

HEADQUARTERS SEVENTY SIXTH REGIMENT,
FORT MASSACHUSETTS, CAMP BRIGHTWOOD,
WASHINGTON, D.C., APRIL 6, 1862.

TO THE FRIENDS OF THE SEVENTY-SIXTH:

"Brightwood" is quite a pretty name, yet the founders of the town didn't get much the start of the place itself when they gave it the appellation. Right before me, over my writing desk, hangs a picture neatly framed, and as neatly drawn, of that portion of the 76th, which occupies Fort Massachusetts, and its surrounding scenery.- Paramount in the picture and remarkably life like is the camp of the 76th, the neatly arranged tents looking like so many snow huts. On the left of our home, which resembles an aristocratic little settlement, with beautiful and shady pines decorating the front of each tent, is seen two companies of our soldierly, drawn up in line on the parade ground. There is a diversity of opinion in regard to what two companies are represented, but whoever they are they look quite dignified. Directly, at the head of the camp streets are the tents of the company officers, while to the left a little is erected the very commodious, respectable, and highly entertaining sundries kept by Galt, Esq., of Homer, one of our inimitable sutlers. By the way the sutler's establishment is an institution that couldn't very well be done away with, and the picture would be incomplete without it, for it is not only "run" by gentlemen, but they spare no pains to get the best of everything, and dispose of it at reasonable pries - a fact not often to be recorded of sutlers of other camps. The proprietors, Messrs. Wm C. Gridley and J. L. Galt, will return home, satisfied that they can "keep hotel" under almost any circumstance. "Jimmey," their clerk, is as faithful friend is energetic, and knows how to handle pick and open oysters. A few doors beyond, and we open into the study of our Chaplain, Rev. H.S. Richardson. The Chaplain evidently enjoys life as well as he does preaching, or at least should surrounded as he is with the very agreeable society of that "bird of the flood," a pretty tame dove, besides the distinguished presence of a beautiful, fat, portly, curly dog, and a noble horse "Ned". On the right of the Chaplain's tent are those of the Lieut-Colonel and Adjutant Robinson. On an eminence beyond is Fort Massachusetts, and from it floats aloft "the starry banner that dazzles every freeman's eye." Inside the Fort is an old brick church that looks as though it was built by our Revolutionary fathers. There it stands a free institution alike to the oppressed and the oppressor, to the aristocratic master, and his fettered slave, bidding defiance to its enemies, and guarded by twelve faithful iron sentinels. The whole picture is animated by the sentries stationed around the camp who can almost be seen pacing their beats, at "arms secure," and methinks hear them repeating -

****** four line poem unreadable **********

And then there's the department of the Regimental Postmasters, adjoining the sutler's depot, so essential to the grand complexion of this picture! Take this institution from the soldier, and you deprive him of the only vocation that affords him his hours of consolation and pleasure - his moments of happy communion with his distant dear ones at home - moments, the brightest of his whole soldierly and too often, dreary career. Is he suffering from cold and hunger, is he aching from pain, is he sorrowful from affliction, is he bowed down from grief, did he dream last night of "some one he left behind him," and, per consequence, had the "blues" all day? When the Postmaster arrives, lo! his despondency vanisheth like the mists of the morning. Why? Because the mail bags open unto him a letter. Form whom? - that's telling! But no matter "from whom," so long as his eyes brighten up, his countenance (that languished) now is smiling again, his wavering faith is strengthened, his heart throbs again, his voice is musical, and he can whistle tunes that he never whistled before! It don't take long to read the letters, though; but then he has the double pleasure of answering it, and nobody but himself can tell how pleasantly he passes the long cold, dismal nights.

But as an item of interest, Mr. Editor, and people, let me say that the 76th Regiment is decidedly a literary one for it takes all the presence, skill and enough of forbearance sufficient for a virtue, to take charge of the Regimental mail; besides, its responsibility is as weighty as that of a village of a thousand inhabitants. The letters sent out average 500 a day, and not infrequently do they number 900, while the mail received eclipses that amount. The Regiment receives mail daily, and letters coming from Cortland, when not hindered on the way, will reach here in two days. But, good people at home, if you do write more than you receive, never mind, don't stop writing on that account, but write all the more.- You've got better advantages, and there's always something interesting about HOME and the dear ones. We can't tell you how we appreciate them. The way the men huddle around the Postmaster, catch hold of his coat-tail, put their finger in his button hole, take him by the ear, stop him in his unofficial hours, intercept his clerks, and waylay his deputy, all because they think they must be a letter from somebody, would be a caution to your esteemed Postmaster.- Our P.M.'s Department, when "Jake" and "Jennie" arrives, ("Jennie" is the R.P.M.'s faithful deputy.) is as "rushed as is that of His Honor, at Cortland. The windows are crammed full of heads, hands are at Arm's length, eyes protrude from their sockets, hearts palpitate, while the mail is being sorted and as each one grasps with his fingers' ends the glued edge of a neat little envelope, exquisitely inscribed, how he chuckles, and away he flies to the most remote corner of his tent to commune with it, where nobody can molest his peaceful self. No matter if some of them require the eye of a darn-needle to penetrate their illegibleity, it's only a peaceful suspense before the ocean of happiness that follows. Sometime, though, there comes an electric shock that disturbs all this pleasure. The mail bags perform their sad with their joyful missions when they bring with them letters whose wrappers bear the marks of mourning. -These contain sorrowful tidings of a far-off loved one that lived when he came away, but who in his absence has been called to change destinies. It's a double pang, this, because he wasn't near to receive the parting adieu, ere the curtains of the other world were raised by the messengers of death.

There are many positions in the Regiment of responsibility, but none that require more prompt or careful attention than does the office of Regimental Postmaster, as you very well know, for he is quite often entrusted with special orders of official business, upon whose carelessness or rectitude rests important moments.

The other Sunday, I witnessed quite an effecting scene over in the 2nd Rhode Island regiment. During parade hour Gov. Sprague and Staff, with Col. Lanton, and officers and the N.J. Cavalry, rode into camp with the remains of their late officers who gloriously died at the battle of Bull Run, namely Col. Slocum, Major Barlow and Capt. Tower. The Rebels , in mistaking the remains of the Major for the Colonel, stripped off his clothing, cut off his head and buried his body. All that could be secured was his hair, blanket and bones. They were all buried face downwards, and mixed up with a lot of R.I. soldiers and a mess of rubbish. I heard more than one gallant Rohodeislander vow verbal vengeance on the fowl perpetrators of this act, when opportunity offered itself.- A day of tearful retribution is in store for such barbarities. Their authors are now but cowards, who dare not risk their pesky necks before the bravery of a live man, and they'll get what they deserve a cowards doom. If there is steel, lead, or heroism enough to reach them. Those brave Rhode Islanders believe that the blood of their late slaughtered and mutilated comrades "cries to them from the ground," and they will see to it that it is not in vain. For shame! that their boon companions and bosom friends, dead to their hatred, should be thus disfigured. Col. Slocum, after whose name one of the Forts that we hold was christened, was, beloved by all his men, and when all that was left of the lamented dead was brought into camp, they bowed their heads and wept. Gov. Sprague said that Rhode Island would erect a fitting monument to their memory.

To-day is one of those holy, quiet, gloriously pleasant Sabbaths which characterizes the month of June. The birds are chanting their praises upon the green boughs, the robbins are twittering their reverence upon the forest trees, and the honey-bees are singing their joyous songs, and skipping from flower to flower, which are just beginning to open their fragrant petals, and all the beauty and romance of nature is proclaiming the grandness of the great author. Our Chaplain has just concluded his services to the men. It seems grand to listen to his urgent prayers, his christian causes and good advice for we are very apt to forget away off here that there is a God who rules and reigns upon the battle field as well as over the homes we have left.

Last Saturday the entire regiment, was reviewed by Gen. Doubleday and staff who expressed themselve's highly pleased with eh general training and discipline of the Seventy-Sixth. So we may go to Kentucky and we may not. The men, looked well in their new uniforms, equipments, and white gloves.

In my next I will endeavor to give you a list of those who have died, and those who have been disbanded, since, we left Cortland.

Yours in Country,

J.F.P.

(assumed to be John F. Potter, Co. A.)


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