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

December 1861

DECEMBER 26, 1861
VOL I, NO. 13
Pg 2, COL 6



The gallant Seventy-Sixth which but a day or two since paraded thro' the streets of Cortland, longing to be off for the war, is today, individually and collectively, admiring the wonders, if there be any, of New York's Capitol City. According to promise, I will give you a synopsis of our trip hitherward, and of our experience since we left your comely village.

The 19th of December is, and ever will be, a memorable day to many in Cortland and neighboring Counties - to one, a gala day, full of excitement, hilarity and mirth - to others, a day of loneliness and tearful forebodings. To call to mind the myriad thoughts of loved ones separated, that flitted over the imagination, would be to swarm the mind with provoking thoughts of home. Then gather up every tear that was shed, and the cup of sadness would be filled to overflowing.

Early on that morning, we were interrupted in our usual routine of barrack life at Cortland, by the announcement that we must get ready to march. The men had gone through with their first of May maneuvers the day previous, and nothing remained but to transport men and baggage to the depot, and be ready for embarkation at half past 8. Accordingly, as you are aware, we were marched thither by the most direct route, led by our gentlemanly Lieutenant Colonel, James C. Carmichael, and followed by crowds of people. Getting aboard the cars, then came the moment of tearful partings. Such a scene might better be pictured by the imagination than by the pencil. Tender-hearted sisters, with tear-dimmed eyes; mothers, with aching hearts and weeping eyes; maidens veiled and melancholy; fathers and mothers with lips compressed and silent, crowded about the cars, pressing the hands of their darlings, and bestowing upon them the last fond look of love and hope.

When the cares started, the old iron horse seemed loth to carry us away from our home and friends, and it was some moments before he got under full head way. Presently, however, the train started for good. Part of the crowd hurrahed, others wept, some shook their handkerchiefs, and friends waved their last adieus, and thus we were en route for the legislative city. When the boys came in sight of their comfortable barracks on the Fair Grounds, where they had lived so happily, and passed many a weary day, they gave them three hearty cheers, and bade the home they were leaving, farewell. Some were in hilarious humor, others were not,- and it was long before the tears of affection were dried from many a soldier's eye. There were many aboard who had never rode upon the cars before, and they appeared highly tickled with their first experience, and voted it a "big thing." They amused themselves by singing, hurrahing, etc., etc. Others and many who had never left their homes before and who were conscious of the journey they had commenced - a mission unlike any they had ever before undertaken - not a visit to friends, of brief duration, to return again after a pleasant interview; but a journey to climax they know not where - the future of their lives was in the hands of Providence. They could not say, "I'll be back again, soon." All they could leave behind was a "good bye - don't forget us - God bless you." After a while the boys became cheerful again, and struck up that good old song -

***** the following song was unreadable *****

The day proved a delightful one - a real autumnal day - a healthy glow in the atmosphere.. It was such a day as one loves to spend among the hills - if you are of a reflective turn of mind - watching the falling leaf, and learning from it a lesson of life, gazing on the changed fate of nature, and wondering at her empire loveliness; or if you be a sportsman standing with eye and ear to hear the cracking twig, the whistle of the quail or the whirr of the partridge. If you are a soldier, looking as we soldiers did, from the car windows, out upon the beauties and in spring characteristics of nature, and realizing as at least our soldier did from the car windows, out upon the beauties and inspiring characteristics of nature and realizing as at least one soldier did, that there is harmony every where except in man - and feeling that war is a horrid and fearful necessity, a discord that jars the cars, that is indispensable to complete artistically the grand hymn of the world's great opera.

The country between Cortland and Syracuse we set down as charming. As we dreamed up the valley, we had a good view of the hills on either hand. They seemed one of the hills in life which we so often climb. How many times do we halt at their base and could easily climb to their summit, wondering at there proportions, and wishing that the trouble of surmounting them was over. Somewhat similar are the feelings when standing below a high hill, and looking at its summit. It is hope, It's like youth gazing up into manhood -- was more pleasing while our noble engine, puffing and snorting against the hills. Gradually, and almost unawares, we left the valley, and upward and still upward we went until we arrived mightily and firmly over looking the valley below. What were our feelings, then, thank you? What they are when one overcomes a trouble or care. A feeling of triumph. We no longer hope of but look downward with feelings of victory. So the old man leaving reached the mountain top of human life, complacently folds her arms, and triumphantly scans the vale below, where youth and childhood are. So the Christian, having from the earth to the skies, looks back at triumph upon his fellows of the earth.

We arrived at Syracuse about noon. After considerable shifting of men, baggage, etc. we speed away over the Central at doublequick time, and soon found ourselves in the beautiful city of Utica a place some of us did call our home before we became soldiers - where we were greeted by the firing of cannon, and an immense throng of people. Samuel Campbell Esq. our worthy benefactor, with a large delegation from New York Mills, were all at the depot to receive us. Twas here that we had the privilege of taking by the hand a best of friends of once again listening to the voice of brothers and sisters, and kindred. But before we had finished greeting, we were compelled to commence parting as the train halted but ten minutes. Away went the cars again, and cut off from our vision of the friends of our youth. Our journey all along was one continued oration. From Cortland to Albany we were greeted by hundreds of people - boys whirling their hats, and yelling at the highest pitch of their feminine voices -pretty girls tossing their kisses to the boys in great profusion - nice little black eyed misses shaking their clean white handkerchief - old maids from houses distant snatching up the first old rag they could lay their hands on, and lifting them to the breezes - strange and strange women, candy pedlars and peanut venders, all excited over the magnificent display of the Seventy-Sixth. We arrived at Albany about 12 o'clock, and were received and escorted to our barracks, by an artillery company stationed here.

We are now living in with in the barracks adjoining what they term the Albany Brick Barracks. When we arrived here, there were stationed here, about fifteen hundred men besides our own regiment. Las Friday nine hundred of them the 91st regiment departed for Fort Columbia, on Governor Island, leaving the Seventy-Sixth as monarch of the premises. There is besides us stationed here a Washington County regiment, and also a company of artillerymen. The barracks are situated about ten mile from Albany depot, upon quite an eminence, where the wind and cold comes whittling and sweeping through like a whirlwind rendering our new home quite uncomfortable. The boys leave more than once sighed for old Cortland again where blankets were plenty and the weather not so rough. This morning ushered in a cold sickly winterish day, the ground all trampled over with the icy snow, the sleigh bells jingling, and the denizens of Albany taking their first sleigh ride preparatory for Christmas. Our fare is not what we would desire of course. Some think it an improvement on Cortland; but I do not , in point of cleanliness, it certainly is'nt. For the first few days we were furnished all the butter we wished twice a day, with very good head; but this morning a new contractor has stepped in and we get no butter. He has taken the contract at eighteen cents a day, and says he will do as well as he can by us, but we fear for the result. The meat has been tolerably good but the potatoes very poor, a great many of them being decayed. We have good water, but miserable coffee. I think coffee is a nuisance any time and any where, and know of one that will never drink it as long as there is a cup of pure cold water to be had.

This morning our esteemed and worthy commissary, Elder Storrs of Alleganey county who officiated so faithfully at Cortland, was placed in supervision of the eating department, and we hope for cleaner and more inviting quarters in that particular. The Elder is accurate and tidy. We also commenced this morning and furnished our own cooks and waiters, a certain number being detailed from each company. Our dining hall is the basement of the spacious brick barracks, built for a hospital, but now used as a soldiers home. We begin to miss Cortland much, its good folks, and the nice pleasant nick nacks they have frequently furnished us, but we shall be glad if we do not have occasion to miss them more. For their many kindness to us. I venture to say that when we have occasion to try ourselves, you shall hear of nothing but good deeds, and nothing but that shall reflect honor upon the places we have left. Sickness has increased since we have been here, but the boys receive as good care as can be rendered. We have received many praises worthy on coming as the best regiment that ever entered Albany, and the boys may well feel proud that they are the material of the 76th.

We know not our destination, or how long we shall remain here. Everything depends upon the progress and result of the Court Martial, which is now taking place as I write. We are all, officers and me, entertaining strong confidence, and every one indulges the hope that Col. Green may again be with us, and that without delay.

Yours, for our country, J.F.P.

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

Transcribed by B. Conrad Bush from microfilm in the files of the Cortland Public Library, Cortland, NY.

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