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

February, 1862

 The Gazette and Banner
February 13, 1862
Vol 1, No. 20
Pg 1, Col 5,6,7


Dear Editor and Friends:

Once again I seat myself upon my cloth's valise, to let you know that the gallant and loyal Seventy-Sixth still lives and to tell you of its welfare and its progress in the art of war. Various and many circumstances have produced the silence that has intervened since the writing of my last letter, from the legislative city, and now that I have a little leisure I will follow up the line of incidents as best I can recall them.

We left Albany as you are aware some three weeks since, amid a beautiful snow storm, and as we marched through the town, cheered at, gazed at by an immense and wondering crowd, the gentle and light winged messengers from the skies would light softly upon the men, and when they reached the Depot, every soldier was beautifully ornamented and "coated all o'er with snow." The cars left about 7 o'clock Friday night, and arrived in the great metropolis about 7 the next morning, being 12 hours on the road. The latter most car, which was reserved for the officers, and friends, was honored by the presence of three ladies, who journeyed with the Regiment as far as New York, namely, Mrs. Col. Green, Mrs. Capt. Grover and Mrs. Dr. Nelson.

The ride down the Hudson, was full of delight to the boys, and could it have been summer, and we had been transported by water, what a feast it would have been for them, nothing would have been more grand and pleasant than to sit upon the deck of the "New World" on a cool summer moonlight night, and note the romantic beauty that lines the Hudson, its magnificent windings and gentle curves, its palisades and high-lands, its luminous old forests and rising hills. As soon as the night wore away, and the early hours of the morning began to appear, every man began to rub his eyes and look out upon the country over which he had been riding so long, and as soon as light began to break in, every window of that long train of cars was lined with heads to see what was to be seen. Then about two thirds of the way, the train had to be divided owing to a gradual ascent o the track, part of the train going ahead, while the latter portion had to wait the arrival of another engine. This occasioned some delay, and the latter train did not get in New York till about 11 o'clock, while the former arrived about 7. With our entrance into the city it commenced raining, and kept up a perfect drizzle for three or four days.

When the last train got in, the men left the cars at the 31st at depot, and marched down Broadway to the City Hall Park Barracks. Usually the Seventy-Sixth creates the greatest excitement, but in traversing this town, the millions of people and the hundreds of street carts and stages made the largest display, if one could judge from the manner of the boys - with eyes strained, mouths open, and muscles relaxed, wondering where so much city came from and who made it! But the Seventy-Sixth made the grandest, if not the largest display, and before the steady tread of the men, everything, even in this big city, had to clear the way. These barracks were the best built of any that we have been in yet, and the food we received here was good, much better than our Albany fare. The men were both to leave this rendezvous, so convenient was it to see the elephant. If a man was lucky enough to get a pass, it was amusing to hear him tell of all he had seen in his short town. You's think he had been round the world!

By way of rarity, allow me to say that the first Sabbath, I had the pleasure of listening to Henry Ward Beecher in the morning. As is characteristic of the man, he preached a capital sermon - a better on than he has preached, in the several times that I have heard him. But the grandest thing at this or any other place of worship, in my opinion, is the congregational singing. Grand is no name for it. Not only the spirit and the understanding, but the whole soul of every hearer, without any exception, is engaged, and with the deep-timed organ, makes one of the grandest choruses that could be conceived of. Go to the most remote part of the house and every pew is a choir. In the afternoon I visited the Cathedral, and in the evening, the Unitarian church on Broadway. The pulpit is occupied by Dr. Osgood, the author. On this evening they performed the vesper service, composed mostly of singing, and as they have some of the finest musical talent at this place in New York city. I considered this a rare treat. The Sunday evening following, hearing that Dr. Cheaver was going to preach a "war sermon," I repaired thither. He preached from the test in Samuel; "And they took Dagon and set him in his place again." The Dr. sliced things up pretty severely as is his wont. The latest fashion in New York is to cheer the preacher whenever he says anything good and patriotic, and it was so on this occasion. Every little while the speaker would be interrupted by cheers, and always at every demonstration of applause, there was one individual who would hiss. Not only this, but the occasion was enlivened by the presence of a little poodle dog, who was passing around from pew to pew, seemingly without a master, and is one thing, when the audience appeared to make the greatest fus, the dog, as if conscience of his duty, sat up and applaud on his own hook, by barking, which had the effect to tickle the congregation not a little!

Tuesday morning came, and with it the day that saw us leave for Riker's Island, on board a couple of steam tugs and an old barge. It was an exceedingly cold, raw day, and when we arrived at the Island, we found it minus a single stove, and we had to "grin and bear" it through all that day and night. Most of the men went to bed to keep warm, but they found it freezing under the blankets, as clothing was rather sparse.- The barracks, too, were built loosely, for summer rather than winter use. The Island, which has become notorious as the resort of Knights of the muscle and pugilists generally, is situated about 12 miles above New York, on the East River, just above Blackwell Island, and adjacent to Long Island. It comprises about 90 acres of good soil, an orchard, and one dilapidated old house, hired by one Harry, who keeps inside of it a bar and a family, the number of representatives deponent knoweth not. Its climate is miserable cold, uncomfortable, disagreeable and lonely, and its chief productions, so far as I was able to practically demonstrate, were oysters, clams, salt water and ------- which the boys amused themselves by digging. In summer time, it wo'd be a capital place to recreate, to hunt and fish, as wild docks abound delightly, and fish can be obtained in any quantity, but it's not exactly the spot for delicate wildlife in the tedious winter time, as the wind whistles Yankee Doodle and keeps the men dancing an Irish jig continually.

The second day after our debut on this Island - the 23d of January, 1862, - was the happiest day the regiment has experienced yet. It will always be known as the great pay day, and when the history of the Seventy-Sixth shall have been written, this day will stand out in letters of shining gold, pure silver and nice treasury notes! The boys were perfectly happy, but what were they to do? they couldn't get off the Island to invest, and like good boys and true soldiers, sent home two-thirds of their money to their wives and parents. Out of $40,000, which was paid the Regiment, full $30,000 was sent home. This speaks well for the boys, and more eloquent in their praise than words. But what was kept back burnt their pockets so that they were not satisfied until they had got rid o the most of it. If anything came on the Island, no matter of what ingredients, quality, quantity, or substance, it would go like wildfire. The boys hadn't had any money in so long a time, that it seemed more like an Eastern carnival, than a cold imprisoned Island. I overheard the Colonel tell some of the men who were anxious to visit the beach, that they could do so, but that it was against the orders to swim off!

One paragraph more and I'll close this letter. Until Saturday, the 25th ult., the weather although cold, was comparatively fine; the day and night following, however, "old boreah," and the elements generally, seemed out on a bender, roaring and howling with all the characteristic roughness of the play-fellows of father Neptune. Any one wishing to go to New York, would have to cross the East River to Port Morris, and then take the Harlem cars. But the storm had been so severe that no one had attempted to go over for 24 hours. The 26th ultimo came, and as some business must be done, so must some one go over the River - a distance of about one mile. Accordingly, about half a dozen of us decided we would brave the waves at a venture. The boatmen told us we must prepare for a wetting, but wetting or no wetting, we must go, so off we started. The crew consisted of three orsmen, one steersman, two jolly Lieutenants, George and myself - eight - all told, if I except two empty blankets, one empty trunks and a box full of letters. Some timid ones on shore watched us till we got out of sight, expecting every minute to see us go under. The frail boat rolled and pitched about on the heavy seas like a half-empty cask on the top of a high flood. Now this way - now t'other, as the force of the water propenderated on either side or end of the boat. Simon says up! down! wigwag! an irregular, uncertain motion, rendering physical perpendicularity practically impossible. Anything that would get loose would make an unlooked for dive in an unlooked for angle, first one end and then the other of the boat, while everything animate and inanimate seemed possessed with an uncontrollable desire to be wrong end up!

The boat leaped dreadfully, disturbing the central arrangements of at least one obdurate stomach, and I was forcibly reminded of a certain honest Quaker, who upon a similar occasion, exclaimed, "Verily, the elements are sorely troubled. Yes, and the strange commotion thereof doth communicate itself even to me, until the very vitals within me are dubiously vexed; and truly, it seemeth I must needs cast them forth. Verily, am I exceedingly miserable - O sinner that I am - and I would fein get to bed, for truly is my streng is in great perturbation, whereby I am admonished that the goodly appetite whereof I rejoiced, hath vanished, saying which he "vacated" also. Soon we gained the opposite shore, very greatly to the delight, not one of us but what was wet through. We immediately made for the first place where there was a stove. We had received a whole month's ration of salt water, inwardly and outwardly, and it was some minutes before we could fairly get dry. We unanimously voted this the biggest thing of the season.

Two days after we embarked on board the Atlas, en route for Washington, a description of which I will give you in my next.

You doubtless are acquainted with our consolidation with the Otsego skeleton Regiment since we left Cortland, and which took place while we were at Albany. This of course, was engineered by the powers that be, and had to be submitted to, but we dreadfully hated to, for we lost some of our best officers by the operation. I need not mention the name of Lieut. James C. Carmichael of your village. Not a man in the Regiment, who has become acquainted with him as a man and an officer, but what received the announcement that we had got to release him, with a deep, heart-felt regret - He is a man who is abundantly able and able fro the position which we were sure he wo'd hold over us, and the Governor, President, or any other public functionary will have to look a good ways before they will find a man that can justly fill his place. he had won the respect and esteem of every man in the Regiment - private, corporal and captain - and wherever he may be, whether doing his duty upon the battle field, or in the private avenues of life, we wish him success.

Yours, for our country,


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