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

May, 1862

MAY 1, 1862
VOL 1, NO. 31
Pg 2, COL 4,5,6



There's harmony in other things than music, and there's poetry even in war. If there is anything that will make a soldier's heart glad, it is the welcome tidings of victory over the enemy in battle. Not so much because he delights to kill, but because of the success to the cause he has given his life unto. Your double-leaded editorials are tame beside the ecstatic cheers of our soldiers towards the portrayal of feeling. The news of a victory is hardly known to the victors before every camp has caught the flame, and every soldier's heart is all aglow with enthusiasm. That it was the other day when Beauregard was whipped and Island No. 10 was surrendered. So great was the excitement here that everybody thought the rebellion completely capitulated, yet the backbone is only broken, the middle still erect, and tongue still wags, and its poisonous venom is still shotted. That the darkness of night is followed by sparkling days, radiant with the glorious light of the morning sun; so the hot fury of battle is followed by the --- ----- bereaved hearts, glowing as the fervid waves of victory. Amid intense anguish of the mother, who hears her boy has fallen on the battlefield, and emotion of joy wells up as she reflects that he fell in a good cause, than which he sacrifice, however dear, can be more sacred. Forgetting the groans of the dead and the dying, we give a shout of joy as the swift winged messenger of victory rings out the tidings to the world.

But with these tidings of the past few days, that have spread the wildest joys and hopes through out the nation, the telegraphic wires bear the declaration that President Lincoln has signed the paper declaring that henceforth every human being upon this national hearthstone is free. People have anxiously waited the intervening days since Congress voted upon the bill. Some prophesying that he would be so unfaithful to the interests of mankind, as not to sign this charter of freedom; others not doubting that he would be true to his professions, and that when the time came, he would not so lose sight of the patriotism and statesmanship of his great calling, as to hold back a blow at the great curse of our land. That simple penfull of ink performed a noble mission and hence forth Abraham Lincoln will have tow immortalities -one he will carry with him to his grave, the other he will leave behind him in his works. For years the nation has struggled desperately to throw off the tyranny, which has oppressed us as a people. The President has commenced the work cautiously yet with a will capable of meeting all difficulties. Every man has rights - the slaveholder and the slave - and our President is not blind to them; and while he is a friend to the one, he is not an enemy to the other, and his emancipation policy cannot but receive the endorsement of every loyal citizen. From this time forth, the nation will rise to a higher state of existence. Our soldiers are fighting with a zeal unsurpassed in Napoleonic history - they are struggling for the maintenance of those laws and principles of the Declaration which gave them birth, and when everything is so wound up in the great struggle - bloody -tearful - desperate, tho' it be - for the sight, for humanity, for justice - our efforts must triumph; and we bow to the result with meekness, not with boastful submission.

The next contest will be at the Yorktown of 1862 - can we doubt that 'twill be less victorious than that of Washington's day? The tread of our soldiers mark the very footsteps of Washington's noble men, the footprints of Corwallis are hardly plain enough for the enemy to follow. There are many that will bleed, many groan, many die. But the spirit of the noble Deliverer animates them, and while stricken hearts will weep, let us rejoice in the grand and sublime result that cannot but follow, in the conflict.

But I write you this week more to give you a list of our discharged and dead, than to pretend to know who are going to die, in battle or otherwise. So fast as I have been able to learn the following are the names of those who have been discharged. From company A, (Capt. Grover.) are Stephen N. Stone, Caleb R. Austin and Orlando Oliver. From company B, (Capt. O.C. Fox.) are Nicholas Haynes and Isaac White. From company C, (Capt. G.D. Crittenden.) are Geor. F. Pratt. From company D, (Capt. C. L. Waltrous.) are Hoban Holden and Floyd Newbry. From company E, (Capt. Wm. H. Powell.) Thom. B. Hewitt and Thos. Young. From company F, (Capt. J.H. Barnard.) are James Y. Hines, ---------- and John D. Tripp. From company G, (Capt. Wm. Lansing.) are Wm. W. Wattles, Samuel W. ------ Jas.Bouton, D.W. Applebee and Edgar Brewer. The names from the Cherry Valley portions of the regiment, would be unknown to your reader, therefore I'll not give them.

These men, with a single exception or two were discharged, not for disobedience or unmanly conduct, but because their health would not permit them longer to remain with us. And they are deserving of no less honor, than though they had traveled through rivers of blood. They return to their homes and friends, regretting that they could not stay with us as a regiment, and share our privations, trials and fortunes to the end. Of one in particular we would speak, because we have known him more. We refer to S. N. Stone, of company A, for a short time a clerk at Cortland. During his connection with the 76th regiment, he conducted himself as become a soldier and a man, uncomplaining at duty or hardships, and always willing, nay, anxious to have his comrades far better than himself. The fruit of such noble acts, was his being compelled to abandon his soldierly career. A verse of tribute to them all:

You left your homes, and volunteered your life,
To save your Country from rebellious strife,
A cause came on, and, of course, you could not,
Do what others might, but would not,
We judge you not by your acts alone,
But by that noble purpose yet undone!
Adios, comrades, in honor go,
And find in other lands another foe,
Passion never absent from the human mind,
Will ever meet the 'mong the human kind.

A few rods from out camp, stands an ancient old tavern, that looks as though it had sheltered many a weary traveler, worn and footsore. This building we now use for our Hospital - a receptacle for the dead and dying. It makes much better home for invalids than the cold, damp, dismal tents, and adds much to the comfort and health of those whom weak frames and delicate constitutions, prostrate therein upon beds of sickness. Our estimable Chaplain, every ready to administer to the consolation of the afflicted as he is to give a word of warning to the wicked, is not infrequently found beneath this roof imploring a blessing on the poor dying inmates, and a like benediction for the mourning once at home. As he goes from one room to another his eye meets this one, whose countenance is hot with a burning fever, and takes hold of the pale hand of another, whose haggard frame is wasting away, who can describe the feeling that pervades his sympathizing soul? Many times have I met, after his visit to this lonely mansion, with a tear in his eye and a heart overflowing with sorrow, which told us plainly the trouble that he just witnessed. ****** section is unreadable ****** the word of God and the heavenly voices are his eternal words to treat dying soldiers.

The names of the dead are. Wm. B. Potter from Taylor, Cortland Co., of company A; Elbridge R. Burnham, from Pitcher, Cortland Co., of company B; out of company C, only one man has died, and he at Cortland, name unknown) From company D, Lawton Peckham, of Georgetown, Madison Co., and Wm. W. Robertson, of Freetown, Cortland Co. One man has died out of Company E. viz; R. McIntyre, of Richford. Form company F, we have three names, viz; Eugene Sheldon, Orrin Ellis and Daniel Dunbar, company G have lost three men also; Thos Goff of Homer, Rufus Smith, of Blodgett Mills, and S.Schermerhorn, of ----. These comprise the list of those who have died out of the Cortland companies, that I know of. One or two have died, and some few have been discharged from the Cherry Valley portion of the regiment.

A death like pall o'er shadows our tent,
The very winds a low sad wail have lent;
There's a drear gloom in the air without,
And a dawdly scene is all around about.

Those with whom we've sported in man an innocent play,
God, all wise, has taken from life away,
Ere for the noble cause the've delt one blow,
He's called them their final destiny to know.

Little did they dream that Cortland skies would never welcome them back, to their home and friends alive. It was a sad day when scores of dear ones gathered around them on the 18th of December, 1861, and bade them the last farewell. It can but seem hard, to those stricken households, to think that they offered up their lives so far away from home: but how many hearts and homes have been made as desolate as theirs, and God only knows how many more are yet to be bereaved! Death invades every family altar, and severs the fondest ties - the brightest hopes fane. While the present is death nay the future be bright with a Heavenly Father's blessing. The memory that lives around the death of our brothers in arms a sad and tearful. Our hearts bow in sorrow, when we reflect that their cheerful voices are hushed in death, and their welcome footsteps no more tread the forward march, or brighten our little tent homes.- But in dying thus, they deserve no less the name of patriot, than they would, had the lives been sacrificed at the cannon's mouth. Their honor is just as great in that they came to die for their country, and their lives have been sacrificed, while in the conscientious prosecution of their duties as soldiers. Peace to their ashes.

Somebody sings beautifully;-

"They repose in the vale where our forefathers be,
The cares of this life never more shall assail them, ********remainder of poem is unreadable *********

Yours for our Country,


(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.

Return to Letters from the 76th

Return to Roster (P)

Return to 76th NYSV Homepage

- Last Updated August 15, 1999