Letter written by Private Thomas C. Potter of Battery B, 1st OH Light Artillery, to his sister from a camp near Columbia, TN. Potter writes that his regiment is acting as a stationary battery at the camp. He had hoped that they would be sent to Corinth, MI, where the Confederates are concentrating “for a grand stand.” He describes how the few men in Columbia who voted for the Union in the last election were disrespected by their “Secesh” neighbors, and had their names written upon the courthouse. His regiment was ordered to bring their guns to bear on the town then received orders to move, as part of General James Negley’s Reserve Corps. Potter eloquently describes how a soldier feels in combat, and writes that it is a “peculiar charm.”
In Camp near Columbia, [???] miles South of Nashville,Tennessee April 5th/62 Dear Sister once more I enter my canvas pavilion intent on writing you a few lines. Nothing of importance within my line of observation has occurred since my last to you dated Camp Meriwether, March 30th. The most reliable information that I can impart to you is that I am alive and enjoying good health at present. We left Camp Meriwether the 1st and came in camp here the 3rd, when we rec[eived] the unwelcome intelligence that we were to be held here as a stationary battery. We had begun to hope that we would be ordered on to Corinth, Miss., where the Rebels are concentrating for a grand stand. They are said to have 10,000 troops there, and are being reinforced daily. This will be the grandest affair of the season when it comes off[.] oh, I should like to be there it will be a splendid engagement. But we are doomed to disappointment. But to compensate in part, we are in a splendid position here. We are on the summit of a large mound which lays here looking as if it had been the work of man – shaped like a sugar loaf with grass half an acre of level ground on the summit – on which we are camped, and nearly 150 feet above the surrounding country. About a half mile to the north of us lies the handsome little town of Columbia, which before the war boasted 5,000 inhabitants. has now dwindled away to 2,000[.] There was 11 companies of soldiers raised in and near this town for the Rebel army. There was but nine men
that voted the Union ticket at the fall election out of the whole voting population. And their Secesh neighbors were so exasperated towards them that they wrote their names in large letters upon the court house, and as a disrespect they are still there yet – and they still reside in town. We have a splendid and picturesque view of the country for miles around. Just to the north of us and under our guns, spread out like a panorama, lies the town. And I will say that there is very few others in the state that will vie with it for neatness or beauty. There is a large number of large and tasty dwellings. Prominent among the later is the former residence of James K. Polk, who was a resident of this place before his election as president. General F[elix] K. Zollicoffer was well known here, having made several speeches here. Gen. Pillow’s residence is about 5 miles south of here. He had one of the finest plantations in the state. His family still reside there. The town people have been somewhat alarmed at our movements. When we came in camp here our orders from the general were to unlimber our guns, run them out to the edge of the slope in battery, cut all the timber away that would come in range, and bring our pieces to bear on the town. This was done and it has quite a hostile appearance from the town. The blackened muzzles of our guns can be seen with the naked eye from any part of the village
(truly, I hope you will not think that I am entirely bereft of common sense. If I do make blunders that a fool would be ashamed of) (Same day, 3 P.M. I was obliged to stop writing this morning as I am acting as cook today, and if you could see your humble brother minus coat, with sleeves rolled up and great drops of sweat rolling down his face, tumbling pots and kettles around, I think you would be amused. Since I dropped my pen this morning we have had cheering news. News that is always welcome to me. We are to move again within a day or so. Our battery is attached to the Reserve Corps, all under the command of General Negley. A reserve, you understand, is composed of a corps of picked troops upon whom the general commanding can place the most reliance, and is kept just in the rear of the advancing column. And in case of a heavy engagement, is brought in at a proper moment, and upon the result of the charge in a great measure depends the fate of the day. There is something strange about the feelings that an engagement will produce on a man. There is a peculiar charm that wakes one up as if from a sleep. He feels just as if he did not care whether school keeps or not, as the saying is, the soldier has a wild love of the music produced by the thunder of artillery, the roar of small arms, the clash of steel, while the wild hissing scream of shot and shell as it goes whirling on its destructive
course. Bring in the base, and the whir of the musket balls plays tenor, to be sure, when a person rushes in the deadly strife. For a few moments he can’t avoid ducking his head when a ball goes whirling along close to his ear, but he soon forgets even that, but enough of this. There will doubtless be much blood spilled yet before this cursed rebellion is crushed out, but what is to become, let it be done as quickly as possible; and if there is to be fighting, why, let it be done, and then let them that are spared return to their homes. Now, sister dear, please do not grieve and worry about me. Depend upon it. All will be right in good time if I am allowed to return unharmed. It will be my aim to get our scattered family together a little more than it is. I want to get father to move to Mich. He would be more contented there. It is my first and foremost wish to see him settled comfortably. He has seen trouble enough. It will be my aim to make him as comfortable as possible. Our mail is quite irregular as yet. Write as often as possible. Give my best respects to all inquiring friends.
This from your brother, T. C. Potter
Direct Nashville, Tenn.
Care Capt. Standart 2d Battery
Reg. Ohio Light Art.
Private Thomas Corwin Potter enlisted at age 20 on September 5, 1861 in Battery B, 1st Ohio Light Artillery. He served with his unit in combat at Mill Springs, Perryville, Stones River, and Chickamauga. On Sept. 20, 1863, at the Battle of Chickamauga, Pvt. Potter was mortally injured when both of his arms were blown off by the premature discharge of his gun. He died the following morning at 3:00 A. M., and was later buried in the National Cemetery at Chattanooga.