Military Monday: It Was the Worst of Times II

Gemima Poteet Wadkins’ second oldest brother, Henry Poteet, enlisted as a private in Company D, 9th Regiment NC Troops (1st Cavalry), at Camp Vance, 1 October 1863, at the age of 44.  Her brother Francis, a year older than her at 36, enlisted on 2 October 1863.  Amazingly, he enlisted in Co A, 49th NC, the same company his brother-in-law, George Wadkins, had died in at Sharpsburg a year earlier.  When I stop to think about this for a moment, it seems quite morbid and sad.  It seems he is just replacing his dead brother-in-law for manpower.  It had to be hard each time a family sent a husband, son, or brother off to war.  I would think sending him off to the very company your husband or son-in-law died in might somehow be even more difficult.  I read someone who is working to digitize the letters of the Civil War for North Carolina state that the Poteet letters are “by far the most depressing.” The knowledge of his brother-in-law’s death in this regiment-and his older brother’s death so shortly after returning home-may explain why Francis’s letters seem so hopeless. Perhaps he felt a dark shadow of foreboding cast over him even more so than some others.

Francis wrote at least five letters home to his wife Martha Hendley Poteet during his second month away, between November 3 and November 23, 1863.

In 3 Nov 1863 letter, Francis writes to his wife of his wish to desert and that he hopes to see her by Christmas.  It sounds as if he has thought out a plan, discussed it with others and written home about it before but that the letter did not make it to his wife.  It mentions the poor conditions, food, and lack of payment, yet the dress parade every night.  The letter also mentions how he wishes he could see his sister (Gemima):

“Camp near Kingston NC November 3 1863

“My Dear Wife and Children  was <????> the 29 of oct and  was glad to hear from you and  hear that you was better I  am well but not satsfied I  want you to tell Mr <M??d>  to git up that paper and git  evry body to sine it that he  can and I will do all that  I can for him I left Weldon  Monday morning I <mit?> your  letter thare I am at Kingston  I dident git any thing to eat  til Just now I Just thot that  I could not git thare dinner  Come to day about 4 clock you  dont know what I have to  stand you Rote Somthing Sis  I would love to see her and  all of the ballans of you but

“Lord knows whether I ever  will are not Sumtimes I think  that I Will Runaway I would  like for you to Rite to me  about that tha is Eight ar ten  will Come With me any time  that I will you Rote to me  About the first letter that  I Rote I give it to the Surgent  And that is the last of  hit Mooney sent one at the  Same time and his wife dident  git it you said for me to  not Be oneasy about it I aint  oneasy anything only that I dont  now whether I ever will are not  but I think that I will See you  against Christmast I pray to the  lord every day and night  to Spare my life to Come  home and see you all again  I am about thirty five miles  nigher that when I was at  Weldon and I have crowst

“the big Bridg back on this  side it is about forty feete  high from the watter and  about half mile long I dident  now how to cross it if I Runaway  Last night I Just lay out in the  open Old field you Rote that if  I could be at home to go with you  to the shucking that you would  be glad If I could I would give  Ever thing that I am worth  to be with you if I cant be with  you I pray that the Lord may  be with you and help you  as mutch as if I was with

“tha could go noplace Els but  it tis alie for I Cant Come  You Rote that you wood Come  hear to see me if you was  abel I will Send you sum money  as soon as I git it I think that  we will draw in afew days  and then you Can Come and  see me if higgins Comes that  will be A good Chance for you  to Come with him and fetch  me a box of cakes and peaches  and sum good apels I dont  Git more than half nuff to  Eat I have Spent about ten  dollars for sumthing to eat  I giv one dollar for ten cents  cake I must come to Aclose  by saying that I Remain your  loving husband until Death I  could not git my letter it is  now Sunday and I had to  go on Dres parade we go on Dres parade  about sundown every evening”

Click to View 3 Nov 1863 Letter Courtesy of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources

On 8 Nov 1863, Francis writes home to Martha again:


“Kingston NC November 8th 1863

“My Dear Wife and children I seat my self  down this blessed Sabeth Morning to let  you now that I am well at this time hoping  these lines may Reach you and find you  injoin the same blessings I want you to Rite  offin and Rite me all the newse I want you  to see Higgins and tell him that I want him  to doo all that he can and doo it as quick as  he can for it seems to me that I cant stay  hear but it seems that I have to stay it seems  to me that my heart will Breake when  I think of you and my little Children May  god Bless thim and save them is my prayer  tell Mr that I want him to git that  subscripton as quick as he can that I want to  come home and see them it tis lonsom times  hear when I think of my littel children and My  loving Wife that I cant stay hear no longer  but I have to stay but it tis hard for me to  stay if this war was at an end I could come  home if God is mine I am his  the solders says that tha are coming home in

PC1825_0014“March whether tha is peace are not  I have spent five Dollars for tobaco sense  I have come down hear it takes 150 to 200 [$1.50 to $2.00] Dollars a week I thought that Pery Walker  would uv come home before now but he hant  got his furlow yet and I dont now when he  will I have got a littel money now but I  Dont now how long I will have any if any  body would come home I would send you  sum I send you fivty cents worth of stamps  in this letter the reason I dont pay my  postedg tha come to you as quick again as  if I had pade the postedg we are in good  winter quarters nowe tha have Brick chimneys  I want you to Rite to me whether you  have sold Babe yet are not so nothing  more at present only I Remain your  loving husband until death  F.M. Poteet to his loving Wife M.A.E. Poteet”

Letter images courtesy of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources

It seems with the conditions Francis is living, his mind is often preoccupied with escape.  Will he desert the army and see Martha and their children by Christmas?  What would the consequences be if he does?  Join me again next Monday as we continue to read of Francis’s experiences in his own words.


2 thoughts on “Military Monday: It Was the Worst of Times II

  1. chmjr2 says:

    Thank you for these postings. I find the letters fascinating I am glad that they are being digitized and saved by North Carolina. .

    • I am so glad too. I first found a handful of letters in a huge research document from a fellow researcher (Dan Olds of South Carolina) of the Poteet family. He has done an extraordinary amount of research for which I am truly grateful and I listed his link in the first blog on the Poteets. For some reason, one day I thought I would google Poteet Civil War letters and found the whole lot of them. I was shocked, surprised, and excited and shared the discovery with him. I try to google everyone and every area I research, which is how I first found Mr. Olds. You never know what you might find. This time really paid off. I too am truly grateful North Carolina is sharing these letters and I’m thankful to the family members who passed them on for years and whoever donated them to the state for all to share. I’m glad you’re enjoying their story.

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