Military Monday: It Was the Worst of Times III

Francis Poteet sent two more letters home to his wife Martha during November 1863.  The first seems slightly more upbeat than before, and Francis addresses his children, telling them to be good and help their mother and that he thinks more of her than anyone else in the world:

“Kinston N.C. Nov 12th 1863

“My Dear Wife and Children I seat my self  this morning to drop you afew lines to let  you now that I am well at this time  hoping these lines may Reach your kind  hands and find you injoying the same  Blessing I Want you to send me sum tobaco  I Rote to Higgins and Sent him word  to doo All that he could and I would pay  him Paid to send me sum tobacco and send  me sum unions sum pork if you had it and  Bake Me sum cakes you now what to  send as Well as I can tell you you dont  now how bad that I want to see you  and My littel Babes I had to stand  gard last night and I hav got the Trimbles  so bad that I cant Hardly Rite I sent you  A ring by Pery Walker that I Made I Want  you to take care of hit till I come home I  Want to see it Again My Dear Wife I want  you to hug and kiss to my littel Children  for me and tell them that I told you to  Doo so for me and I will Doo any thing


Courtesy of the NC Dept of Cultural Resources

“for you that you send word for me to do  if it bee your will for me to Doo it I  want you to Rest easy ABout that that I  Rote to you In the third letter for I never  expect to doo so any More as long as I live  I have shed many ateare sence that time I Rote to  you that if you would forgive me I think  that the Lord will for give me I sent 15 Dollars  By Pery Walker I have forgot whether I Rote  to you whether H.H. Taylor was gon are not  I want you to Read them juste  A few lines to littel Children Mary  Bee good to your Mother and Doo all for me that  She tell you to Doo for I dont think  that she will tell you more than you can  Doo Thomas and Elvizs Bee goo boys and  help your Mother I think more of her than  every body Els in this World May God  bless and save you all is my prayer for  Christ sake I want you to Rite soon when you  git this letter   Francis. M. Poteet to his loving Wife M. A. E. Poteet”

Ten days later, Francis writes home again, apparently responding to a missing letter in which Martha had told him not to run away.  He tells her she doesn’t know hard times.  He is not feeling well and laments that he cannot go where he pleases, not having “the chance of anegro.”  This comment on race from a common man in North Carolina, and an ancestor, was not lost on me.  I wonder if he must be speaking of the free families of color that lived in the Bracket Town area near the Wadkins and Poteet families in the 1850 and 1860 censuses, and not those yet enslaved despite the Emancipation Proclamation which officially went into effect 1 January 1863.   Finally Francis tells Martha he hopes for peace and doesn’t care how it comes:

“Kinston N. C. Nove 22the 1863


Courtesy of the NC Dept of Cultural Resources

“My Dear Wife and Children I seat my self  this Blesed sabath morning to Rite you afew  lines to let you now that I am only tolarabel  well I hav got A very Bad Cold and A very  Bad Cough My Dear Wife I cant tell how  mutch I would give to be at home this morn  ing to go With you to Preachin and stay With  you as long as I live I youst to Read my  Bible till I got tired and then I could talk  With you and go where I Pleased but now  I hant got the chance of anegro you Rote  to me to not Runaway you dont now nothing  About hard times I hant got no letter in  two weeks and it seems to me that it  has bin two months sense I hav heard from  you I cant stay hear if the lord spares  me I will come home the artilery shot  of 16 canons friday morning Sum of thim  Said tha hadant never herd the like sense  tha had bin out sum of them sayes that  tha think that tha will be Peace in A  short time the lord nows I dont I am  in hops that tha will be peace and


Courtesy of the NC Dept of Cultural Resources

“I dont care how it comes it I hav  bin so in my hips that I hardly could go  I went to the doctor to git excused but he  would not excuse me and I said that I never  would go to him any more that I would go  as long as I can and when I cant go no  longer I will lay down any plase I only have  one time to Dy I want you to pray for  me day and night to I have my health to git  home once more and see you I hope the lord  will bless you all and save you if I nown  that I had to stay in the army till the  war ended I would as soon be Ded and I  would any how if it wasant for you and my  littel Children I cant see any peace hear  tell mother that I live in hops that I will  see her once more in this life and I hope  she will live that I may see her O my  Dear wife and children I cant see how to  Rite for my teares I want you to kiss  my littel babes for me and tell them  how it tis for I want you to Rite soon I  must close by say I remain your loving husband  until Death  F.M. Poteet to M. A. E. Poteet  so farwell”

Unfortunately, things were about to get much worse for Francis, Martha and their family within days of this letter. Francis’s perception that Martha didn’t know hard times was quite wrong.  Join me next Monday for their continuing story.


4 thoughts on “Military Monday: It Was the Worst of Times III

  1. Jan says:

    Meagan, I’m pretty sure that he was referring to the slave negroes and not the free men of color. It was a common complaint among the troops during the civil war—that their movements were more restricted than the slaves were.

    OK, give me a hint! Does he ever get over his extreme homesickness?

    • Do you think he does Jan??

      • Jan says:

        Okay, I was trying to be nice, but the truth is that I don’t care for this fella very much. He is completely self-absorbed and thinks only of himself. He seems to show only a perfunctory interest in how his family is getting along back home., and wants all the attention focused on himself and his own perceived sufferings. Very narcissistic. I just want to give him a good swift kick in the pants and tell him to man up!

        Okay, sorry, rant over!

      • Don’t hold back. Tell us how you really feel! Tell you the truth, much as I love the South, the Yankee in me had a hard time liking any Confederate ancestor at first. Once I dealt with things from a historical perspective, I just try to put myself in each person’s shoes to the best degree I can and understand the choices they made. It is difficult for me to read the things they went through-like what’s coming up next, and I sometimes debate how much to share my own mixed feelings as I research. Of course, we’ll never know why they felt as they did completely. I like to think part of his longing for home was missing his wife and children and worrying about them. You know how awful some men can still be at expressing themselves, considering the times, he probably thought he was doing well. I think we are missing letters from Martha to him as well in which she was wavering back and forth asking him to desert or maybe giving him a hard time about being gone because he mentions this several times. I will give you a little hint. A big change is coming for the Poteets. I can’t know for sure, but I think this change, God, his mother, or all 3 forced him to “man up” and realize his wife needed him to be stronger. The tone of his letters changes eventually. Does that help you like him any better?

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