We don’t know if other men went with him or not, but Francis Poteet must have finally figured out how to cross the bridge or gotten up enough courage to go for it because according to Dan Olds’ records, Francis deserted on 1 December 1863. It’s possible he received a letter from Martha indicating how ill their youngest child was and decided he didn’t have time to wait for a furlough. According to the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources site which has digitized and transcribed Francis and Martha’s letters, their child eventually died and Poteet voluntarily returned to his regiment. From the sounds of Martha’s first letter, this could have been because the Raleigh guard was out looking for deserters. His next several letters come from jail.
The tables seem to have turned in these letters. Martha seems desparate, having lost their child and possibly their home, and considering the dire circumstances they are in. Seeing Francis seems to have made it more difficult to be parted again. Francis, on the other hand, having deserted, mentions the guards must read everything they write to each other, so he keeps his letters short, which has the effect of making them more bearable.
“N C Mcdowell County 1864 thursday January the 7
“My Dear husband I now seat my self to write you a few lines to let you know we are not well the children is sick with bad colds and I haint seen a well day since you left I have had a very bad head ache ever sens last Sunday but I do hope and pray this will find you in good health the Raleigh gard never come back no moor I wish you could hav staid with me Mr Walker and Johnathan kiled my hogs the day after you left I cant get the William house he is a going to move to it and I dont know what to do Bill Cowen come hear a teusday and told me to get out as soon as I could and what I am to do I dont know one of the sheep is at Baty Grasons I hav got one at home and I got the cows home last teusday Thomas found them at Johnathan Taylors you thought it was cold when you was hear but it was nothing the 1 & 2 days of this Month was the coldest I ever felt and it much warmer yet I dont believe we hav had but two clear days sins you left Pery Walker sed you had Washs gloves blanket and to send them to him I want you to tell him if he was as willing for other people to hav there oune as he was for Wash to hav his I would got my ring in the place of some one els he talked like you had stold the Blanket and gloves
“I want you to talk to the captain and know if they cant put me out if they cant I wont leav you can tell him how it is if I hav to moove I will sell the Mar and Cows and live while the corn and meat last for I dont see how I am to get along with no one to help me I hav to pay tax on the cows I want to know what they don with you for runing away the men about hear says you will hav to come home in Companys before peace will be mad and they say they wish you all would come and says if the war dont stop the people will perish they are enroling them from 18 to 55 and what are we to do if you all dont come home O my dear husband you dont know how lonsom I am sins you left I dread to see Night come O I do hope and pray that the Lord will spar our lives to see each other in peace Once moor O Lord be with my dear husband and bless him for I cant be with him O Francis it dos seem like it will kill me to be parted from you with no one to protect me and your little helpless children I pray the Lord to save your sole and body fom harm if I never see you no moor I want you to write soon I am so cold I must quit May the Lord bless and save you is my prayer for Christ sake
“Martha A. E. Poteet to my loving husband Francis M. Poteet farwell my love till we meet again”
“January 12 1864 Weldon NC
“My Dear Wife and Children I take the pleasure to drop you a few 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 Rite to me as soon as this comes to hand you Rite tha have to Read the letters that I git from you and Read my letters I want you to Rite to me whether tha have taken ashville are not I could not git to come Back I want you to Rite to me whether you have got your hogs
“killed are not I am in the gard house and I dont now when I will git out I hope that god will Bless you and my littel Children and give you plenty to eat as long as you live Dyrect to NC Weldon gard House in care of the prov Marchel ofis I could [Provost Marshal’s Office] not Rite till now and I doo hope that you may git this letter and hear from me and hear that I am well if it can Reach you and find you all well I would be glad I must come to A close by saying that I remain your loving Husband until death F. M. Poteet to M. A. E. Poteet god bless you”
Join me again next week as we continue following Francis and Martha through the Civil War.