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Duane C. Potter Papers, 10 September 1863-30 May 1866
Forty-three manuscripts, 10 September 1863, 4 September 1864-30 May 1866, document the service of Duane C. Potter of the First New York Engineers, Co. A, stationed in the Beaufort area. Most of the letters were written by Potter to his wife, Maria, in Unadilla, Ortego County, N.Y. Potter joined the company at Hilton Head in September 1864 and remained with them through June 1865. During the nine months Potter was in the South, he was either at Hilton Head Island or Savannah. His company's "bisiness," he related, was "working on Forts and building bridges and throwing up breast works and so forth[.] No gaird or picket duty to do" (9 October 1864).

In December Potter's company moved in the direction of Savannah, Ga. On the fourteenth he told Maria, "General Sherman is reported as being at Savannah and...is trying for the railroad running from Savannah [to] Charleston if they git the railroad the rebs will be badly pined the Engineers have been engaged building docks and repairing roads and building bridges and horse stables and many other things." Potter also wrote, "You spoke about my sending my picture home I can not at present as there is no one that can take them here."

Potter was back on Hilton Head in early January 1865 but soon was moving again, this time to Port Royal. His letter of 20 January notes, "oure Co is...in a grand place where we can get oisteres by the shipe loads we have some grande stews harde tack and oisters make a grande dish for a soldier I can tell you I wish you coulde see what great beds of them there is here some covering one half acker of grounde...Sherman is moving torde Charlestown...as faste as posible he proves to be a Teror to the rebs...Shermans armey...burne everey thing they come to." Six days later he reported, "we have got oure pontoon bridge layed so all we have to do a[t] presente is guarde it which is an esey job for 100 men it is for Shermans traines to cross frome beauforte on torde Charlestown he will probley seige that plase imediatley...when Charlestown falles the backe bone is brok the rebs are virtuley whiped all readey."

Potter went on to Savannah in early February, where he worked in the cook house. He stayed there several months, during which time smallpox was "all arounde here I have been vaxinated twise since I came here...it rages worste amongst the Negros" (15 March). His April 1865 letters reveal that his captain was going to the Union flag raising ceremony in Charleston and that everyone was celebrating for "the Ware is at an end and the time is not far distante when Peace and happiness will be restored." Potter spent the next two months talking about being mustered out, speculating where and when. In the last war letter, he writes, "the talk is now that we leave here [Hilton Head Island] on Monday the 26 for NY our Muster oute papers are made oute" (23 June). The final two letters in the collection are from two brothers regarding family matters (15 April and 30 May 1866).

Potter's letters reflect a man who didn't gamble, play cards, or indulge in other vices; while some of his comrades had "lots of fun Talking to the Darkeys and wenches", Potter told his wife several times that he was remaining faithful to her and to God (18 October 1864). The letters indicate that he remained healthy except for a cold once and that he actually gained thirty or more pounds. His service was spent quietly, as he admitted firing his "gun once since I have been Uncle Sams man and that was for feare my catriage woulde rust in" (25 February 1865). Every letter mentions money, either needing his wife to send him some or saying he would send her money as soon as he was paid; Potter never received his pay while in the South.

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