1861: Henry Potts, Jr. to Friend “Emma”

This letter was written by Henry Potts, Jr. (1832-1881), of Pottstown, Montgomery county, Pennsylvania. Henry’s father — Henry Potts, Sr. (1787-1861) — was the Bank President in Pottstown. His mother was Isabella Potts (1799-1877). He had at least three siblings — Isabelle (“Bell”), George Hitner (1838-1921), and Sarah (“Sally,” 1820-1906).

Henry first enlisted for three months in Co. F, 25th PA Infantry (the “Lochiel Grays”) where he served as a sergeant. Five of the companies only saw garrison duty in Washington D. C.  Companies D, F,G, I and K were marched to Rockville, Maryland, in late June 1861. They reported at Poolesville on July 1, and moved to Sandy Hook, opposite Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, where they were attached to Stone’s 7th Brigade, Sanford’s 3rd Division, Patterson’s Army. They were then marched to Martinsburg on July 6-8, advanced to Bunker Hill July 15, and in camp at Harper’s Ferry from July 17-23. They were then mustered out on August 1, 1861 after three months service.

In 1863, when Henry registered for the draft, he identified himself as a 30 year-old iron manufacturer, still single, and that his place of birth was Montgomery county, Pennsylvania. He was, in fact, the leading member of the firm, Potts Bros. Iron Manufacturers. In 19 June 1863, Henry re-enlisted, serving as a 1st Lt. of Co. F, 26th Pennsylvania — state troops raised to meet the confederate invasion. His service ended on 30 July 1863.

Sometime prior to 1870, Henry married Mrs. Rosa Virginia Moore. He suffered from chronic malaria.


The 25th Pennsylvania were quartered “immediately opposite” the U.S. Arsenal (bottom) on the banks of the Potomac river south of the U. S. Capitol in early June 1861


Quarters Lochiel Grays
Co. F, 25th Regiment Pa. Vols.
Washington D. C.
June 5, 1861

Your reply, friend Emma, to my note of Camp Curtin reached me a few days since and I gladly embrace the first leisure afforded in giving a short account of our doings at the Capitol presuming it may bear perusal but not close criticizing.

We left Camp Curtain on the 17th of last month by N. C. R. R. [Northern Central Rail Road] with one thousand men from Michigan and reached Baltimore at 5 o’clock AM, which city we marched through bearing aloft the Stars & Stripes without any interference, and reached the depot where we took cars for Washington, arriving here at 10 o’clock that evening. We have the credit, I believe, of being the first party (“Lochiel Grays”) that carried the National Flag through Baltimore which is something I think to be proud of.  We saw numerous troops along our route by whom we were much cheered.

Since our arrival here, we have been pretty busy in endeavoring to become accustomed to the duties necessary to our occupation (profession or what ever name by which it may be known) tho’ have not as yet had an opportunity to try how perfect we have become in the use of Fire Arms in active service — tho’ expect to soon show ‘ere long. Several times we have got all our baggage etc. in readiness to march at a moments notice but were disappointed — not that we are so keen for bloodshed, but it will sound queer to know of our not being in any engagement before our term of service shall have transpired.

We have a very pleasant company. Are quartered in Com. Rodgers row immediately opposite the arsenal with a fine lawn running down to the beautiful Potomac in front of the door. This with magnificent scenery and plenty of room as we have a three-story mansion makes our quarters quite pleasant, which compares favorably with any I have heard of. Troops are quartered thro’ the city and opposite at Arlington Heights and down the river to Alexandria. The rumor says [we] are to be sent across the river in a few days but are not certain — and as we will have nothing to do there and will have to camp out, our present quarters are preferable.

I have received several letters from Em Potts since my departure from home who says the Boro is quite dull. I am sorry indeed that I was not home when you were in Pottstown, tho’ I am glad to hear you had so pleasant a time. It would have given me much pleasure to have driven you over the old familiar roads with Fanny, tho’ trust I may yet have an opportunity to do so as the war will not last forever and there is of course a possibility of the subscriber’s escaping a mortal wound — tho’ a soldier’s errand is a very uncertain one. Col. [Henry L.] Cake is our Col. and ____ __,  Jas. H. Campbell our Major. So it is pretty much of a Pottsville regiment.

Lew [Louis J.]  Martin of ____town is Lieut. in one of the companies [Co. D] whilst [Edmund] McDonald is Captain for both Pottstown companies. I frequently see M. Richards who is with us [in Co. D].

I fear I am trespassing on your patience too much so must cease writing. I am obliged to scratch with a pencil having no pen and ink. Trust this will be committed to the flames at once. The lines written by W. L. W. are good and for which he has my thanks. I do not know what reply to make to your query as to whether I have thought of the matter you referred to at Warrick. Please be more explicit.

We have had rain all yesterday & today. I may get home for a day on Monday next but am not certain so please say nothing about it as I do not want the folks at home to know of my intention.

Adieu friend Emma and believe me your sincere friend, — Henry

Do you think of getting to Washington very soon? Care [of] Capt. H. McCormick. 25 Regt. Co F, Washington D C

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