CAPTAIN HENRY ALBERT POTTER

 

 

CAPTAIN HENRY ALBERT POTTER’S DIARY

 

and

“CAPTAIN SIMMONS’ BOOK”

Captain Henry Albert Potter 4th Michigan Cavalry

A mystery unraveled and the author “found.”

 

 

 

Reed's Bridge           September 18th 1863

 

Henry Albert Potter, was born April 6, 1840 in Starkey, Yates County, New York the son of Edward Coke Potter, a descendent of Rhode Island colonial settlers, and Sophia Welter the daughter of a German family from New Jersey. While Potter was still a youngster, Edward took his family and joined other settlers from Yates County who moved to Ovid, Michigan where he cleared land and began farming. Henry was a school teacher in Ovid when he decided to join the Fourth Michigan Cavalry.  Potter joined the Fourth Michigan Cavalry July 28, 1862 as a sergeant in Company B. The first spectacle the brigade was treated to was the body laden field after the battle of Perryville, KY which brought some reality to the young men going off to "face the elephant" as being in a battle was termed by the soldiers. His first major battle was Stones River at Murfreesboro, TN which was followed by the defeat of Bragg at Tullahoma, TN. Potter was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant in Company E at this point. One month later he was promoted to 1st Lieutenant and transferred to Company H, where he spent the rest of his service time. On August 8, 1863 Henry was promoted for the last time to Captain of Company H. This promotion came just two weeks before Minty’s brigade joined General Judson Kilpatrick in his famous raid to Lovejoy station behind Confederate lines at Atlanta. During this raid Kilpatrick and his men at one point found themselves surrounded and Kilpatrick called on Minty’s brigade to make one of their trademark saber charges. The charge blew a large hole in the Confederate lines and allowed Kilpatrick to escape intact from the encirclement. His last tour was from Gravelly Springs, Alabama, to the battle at Selma where the Union defeated Forrest. The brigade continued into Macon, Georgia and finally was involved in the capture of Jefferson Davis at Irwinsville, Georgia. The regiment was mustered out in July of 1865. After the war, Henry married Kate Gardner whom he had met on a trip to Yates County visiting relatives and became a merchant in Ovid. At one time part owner of a saw-mill and, later, on the board of directors of the bank in Ovid, Henry was a member of the GAR in Michigan. Henry died in New York on July 1, 1935 at the age of 95. Henry played the piano and used to entertain my mother’s beaus (much to her chagrin) by entrancing them with his Civil War stories.

Amongst Henry Albert Potter’s Civil War diaries, letters and regimental documents which were left to my mother by her mother, Bertha (Potter) Palmer, who was Henry Albert Potter’s daughter, was a book my mother called “Captain Simmons’ Book.” I mistook it initially as something Henry Albert Potter had acquired from someone else. I was principally interested in Potter’s view of the war, and filed it away as an interesting account but not part of Potter’s diary. Upon the flyleaf of this book appeared written either “Capt. W. P. Simmons” or “P J Simmons” [my mother seemed to have not been sure]. My mother transcribed my great grandfather’s diary and letters and the “Captain Simmons Book” and sent these transcriptions to me when I moved to Tennessee in 1994. She then donated the originals to the Michigan State Archives in Lansing.

Some years after my mother’s death, I enlisted a fellow researcher whose ancestor fought with the 4th US Regular Cavalry to help me unravel who Captain Simmons was. The 4th Regular Cavalry was attached, along with Captain Potter’s 4th Michigan Cavalry, to Robert Minty’s “Sabre Brigade”[1] which also included the 7th Pennsylvania Cavalry. This researcher had access to the state archives in Lansing and he kindly consented to go and look at the original “Captain Simmons” book among Potter’s things. After looking at the book, his conclusion was that perhaps the blank book had belonged to somebody named “Captain Simmons” but the writing was that of Potter. At that point I took out my mother’s transcription of “Captain Simmons” book and looked at it more closely. With help from a member of my family who was a genealogist, I had compiled the genealogy of Potter’s ancestors back to 1630 Rhode Island and I was much better prepared to understand Potter’s references to personal friends and family. In addition, I had read several books relating the history of the cavalry in the Western Theater and Minty’s Cavalry in particular. The “Captain Simmons” entry for September 12th 1863 removed all doubt as to who authored the diary. That entry told of an old man who talked to the diary author. The old man had come to Tennessee when he was young and, as the diary went on to explain, “as a missionary to the Cherokees from New Jersey – Morris County, my mother’s birthplace – his name is Vale.” Since Sophia (Welter) Potter, Potter’s mother, was born at Schooley’s Mountain, Morris County, New Jersey, the diary had revealed that the author was, indeed, Potter. Several more personal references solidified the discovery and I decided to publish it for others to read.

The regular diaries kept by Henry Albert Potter overlap the first part of the “Simmons” book and because this overlap of dates implied the Simmons book was done by someone else I  put it aside. Potter was, at the time of the battle of Chickamauga, a Lieutenant in Company “H” in the 4th Michigan. Apparently on September 12th 1863, Potter realized that his regiment would more than likely be involved in a major battle. Perhaps Potter decided to write more in depth concerning the action than the terse entries he normally made in his diary. On September 12th, Potter received notice that Minty’s three regiments were to be reunited again which meant the Sabre Brigade would be together as a unit for the coming battle. Another factor possibly involved was the fact that previously, during the Battle of Stones River near Murfreesboro, Tennessee, the only other major battle Potter had taken part in, his diary had been destroyed when the rebel cavalry had burned several 4th Michigan Cavalry support wagons. Perhaps Potter did not wish a repeat of that incident and decided to keep his account of the battle on him as he rode about. At the end of the “Simmons” book are two notes, signed by Potter, the first note states: “This memorandum was nearly spoiled by getting wet in a darned rainstorm – but I got wetter than the book did.” The second note states: “Take good care of this book as it contains the act of the battle of Chickamauga and Wheeler’s raid.”

I have included the duplicate entries made in Potter’s diary along side Potter’s “Simmons” book entries so the reader can see the change in Potter’s approach to writing his diary on the eve of the big battle. Potter’s entries in his small leather diary stopped on September 12, 1863, and there followed some pages of financial information. Normal dated entries in the leather diary do not resume again until November 10, 1863.

 Lieutenant Henry Albert Potter was in the unique position of being in charge of three courier stations just before the battle of Chickamauga. He had access to the dispatches going back and forth from the various divisions moving towards Bragg’s Confederate Army, which was concentrated just outside of Chattanooga. The Battle of Chickamauga turned out to be a major defeat of General Rosecrans’ Army of the Cumberland. This helps make Potter’s perspective more interesting to read for a Chickamauga researcher. Chickamauga was a serious Union defeat, but it could have been much worse. As we shall see, Lieutenant Potter and his fellow cavalrymen of the Sabre Brigade played a large part in mitigating what could have been the surrender of an entire Union Army. General Rosecrans was also helped by Bragg’s reticence to follow up his victory: in spite of much vehement urging by his subordinates, Bragg did not press Rosecrans during the Union forces' disorderly retreat back to Chattanooga.

Bragg was content to establish a siege line on Missionary Ridge overlooking Chattanooga. Bragg then sent Longstreet north to battle Burnside at Knoxville. This action weakened the Confederate forces along the siege line, especially around Lookout Mountain adjacent to Missionary Ridge where Longstreet had been positioned. The stage was now set for the disastrous Confederate defeat on Missionary Ridge, which ultimately led to the fall of Atlanta.

On the eve of the battle of Chickamauga, Minty’s cavalry was stationed directly in the path of Brigadier General Bushrod Johnson's Confederate division comprised of Gregg’s and McNair’s infantry brigades. In the early morning of September 18th, Johnson moved the troops of his division towards Reed’s bridge accompanied by Scott’s Brigade from Forrest’s Confederate Cavalry Corps and Robertson’s Texas Brigade, which had just arrived into Ringgold. That advance on the Union flank was the opening move of Bragg’s attempt to cut Rosecrans’ Union Army off from Chattanooga.

 Lieutenant Potter’s account of the actions taken by Minty’s cavalry brigade makes for interesting reading. We can see the perspective of a soldier on the field who is carrying out orders without knowing how these orders fit into the overall strategy of the Generals and what effect the actions of his unit had on the outcome of the battle. In the following I have incorporated some of my own information concerning the battle along with Potter's Diary and Minty's Report of the battle as given in the Michigan Red Book account of the history of the Fourth Michigan Cavalry. The italics and information inside [brackets]are my interpretations from reading. In this manner various sources report the same day's action from different perspectives.


 

The Fourth Michigan Cavalry at the Battle of Chattanooga[2]

 

The Battle becomes inevitable: General Rosecrans moved towards Chattanooga from Tullahoma, Tennessee with 60,000 Union troops. General Burnside had 20,000 Union troops in Kingston, Tennessee west of Knoxville. General Bragg had 37,000 Confederate troops in Chattanooga and its surrounding area. The Confederates and the Union each had 12,000 cavalrymen at their disposition. On the August 29th 1863 Rosecrans’ Union forces began to move across the Tennessee River in force south of Chattanooga threatening to cut off Bragg from his supplies. By September 8th the Union Army was across the Tennessee. Belatedly, Bragg moved the Confederate Army south to face the threat posed by Rosecrans. Faced with the potential loss of his supply lines, Bragg withdrew his troops from Chattanooga which allowed the Union troops to enter the town. Bragg then began to concentrate his forces opposite Rosecrans to the south of Chattanooga.

Minty’s brigade positions: In August Minty’s Sabre Brigade had been sent out to demonstrate north of Chattanooga in a plan to convince Bragg that Rosecrans’ Union Army was heading north of Chattanooga. Meanwhile, Rosecrans was crossing the Tennessee River south of Chattanooga. This ruse worked initially as Bragg had placed most of his troops in anticipation of an attack to the north. On September 1st Minty ordered the 4th Michigan to setup a courier line to the north between Rosecrans and Burnsides. On September 2nd Minty reported that Confederate troops opposing Union General Burnside were leaving the Kingston area and heading south towards Chattanooga. While the 7th Pennsylvania and the 4th US Regulars were on reconnaissance, the 4th Michigan Cavalry was on courier duty between Chattanooga and Rosecrans’ headquarters until the 14th of September when Minty's brigade was reformed to march as a unit.

 

[ For each date below two entries written by Lt. Henry Albert Potter are given: the first made in his leather diary and the second made in the so-called  “Simmons” book.][3]

POTTER’S LEATHER DIARY: September 9, Wednes. We were ordered to Maj. Gen. Palmer this morning – overtook him about 9 miles from Chattanooga – followed him into town – all evacuated.

“SIMMONS” BOOK: Wednesday September 9th, 1863

Encamped in Lookout Valley as Escort and couriers for Gen’l Crittenden Comd’g 21st Am Corps. Gen. Rosecrans & staff here yesterday from Trenton, Va. [Valley]. The General looks and dresses very plain. Linen coat and slouch hat. Appears to be satisfied with what he is doing – if one can judge from his countenance.

Brig. Gen. Garfield, chief of staff is a fine-looking officer – wears regulation hat – decidedly military.

Official information has been received that Chattanooga is surely evacuated – the Plan works well – The heavy movement on our right has hurried Bragg out for fear of being trapped and I would not be surprised if we cut off a part of his force near Rome – Gen’l Wood is in the advance up Trenton [?Valley] about 9 miles from Chattanooga.

Wednesday 8 am Sept 9, 1863

Received orders for our Batt to report to General Palmer in Trenton Valley – overtook him about 9 miles from Chattanooga – very warm & dusty – moved on into town, reached there about moon. Wood ahead of us – with a part of Wilder’s force – everything cleaned out – the last Confederates left this morning, an hour before we entered. The citizens say Bragg had 45,000 troops there. The place is very much scattered, nice depot & engine house, rolling stock all gone, citizens nearly all in the mountains to avoid the shells- they will be back in a day or two.

Saw several buildings near the river which Wilder had shelled. The “Rebel” office was evacuated about the 1st – the patriotic editor had done gone & set up at Marrietta, Ga. – Found an issue of the 3rd from that place – the Stars and Stripes are floating from the principal fort. – didn’t see anyone in the ditches, conclude that the “last ditch” is now located at Atlanta or near there – two worthless steamers are lying in the river – watered our horses and moved out on the Dalton road to Rossville Ga. 4 ½ miles form town and encamped for the night – good water & feed.

 

DIARY: Sept 10 Thurs. very warm-dusty - camped last night 4 miles south of Chattanooga at Rossville GA moved on this morning 4 ½ miles farther & established a courier line – H Co. runs the three 1st posts no. 1, 2, 3, Gen. Wood done our picketing.

BOOK: Thursday September 10th 1863

Have received orders to establish a line of couriers from Chattanooga to the front – left 8 men of “H” company at Rossville and moved on 4 ½ miles farther to a creek where Capt. Abeel [4th MI Cav Co. H] ordered me to remain with the rest of the company. Gen. Palmer’s division & Van Cleve are ahead – report that the enemy are close ahead of them. 63 of Palmer’s advance were gobbled today by Rebel Cavalry. Report says that three companies of the enemy’s cavalry are cut off by our forces and two divisions of infantry – deserters are coming in hourly by squads - dispatches are passing to and fro rapidly – Rosecrans is at Chattanooga – Crittenden moved to the front today – Wood’s Division also passed about sundown & encamped across the river. The whole corps is now in front. I did not have my horses saddled thro’ the night as Gen. Wood’s pickets covered me.

 

DIARY: Sept. 11, Friday. Dispatches going to & fro all night – 63 of our forces captured yesterday – advance guard of Gen. Palmer – also two of Crittenden’s escort this morning – rebel cav’l’y patrolling on all sides of us.

BOOK: Friday September 11th 1863

Warm – dry –dusty – all quiet last night- Couriers report the enemy in line of battle six miles from here. This would be two miles from Ringgold on the RR to Atlanta – we have probably cut off a considerable force of the enemy. A fight today is more than likely – 20 Rebel Prisoners were just sent in.  Two of Crittenden’s escort last night were gobbled by cavalry in our rear & to the right – the inhabitants here are poor and ignorant a set as anyone ever saw. Destitute – a regular set of Goubers. I will take the next dispatch towards town - 12 m. no dispatches yet.  Could hear cannonading in front and also to the right of us – By courier we learn that a regiment of Tenn. Rebels came into Chattanooga yesterday headed by their Colonel & gave themselves up. Report says they were 700 strong. That is encouraging, if true, for old Tennessee – a heavy train came in today from Bridgeport loaded with rations and forage – our rations run out today.

 

DIARY: Sept. 12, Satur. Hot & dry – a false alarm last night. No one hurt.

BOOK: Saturday September 12 1863

Had a false alarm last night. But happily it did not result in anything serious. Charles Broman [Charles Broman from Kent, Michigan. Died at Andersonville June 20, 1864] had brought dispatches here and was returning after dark. Wegal [Augustus Wegal from Kent Michigan, mustered out July 1, 1865] was bringing another one through at full speed & seeing Broman supposed he was a Rebel, halted him – no answer – halted him again – no reply- he fired at him. Broman not hearing any challenge at all – when he saw Wegal thought he was a “Confed” when he fired  he wheeled his horse and came rushing back saying he had been fired on by rebels – I had the men “saddle” immediately – but Wegal came up and the whole thing was explained. They are both good soldiers and can be trusted anywhere. Gen. Crittenden is at Ringgold at the RR nine miles from this place SE. They will advance today probably – the weather still continues hot & dry – the roads are a mire of dust suffocating to man and beast. An old man visited me this morning who came to this state 43 yrs ago from New Jersey – Morris County, my mother’s birthplace – his name is Vale – he appeared to be a fine old man. Lt. Carter [Lieutenant Julius M Carter from Ovid, Michigan, Potter’s home town] went thro’ last with a message for Crittenden from Rosecrans – our advance are skirmishing constantly with the enemy – by another courier I learn that our advance will fall back & the line of battle will be more in a southeasterly direction – Pegram’s forces are reported at or near Lafayette, the County Seat of Walker, Southwest from Ringgold. One of Rosecrans’ escort tells me the General Stanley was coming in Chattanooga at noon – also that there is now over 2000 deserters in town, mostly Tennesseans – they  are coming in constantly in squads of from 5 to 50 and 75 – one regiment headed by their colonel 700 strong gave themselves up in a body a few days ago. I also learn that the 1st Brigade is in Chattanooga- if so probably we will be relieved and sent to our regiment.

 


 

THE “SIMMONS BOOK” CONTINUES; THE DIARY STOPS.

 

Captain Henry Albert Potter’s diary of the Battle of Chickamauga and Wheeler’s Raid through Tennessee. 

[From September 13th 1863 until November 10th 1863, the “Simmons book” was used by Henry Albert Potter as his diary.]

 

The Battle of Chickamauga: Union General Rosecrans, commander of the Army of the Cumberland, arrived south of Chattanooga with 60,000 troops, while feinting north. His object was to establish his army between Bragg's Army in Chattanooga and Bragg’s Atlanta supply lines.

 

Minty’s Brigade Positions: On September 14th the Sabre Brigade was reassembled from its various assignments and told to report to Union General Thomas Crittendon. On September 15th Minty was sent across Reed’s Bridge into Pea Vine Valley on the road to Ringgold, Georgia. Minty discovered that Confederate infantry forces were growing in strength to the north on Rosecrans’ left flank. On September 16th Minty warned Crittendon, but Crittendon felt Minty was exaggerating the strength of the enemy forces accumulating at Ringgold. This was a critical report made by Minty for if the Confederates were able to flank Rosecrans and retrieve Chattanooga, the roles would have been reversed and Rosecrans would be cut off from his Federal supply lines from central Tennessee.

On September 17th Union Colonel Wilder and his mounted “Lightning Brigade” was moved to Alexander’s Bridge the next bridge crossing Chickamauga Creek south of Reed’s Bridge. Minty noted this move with approval. Wilder was a brave commander with good sense and Minty's right flank was now protected. Minty's Sabre Brigade and Wilder's Lightning Brigade had fought together before and each had confidence in the other. On the early morning of September 18th Minty reported that infantry was moving in force towards Minty's position from Ringgold.  Minty’s forward position in Pea Vine Valley quickly became untenable. By the noon Minty was forced back across Reed’s Bridge. Colonel Wilder at Alexander’s Bridge came under infantry attack but in smaller troop concentrations than those attacking Minty at Reed’s Bridge. Minty became concerned that his defense of Reed’s Bridge would cause Johnson to veer northwards to Dyer’s Bridge. Minty requested aid from Wilder. Wilder sent a regiment and 7 companies along with an artillery battalion to assist Minty. Minty stationed Wilder’s troops at Dyer’s Bridge and with Wilder protecting both Minty's left and right flanks Minty devoted his entire attention to delaying a Confederates crossing at Reed’s Bridge. Minty was able to keep Bushrod Johnson’s Confederate troops from crossing Reed’s bridge until 3:30 pm in the afternoon.

 

We now rejoin Potter a few days prior to Bushrod Johnson's attack at Reed's Bridge as he writes in the Simmons book :

 

 

MINTY'S REPORT [ Minty's Report excerpts are from Michigan Redbook] 

    “September 13th.-With the 4th U. S. cavalry, 4th Michigan cavalry, 7th Pennsylvania cavalry, and one section of the Chicago Board of Trade battery, I marched from Chattanooga, and reported to Major-Gen. Crittenden, commanding 21st army corps, at Gordon s Mill.

 

POTTER’S DIARY: Sunday September 13th 1863

Gen Crittendon, Gen. Palmer and Van Cleve were all moved from Ringgold towards Lafayette road – a company of the 13th Penn. were ordered to form a line from town to Crittendon – so there is a double line at present but [illegible] expect to be relieved today – Gen. Wood at Gordon’s Mill was skirmishing with the enemy nearly all day – I am writing this on a mattress that belonged to Col Cloud.[4] He has deserted his home leaving most of his furniture- nice mirror & marble-topped toilet table and stand… Heavy cannonading is distinctly heard beyond Gordon’s mill in the direction of Gen. Crittendon – a squad of 20 prisoners just went in from the front – captured last night – Col. Cloud’s residence is situated on an elevation of ground from which you can see the surrounding country for miles – the land is undulating & hilly – to the NE all timber as far as the eye can reach – the clearings are so small they cannot be seen – the soil is poor & light – too much yellow pine – deserters coming into our lines say the army is discouraged  & ready to give up. Gov. Harris of Tenn. has been making speeches to the Tenn. soldiers – but without any effect. They say they have been driven from their homes & now have nothing to fight for - they are deserting rapidly as an opportunity offers itself.

 

POTTER’S DIARY: Sunday Afternoon

I am seated in a Southern church as it might be called…a small frame building – you may form a pretty good idea of the institution of the place by inspecting the inside- in one corner are the pews of the “aristocracy” – i.e. the slave-holders – on the other side are the [steps?] for the common white [?] – while in a lean-to attached to the building on the side & opening from a separate door fitted up with rough bricks of pine is the negroes or slave’s place – three separate classes – Query: will there be a side door for the poor slaves to get into heaven.

 

 

MINTY'S REPORT

“September 14th .- Under orders from Major-Gen. Crittenden, I crossed Missionary Ridge into Lookout Valley.

 

POTTER’S DIARY: Monday September 14th, 1863

Our brigade come out last night & we were relieved from courier duty for the present – Came on nearly to Gordon’s Mill where we encamped for the night – the company are now cooking breakfast – Sunrise – moved out beyond the Mills about 3 miles laid there all day – at dusk we went on 3 or 4 miles and went into camp – probably went out to protect the infantry – no fighting today – the enemy are inclined to make a stand near here by present appearance.

 

MINTY"S REPORT 

    “September 15th .- Marched back to Gordon's Mill, where Gen. Crittenden ordered me to proceed to Pea Vine Valley, and encamped near Leet's Cross-roads. I crossed the Chickamauga at Reed's Bridge, and shortly before dark encamped on Pea Vine creek, near Peeler's Mill, and sent out scouts towards Grayville, Ringold, Leet's, and Rock Springs. Same night I reported to Major-General Crittenden the information brought by these parties, and in answer received a letter from Capt. Oldershaw, A. A. G., 21st army corps, of which the following is an extract: ‘The major-general commanding directs me to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of this date, informing him that Forrest is at Ringold, Longtreet at Dalton, Pegram at Leet's, and Buckner at Rock Springs; all this would indicate infantry, which the major-general cannot believe.’

[Minty although correct in reporting large infantry movements was not believed]

 

POTTER’S DIARY: Tuesday September 15th 1863
Moved back to Gordon’s Mills this morning – our infantry on the left has fell back to Chattanooga – about noon moved out on the Ringgold road to within five miles of that place – with the brigade camped for the night . Six of the enemies’ cavalry were seen on our right – Co “D” gave chase & captured one man and 3 horses – I with 20 men of my Co. was detailed to picket the road we came in on - at the Gap.

 

MINTY'S REPORT

    “September 16th – Strong scouting parties advanced towards me from Ringold and Leet's; they were promptly met, driven, and followed. At the same time my pickets on the Lafayette and Harrison road, which lies between Pea Vine Ridge and the Chickamauga, were attacked from towards Lafayette, thus threatening my communications via Reed's Bridge. I immediately
fell back to that road, thus securing the bridge, but at the same time I kept possession of the roads in Pea Vine Valley by picketing strongly. My scouts towards Leet's ran into the rebel infantry and lost one man shot through the head. This was promptly reported to Major-General Crittenden,
whose answer was the same as yesterday, viz: ‘Nothing but dismounted cavalry.’

POTTER’S DIARY: Wednesday September 16th 1863

 

No disturbances last night report says Pegram’s forces are at Ringgold. Our pickets in that direction were fired on of they fired on a squad of rebels – “To Horses” sounded and every man [illegible] his saddle – the teams were not loosened from the at all thro’ the night. Quite an excitement this morning - I was ordered to go to the bridge over the Chickamauga & see if it was destroyed – it was safe – our Battery is planted on a hill fronting the camp & the guns masked – we are waiting – ready for anything that may turn up – Rumor, that knowing individual, says our forces on the Right and Burnside on the left have swung around & formed a connection & that rebels are surrounded & must fight us – we will see – In afternoon moved back 2 miles and camped for the night.

 

Bragg having failed in his chances to attack Rosecrans forces while they were scattered, now had to face a unified Union Army. Bragg decided to attack the left, or north, flank of Rosecrans’ defenses and attempt to roll the Union line up from north to south cutting them off from Chattanooga. Confederate General Robert E. Lee in the east then decided to send General Longstreet from his Army of Northern Virginia to bolster Bragg’s inferior Confederate strength in front of the larger Union Army.

 

Prelude: Thursday September 17th 1863

MINTY'S REPORT

    “September 17th.-Slight skirmishing between my scouts and those of the enemy. The scout from Grayville reported that General Steadman's brigade of the reserve corps had passed through that place on a reconnoisance towards Ringold. On the return of my courier from Gordon's Mill he reported Col. Wilder's brigade of mounted infantry was encamped on the west side of the Chickamauga creek, at Alexander's Bridge, about two miles above me.

 

POTTER’S DIARY: Thursday September 17th 1863

As warm as ever – laid in camp – no news from the front – rumor that Burnside’s falling back.

 

 

Confederates on the move: Friday September 18th 1863

Click for Battle Map

The Battle of Chickamauga: Bragg moved his forces northward and decided to cross Chickamauga Creek at Reed’s Bridge in the hope that Rosecrans could be out flanked to the north. Minty’s Sabre Brigade comprised of the 4th Michigan, 7th Pennsylvania, and the 4th US Regular Army Cavalry regiments were stationed on Bragg’s side of Chickamauga creek to the east side of Reed’s Bridge towards Ringgold, Georgia in Pea Vine Valley. In the morning of September 18th a flanking move began as Confederate General Bushrod Johnson moved towards Reeds Bridge.  Johnson's manuever took all day to materialize as Johnson faced stubborn resistance from Minty and his troopers and artillery. Minty kept Johonson from crossing Reed’s Bridge until late afternoon. Minty’s determined stand consumed the whole day. After moving across Chickamauga Creek, the Confederate troops bedded down for the night. CSA General Longstreet arrived from Virginia late in the day along with CSA General Hood who was put in command of the right wing of Bragg’s Army facing Rosecrans left flank. The Union troops facing Hood were under command of General George Thomas. Under cover of night Rosecrans had been able to move Thomas and his troops north to prevent Bragg’s forces from cutting the Union Army off from its line of retreat back to Chattanooga.

 

Minty’s Brigade Positions: Minty had counted 13 to 15 stands of Regimental colors waving across a wide front as Bushrod Johnson’s Conferates emerged from the early morning fog and headed towards Minty’s position in Pea Vine Valley. At 11 am Minty asked and was given extra troops from Wilder’s Lightning Brigade to protect his left flank at Dyer’s Bridge. At 3 pm Minty’s brigade was forced back across Reed’s Bridge by the full onslaught of Bushrod Johnson’s division. At about 4:30 pm, after the Confederates had crossed Reed’s and Alexander’s bridges and began moving south, Minty ordered his brigade south to avoid being enveloped by the steadily increasing numbers of infantry flowing across Chickamauga Creek at Reed’s and Alexander’s Bridges. Minty continued to fight a rear guard action doing his best to slow the Confederate advance. Shortly after 4:30 pm Minty encountered Wilder a mile and a half north of Lee and Gordon’s Mills. Wilder ordered Minty to place his brigade facing the enemy to the right of Wilder’s position next to Hall’s ford to protect the Federal Army at Lee and Gordon’s Mills. At 2 am that night (September 18th), Minty’s troops were relieved from their position for rest and his troops set up a campsite near Lee and Gordon’s Mills.

MINTY'S REPORT 

"September 18th.-At 6 AM. I sent one hundred of the 4th U. 8. cava1ry towards Leet's, and one hundred from the 4th Michigan and 7th Pennsylvania towards Ringold. At about 7 A. M. couriers arrived from both scouts, with information that the enemy was advancing in force. I immediately strengthened my pickets on the Lafayette road, and moved forward with the 4th Michigan and one battalion of the 4th regulars and the section of artillery and took up a position on the eastern slope of Pea Vine Ridge, and despatched couriers to Major-General Granger at Rossville, Colonel Wilder at Alexander's Bridge, General Wood at Gordon's Mill, and Gen. Crittenden at Crawfish Springs. On this day the 4th Michigan lost eleven in killed and wounded and three as prisoners. The enemy, infantry in force with about 200 cavalry, advanced steadily, driving my skirmish line back to my position on the side of the ridge. The head of a column getting into good range I opened on them with the artillery, when they immediately deployed and advanced a strong skirmish line. At this moment I observed a heavy- column of dust moving from the direction of Graysville towards Dyers Ford; I sent a courier to Col. Wilder asking him to send a force to

hold the ford and cover my left, and sent my train across the creek. As the force from Grayville advanced I fell back until I arrived on the ground I had occupied in the morning. Here Colonel Miller, with two regiments and two mountain howitzers, reported to me from Col. Wilder's brigade. I directed Col. Miller to take possession of the ford, and again advanced and drove the rebel skirmish line over the ridge and back on their line of battle in the valley, where a force was in position, which I estimated at 7,000 men. Thirteen sets of regimental colors were visible.

“The rebel line advanced, and I was steadily driven back across the ridge. My only means of crossing the creek was Reed's Bridge, a narrow, frail structure, which was covered with loose boards and fence rails, and a bad ford about three hundred yards higher up. I masked my artillery behind some shrubs near the ford, leaving one battalion of the 4th regulars to support it, and ordering the remainder of  that regiment to cross the bridge, holding the 4th Michigan and 7th Pennsylvania in  line to cover the movement. Before the first squadron had time to cross the head of a rebel column carrying their arms at ‘right shoulder shift,’ and moving at the double quick, as steadily as if at drill, came through the gap not five hundred yards from the bridge. The artillery opening on them from an unexpected quarter evidently took them by surprise, and immediately checked their advance, again causing them to deploy. The 4th Michigan followed the 4th

regulars, and the 7th Pennsylvania the 4th Michigan. One squadron of the 4th regulars, under Lieut. Davis, most gallantly covering the crossing of the 7th Pennsylvania. One squadron of the 4th Michigan, under Lieut. Simpson, on picket on the Harrison road, was cut off by the rapid advance

of the enemy; they made a gallant resistance, and eventually swam the creek without the loss of a man. The artillery crossed the ford in safety, and I placed it in position to dispute the Cl"088ing of the bridge, from which Lieut. Davis's men had thrown most of the loose planking. Here I was

800n hotly engaged and was holding the rebels in check, when I received a note from the officer in charge of my wagon train (which I had sent back to Gordon's Mill) stating ‘Col. Wilder has fallen back from Alexander's Bridge; he is retreating towards Gordon's Mills, and the enemy is crossing

the river in force at all points.’ I sent an order to Col. Miller to join me without delay; and on his arrival I fell back to Gordon's Mill, skirmishing with the enemy, who followed me closely. With less than 1,000 men, the old ‘first brigade’ had disputed the advance of 7,000 from 7 o'clock in the

morning until 5 o'clock in the evening, and during that time tell back only five miles. On arriving at Gordon's Mill my men were dismounted, and, with Col. Wilder's brigade and a brigade from Gen. Van Cleve's division, repulsed a heavy attack about 8 o'clock P. M. We lay in position all night

within hearing of the enemy and were without fires, although the night was bitterly cold. At break of day General Palmer's division relieved us. I then moved to the rear and procured forage for our horses and rations for the men, who had been entirely without since the previous morning.


 

POTTER’S DIARY Friday September 18th 1863 :

Cool and cloudy – autumn weather – Ordered to saddle up at 4 am expecting to move – but at 7 am Stable Call was blown – we unsaddled and fed our horses – at 10 am I was >>ordered to go out with my company under Captain Pritchard of “L” Co. and reinforce the 7th Penna – as word was sent in they were attacked by a heavy force of the enemy – before we were ready to move “Boots and Saddles” blew at Brigade Hdqrs – but H & L Co’s were in the advance when we came up, there was considerable skirmishing. I was ordered to move to the right to prevent a flank movement – moved down in the camp we occupied the first night - & farther on into a road where we had a view of the rebel line. They were in strong force – artillery was plainly visible in the road – a strong flanking party of the rebels moved to our right – when I was ordered to fall back as the 4th Regulars were on the Right – moved back & joined the Battalion – we then rode into a cornfield on our right & on a hill – to support our artillery. From that view I could see clouds of dust a heavy column coming towards  us on the left – our guns presently opened up on them – we were answered promptly by the rebels with four pieces – I could see them when they loaded, as soon as the smoke cleared away – order came to fall back – which we did – rejoined the regiment & moved through the woods – our skirmishers soon saw the rebels infantry – we dismounted half of the men and moved upon them – a smart skirmish ensued – but were obliged to fall back by overpowering numbers – formed in line again – again were driven back – passed thro’ our camp and past the “Regulars” – towards the river – which we succeeded in crossing without loss. Formed in a line to cover the retreat of the 4th [Regulars] presently crash! Came the artillery in the midst of us – a shell passed a few feet over my head & wounded one of my men seriously >>Chas Hall and two horses. We broke to the right under the cover of the woods – here Captain Pritchard was wounded in the arm by a shell – again we formed to fight on foot, sending the men towards & along the river – from the left where I was sent to watch for them I saw three separate lines of their infantry move from the left & swing around >>towards the bridge – I sent word to Major Gray to that effect & he moved the regiment back once more into a piece of woods skirmishing all the time. Wilders force was in our rear but Col. Minty received orders from Gen Wood to fall back to Gordons Mills which we did, by five o’clock. The enemy following us closely & firing in our rear – at dusk heavy skirmishing was heard on the road we came in on – we went out there – Our Regiment – to support the 59th Ohio & the 44th Indiana infantry. A sharp fight took place, the darkness putting an end to the day’s work – we remained as pickets during the night – the men suffered from cold & hunger not a mouthful since breakfast – such a cold night is seldom felt at home in Sept.

 

Full engagement: Saturday September 19th 1863

September 19th was the first full day of the Battle of Chickamauga with all troops engaged. Bragg comes at Rosecrans’ Army all along the front that had been established during the night.

 

Minty’s brigade positions: Breakfast at 7 am, their first meal in 26 hours. Minty reported to Rosecrans who ordered him to report to General George Thomas. Thomas had Minty report to General Gordon Granger commanding the reserve troops stationed near Rossville. Minty’s brigade spent the night on picket duty. At 2 pm Granger is ordered to reinforce General Thomas. Minty is ordered to the Ringgold Bridge (Red House Bridge) and there he meets Scott’s Confederate Cavalry. Minty drives Scott’s Confederates back across the bridge to the east side of Chickamauga Creek. Minty falls back to McAfee’s Church and camps for the night.

 

MINTY'S REPORT 

“September 19th.-Moved along the rear to the left to protect the trains moving into Chattanooga. Camped near Rossville.

 

POTTER’S DIARY: Saturday September 19th 1863

Clear and cold at daylight – the enemy having fallen back in the night – we moved back and fed our horses - & cooked some breakfast where I am now writing – True we fell back yesterday but were obliged to by superior numbers. The company done well with a few exceptions – Capt Abeel hurt his leg by running against a tree – his horse being unmanageable & for the time being I was in command to the Battalion. Heavy forces of infantry are moving towards Chattanooga this morning – 10am the rebels are working hard to cut our communications between here and Chattanooga. Heavy artillery and volleys of infantry can be heard continually on the road to Rossville & farther to our rear – Grangers Reserve Corps are at or near Rossville – The rebels were pressing hard upon him all day yesterday – we were lucky in making our retreat yesterday – the fight commenced about 9 am with artillery & musketry & continued to five pm with out cessation. Crittendon was engaged with his whole corps & parts of McCooks and Thomas’Corps – have not heard the result yet – we captured 3 pieces of artillery in the forenoon – at 12 M we were ordered to report to Gen Thomas at Rossville or near there – >>moved down there & went into camp – Major Mix arrived with 260 men which makes our regiment 400 strong – Got our mail tonight, rec’d three letters from Ovid – report says the rebels have been beaten back over a mile – we captured about 200.

 

 

General Thomas saves the Union Army: Sunday September 20th 1863

 

The Battle of Chickamauga: September 20th the second day. The Union troops were caught by CSA General Longstreet during redeployment which left a hole in the Union line into which Longstreet drove his Confederates thereby splitting the Union Army, the majority of whom fled to Chattanooga, leaving General Thomas on the battlefield to face Bragg's Confederate Army. General Thomas held firm throughout the day against everything Hood and Longstreet threw at him.

 

Minty’s Brigade Positions: At daybreak Minty learns that he is between the Confederate Army and the retreating Rosecrans who is now at Rossville. Minty reports this to General Thomas commanding the left flank. Thomas ordered Minty to protect him so he could establish his defenses. Minty’s troops are sent forward and encounter three brigades of Confederate cavalry: Scott’s, Pegram’s and Davidson’s. Minty fights a delaying action until 1 pm and at that point took a position on Missionary Ridge just north of General Thomas’ position.

 

MINTY'S REPORT 

    “September 20th.-Under orders from Major-General Granger, I marched to the ford at Missionary Mills, and sent strong patrols to Chickamauga Station and Graysville without meeting the enemy. Towards the afternoon I received orders from General Granger to take possession of the position then occupied by him on the Ringold and Rossville road. On arriving on the ground I found that General Granger had already marched to the assistance of General Thomas. Being anxious to know what was in front of me, I pushed forward towards Red House Bridge, and found Scott’s brigade of cavalry and mounted infantry, about 1,500 strong, moving into position on our side of the creek. I immediately attacked them, and after a spirited skirmish of about an hour's duration drove them across the creek, with considerable loss.

 

POTTER’S DIARY: Sunday September 20th 1863

Clear and cold last [night] a heavy frost. At 2 am orders came to draw five days rations and be ready to move at daylight. Major Mix takes command of the 3rd Batt. Capt. Abeel & Backus went to Chattanooga. The Brigade moved out on the Cleveland road – for what purpose I cannot say – rumor says Burnside is at that place – the battle is again commenced on our right. I should judge on the Ringgold road where Stedman was yesterday – heavy musketry in regular vollies – many a poor fellow lies weltering in his life-blood now – moved to a ford on the Cleveland road - left a strong picket there and then moved back & fed - fighting still continues on the right of us - After feeding went out on the Ringgold road – came upon a part of the enemy’s cavalry – had a smart skirmish in which Serg’t Trask of “G” was wounded. Hel the line until dusk – the rebels retreated & our Brigade fell back – the 4th Mich. came out on the Cleveland road for a picket – formed a line and built fires 20 rods. Got supper & went back to our horses & slept – a cold night.

 

Aftermath - Back in Chattanooga: September 21, 1863

Several factors saved the Union Army from a complete rout. It was a critical fight made by Minty on September 18th to hold up Johnson. Minty and Wilder stood firm all day thus preventing the Confederates from falling on the Union lines before Rosecrans had moved General Thomas to reinforce the left flank. Another major factor  was the stout defense put up by General Thomas who was able to fight the Confederate troops massed against him to a stand-still as the rest of the Union Army disintegrated. General Thomas was known from that point forward as “The Rock of Chickamauga.” Thomas’ action allowed the Union forces to regroup and set up a strong defensive perimeter around Chattanooga. Perhaps the most critical blunder was Bragg's, in not pursuing Rosecrans during his disorderly retreat into Chattanooga.

 

Minty’s Brigade Positions: In the afternoon of September 21, Minty was told by General Thomas that Thomas would be falling back to Chattanooga that night. Minty moved back to Rossville at 2 am in the morning (September 22) and formed a line to protect Thomas’ retreat into Chattanooga. General Thomas cautioned Minty to provide protective cover but not put his command in jeopardy. Thomas retreated successfully into Chattanooga.


MINTY'S REPORT 

"September 21st.-During the night General Thomas fell back to the heights of Missionary Ridge at Rossville, and this morning I found myself about two miles directly in front of his line of battle. The rebels advanced in three columD8 from the direction of Missionary Mil1s, Red House Bridge, and Dyer's Ford. I skirmished with their advance for a couple of hours, and then fell back to Rossville,' with a loss of one officer and seven men killed and one officer and thirteen men wounded. I was then ordered to the left to watch the movements of the enemy.

 

 

POTTER’S DIARY: Monday September 21st 1863

Stood in line from 4 o’clock until daylight- report says we were whipped on the right on account of getting short of ammunition & that Col. Wilder – Gen. Beatty & Gen Granger’s Adjt. Gen were killed – hope report will not prove true – no disturbance in front of us at Sunrise – moved over to the Ringgold road again, formed in line of battle on to right about noon. The rebels came up – we were ordered back & go up on the left. Rosecrans made a speech to the army telling them if they could hold out until night he would have 50,000 reinforcements – The rebels were promised by Bragg that they could stay in Chattanooga tonight. They are receiving accessions for their army from Virginia and from Johnston. I am fearful of the result – Heavy artillery fight this afternoon – towards night the rebels fell back – we camped 3 ½ miles from town.

  

Bragg slowly invests missionary ridge and Lookout Mountain overlooking Chattanooga setting up for a siege of the Army of the Cumberland below in Chattanooga.

 

Minty’s Brigade positions: Minty’s brigade dismounted and formed into a line during the early morning hours of September 21st. At midmorning the Confederate skirmishing lines begin to probe Minty’s position and Minty begins a retrograde fighting action until 7 pm when the brigade was able to remount and move about showing as large a footprint as possible until he finally withdrew into Chattanooga joining the rest of the Union Army. Before Minty’s troops had been in town an hour, they were mounted up at the orders of Union General Garfield to move out to Rossville and see what was out there. Having just spent the day fighting to cover Thomas' withdrawal from Rossville, Minty informed Garfield he already knew what was out there and that his brigade would be lost if he marched out towards Rossville. General Garfield then told him to report to General Thomas and make the reconnaissance anyway. When Minty told Thomas the brigade was headed out to Rossville to “discover the position of the enemy,” Thomas replied that Minty would do no such thing, and ordered Minty to send the brigade back into camp. When Minty returned after encamping his men, Thomas quizzed him about his observations during his retreat and then sent him back to rejoin his command thereby acquiring the information Garfield wanted without losing a brigade in the process. The brigade then manned the trenches in front of Thomas’ position for the rest of the night.

 

MINTY'S REPORT 

    "September 22d.-Under orders from Major-General Thomas, the 4th regulars moved during the night to Rossville and took possession of the gap vacated by our retiring infantry, At 6 A. M. I heard firing in the direction of Rossville; leaving strong pickets in the passes over the ridge I moved forward with the 7th Pennsylvania and 4th Michigan to support the 4th regulars, but found that Capt. McIntire had judiciously fallen back, the enemy having turned his flank by advancing on the road from Gordon's Mills. I retired to Chattanooga, skirmishing sharply.

 

 

 

POTTER’S DIARY: Tuesday September 22nd 1863

Not so cold as usual last night – slept well with Stone. 22nd Rec’d letter from Hotchkiss – Report says our Army fell back to town last night – I am fearful – our brigade is now in Chattanooga – nearly all the [illegible] is here – Capt May of the 7th Penn shot yesterday – was buried today – Artillery firing has commenced – two shells have been thrown into the town – Rosecrans is expecting reinforcements hourly – rations have been sent out to he men in line to the front & whiskey.

 

The president decides to reinforce Rosecrans at Chattanooga.

 

Minty’s brigade positions: in the aftermath of the battle and as the defenses were being constructed to protect the Union troops against an attack by Bragg, Minty’s brigade was unsaddled and put into the trenches. Potter and the rest were not too happy as is seen in Potter's next diary entry. On  the morning of the 23rd the brigade was pulled out of the trenches and once again mounted.

 

MINTY'S REPORT 

    “September 23d.-With the 3d Pennsylvania and 4th Michigan I worked in the trenches all night, and at 4 A. M. crossed the Tennessee river and encamped at Opossum creek, from whence I picketed the river from Washington to Sandy Shoals.

    “The loss in my brigade from the day I was detached from the division until I crossed the Tennessee river on the 24th was under 100 men, of whom only 15 were missing, and of those 15, 9 are known to be either killed or wounded; while during that time, in prisoners alone, I took from the enemy 439 men."


 

Wednesday September 23rd 1863

Unsaddled last night. No picketing to do – no disturbance thro’ the night – thousands of picks and spades were sent out to the front last night to dig entrenchments – the boys have worked hard no doubt – our horses are starving – no feed since day before yesterday – Orders this PM to dismount our Brigade and put them in trenches – don’t know what will come next – the boys take it cool – hope orders will be countermanded – down we went to the front to dig – were out until 2 am this morning – ordered back to our horses – so ended our digging.

 

 

WHEELER”S RAID ON THE UNION SUPPLY LINES

 

 

Since Bragg now held the railhead below Chattanooga, the only way that supplies could come into the Union troops bottled up in the town was by an overland route from Nashville. That route had to cross the Cumberland Plateau west of town. Bragg sent General Joseph Wheeler and his Confederate cavalry out to cut off these supplies. Union General George Crook commanding the First Cavalry Division which included Minty’s brigade was ordered by Rosecrans to stop Wheeler.

 

Thursday September 24th 1863

Boys tired and horses starving – our brigade moved out & crossed to the Tennessee – Lookout Mountain evacuated & the pass blown up last night. – Our artillery opened brisk and early – but soon quieted down as the rebels refused to answer. Expected attack today but was disappointed –we moved up the river nine (9) miles up the river to good feed and camped for the night – wrote home yesterday.

 

Union General Burnsides at Knoxville chastised for not obeying orders to help Rosecrans at Chickamauga.

 

Minty's Brigade Postitions: On September 23rd Minty remounted his brigade and reported to General Crook at what is now called Old Washington, Tennessee. On September 25th Reports were received that Confederate Cavalry General Wheeler, with 8000 horsemen in his command, was going to cross the river at Cotton Port on the Tennessee River and attack the Union supply lines. Minty was ready immediately to take on Wheeler while he was still crossing the river. Crook would only allow Minty to send one battalion[5] to Cotton Port over Minty’s objected wanting to send his brigade in force and stop Wheeler before he could get loose in Tennessee. A battalion (Companies H & F) of 4th Regulars went with Captain McCormick in command. McCormick reported back that the enemy had made a landing on the west bank of the river. Minty saddled his brigade in readiness and went to division headquarters and indicated he was ready to ride to the attack with his brigade. Inexplicably General Crook ordered two more companies be sent, in this case from the 4th Michigan under Major Horace Gray. Gray reported back that he was out numbered ten to one. Minty sent out couriers to recall the two commands but they were not able to get through the Confederate lines set up around Wheeler at Cotton Port. Minty then asked to go and rescue the men and Crook refused him. This was an inauspicious beginning for Minty and Crook’s relationship. Minty was livid that Crook had decided to leave Minty’s two small commands to their fate. Fortunately on September 26th the two battalions returned to camp with a harrowing tale of being surrounded by Wheeler’s men, but they had made an "almost miraculous escape" from their predicament.

    In the dark, rainy night, covered with ponchos they fell in behind a regiment of Confederate horsemen and followed the rebel troops through Wheeler’s encampment. At one point they were challenged but Lt. Fletcher of the 4th Regulars grunted something indecipherable about “picket” and no further attention was paid to them. By this ruse they escaped unscathed out of the midst of the rebel forces.

    Brigadier General Crook’s report in the OR for this period does not mention anything of this incident but reading between the lines, Crook, at least in Minty’s eyes, did not act forcefully enough to stop Wheeler from crossing the Tennessee River. Minty disagreed with General Crook’s orders to deploy only one battalion instead of an all-out attack on Wheeler with the Sabre Brigade and this disagreement must be considered a factor when later Colonel Minty was arrested on October 7th for not following orders and thwarting Crook’s plans during a battle that took place with Wheeler near Farmington, Tennessee.[6]

 

 

 

Friday September 25th 1863

Commenced messing with Capt. Abeel saw a fruit yesterday called paw paw. Grows on trees- leaves chestnut shaped – fruit like a short cucumber – peanuts grow like potatoes – vines look like large clover stalks – a night attack on our works last night  - the [rebels?] were repulsed – we marched 8 miles and camped over the night.

 

Saturday September 26th 1863

Capt. Robbins rec’d commission as Major this morning – I was detailed as Officer of the Guard & Day. Our loss at the late battle estimated at 1500 killed & 7000 wounded – probably the official report will be less. Our campaign as a whole is successful – we have achieved what we intended to do. We have taken & can hold Chattanooga but our battle beyond there was a defeat – it was forced upon us – the rebels intended not only to whip us but to rout us & drive us back to Murfreesboro – in this we have failed them – their loss is as much if not more than ours – nice day – wrote 3 letters – seems like Sunday – our Band are improving finely. [Mix?] serenaded the new maj tonight  - consequence was a Box of choice cigars – good appointment.

 

Sunday September 27th 1863

Wrote three letters home – long dull day – no news from the front – in camp all day.

 

Monday September 28th 1863

Oh! How dusty – Boots and Saddles at 8 am - the brigade marched up to Washington – reached there at dusk – camped for the night. [?H]oney & goose till you can’t rest.

 

Tuesday September 29th 1863

In camp today – made out our company monthly return – think we camp here a few days unless the Rebs trouble us too much.

 

Wednesday September 30 1863

Orders came to “Saddle”at 12M last. Moved out of camp thro’ Washington to the river. Rebs crossing in force – had a skirmish – Lt Tucker wounded – fell back beyond Smith’s crossroads – looked rainy in PM

 

Thursday October 1st 1863

Rained all night – our Regiment was sent out to feel of the enemy at the Crossroads – found their picket there. “H” Co. in advance – by citizens learn that the rebs were passing all night in the direction of Pikeville. Rumor says their forces are 10,000 – doubtful – rainy – sent a part of the “G” to wagons for want of boots – some sick – ordered with my “G” on picket – picketed the road towards the X-roads – no disturbance – rainy & wet.

 

Large amounts of reinforcements being sent to Rosecrans in Chattanooga.

  

Friday October 2nd 1863

Relieved at 4 am & started over the mountains after the “confeds” clear & pleasant – crossed Waldron’s Range into Sequatchee Valley. Hungry as dogs – crossed the valley & got upon the top of the Cumberland Mts. to camp – Rebs ahead of us – believe they [scattered?] in the valley some up some down.

  

Saturday October 3rd 1863

Moved on early – captured 4 rebs at a house – our advance – said they were sent by their Col. after brandy – got more than he bargained for - came on their rear guard about noon – just at the brink of the mts… Our Regiment was dismounted & sent forward as skirmishers – Skirmished & drove them about 3 miles – two wounded in our reg’t  - killed 3  or 4 rebs - & a number of horses – several wounded – Wilder [Union Cavalry Colonel] came up at sundown & had a smart skirmish – unsaddled at night – tired - tired - tired.

 

Sunday October 4th 1863

The fight yesterday resulted worse on the side of the rebels than supposed. Eleven dead have been found – we gave them fits – moved after them this morning – passed McMinnville [TN] – camped about six miles on this side – the Rebs captured what stores & rations there & 300 prisoners.

 

Monday October 5th 1863

Moved early. Cold night – marched early & steady – reached Murfreesboro [TN] at dusk – came in on Liberty Pike for Hooker is on his way to Chattanooga with 3,000 men.  Reported heavy fighting in front – the rebs are making a heavy raid they burnt the bridge south of town & cut the telegraph at Christiana – Camped near the river.

 

Minty's Brigade Positions: The next two entries concern Minty’s failure to support General Crook on October 6th against Wheeler. The small phrase “everything in advance of us” indicates that, perhaps, Potter was aware of the fact they had missed a battle. And his statement about the fact that General Wilder “did the most at least” again looking back in hindsight may be indicative of Minty’s shirking of his duty under the pretense he did not receive proper orders to advance. The court martial later cleared Minty of all charges when he was able to show that no orders were given directly to his regiment, but it is probable that this incident on his record, added to his non West Point education kept Minty from his coveted promotion to Brigadier General during the war. It is clear in Potter’s diary entry of October 9th where Potter stands on the issue when he remarks that Wheeler “never should have been allowed to cross the Tennessee – somebody is to blame.”

 

Tuesday October 6th 1863

Draw three days rations this morning and started after Wheeler he came up to Christiana, burnt a bridge & cut telegraph & captured 65 of the 19th Mich – but let them go without paroling. Marched to within seven miles of Shelbyville & encamped for the night. Could hear cannonading at night.

 

 

Wednesday October 7th 1863

Laid in camp until one o’clock pm when our Brigade moved on – every thing in advance of us – passed thro’ Shelbyville – some of the western army was there – glad to see them with us. Saw some colored soldiers – came to Farmington 16 miles from Shelbyville – reached camp about 9 o’clock pm – hard fight today – with the rebels – Wilder’s infantry had the most to do – or did the most at least – whipped Wheeler Splendidly – captured 240 prisoners – 4 pieces of artillery & killed 60 – our loss 15 killed.

 

Thursday October 8th

Col. Minty was ordered to Murfreesboro under arrest – by Gen Crook – for not moving his Brigade up in time yesterday. Some excitement in our camp on that score – he will be court-martialed – he will come out ahead – I hope – Marched thro’ Lewisburg at 10:15 am a small place & to Cornersville at 12:30 pm 7 miles farther – encamped for the night – Col Sipes of the 7th Penn. was com’d’g our Brigade excepting the 4th US ordered to report to Gen. Crook.

 

Friday October 9th 1863

Started out early – came on Col. Lowe of the 5th down in advance – came upon their rear guard – charged upon them – captured 50 of them – killed 3 or 4 when within 2 miles of Rodgersville we charged with drawn sabers – thro’ town & on to the river four miles farther but the bird had flown – traveled about 35 miles this day  - made the longest charge on our record – six miles – came back & encamped two miles from river – thus endeth Wheeler’s great cavalry Raid – he has passed entirely round our [right? rear?] his loss must be 600 men all told & four pieces of artillery – he has captured some of our stores at McMinnville – burnt 300 wagons at Dunlap – getting about 2000 mules from us & burnt a couple of bridges – he never should have been allowed to cross the Tennessee – somebody is to blame.

 

Saturday October 10th 1863

My sister’s birthday[7] – in camp yet at 8 am. Have some rest today.

From Murfreesboro to Shelbyville 25 mi.s

From Shelbyville to Lewisburg 21 mi.s

From Lewisburg to Pulaski 24 mi.s

Pulaski to Lamb’s Ferry 35 mi.s

Rodgersville to Athens 15 mi.s

Athens to Huntsville 25 mi.s

Our regiment went as escort for Gen. Mitchell actg Chief of Cavalry to the ford across the Tennessee where the rebels crossed – the river is about ¾ miles wide, could see the pickets on the other side, lots of wild geese on the River. Gen Mitchell burnt about $25,000 worth of cotton – 60 bales – dead loss to somebody – ordered to be ready to march in the morning at 5 ½ am.


Sunday October 11th 1863

Marched from camp thro’ Rodgersville. From there turned east marched to Athens, distance about 15 miles from R. [Rodgersville] – camped about 3 pm – the Nashville & Decherd RR passes thro’ this place – quite an enterprising place for a Southern town. All Rebel of course.

 

Monday October 12th 1863

Reached Huntsville – 23 miles & camped for the night – captured 30 rebels in the place – one major – took a shave and supped at the Huntsville hotel – 50 cts – 25 cts for a shave – registered myelf by the side of a rebel Lieut Col. who was there in the morning – commenced raining about dark.

 

Tuesday October 13th 1863

Passed a very uncomfortable night, wet and rainy – waked up with the water running into my boots and pants. Marched to Brownsville – sent five of my company to Decherd – >>Carter dismounted & sick – we moved back towards Fayetteville, camped 8 miles from Huntsville – rainy & wet all day.

 

Wednesday October 14th 1863

This is the sixth day without rations – men are grumbling on the Hog and Potatoes – rainy – marched to within 12 miles of Salem & encamped at 3 pm – rain all the time, no chance to dry a blanket or anything else – wet, wet – my horse is about “played out” – mud & hard work – only 12 men left in the “H” Company – Thomas[8] got us a supper.

 

 

Thursday October 15th 1863

Rained all night, making three nights and two days steady rain – are now within two miles of Salem – writing – sun shining by fits and starts – hot & blistering indicating showers in store for us – ordered to report dismounted men to send to Decherd – reported (4) four, leaving only eight in the company – no rations yet – some rain during the night.

 

Friday October 16th 1863

Ordered back to the vicinity of Huntsville – Gen. Crook has gone after our trains which leaves Col. Lowe of the 5th Iowa in command. Sent back to Winchester after some rations for my own mess – couldn’t get a smell, the troops at that place had only 2 days rations to last seven – Camped at New Market 18 miles from Salem – pleasant day.

 

Saturday October 17th 1863

Drew a [illegible] from the QM for a Rack – the widow Jones is well – her daughter has twins – Marched to Maysville, about 16 miles from Salem – rather think we will stay here or near here, until the supply train comes up – the people have to suffer that live on the road where we travel – or rather the eggs, butter, ham, flour, potatoes, molasses,? , ?. Nice warm, sunshiny day – went out with Lt. Stone with ten men after a wagon – took it without the least ceremony – met a man coming back driving a team – we needed a pair of lines & headstall – he had them – we took them, leaving the poor fellow to travel home the best he could & believing ourselves very generous to leave him the horses – in the meantime my men had got a nice load of forage & lot of sweet potatoes which we took into camp - with the mutton we got we will make out finely.

 

Sunday October 18th 1863

Rainy in the morning until about 9 am. In camp one day at last. We are expecting some rations soon. Capt Leach came back with the dismounted men form Decherd – went out with detail for forage for Battalion – Thomas went out after provisions – got two fine turkeys young, some eggs – apples and fine honey & sweet potatoes.

 

Monday October 19th 1863

Bright, warm day. Detailed to go to Paint Rock with 25 men after rations – had a Bully Breakfast – Turkey and Dumplings – Bread & Butter – Honey – Sweet potatoes and Beef. Distance 12 miles from Maysville to the Station – when we reached there about sundown had to boat the rations across, in an old scow, by the aid of a telegraph wire – got loaded about 9 pm. Started back – traveled until 11, then camped in the road, moonlight night.

 

Tuesday October 21st 1863

Rainy day laid in camp. Lt Tucker died seven days after being wounded in skirmish at Washington, Tenn. Sept. 30th. Thomas lost pocket book containing over 50 in greenbacks.


Thursday October 22nd 1863

Expecting that said train from Chattanooga, but “don’t see it” yet. Rainy as usual, laid in Camp. Thomas did not find his pocketbook.

 

Friday October 23rd 1863

No train yet. Cold windy & wet just about sick today with cold, some fever – no news of anything.

 

Saturday October 24th 1863

Cold and windy – 1st Sergeants of F arrested today. Thomas out after provisions – nothing of account.

 

Sunday October 25th 1863

Still cold – In camp – no clothing yet- Monday 26th , Tuesday 27th Wednesday 28th in camp – drew a small amount of clothing, but not sufficient for half the camp. Nice, autumn weather.

 

Thursday 29th  Friday 30th and Saturday 31st in camp rainy on Friday was detailed for picket, very rainy – came in Saturday 31st – was mustered for pay – rec’d some letters from home, nice autumn day, half sick with cold.

 

Monday Nov 2nd 1863

[no entry]

 

NOTES MADE AT THE END OF “CAPTAIN SIMMONS” BOOK:

 

This memorandum was nearly spoiled by getting wet in a darned rainstorm – but I got wetter than the book did.~ Potter

 

Take good care of this book as it contains the act of the battle of Chickamauga and Wheeler’s raid.~ Potter

 

Here ends the “Captain Simmons” book entries of Henry Albert Potter. Potter’s regular diary takes up on November 10th 1863

 

 

Drawing made Lt Henry Albert Potter. He was at a spot, as best I can tell, 

around General Sheman's lines. Made at some point before the battle of Missionary Ridge in November of 1863

Captain Henry Albert Potter's great-great-grandson and great-grandson at Raccoon Mountain overlooking Chattanooga in 1995 pause for a picture at a spot mentioned in the diary where Captain Potter once viewed the Confederate lines.

 

---NOTES---

[1] Sobriquet given by General Rosecrans to Minty’s brigade as a result of a saber charge through the enemy made at Shelbyville, Tennessee. A brigade is composed of three or more regiments. Each regiment has 10-12 companies. Several companies can form a battalion. Each layer, company, battalion, regiment, brigade etc. has a set of officers in command.

[2] I have not gone into great detail as to the complex maneuvering that took place by the armies as they fought at Chickamauga. For those wishing to understand the Battle of Chickamauga in depth, I recommend Peter Cozzens’ detailed account in his amply footnoted history of the battle in “This Terrible Sound” published by the University of Illinois Press in 1992. The importance of Minty’s stand at Reed’s Bridge is explained in detail by Cozzens. Another very interesting and detailed book on Minty’s Cavalry is Rand Bitter’s “Minty And His Cavalry” a fine well-researched book published by the author.

[3] In the duplicate entries made by Potter for his two diaries kept until September 12th, it is interesting to see the difference between the original terse diary entries and the more elaborate entries made later after Potter realized the importance of the battle that was about to occur and began to describe more fully the actions of his command leading up to the battle. It is reasonable to assume that for the days where Potter duplicates in the Simmons Book his leather diary entries from the 9th to the 12th that these entries are made after the fact, Potter having gone back to tell more fully the events of those three days that he considered important leading up to the battle he was sure was brewing in the woods along Chickamauga Creek.

[4] The Cloud house is located ¼ mile out at about a 10° angle from Reed’s Bridge Road at Highway 21 that runs from Rossville Gap to Lee & Gordon’s Mills.

[5] A battalion is several companies out of the 12 or so companies that make up a regiment.

[6] This escape story is based on Minty’s recounting many years later of the events made years after the incident (quoted by Rand Bitter: pp138-139), Minty and His Cavalry (Michigan 2006). Lt Edward L Tucker, mentioned as wounded during this event, died of his wounds October 7, 1863. Potter’s diary contains nothing about the escape of Major Horace Gray and his 4th Michigan troops. Potter’s diary entry for September 30th indicates that a skirmish took place on September 30th and this entry states that he was in the 4th Michigan battalion under Gray. Although Potter mentions a skirmish, the date was four days after the date (Sept 26) that Minty indicated for Major Gray’s return into camp. From having read Potter’s diary, letters etc. it is odd such an “almost miraculous escape” took place and Potter didn’t know of it or mention it. Minty in his retelling of the event indicates that two battalions of the 4th Michigan and one battalion of the 4th Regulars had been cut off. Captain James Larson in his book on the 4th US Regulars tells the story (also quoted by Rand Bitter) and it is likely that Larson is Minty’s source. Having read Larson's book I am not inclined to doubt Larson whose style is not one of embellishment. The incident must have happened to the Fourth Regulars under McCormick and perhaps one company of the 4th Michigan under Gray. Joseph Vale writing the history of the brigade after the war does not mention the incident (Minty and the Cavalry – Harrisburg, 1886). “Michigan in the War” on  p. 657 does mention Wheeler’s repulse of Major Gray on September 30th  indicating that Gray was attempting to aid the 4th US regulars and that may mean that only the 4th Regular battalion under McCormick, sent out earlier on the 26th, participated in the “almost miraculous escape” and, if no 4th Michigan cavalry were involved, that might explain why Potter did not mention it.

[7] Ann Amelia Potter b. 10/10/1844.

[8] A freed slave Potter apparently had as his servant. The following excerpt from a letter written on September 25th 1864 to his sister Amelia, a year after this part of the diary was written, from Roswell, Georgia, that indicates “Thomas” was still with him:

“There my man Thomas sits, sleeves rolled up, scraping sweet potatoes as big as his arm and about long, for dinner. Which I know will soon be ready, for I can detect that savory odor, from that direction which says as plain as wants, “fresh pig”…”