The History of New York State
Book XI, Chapter 5, Part 5

Editor, Dr. James Sullivan

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Pam

 

General Wadsworth's life is an inspiring example of patriotism. His record is such as one would expect of a scion of the at great family of patriots General Wadsworth was much past the prime of life when war came in 1861. He had many sons well able and eager to uphold the honor of the family on the field of battle. But from the beginning he plunged into the struggle. He was one of the most useful citizens of New York, in organizing the resources of the great State for the supreme effort. His personal wealth was freely given in organizing the equipping the soldiers of New York. He went with them to war, Wadsworth being on the staff

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of General McDowell in the first Battle of Bull Run. Of McDowell's army of 18,000, only 1,000 were regulars. The others were green citizen-soldiers, whose strength lay only in their patriotic zeal. They fought furiously for ten hours, and by brilliant generalship backed by heroic determination which made soldiers of men who knew nothing of soldiering, McDowell had almost defeated an enemy twice as strong. But then, with victory almost within his grasp. The basic flaw in McDowell's army lost him the day. with discipline, the victorious Union volunteers might have been held in orderly movement; but, having apparently triumphed, the men rushed on, flushed and disordered. As they mounted the crest of one slope, a new York regiment hit "a stone wall"--Jackson's brigade, which stood "like a stone wall." Other Federal troops healed on to the first, and soon the confusion was worse. After some time, the almost victorious volunteers of the North broke. He battle was lost, and the record reads that only "a disorganized mob" recrossed the Potomac. Heroism had not been the equal of military discipline in this test. As Sherman later pointed out, "both armies were nearly defeated, and whichever stood fast the other would have to run." However, the south was not to have a monopoly of stone walls in the later battles. Wadsworth commanded a division near Washington, when it was in great danger. At Gettysburg his division had to bear the brunt of the opening attack. During that great battle, he lost more than half of his men. His division was at Fredericksburg where, indeed, they found a stone wall far more formidable than Stonewall Jackson's at Bull Run. What hosts of gallant men fell before that stone wall; but heroism was not reinforced by discipline, and the line did not waver. In the bloody battle of Fredericksburg, the Federals lost 13,487 men. At Gettysburg they lost 22,190.

How ruthlessly life had changed for gentlemen of the Wadsworth type! Reared in the lap of luxury,, and accustomed in mature years to the culture and refinement of gentility, what an upheaval had come to General Wadsworth. In the past, wealth had gilded his way; education had opened to him the gems of culture; inclination and heredity had drawn him into the most refined social circles. Now, in the crash of war, the sky blackened; the face of man hardened; guns tore through human flesh, sabres hacked and slashed while bayonets thrust their bloody points into men's vitals. Death and destruction went hand in hand. Life was cheap, and ever at bay. Man stalked man, each with blood in his eyes. The days were spent in grim, crude, brutal stalking, and the nights were made ghastly by the moans of the dying or by the schemes of the living for more slaughter on the morrow. Man had set behind him the culture of 2,000 years , and relied for his life upon the strength of his arm. The primitive impulses were uppermost. One group saw only the peril of the South and the other only the danger of the North. And both gritted their teeth, set their jaws, braced their shoulders, hardened their hearts

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and went on with the bloody work. They were fighting for their homes, their country, and would fight on to victory--or death.

Such was the environment that now enveloped the aristocratic Wadsworth. Sherman was not wrong in his definition of war. Hell had been broken loose. For almost another year Wadsworth remained in the vortex of war--and then all was still, at least for him. In the mysterious land of pines, cedars, scrub oaks, in the tangled underbrush of the Wilderness that hid whole armies, 200,000 men grappled for two days. The slaughtered was horrible; and among the slaughtered was the gentle Wadsworth. He had laid his life upon the altar of Liberty just as willingly as his patriotism had prompted him to give of his material wealth since the first call. Wadsworth had given his all. Those of the Union Defense Committee of New York, who knew the full extent of his sacrifice testified to General Wadsworth's patriotism in a resolution which, in part, reads:

. . . . when we consider that, from the very beginning of this war, General Wadsworth, a wealthy cultured and honored gentleman, impelled by a high sense of duty and of right, left his home of beauty, of luxury, of affection and of love, to sacrifice every pleasure, to devote his every hour, to spend a weary winter in the frontier camp, to soothe and cheer the homesick dying soldier, to waste much of his private fortune, to imperil his health, and finally to offer up his willing life in his country's cause, we can find on the roll of history no record of a braver, truer man, or of a more devoted patriot.

John Adams Dix was another of the great men of New York whose war service spanned half a century. He was an ensign, serving on the Canadian border during the second war with Britain. For a generation prior to the Civil War, he had had leading part in State and National affairs, and, as we have before noticed herein, he was the first to sound a clear note of national duty in curbing the rebellious South. When the war began, ex-Secretary Dix was in his sixty-fourth year; yet he accepted without hesitation the dangers and rigors of military duty. As a major-general, he helped to organize New York State troops; indeed, he was the leading spirit in this vital matter. In 1862, he personally took command at Fortress Monroe, on the battlefront; and in the next year, when the disappointing progress of the wear had brought above-ground a disloyal faction in his own State and a dangerous group of enemy sympathizers and Southern conspirators on the Canadian border, General Dix took over the command of the Department of the East, succeeding General Wool. His headquarters were in New York City, where an under-current of disloyalty once rose dangerously to the surface. Until the end of the war, General Dix was at the post of military duty,. His State remembered it afterwards, by electing him Governor in 1872. His life was a very full and worthy one, free form discreditable incidents such as mar the records of some even great men of public affairs.

O f another type, but of most commendable military record, was Thomas Devin, an Irish mechanic, who in the first days of war offered to raise a troop of cavalry in three days in New York City. Governor Mor-

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gan, at the instigation of Thurlow Weed, gave him permission. Faithful to his promise, Captain Devin was on his way to the front with three days, at the head of a full company of volunteer horse. In 1865m, Devin returned as a major-general.

Most valuable service was given to the Nation by a young naval lieutenant, John Lorimer Worden, of New York. By his resourcefulness and initiative, he saved Fort Pickens, which commanded the harbor of Pensacola in Florida, from falling into the hands of the rebels before war was declared. For this he was arrested, by seceding State authorities in Florida on April 15, 1861. According to Lossing, Lieutenant Worden was "the first prisoner-of-war held by the insurgents." Seven months later he was exchanged. Imprisonment had impaired his constitution, and it was not until the following February that he was able to report for duty. Later he helped in fashioning the "Monitor," the Union iron-clad that saved the Union fleet from the "Merrimac."

Another great service was that rendered by Schuyler Hamilton, of New York, a grandson of the great Federalist, Alexander Hamilton. Young Schuyler Hamilton had distinguished himself fifteen years before, during the Mexican War "in an affair of great daring and brilliancy," which, as Gen., Winfield Scott wrote, won for Hamilton "the esteem and admiration of the whole army." When the Civil War opened, in 1861, Hamilton enlisted as a private, but before the end of the year was a brigadier-general of volunteers, attached to the Department of St. Louis, under General Halleck, another brilliant New Yorker. In 1862, in the campaign to clear the Upper Mississippi of Confederate troops, it became necessary to take Island Number Ten, after the capture of New Madrid. The island was strongly fortified, and Pope was at his wit's end to find a way of reducing it. Gen. Schuyler Hamilton proposed an extraordinary plan. He offered to cut a canal, and outflank the island within a fortnight, if he might be permitted to use his division in the work. Permission was given, and Colonel Bissell, of the engineers, by almost super-human effort, cleared a canal fifty feet wide through swampy ground in nineteen days. It served the purpose and resulted in the surrender of 7,000 entrapped men, and an immense quantity of supplies. Lossing states that "the fall of Island No. 10 was a calamity to the confederacy from which it never recovered." Martial law was proclaimed in Memphis; the people of Vicksburg were preparing for flight. The Governor of Louisiana, in a despairing appeal said: "An insolent and powerful foe is already at the castle gate. The current of the mighty river speaks to us of his fleets advancing for our destruction, and the telegraph wires tremble with the news of his advancing columns." Panic had seized the people along the whole stretch of the great Mississippi. Hamilton was made a major-general for his inestimable service to the nation at Island No. 10.

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Many volumes could be, and, indeed, have been written regarding the thrilling experiences of some of the Civil Ware heroes of New York. An interesting volume might be devoted to the life of Maj.-Gen. Daniel E. Sickles, who lost a leg at Gettysburg, but continued in service until the end. For fifty years after the war, General Sickles was a leader in public movement in New York City.

The life of the dashing Philip Kearny, too, though it ended with the war, was full of heroic endeavor. The first American soldier to enter the conquered Mexican capital in 1847, and singled out by General Scott as the bravest and most perfect soldier of the army, Major Kearny left an arm in Mexico, but fifteen years later, had the satisfaction of finding a fellow-officer, who, having only the right arm, could see the humor on Kearny's suggestion, that they "buy gloves together." Kearny was a dashing cavalier, a born soldier, never happy unless campaigning. For a generation prior to the Civil War, he had lived almost constantly in the field, going from one war to another. When his country had nothing to offer him in this line, he sought adventures in Europe and Africa. Napoleon III gave him the Cross of the Legion of Honor, for gallantry at Solferino. In 1861, he was probably the most experienced cavalry officer in America, and was at once given command of a brigade of the Army of the Potomac. In 1862, he was made a major-general, but the commission was destined never to reach him. Death found him, as he no doubt had hoped it would--booted, spurred, and in the saddle. New York never reared a more dashing cavalryman than Philip Kearny. And it must not be supposed that he was merely a penniless adventurer--a "soldier of fortune," for he was, indeed, a man of considerable wealth. But he was brimming over with the spirit of adventure--the spirit of the "days of old when knights were bold," and thought that no ignominy could be worse than to "die in their beds."

An exceptionally brave naval officer was Alexander Colden Rhind, a native of new York City. During the attack on Fort Fisher, in 1864, commodore Rhind took a ship crammed with explosives to within 350 feet of the fort. At any moment she might be blown up; but he achieved his purpose, for when she did blow up, it was by his own hand, and in the spot where he had planned to set off the volcano of explosives. Admiral Porter, in his report, said: "Allow me to draw your attention to Commodore Rhind and Lieutenant Preston. They engaged in the most perilous adventure that was perhaps ever undertaken. No one in the squadron considered that their lives would be saved, and they made arrangement to sacrifice themselves in case the vessel was boarded, a thing likely to happen." Rhind eventually became a rear admiral.

Another New Yorker--Gen. Newton Martin Curtis, of St. Lawrence County--distinguished himself at Fort Fisher. He led his brigade in an irresistible assault on the fortress, and though he lost an eye, and,

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indeed, was next morning laid among the distinguished dead, he came out of his unconscious state, and lived to see his part in the glorious victory, of the day before marked by the bestowal upon him of the Medal of Honor.

New York has good reason to be proud of her Civil War officers. We find her generals in the lead inmost of the great campaigns of the war. Gen. Henry Wager Halleck, of Oneida County, a veteran of the Mexican War, was a major-general of California militia at the outbreak of the war in 1861. In November of that year he took over the Department of the Missouri form General Fremont, and he was responsible for all the vital campaigns along the Mississippi in the following year. He declined McClellan's place as general-in-chief, and went on with his Mississippi plans. Later, however, the disasters of McClellan's Peninsular campaign imperilled the North, and General Halleck was then prevailed upon to step into the breach and reorganize the Union forces. He succeeded McClellan as general-in-chief in 1862, and continued as such during a critical period. When Lieutenant-General Grant took over command in the field, General Halleck continued in Washington as chief-of-staff. He held this responsibility until the end.

The record of another new Yorker, Maj.-Gen. John McAllister Schofield, a native of Chautauqua County, would fill many pages. In 1862, he commanded the District of the Missouri; in 1863, we find him commanding a division of the Army of the Cumberland; and later commanding the Department of the Missouri. In 1864, he as in command of the Department of the Ohio; and as commanders of the Army of the Ohio, he led the left wind of Sherman's army in Georgia.

Michael Corcoran, who took the 69th new York Regiment to Washington in April, 1861, spent a year in a Confederate military prison, but upon his return to New York, he raised the Irish legion and led it to glory in Virginia. But death exacted the full measure of patriotism in his case, for before Christmas of 1863, the gallant Corcoran was killed.

Maj.-Gen. Gouverneur Kemble Warren, of Putnam County, was a professor of mathematics at West Point in 1861, when war broke out. He went into the field as lieutenant-colonel of the 5th New York Zouaves. He was with Pope at Manassas, and with Burnside at Fredericksburg; in June 1863, he was chief of engineers of the Army of the Potomac. He defended Little Round Top, the key position at Gettysburg, passed through the Wilderness battles, and on April 1, 1865, personally led the charge which won the victory at Five Forks.

George Stoneman, a native of Chautuaqua County, who became Governor of California, was a captain in Kearny's brigade during the Mexican War. He joined his old commander again during the Civil War and in 1862 succeeded him, leading the brigade, after Kearny was killed. As commander of the Cavalry Corps of the Army of the Ohio, General Stone-

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man, in 1864, took part in the Atlanta campaign. The last blood shed in the Civil War was in an attack made by Southern irreconcilables upon Stoneman's column when passing through southwestern Virginia six weeks after the surrender of lee in 1865. Stoneman had much of the daring spirit of his dashing commander of earlier days, and after the war he sought further adventure in California.

Major-General Butterfield, of Utica, began his Civil War service as colonel of the 12th new York Infantry. He was brevetted major-general, fro gallantry, in 1863, and commanded the Fifth Corps at Fredericksburg. At Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, he was chief-of-staff of the Army of the Potomac. At Gettysburg he was wounded, but later was chief-of-staff to General Hooker in Tennessee.

Gen. Franz Sigel's record covers a wide area. I 1861 he was in Missouri, and for his brilliant victory at Carthage in July was given the rank of brigadier-general. He served under Fremont, but disagreed with Fremont's successor, Halleck, and resigned. Soon, however, he was again in the field, as major-general, serving in the East.

To Abner Doubleday, a native of Ballston Spa, and a veteran of the Mexican War, fell the distinction of "aiming the first gun of the Civil War on the side of the Union." He was then a lieutenant of artillery, stationed at Fort Sumter. During the winter of 1861-62, he was in command of the artillery defenses of Washington, with the rank of brigadier-general of volunteers. In 1862 and for the remainder of the years of war, General Doubleday was in divisional or corps command in the field. He was at Manassas, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, and other major battle, and eventually became a major-general of the Regular Army.

Gen Alexander Stewart Webb, who is remembered as a president of the College of the City of New York, went into action in 1861 as a junior officer of artillery, and rose to the rank of major-general of the Regular Army. He was awarded the bronze medal for distinguished personal gallantry at Gettysburg.

Irishmen in New York ought to treasure the memory of col. James A. Mulligan, born in Utica, of immigrant parents. Young Mulligan began his Civil War service in Lexington, Missouri. As commander of the 23d Illinois Regiment, known as the "Irish Brigade," Mulligan defended that place for nine days against overwhelming odds in September, 1861. He was offered a brigadier-generalship, bur preferred to remain with his "bhoys." Fighting with his regiment throughout, he reached the crowning point of his career in July, 1864, at the Battle of Winchester. Fatally wounded, he lay on the field,. His men would have carried him out of danger, bur the dying colonel saw another danger: Confederate hands were reaching out for the regimental colors. :Lay me down and save the flag," he exclaimed. Reluctantly, the men left their commander, and never saw him again.

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The war must have come home with tragic emphasis to president Lincoln in the incident that took the life of one of his closest friends, Ephraim Elmer Ellsworth, of Saratoga County, New York. For some years prior to 1860 young Ellsworth practiced law in the office of Abraham Lincoln, at Springfield, Illinois. In 1861, Ellsworth hurried back to his native State, and after Sumter organized a full regiment from among the firemen of New York City. His was the first military unit that crossed the Potomac to clear the rebels out of Alexandria. The new York Zouaves occupied that place on May 24, Colonel Ellsworth himself mounting to the roof of the a hotel from the flagstaff of which the offensive confederate flag still flaring out defiance. Enraged that the flag should be lowered, the hotel proprietor instantly killed Ellsworth, only to be himself killed the next moment by a Zouave. Colonel Ellsworth's body was carried to the White House in Washington, where the President might take a last look at his former colleague in law practice.

Darius Nash Couch, a native of Putnam county, was a sub-lieutenant under General Wool, at Buena Vista, in 1847. A couple of years later he was again in the field, in Indian warfare. Frontier experience during the next decade fitted him for the rigors of the Civil War years. In May, 1861, couch was a brigadier-general of volunteers; in the Peninsular campaign of 1862 he commanded a division. In October, he was given command of the Second Army Corps for the Rappahannock campaign. In June, 1863, he became head of the Department of the Susquehanna. In December, 1864, he was fighting successfully against Hood at Nashville, Tennessee. As the war ended, he was operating in North Carolina. His name enters prominently into some of the most important operations of the four years of war, and he was wounded several times.

General Robert Ogden Tyler was also one of the leading generals in the Eastern campaign. He was identified with a Connecticut regiment at the outset, but was a native of Greene County, New York. With the Fourth Connecticut he served through the Peninsular Campaign. He commanded the artillery of Sumner's division at Fredericksburg. In the wilderness campaign he led a division, but at Cold Harbor, in 1864, was incapacitated by wounds. At the end of the war, he held the brevet of major-general of the regular Army.

Romeyn Beck Ayres, of Montgomery County, began, in 1861, as a captain of Regular Artillery. At bull run, in July, 1861, he was chief of artillery of a division. At Gettysburg he commanded a division, rendering conspicuous service, at a critical moment. For gallant conduct in the Wilderness campaign, in 1864, he was promoted and for bravery at the battle of Five Forks, Virginia, in March 1865, was made a major-general of volunteers. He died at Fort Hamilton, New York, twenty-three years later.

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George W. Cullum, a native of New York city, was aide-de-camp to General Winfield Scott when war broke out in 1861. In the fall, he was appointed chief engineer of the Department of the Missouri. Soon he became chief-of-staff to General Halleck, whom he served under through the Southwestern Campaign. Later he became superintendent of West Point, and before the end of the war he had reached the rank of brevet major-general of the Regular Army.

General Henry Warner Slocum, of Onondaga county, took the 27th New York volunteers unto action at bull run in July, 1861. There he was severally wounded; but soon was again with the Army of the Potomac, as a brigadier-general. After many battles, he was, in July, 1862, appointed major-general of volunteers, and served as such at Antietam and South Mountain. He commanded an army corps at Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg, his leadership of the right wing of the army in the last-named battle contributing largely to the Union victory. Succeeding General Hooker, he lead the left wing of Sherman's army in the march through Georgia. General Slocum was one of the most successful Union officers, and was deservedly honored.

One of Slocum's most skilful junior officers was Gen. Emery Upton, of Batavia, who entered the war as a lieutenant of artillery. He, like Slocum, was wounded at Bull Run, in 1861. He was wounded again at Spottsylvania, in 1864, after three years of most incessant campaigning. When the war ended, he was a major-general of the Regular Army.

Another of Slocum's skilful brigadiers was General James C. Lane, of New York, who went to war, in 1861, as major of the 102d New York Regiment. After passing through sixteen major battles, he reached the rank of major-general. At Gettysburg, he was severally wounded. Robert Alexander Cameron, a native of Brooklyn, reached the same rank from a captaincy, but his service began in Indiana, and was passed mostly in Western and Southwestern campaigns. Samuel Ryan Curtis, a native of Clinton County, was on the staff of General Wool in the Mexican War, and was in the West when the Civil War began. He took the field as colonel of an Iowa regiment, and saw much Western fighting, ending as major-general, commanding the Department of the Missouri.

General Christopher Colon Auger, born in New York City, was a West Point graduate of 1845. In the next year he was in Texas, and took part in General Zachary Taylor's campaign in Mexico. Later he saw Indian fighting in Oregon, but early in 1861 was called East. He commanded a brigade under General McDowell in that year, and a division under General Banks in the Rappahannock campaign in 1862. He went with General Banks through the Louisiana campaign in 1862, and distinguished himself at Port Hudson in 1863. General Auger commanded the Washington Military Department in the last years of the war.

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William Woods Cameron, of Steuben County, as a second lieutenant in 1861; two years later he was in command of a regiment, and before the war ended was a major-general. At one stage of his operations he reported on December 21: "My column has climbed, slid, swum, 340 miles since December 8." James Brewerton Ricketts, of New York City, was a captain in 1861. He was wounded and taken prisoner at the first Battle of Bull run, and again wounded almost a year later at the second Battle of Bull Run. However, before the end of the war, he was holding the brevet of major-general of the Regular Army, and had commanded a corps. Henry Baxter, of Delaware County, was a "Forty-niner," in the gold rush to California, but was in Michigan in 1861. There he organized a company, served in many battles, and for bravery was brevetted major-general. William Hopkins Morris, of new York City, was a graduate of West Point in 1847, but some years later resigned. In 1861, he volunteered, and was given a company. In 1862 he was in command of the 135th New York volunteers, which had been recruited mostly In Westchester, Putnam and Rockland counties. Later, he organized a brigade of all arms, and was brevveted major-general for gallantry in the Battle of the wilderness. He was severely wounded at Spottsylvania.

William Denison Whipple, of Madison County, was a West Point graduate in 1851, and was stationed at Indianola, Texas, when war broke out ten years later. Although Twiggs, the department commander, gave up the United States posts when the South seceded, Whipple held firm to his allegiance. He managed to escape through the enemy's lines and eventually reached Washington. There he was at once given responsible command in the Virginia campaigns. For gallant conduct in the Atlanta campaign and before Nashville, Whipple was brevetted brigadier-general. Another who remained true to his oath of allegiance was Guilford Dudley Bailey, who was stationed at Fort Bailey, Texas, when General Twiggs surrendered his army and stores to the Confederate General, McCulloch. Lieutenant Bailey and his immediate superior at Fort Bailey, Captain Stoneman, also of new York, refused to surrender. Bailey escaped into Mexico, and by a circuitous route reached Washington. He joined in the relief of Fort Pickens, Florida, but in September, 1861, again returned North. In the same month he organized the 1st New York Light Artillery, and became its colonel. The battery became part of the Army of the Potomac. During the peninsula campaign, Colonel Bailey served as chief of artillery of General Casey's Division. At Seven Pines, in May, 1862, he was killed,. In his memory Poughkeepsie later erected a monument.

General J. Henry Hobart Ward, of new York City, enlisted in the United States Army in 1841, and served under Generals Taylor and Scott in the Mexican campaign, 1846-47. Ten years later he was commissary-general of New York. In 1861 he raised the 38th Regiment of the New York Vol-

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unteers, and took it to the front. At Bull Run his regiment lost heavily. After the Peninsula campaign, Ward became a brigadier, and as such he was at Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, and many other major battles. After the war, General Ward was clerk of the Superior Court of New York City for many years. General Samuel H. Starr, native of Leyden, New York, was will Sheridan in the Shenandoah Valley, commanding a brigade of cavalry, but he was already a soldier of much experience, having fought in the Creek and Seminole Indian campaigns and in the Mexican War. He was a dashing cavalry officer, and spent more than thirty years in the service.

General Joseph B. Carr, of Albany and Troy, began his Civil War service as second in command of the 2d Regiment of New York volunteers. His regiment was the first to encamp on Virginian soil. After passing through the peninsular campaign, Carr was given command of a brigade. He was mentioned for conspicuous bravery at Fredericksburg, and at Chancellorsville commanded a division. At Gettysburg General Carr further distinguished himself. Twenty-three years later he was made a member of the Gettysburg Monument Commission.

Robert B. Potter, of Schenectady, son of Bishop Potter, had a most distinguished Civil war record. General W. S. Hancock classed him among the twelve best officers in the army. He began as lieutenant-colonel of the 51st. New York Volunteers. His regiment did excellently under his command, but eventually he was called to greater responsibility, in brigade and divisional command. He was several times wounded, the last time only a few days before the surrender of Lee. After many years a bust in bronze was placed in the state Library at Albany, commemorating the exceptional war record of General Potter.

 

The History of New York State, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc., 1927

This book is owned by Pam Rietsch and is a part of the Mardos Memorial Library

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

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