Thursday, June 30, 2011

Civil War under my nose: West Brookfield, Mass.

Augustus Potter, a private in the 15th Massachusetts, was wounded at Antietam,
Gettysburg and Mine Run, Va.. He survived the Civil War.
As Andy Hall notes on his outstanding Dead Confederates blog, good stories don't fit on a slab of stone in a cemetery. A recent trip to Massachusetts reinforced that.

I visited West Brookfield, Mass, about and hour or so from my home in Connecticut, two weeks ago to do research on Justus Collins Wellington, a private in the 15th Massachusetts who was killed at Antietam on Sept. 17, 1862. Wellington's parents are buried in Pine Grove Cemetery in West Brookfield, but I believe Justus is probably buried  under a gravestone marked "Unknown" in the national cemetery in Sharpsburg, Md.

A small Second Corps, II Division flag
on Potter's grave.
In searching for the gravestones of Justus' parents, I stumbled upon the final resting place of one of his comrades: Augustus N. Potter, also a private in Co. F. in the 15th Massachusetts. Potter, who survived the Civil War, has a very interesting story.

A 24-year-old shoemaker from West Brookfield, Potter enlisted as a private in the 15th Massachusetts on July 12, 1861, the same day as Wellington. Potter probably knew Justus, who also was a shoemaker in West Brookfield. He mustered out because of a disability on Jan. 10, 1862, but was back with his regiment when it was decimated in the West Woods at Antietam on Sept. 17, 1862. Potter suffered a slight leg wound at Antietam, one of 325 casualties (including 70 killed) in his regiment in about 20 minutes.

Less than a year later, Potter was at Gettysburg, where he was wounded on July 2, 1863. A little more than four months later, Potter was wounded at Mine Run, Va., and seven months later, on June 22, 1864, he was captured at Petersburg, Va., sent to Libby Prison in Richmond and later paroled. Thanks to three of his descendants, there's an excellent breakdown of Potter's service on Susan Harnwell's terrific 15th Massachusetts site. Potter's brother, Henry, a private in Co. C of the 4th New Hampshire Infantry, was killed at Drewry's Bluff in Virginia on May 16, 1864.

Wounded three times, captured, survived the war -- I'll bet Potter had some amazing tales to tell.

After the Civil War, Potter was busy too. He fathered 10 children with his wife, Mary. He died March 9, 1918 at age 81.

I'll look to dig up much more on Potter at the National Archives next spring.


  1. Anonymous7:05 PM

    nice story, john,...thanks for telling.

  2. Anonymous10:56 PM

    John, thank you for posting this story of my great great great grandfather,Pvt Augustus N Potter. I am honoured to portray him as a civil war reenactor in the 15th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry.
    Deborah Martin
    aka Pvt Auggie

  3. Anonymous11:33 PM

    Hi. Deborah. My pleasure. I am fascinated by the 15th, especially its service at Antietam. I own an ambrotype of a soldier killed there. Perhaps he knew your ggg-grandfather. take care...and thanks for wring

  4. Anonymous11:33 PM

    whoops, meant "writing." John Banks