site logo
R.B. Potter

R.B. Potter

Federal (USV)


Robert Brown Potter

(1829 - 1887)

Home State: New York

Education: Union College

Command Billet: Commanding Regiment

Branch of Service: Infantry

Unit: 51st New York Infantry

Before Antietam

In 1850 he was a 21 year old clerk living with his parents and siblings in Philadelphia, PA, where his father Alonzo was the Protestant Episcopal Bishop of Pennsylvania. He studied at Union College, where his maternal grandfather Eliphalet Nott was president, and was a New York City lawyer before the War. In April 1861 he enlsited as a Private in the militia, was appointed Lieutenant, and on 14 October 1861 mustered as Major of the 51st New York Infantry. He was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel on 1 November and served on Burnside's Carolina Expedition, in action at Roanoke Island and New Bern, where he was wounded on 14 March 1862. He was at Cedar Mountain, Second Bull Run, and Chantilly and was promoted to Colonel on 10 September.

On the Campaign

He commanded the regiment on the Maryland Campaign.

The rest of the War

He led the Regiment at Fredericksburg in December 1862. On 29 March 1863 he was appointed Brigadier General and commanded the 2nd Division/9th Corps in the Vicksburg campaign, at Spotsylvania, North Anna, and Petersburg. He was wounded there in the final assault in on 2 April 1865. He was promoted Major General of Volunteers on 29 September and mustered out in January 1866.

After the War

After the Atlantic and Great Western Railroad failed in 1867, he was appointed receiver - reportedly living in a rail car for 3 years. He went to Warwick, England for his health and "followed the hounds" there, a "true American gentleman." He was afterward living as a gentleman in Newport, RI, wintering with his brother Congressman Clarkson Potter (1824-1882) and family in Washington, DC.

References & notes

His service from Heitman,1 as Robert Barnwell Potter, Warner,2 and the Adjutant General.3 Personal details from family genealogists, the US Census of 1850 & 1880, and his obituary in the New York Times of 20 February 1887, which also says he was slightly wounded at Antietam. His gravesite and a cenotaph in Schenectady are on Findagrave. His picture from a photograph at the NY State Military Museum, hosted online through the New York Heritage portal.

He married Frances Paine Tileston (1832-1858) in April 1857 and they had a daughter, Frances. He married again, Abby Austin Stevens (1836-1913) in December 1865 and they had 4 children; the first named Robert Burnside Potter (1869-1934).


07/16/1829; Schenectady, NY


02/19/1887; Newport, RI; burial in Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx, NY


1   Heitman, Francis Bernard, Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army 1789-1903, 2 volumes, Washington DC: US Government Printing Office, 1903, Vol. 1, p. 802  [AotW citation 30369]

2   Warner, Ezra J., Generals in Blue, Lives of the Union Commanders, Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 1964, p. 382  [AotW citation 30370]

3   State of New York, Adjutant-General, Annual Report of the Adjutant General of the State of New York [year]: Registers of the [units], 43 Volumes, Albany: James B. Lyon, State Printer, 1893-1905, For the Year 1900, Ser. No. 25, p. 179  [AotW citation 30371]