This Week in Georgia Civil War History
This Week in Georgia Civil War History
Oct. 23, 1864: A Georgia soldier in Virginia wrote home to his wife, asking her to make him a special article of clothing, with a certain kind of protection in mind. And he talked of missing his young son.
"...I want you to make me some drawers anyhow, for the government drawers are pretty sorry sure and soon rip up. In making soldiers' clothing, all of you should recollect that we have some neighbors here called lice and be sure to fell (I believe that is what they call it) all the seams. Or in other words, sew it down tight everywhere so they will have no hiding place. ...
I am always so glad to hear that Henry is well and hearty. I suppose he can controll his puppy pretty well now. I would be so glad to see them frolicing together. Write me if Henry can go to his Grand Ma's by himself now, and all about him. ..."
Source: Jeffrey C. Lowe and Sam Hodges (eds.), Letters to Amanda: The Civil War Letters of Marion Hill Fitzpatrick, Army of Northern Virginia (Macon: Mercer University Press, 1998), pp.179-180.
A Wisconsin soldier in Atlanta wrote home to his wife, telling her of the mail running regularly again, some discussion of politics, and his plans to lead a foraging party.
"Trains are to go through from Chattanooga to-morrow, and then we shall have our regular mails again. To-morrow, I am officer of the day. George Jones has gone to Atlanta with the wagon, in hope of getting a new mule team in place of the lost one. If successful he will bring back a load of brick, and we will have fire-places made to-morrow. It is too uncomfortable without them; after four o'clock, it is so cold that one can do nothing but shiver.
"We are over whelmed with a flood of political prints and pamphlets; they are all on the Republican side. I don't know how my regiment will vote; it used to be strongly democratic, still I think the officers are, save one or two, for Lincoln. I never talk to them on political subjects. I am going to vote the Republican ticket straight through, but beyond that will not meddle with politics. Mr. Lincoln is personally no abler or stronger than Mc Clellan, but the influences which surround him, both of political and military-men, are such as to Support and strengthen him. I have little doubt that Lincoln will be elected, but the greater his majority, the more emphatic will be the blow to the enemies of the country.
"I am going on a foraging expedition tomorrow; besides my own regiment, I am going to have one hundred men from each of four others, and will probably be gone three or four days. A good many trains have gone into Atlanta, but none have come out from there. Our nearest neighbor, Colonel Case, of the 129th Illinois, has a Chicago paper nearly a month old, containing an account of General Sheridan's battle of the 19th of September. Our terrific losses in consequence of that surprise are sad to contemplate, but the skill and daring of General Sheridan certainly challenges the highest admiration. Almost any other general would have made his men work like beavers to secure themselves against further disaster by strengthening their position, when his bold spirit reorganized his broken and defeated battalions and led them against his victorious and exultant foe. It is the first time in this war that such a thing has been done or even been thought of. Sheridan has shown himself to be the greatest leader of battle that has yet appeared on the American field on either side."
Source: Civil War Letters of Major Fredrick C. Winkler, in 26th Wisconsin Infantry Volunteers Home Page
Atlanta Railroad Depot, 1864
Oct. 24, 1864: The Richmond Times Dispatch printed a manifesto from the Governors of the states of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi; it was composed at a meeting the governors held in Augusta, Georgia the previous week.
Manifesto of the Governors of the Confederate States.
A meeting of the Governors of the States of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi, was held in Augusta, Georgia, on Monday, the 17th instant. Governor William Smith, of Virginia, presided. After a full, free, and harmonious consultation and interchange of council, the following, among other views, were expressed:
Resolved, That there is nothing in the present aspect of public affairs to cause any abatement of our seal in the prosecution of the war to the accomplishment of a peace based on the independence of the Confederate States. And to give encouragement to our brave soldiers in the field and to strengthen the Confederate authorities in the pursuit of this desirable end, we will use our best exertions to increase the effective force of our armies.
Resolved, That the interests of each of our States are identical in the present struggle for self-government, and wisdom and true patriotism dictate that the military forces of each should aid the others against invasion and subjugation, and for this purpose we will recommend to our several legislatures to repeal all such laws as prohibit the executives from sending their forces beyond their respective limits, in order that they may render temporary service wherever most urgently required.
Resolved. That whilst it is our purpose to use every exertion to increase the strength and efficiency of our State and Confederate forces, we respectfully and earnestly request that the Confederate authorities will send to the field every able-bodied man, without exception, in any of its various departments, whose place can be filled by either disabled officers and soldiers, senior reserves or negroes, and dispense with the use of all provost and post guard, except in important cities, or localities where the presence of large bodies of troops make them necessary, and with all passport agents upon railroads not in the immediate vicinity of the armies, as we consider these agents an unnecessary annoyance to good citizens and of no possible benefit to the country.
Resolved, That we recommend our respective legislatures to pass stringent laws for the arrest and return to their commands of all deserters and stragglers from the Confederate armies or State troops, and that it be made the special duty, under appropriate penalties, of all civil and military officers to arrest and deliver to the proper authorities all such delinquents.
And whereas, the public enemy having proclaimed the freedom of our slaves, are foreign into their armies the able-bodied portion thereof, the more effectually to wage their cruel and bloody war against us; therefore be it.
Resolved, That it is the true policy and obvious duty of all slave owners timely to remove their slaves from the line of the enemy's approach, and especially those able to bear arms; and when they shall fail to do so, that it should be made the duty of the proper authorities to enforce the performance of this duty, and to give to such owners all necessary assistance as far as practicable.
Resolved, That the course of the enemy in appropriating our slaves who happen to fall in their hands to purposes of war, seems to justify a change of policy on our part; and whilst owners of slaves, under the circumstances, should freely yield them to their country, we recommend to our authorities, under proper regulations, to appropriate such part of them to the public service as may be required.
Resolved, That the States have the right to export such productions and to import such supplies as may be necessary for State use, or for the comfort or support of their troops in service, upon any vessel or vessels owned or chartered by them; and vessel or vessels owned or chartered by them; and that we request Congress at its next session to pass laws removing all restrictions which have been imposed by Confederate authority upon such exports or imports by the States.
And, lastly, we deem it not inappropriate to declare our firm and unalterable purpose, as we believe it to be that of our fellow-citizens, to maintain our right of self-government, to establish our independence, and to uphold the rights and sovereignty of the States, or to perish in the attempt.
Resolved, That the chairman be requested to send a copy of these resolutions to his Excellency President Davis, one each to the President of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives, to be laid before the respective bodies, and one to the governors of each State in the Confederacy.
Oct. 25, 1864: A young Georgia woman wrote to her fiance serving in Virginia, hoping he could come home over the winter. She knew little of the military situation in Georgia, but did mention (and send a copy) of Georgia Confederate Senator Herschel Johnson's thoughts on peace negotiations (see October 18).
"...Nothing affords me greater pleasure than a perusal of your letters. I hope the time is not far distant when we shall see each other. I do really think you ought to be permitted to visit Georgia this winter. Two years is a long time to be kept from home enduring so many hardships, sufferings and dangers. ...
I haven't a word of news to write concerning the two armies, in this state. Hood, though, is certainly in Sherman's rear, and doing much damage. ..."
Source: Clyde G. Wiggins III (ed.), My Dear Friend: The Civil War Letters of Alva Benjamin Spencer, 3rd Georgia Regiment, Company C (Macon, Mercer University Press, 2007), pp. 167-168.
The Southern Recorder of Milledgeville reprinted, from an Augusta newspaper, the same manifesto of southern governors that Richmond newspapers had printed the previous day.
The Confederate Union of Milledgeville printed an editorial entitled "Hope for us now," which actually offered little hope.
Oct. 26, 1864: The Richmond Times Dispatch reprinted several other newspaper reports on the actions of the Confederate army in Georgia, and as it crossed into Alabama. Reports like these were not uncommon - exaggerating minor engagements into something seemingly vital. In reality the remnants of the Confederate army were doing little except skirmishing and trying to disrupt communication lines - which were quickly repaired.
Affairs in Georgia.
The latest intelligence from General Hood, from Confederate sources, we find in a letter dated at Jacksonville, Alabama, the 17th, and published in the Montgomery Advertiser
. It says:
'General Hood invested Dalton on last Thursday, and at once sent in a flag of truce and demanded its surrender. Colonel Johnson, the Federal commander, came in person to see our general. "Will you," said the colonel, "treat the garrison as prisoners of war if I surrender"? "No, sir." "Will you parole it"? "No, sir; I will allow you five minutes to surrender, and if not complied with I will put the garrison to the sword." The colonel observed that the terms were hard, but that he would surrender, which was at once done. The prisoners captured were as follows: eight hundred negroes in full Yankee uniform, two hundred and fifty white soldiers, one battery of six guns, (field artillery,) and eighty cavalry, together with several guns, (mounted in the forts,) a large quantity of stores, ammunition, saddles and blankets.
'At Tilton we captured three hundred and fifty men without firing a gun.
After Dalton was captured a portion of our army was sent to make a demonstration upon Resaca, which is strongly garrisoned, and the remainder sent towards Chattanooga, which is garrisoned by six thousand negroes and white men - chiefly negroes. I hardly think, however, that any attack will be made upon that place, as it can be easily turned by the army crossing the river - well, you will find out before a great while.
Whilst all this was going on onthe railroad, two brigades of our cavalry were amusing the great and immortal hero and strategist, W. T. Sherman, with his whole army, at Rome. He drew up his army in front of that town in regular battle array, threw up entrenchments, put out flankers and skirmishers, made all other necessary arrangements for a general pitched battle, thinking that Hood was there with his whole strength of rebels. Our cavalry, however, gave him a fight, which lasted two days, and when whipped, they retired with colors flying.
The Montgomery Mail has the following interesting summary:
'Our news from the front is interesting. The speech of General Beauregard at Jacksonville, (reported by our special correspondent,) announces the capture of Dalton, Resaca and Ringgold - the three most important stations on the Georgia State road. [Jacksonville, the point from which we received our intelligence, is just beyond Blue mountain, and in direct rear of our army.] General Hood's headquarters, we are informed, were, at last accounts, near Lee &Gordon's mills, whilst Sherman was marching out for Chattanooga by way of Rossville. Thus affairs are shaping themselves for another battle upon the field of Chickamauga.
'The capture of the towns indicated, we are assured, was attended with but slight loss. Sherman was, doubtless, rapidly retreating, and we had only to encounter his rear guard. Ringgold is twenty-two miles this side of Chattanooga, and nine from Lee & Gordon's mills, and the same distance from Red Mouse ford, and other points made historic by the events of last year. Rossville is a little crossroad station in Lookout valley, five or six miles out of Chattanooga. Sherman has fortified all the passes upon Missionary ridge; but if we can defeat and drive him before us, we may enter Chattanooga by that broad gap which is made by the extreme left of Missionary ridge and the base of Lookout mountain, which cannot be securely fastened against the entry of an enemy.
The Macon southern Confederacy has the following:
We are relieved of the fears entertained a few weeks ago that the army would not follow General Hood with that confidence so essential to victory and success; but, in spite of the efforts that have been made to impress upon the army that he was a reckless rattlebrain, "without name or prestige of success," his movements, which have been so brilliant and rapid for the past fortnight, have been executed by soldiers too intelligent not to see the genius of the man; and so complete has been the revolution of sentiment in the army, that his presence is greeted with a shout by the same men who were retreating with broken spirit when he took command of them.
Oct. 27, 1864: A Georgia man wrote in his journal of his first experience with Yankee foragers.
". . . At 10 1/2 o'clock some 30 Yankees rode up. Took Phillips's wagon and two horses, all our meal and flour, one keg of syrup and several articles from the house that I do not know of, one bu. grain, the last we had. They stayed some 15 or 20 minutes and put back over the [Yellow] river. They also took John E's saddlebags and a large tin cup."
Source: Franklin M. Garrett, Atlanta and Its Environs: A Chronicle of Its People and Events (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1969 reprint of original 1954 volume), p. 648.
The Richmond Times Dispatch printed one brief report on military actions in Georgia.
Oct. 28, 1864: Union General William T. Sherman decided to return to Georgia instead of continuing the pursuit of Confederate General John Bell Hood and his army into Alabama.
The Richmond Times Dispatch printed the following, more detailed report on military actions in Georgia. But they were badly mistaken on where the "new field of operations" would be.
The position in Georgia--the New field of operations.
The whereabouts of General Hood is as uncertain to the Confederates as it is to Sherman. It appears that Sherman has left seven thousand men in Atlanta, and that force is strong enough to forage on the surrounding country, with heavy guards to the wagon trains. A force of Confederates is on the suburbs of the city, and last week threw a number of shell into it, causing a good deal of drum-beating and bugle-sounding by the Yankees within. Our cavalry--one brigade, Armistead's,--had a fight with a body of Sherman's cavalry, near Rome, a few days ago, and lost three pieces of artillery, which they did not have time to run across the river.--Sherman was certainly at Rome on the 16th instant, which is as far as he can go without giving up railroad transportation. When he leaves there he must take to wagoning his provisions; and he has not the animals to do that with. Lieutenant-General Dick Taylor has assumed command of Lieutenant-General S. D. Lee's corps, of Hood's army, and General Lee goes to the Department of the Mississippi.
The theatre of war in the Georgia Department is henceforth to be on new lines. Our move, already made, transfers it from about Atlanta to the country between Blue mountain and the Atlanta and Chattanooga railroad. Atlanta will never again be the scene of conflict. Over the mountain country of North Alabama, or upon another line further west, the war for the possession of Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama will be fought out. It is of much interest, then, to know the localities, distances and topography of the region which is to become historical by this struggle. The distance from Atlanta to Rome is about sixty miles; to Dalton, one hundred; to Chattanooga, one hundred and forty. The distance from Blue mountain to Rome is fifty-three miles; to Kingston, seventy; to Dalton, seventy-five; to Chattanooga, one hundred; to Bridgeport, eighty-five; to Huntsville, ninety-five. The topography of the country is rugged and mountainous, with many streams and bad roads. This region contains four rivers - the Chattahoochee, the Etowah, the Costanula and the Tennessee. The first flows in seven miles of Atlanta, and thence to West Point. The two latter unite at Rome and make the Coosa, which flows southward to Montgomery. The Coosa is navigable for steamboats from Greensport to Rome. The Tennessee flows by Chattanooga and Bridgeport and near to Huntsville. It is necessary to understand the topography in order to know what can be done by our generals in future operations in that region.
There are three lines by which we can assail the Yankees if they remain in Georgia, but the most
practicable line is that by Blue mountain. It is far from the enemy's lines, and is protected from assault by rivers and mountains. It is, therefore, secure and reliable. Still it has some disadvantages. Its terminus is too far from the enemy's line to serve as a convenient base for us. The distance from Blue mountain to the Yankee line of communication in Georgia, the Chattanooga and Atlanta railroad, is about seventy miles. This is five days march, and is only practicable in tolerable weather and roads.--Our army cannot remain nearer the enemy's line than Blue mountain. Our operations then, must, for the present, be limited to frequent raids upon his railroad. In five days, we can destroy it for thirty miles; and in five days, return. Thus, we can make the raid in fifteen days. We can do damage enough to employ the Yankees thirty days in rebuilding the road.--When nearly completed, we can make another raid, and destroy it again, repeating the operation as often as he rebuilds.
He cannot keep an army in Atalanta, or near it under such conditions. How then is he to prevent our destruction of his road? He can do it only by attacking and destroying our army. He cannot defend the road between Kingston and Chattanooga without leaving Atlanta and putting his army between Kingston and Rome. This involves the abandonment of Atlanta. But this is not all. If he puts his army between Kingston and Chattanooga, we can then strike it in Wills' Valley, near Bridgeport, and destroy it there. He cannot defend all points at once. Even on the road from Kingston to Chattanooga he cannot defend all points. If he divides his army between several points, thus divided it cannot resist. If he masses it at Kingston, we can strike the road near Dalton. If he masses his army at Dalton, we can strike the road near Kingston, and so on. Neither dispersion nor concentration will avail him. Our line is perpendicular to his, and opposite to the centre of his line from Bridgeport to Atlanta.--We can strike any part of his line for one hundred and seventy miles. There is but a small difference in the distance from our base to any part of his line. Our line being perpendicular to his, only one point of it, the terminus, is exposed, and our army covers that. He cannot reach it without encountering our army. If he had Blue mountain he could not hold it twenty days for want of supplies.
Oct. 29, 1864: The Richmond Times Dispatch printed another very misleading item on the action in Georgia - praising General John Bell Hood for his "remarkable movements" which were in fact retreats after losing badly in battle.
There is nothing new from Georgia. Some idea of the celerity of General Hood's remarkable movements may be formed from the fact, that in fourteen days his army has marched one hundred and fifty miles. All the railroad destruction which has been effected was done by only a portion of one corps, which did not march with the main army. There
has been no infantry fighting since the attack on Altoona. The town of Resaca was menaced, but found too strongly defended, and was not attacked. In the main army each division drives its drove of cattle before it, and as fast as they are thinned out they are replenished from the surrounding country. The men have plenty of rations, but are in want of shoes and clothing. On Tuesday, the 18th, the army was at Blue Pond, twenty-six miles from Gunter's landing, on the Tennessee river. The river was high, but had commenced falling.
General Beauregard issued an address on the 17th in taking command. He says the enemy must be driven out of Atlanta, and offers an amnesty to all deserters returning to their commands within thirty days.
This week's edition of Harper's Weekly printed a detailed account of Union General William T. Sherman's actions in Georgia thus far.
Image Courtesy of Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library / University of Georgia Libraries
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