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This Day in Georgia Civil War History

February 01, 1865

Letter from Soldier Told How Rain Affected Operations

The Richmond Times Dispatch reprinted a letter from a soldier in Augusta, Georgia, telling of how the recent rains had affected military operations on both sides.

Augusta, Georgia, January 24, 1865. The late freshet has not only seriously interfered with military movements, but, for a time, it put a complete stop to all travel by railway. Nearly every part of this town was under water, while the whole of Hamburg, on the opposite side of the river, was submerged to the depth of six or ten feet. The people in both places are still engaged in pumping out the water from the cellars and repairing the damages done by the flood. Now that the railways have been put in running order again, the rush of travelers and mail matter is overwhelming. The trains, station-houses, hotels and wayside homes are overflowed by the mighty multitude, crowding and jostling each other; and he is considered a happy mortal who secures standing-room in a box-car, or a chair at a hotel on which to snatch a little sleep. So much for the freshet. The injury done by Sherman to the railway lines in Georgia has not yet been repaired. The railways from Macon and Montgomery to Atlanta will soon be in running order again; but it will require several months to restore the upper end of the line between this city and Atlanta. No effort has been made thus far to relay the track of the Georgia Central railroad between Gordon, a station twenty miles below Macon, and Millen. Until these gaps can be closed up, the Government is forced to rely upon wagon trains, which are doing all that could be expected at this rainy period of the year. But the heavy rains have embarrassed the operations-of the enemy as well as of ourselves. The freshet which did so much damage to bridges and railways in the hill country, where the water was confined to narrow channels, upon approaching the coast, spread out over wide tracts of level country, and rendered all movements across the direction of the water-course wholly impossible for sometime. For this reason there need be no apprehensions of an immediate raid from Savannah into Southwestern Georgia, the teeming granary of the Confederate States. This enforced delay on the part of the enemy will give our authorities time to prepare for a movement into that part of the State, which there is every reason to believe will be undertaken as soon as the waters subside. It were folly to attempt to disguise the fact that there is very great discontent in this State and in South Carolina and North Carolina. With trifling exceptions, there is no desire on the part of the people for a reconstruction of the Union; but candor compels me to say there is wide and deep-seated dissatisfaction at the management of public affairs, which, if not timely checked, threatens to produce the gravest disasters. I shall not under take to say whether this discontent is the result of unavoidable military reverses, or of mismanagement by our civil and military authorities, or of the teachings of a factious press, which thinks it a light affair to destroy the confidence of the people in their leaders, or of the sordid spirit of gain which has taken such a hold upon the country. It may be that all of these causes have combined to produce the deplorable state of dissatisfaction, despondency and faction in which I have found the people all along my circuitous route from Richmond to Augusta. But that great discontent does prevail, and that it threatens, like a cloud overcharged with electricity, to vent itself upon the nearest object - possibly upon the cause itself, which now engages every patriot’s heart - there is not the shadow of a doubt. The opinion here expressed has not been hastily formed. It has been more than a month since the writer left Richmond; he has mingled freely with people of all shades of opinion; with the friends as well as with the opponents of the Administration; and he is painfully convinced that he does not exaggerate when he says that the authorities at Richmond must concede something to popular sentiment - that the press must be more reticent and forbearing, remembering that it is one-thing to criticise the conduct of public men and point out their errors as we would those of a friend, and quite another thing to denounce them and destroy their power for future good - and that the standard of private virtue and public morals must be elevated, and the people called away from the groves and high places where Mammon is worshipped, and where patriotism is bartered away for gold. If something like this be not done; if, in other words, a remedy for existing disorders be not found and speedily applied, those in authority, as well as the press and the people, may live to see the day when they will call upon the rocks and mountains to fall upon them and hide them from the consequences of their own infatuation. People in Richmond, at the time I left the capital, had but a faint idea of the real condition of affairs. The Administration itself did not begin to realize the estimation in which it is held by the country - whether rightfully or wrongfully, I need not now stop to consider. –The fact is what I am after, and the fact is as I have stated it to be. Such is the malady. What is the remedy? Patience and firmness on the part of the people; reticence, forbearance and judicious criticism on the part of the press; and conciliation and a generous confidence on the part of the Government, and an energetic administration of military affairs, so that all the resources of the country, whether of men or material,–and of men, whether black or white,–shall be made available in the struggle for our liberties. A long pull, a strong pull, and a pull all together, would secure our independence as surely as to-morrow’s sun will rise and set. P. W. A.