This Day in Georgia Civil War History
May 20, 1864
Brief Break in Atlanta Campaign
With General Joseph E. Johnston’s Confederate forces having retreated across the Etowah River the previous day, Union General William T. Sherman decided to take a short break to re-supply his army from Chattanooga - resulting in a brief suspension of the Atlanta Campaign.
A Wisconsin soldier with the Union army in Georgia wrote back to his wife, telling her of their brief break, and speculating on future plans. He also mentioned that their rations were to be supplemented by foraging from the local populace - a practice that would become infamous on the March to the Sea later in the year.
“… We are to have one more opportunity to write, two days of rest, and then another campaign, apparently of extraordinary rigor. We have a fly net and have put it up for our inner apartment, while our sitting room has a roof of green boughs, which affords a very nice, cool shade in these hot days. We found a few boards which made a good table, and with a few chairs we are comparatively comfortable. We also have plenty of fresh meat now, and were so lucky as to get some dried apples and some corn meal. I shall tell you of the secrets of our army movements. I know you will not communicate it either to rebel spies or to the press. Well we have a big order from General Sherman today, in which he directs the points at which the troops are to be massed, and says that they must be ready to march on the 23rd in light fighting order with twenty days’ rations and haversack and wagons, so as to be independent of the railroad. The rations are reduced and the deficiency is to be supplied by foraging. As we are to go through a country where there is no lack of beef cattle, this doubtless means a move on a large scale and another march, probably a battle, and I hope a decisive victory. It is doubtful whether I will be able to send you a letter during these twenty days. The bugle is blowing for dress parade, and the mail is to be taken off.” Source: Civil War Letters of Major Fredrick C. Winkler, in 26th Wisconsin Infantry Volunteers Home Page