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This Day in Georgia Civil War History

May 22, 1864

Union Soldiers Wrote of Battles in Atlanta Campaign

Two northern soldiers, one from Wisconsin and one from Michigan, wrote back to their families on this day, describing the intensity of the battles that had taken place, and glad to be in a break from them. First, the Wisconsin soldier to his wife.

“This is a much pleasanter Sunday morning than it was a week ago, not in point of weather alone, but it is more Sunday like. No booming of cannon, no rattling of musketry, no ordering voices harsh with excitement, no shrieks of wounded, no groans of dying, no confusion of battle disturbs the holy quiet of the Sabbath Day. A week ago the riot of human weakness, folly and passion seemed to contend with the goodness of God and for a time almost to gain mastery over it; Nature was calm and placid, the happy birds sung merrily in green boughs, the air was balmy and soft, all betokened the beneficence of the Ruler above, but man converted this scene of peaceful calm to a Pandemonium of terror and destruction until Night kindly threw its mantle over the scene and screened the combatants from each other’s view Brave men may, but I believe there are very few, if any, who take delight in battle, and very few who in the heat of an engagement will not welcome the coming night as that of a friend who will stop the fierce wrangle and bring relief to the struggling men. There is something so providentially kind in it to those who have survived the dangers of the day, in the fall of night upon the battle field. It brings relief to the anxious heart and inspires it with gratitude to God for the favors shown during those hours of danger. I have just obtained leave for my Quartermaster to go to Chattanooga for my valise. He will take this letter. There are all sorts of rebel movements in circulation. We have great faith in our generals. It seems to me that Sherman has displayed the qualities of a very able and energetic general. We had a circular from him this morning, in which he said that all reports about his suppressing mail communications between soldiers and their friends at home were false; that, on the contrary, he encouraged such correspondence and wished all subordinate commanders to take measures to make the mall service in the field as efficient as possible; the only thing he discouraged was the idlers who traffic in news injurious to the army. I rode over to Cassville last night; it is quite a pretty village with several churches but deserted and desolate.” Source: Civil War Letters of Major Fredrick C. Winkler, in 26th Wisconsin Infantry Volunteers Home Page

And the Michigan soldier to his sister.
“… My health is good. We are having very warm weather at present. Our Division moves tomorrow with 20 days rations, as does the whole army. I believe. I send you some Photographs. My company was in the extreme advance the 18th. I had my men deployed as skirmishers on the left on a hill our attention all directed to the front when a regiment of rebels came charging around to my left and near. Yelling like incarnate fiends. My men saw the situation as soon as I and giving orders to fall back to the road we succeeded in reaching amid a perfect shower of leaden hail which cut the boughs and twigs above my head in every direction. We had run upon two Brigades of Confederate cavalry and with in * mile of their permanent camp. The road runs between two hills all the way we had no support (that was the [truth] of it) for four miles back. But were obliged to fight it out alone. They flanked us badly and had us entirely surrounded all but breaking the column. I did not expect to get out without being wounded or captured. But the bullets slighted me that time. Billy Egleston[William R Egleston, Lapeer, Mich, Captain Co B] was wounded in the fight near Rome, nothing serious however. Carter [Julius M Carter, Ovid, Mich] is doing well I hear and on his way home. I had one brave sergeant shot dead. I have some of the coolest and bravest men in any Co I ever saw. I saw many a rebel bite the dust from their shots, well-aimed. They lost a Col killed 2nd Georgia. We are resting today. The Army will advance in a day or two. The Trains are running regular to Kingston four miles north of us. We are about 60 miles from Atlanta. Report says Johnson[CSA General J E Johnston] will make a stand not far below here. No betting. We will know when we try them. We have flanked them out of Dalton and Resaca, two very strongly fortified places, naturally and artificially and we can flank them again or, if they will fight, we can whip them. They say Johns[t]on is reported to have said if he got whipped again he would retreat to Atlanta and hoist the stars and stripes. I have not recd any letters in a long time. Don’t know where they are. You must keep writing. We are encamped in a good place. Plenty of shade and a beautiful spring of cool water near. Whatever the rebel have preached and said about holding this country against the whole Yankee army. I know one thing, the citizens have lost all faith in them or their army, as is proved by the fine deserted residences, beautiful gardens or flowers, superb carriages and plated harness left in the flight from the ‘invader.’ I tell you Southern Aristocracy is ‘played out’ after this war is ended this country will be peopled by a different set of people. Write to your Brother.” The Letters of Henry Albert Potter, May-August 1864