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In Their Own Words

July 23, 1864

Diary Entry on Suffering Caused by Civil War

William King of Cobb County was recovering from a cold, but suffered “more in spirits than in body” over the suffering he was witnessing.

I feel pretty well again this morning, my cold having pretty nearly passed off. I went to see Mrs. McClatchy yesterday afternoon, she kindly requested me to come and stay with them if I got sick, I could not bear to be sick alone at Home. I now suffer more in spirits than in body, I hope after a few days we may be allowed the privilege of going into town again. The greater part of this morning we have heard heavy firing of cannon toward the S.E. I learnt last evening that the Federal forces had gone into Atlanta the previous afternoon, but have heard none of the particulars. I hope the citizens did not abandon their homes as they did here, as painful as it is to be restricted as we are here, it is a duty to remain at home and give personal attention to one’s interests, the path of duty is the path of safety, running away from Home even before an enemy is cowardice and weakness–my stay here though subjecting me to many inconveniences, has been and still is a source of much gratification in affording me an opportunity of knowing the character of the Federal Army, and understanding their feelings and plans and so far none, even among privates in their intercourse with me have manifested any other feelings than those which are kind and gentlemanly. I have had nothing to pain me in my free intercourse with them, but everything has tended to allay any unkind feelings which I may have previously entertained and I truly wish all our ultra disunion men of the South could have enjoyed the same privilege I have for the past 3 weeks– both in sorrows and in joys. I had a number of visitors last night who spent the night with me and left early in the morning. Maj. H.C. Flagg left me after an early dinner today for his command in front, much to my sorrow, he has been with me over two weeks having been quite unwell. I formed a strong attachment for him, although an ultra union man, he is a man of generous and warm sympathies, fine talent, and well educated, a native of Virginia near Martinsburg, a lawyer residing at Rogersville, Ea. Ten. about 30 years old with a wife & 2 children; his sufferings and losses he says have been great by the destruction of his property in Rogersville. He often said to me he thoroughly condemned the robberies and destruction of property which was so often done by soldiers, but that if I knew as well as he did, how many of them had suffered severely in the same way and among their friends at their Homes, I would understand what demon passions had been roused, and how difficult a duty it was for the officers to keep their men in check–the brute passions had been aroused, and it seemed nothing short of brute gratification could appease it. I had a short visit this afternoon from 3 young men connected with the Commissary department in town, they asked me visit them when I went to town. Gen’l Rousseau came to town last evening with his command. They are encamped at the Military Hill. I was gratified to hear this afternoon that he had not made an attack on the West Point Bridge, it being too strongly guarded, thus relieving me from much of my anxiety about the safety of our dear little boy–nor had he gone to Montgomery. Mr. Shepard and young McClatchy called to see me today, an old man and wife who live near Ruff’s Station, also made me a visit, they say they have been pretty much robbed of everything and they had been trying to get to town to get something to live on, but they would not be allowed to go in; that they had some corn but there was no mill to grind, that some of the soldiers told them that we had a handmill here, and asked me if we would allow them to grind on it. I told them that they or any of their neighbors could do so, he said they have been pounding their corn in a mortar, they said they would come on Monday with corn to grind. How great and many are the sufferings of the poor. Mrs. McClatchy informed me that when Gen’l Rousseau’s Cavalry passed the House yesterday afternoon she noticed one of their soldiers lashed down on his horse, his head tied down on the neck, she inquired the cause, and was informed that he had been caught stealing a chicken on the road, and he had been tied all day in that manner for punishment. The heavy firing has continued all day and still continues at dark.

Source: Diary of William King; Cobb County, Georgia, 1864