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In Their Own Words

July 23, 1864

Unflattering Opinion of Atlanta

In a letter written to his mother, Confederate soldier A.J. Neal revealed an unflattering view of Atlanta and some of his comrades in arms:

“I rode over [to] Atlanta yesterday, and it really made me sad to witness the ruin and destruction of the place. The soldiers have broke open many stores and scattered things over the streets promiscuously. There is the same noise and bustle on Whitehall [Street] but instead of thrift and industry and prosperity, it is hurried scramble to get away, fleeing from the wrath to come. If Sodom deserved the fate that befell it, Atlanta will not be unjustly punished, for since this war commenced it has grown to be the great capital place of corruption in official and private circles. While I regret the loss of Atlanta on account of its great value to the country as a military base and its incalculable value on account of its arsenals, foundries, manufacturies and railroad connections, I can scarcely regret that the nest of speculators and thieves, &c. is broken up. the constant and glorious patriotism and self-sacrificing devotion to our cause displayed by the women of Atlanta is the only redeeming virtue of the place.”

Source: Mills Lane (ed.), “Dear Mother: Don’t grieve about me. If I get killed, I’ll only be dead.”: Letters from Georgia Soldiers in the Civil War (Savannah: Beehive Press, 1990), p. 321.