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In Their Own Words

July 24, 1864

Fighting in Atlanta Described in Letter

Lt. Col. Fredrick Winkler of the 26th Wisconsin Infantry wrote to his wife of the previous day’s fighting in the Atlanta Campaign:

“I was interrupted about twenty-four hours ago by sudden and lively fire at our skirmish line, which brought us all to our feet and under arms. It proved to be nothing but a weak, unsuccessful attack to drive in our pickets. This had scarcely subsided when an order came to get ready to march at once, as we were to go to the right and take up our position between the Marietta road and the railroad. Half a mile’s march brought us to the new position, by the principal road that leads into Atlanta from the north. We are now more exposed to the enemies fire, as all their batteries in position here seem to be batteries of twenty pound Parrotts, which keep up a slow, steady fire on the City of Atlanta, their especial aim, but we are protected by strong works and there is not much danger. Our battery kept up a fire on the city all night. We could plainly see the burning fuse of the shell as it sped on its way. At one time there was a fire in the city, probably caused by our shell. The tall kind sergeant, you remember, was wounded in the breast last Sunday, I fear fatally. Few that were not with us will ever appreciate the fierceness of our struggle that afternoon; besides a strong enemy in front and on the left, we were exposed to the sun, which was literally scorching. After we had won the field and were at last relieved, the men were so exhausted that they could hardly move, and some had to be carried back though not wounded; among these was my Adjutant, who seemed to be in hysterias, and for a time I almost feared that he was dying. One Captain and Lieutenant, who had worked splendidly, were in about the same condition. I had not strength to speak above a whisper, but soon recovered. Our guns were so hot from rapid firing that the men could not touch the barrels. Our brigade commander is not in the habit of going into a very hot field and was not on this occasion where he could see the fight. What little management there was in front of my brigade was mine. I sent for regiments to come up, and this much Colonel Wood did; he sent them when requested by me, and when they came up they took the positions I designated as most important. In fact, if it had not been for Lieutenant Colonel Hurst’s, 73rd Ohio, and my exertion, I doubt whether we would have advanced at all; we would have remained in the low corn fields, leaving all the hills to the enemy, and defeat would have been inevitable. I was the first to advance, and I did it rather by permission than under orders.”

Source: Civil War Letters of Major Fredrick C. Winkler, in 26th Wisconsin Infantry Volunteers Home Page