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In Their Own Words

July 25, 1864

Letter Described Status of Atlanta Campaign

Lt. Col. Fredrick Winkler of the 26th Wisconsin Infantry wrote his wife of the status of Sherman’s campaign to take Atlanta:

“We are very near Atlanta, actually besieging it, only I doubt whether we have troops enough wholly to encompass it; still we are bound to take it, there can be little doubt of it. Our batteries throw shot and shell into the city and the forts around the city, and the rebels reply from their forts at times quite lustily. My regiment is in a very good position and, though one or two shells have struck within the camp, we are unhurt. Do you want my old hat? I have put it up and will send it off by mail. You can see the mark that bullet left on the 22nd of June. I have been through so many battles; nearly two hundred officers and men of my regiment have been killed and wounded in this campaign; I have been with them always, exposed as much as any, and have come out unscathed. I have faith that I will in the future and finally come home. The papers have doubtless told you how disastrously to the rebels the battles of the 20th and the 22nd resulted, and also that General McPherson, who commanded the Army of the Tennessee, was killed. Everybody naturally thought General Hooker would be his successor, both on the score of merit and seniority. Yesterday the official notice came that General Howard had been assigned to that command and General Hooker, at his own request, relieved from duty with this army. The news was received with profound regret. The assignment of General Howard to that command is certainly very unexpected. It is well known that Sherman is unfavorably disposed towards Hooker, and the latter has had to put up with many slights during the campaign. His corps has gained a name here in the army that none other can rival, but no word of acknowledgment has ever come from General Sherman. McPherson was Hooker’s junior, and so is Schofield, both commanded departments, while he only commanded a corps; yet he made no objection and he would not have objected now-considering it another army from this - but to take his junior out of this very department for that command was a pointed insult and proves that the doors to his advancement under Sherman are prematurely closed. If the good name of any corps has ever been questioned during any campaign, it is that of the 4th, General Howard’s. All generals and field officers of the corps got together this forenoon and took leave of General Hooker. He shook hands with us all and assured us, while the tears rolled down his cheeks, that he had never had a command that he had such perfect confidence in and had proved itself so equal to all emergencies as this corps. He was evidently very much moved. We are now in rather a bad fix with our generals. Brigadier General Williams, of the 1st Division, has temporary command of the corps as field officer. Since General Butterfield left us, we have had a Division Commander whose profound indolence alone prevents him from manifesting his incapacity by daily blunders of the worst kind. It is too bad that men of acknowledged ability cannot keep aloof from dishonorable jealousies. There has been considerable fighting along the lines today. Our lines are moving from the left to the right with the view, I suppose, of meeting at the Mobile Railroad. Two of my men have been slightly bruised by a shell, otherwise we are all well.”

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