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This Day in Georgia Civil War History

November 23, 1864

Union Soldier Wrote of Slaves Following Army

A Wisconsin soldier wrote home to his wife from Milledgeville, telling her of their travels this far, and of the slaves trying to follow the Union army.

“I write at the Capitol of the State of Georgia, We left Atlanta a week ago yesterday, in the rear of the whole train of the corps; that is always a very tedious marching, and we marched all night to make the distance to Stone Mountain, about sixteen miles. We had only time for a short rest and breakfast before we started again, and marched in the same tedious fashion until ten in the evening. The next few days we had to work tearing up the railroad a good deal, besides marching; only the last few days have we got into camp before dark. We marched along the railroad to Augusta as far as Madison, and then south to this place. The country is full of large plantations; some of the villages are very beautiful. Madison has magnificent mansions and gardens, roses and other flowers are in full bloom everywhere. The last two nights, however, have nipped them with frost. I am sitting this evening at the opening of a wall tent, with a big fire before me. The white people of Georgia are cold and for the most part intensely Secesh, and remain true to the most terrible resolutions that they will never give up, but the negroes, black and white-for it is difflcult to distinguish them from white men-are the most devoted friends of the Yankee soldiers. Their demonstrations are literally frantic. They dance and shout and clap their hands when they see our column approach. Whatever a soldier may ask for, they hasten to do for him. Whatever their masters have, he will get. It is claimed the negroes are so well contented with their slavery; if it ever was so, that day has ceased to be. Hundreds of men go with us, and thousands would if they could take their families along. Most of them have more or less white blood in their veins, and though they are not taught even to count, they are by no means unintelligent. Up to this time I have thought the South could organize a formidable military force out of their negroes, but I am satisfied now that they dare not attempt it. Every negro in the land will defend a Yankee soldier to the utmost of his power; many of our prisoners have escaped by their aid, and not one I believe has ever been betrayed by them. At Madison they burned the calaboose or whipping post, and the wild transports of men, women and children, dancing about, was really a spectacle worth seeing.” Source: Civil War Letters of Major Fredrick C. Winkler, 1864 in 26th Wisconsin Infantry Volunteers Home Page