- Jul 23, 2017
- Southwest Missouri
It is late bed time, but we suspect an attack, and have been sitting up hoping that if we are attacked it may be before we have gone to bed, for we dislike being hurried out of our blankets in the small hours of the night by the racket of an attacking column. Two deserters, who came into our lines since dark, report that Hardee with his Corps, and 5000 additional troops, is to attack our right flank tonight. If he does that it will bring us into the fight speedily, but if the old 14th Corps has half a chance, tomorrow's sun will rise upon Hardee a defeated man. He may make the attack, but I hardly think he will, for the rebel loss has been so great in such attacks, since we crossed the river, that they can't afford to lose many more men without utterly destroying their army. They may attack when and where they please, whether in front or flank, it makes but little difference, we'll manage some way to punish them severely every time they undertake it. The musketry is quite sharp along our lines just now, so come on Mr. Hardee if you think you can stand it, we will give you a soldierly entertainment at least.
I believe men to become hardened to some extent in the army. Two years ago I would have had many serious thoughts over the prospect that presents itself tonight; a threatened night attack by a whole army corps, would have unfitted me for writing, driven sleep from my eyelids, and kept me nervously pacing about during the whole night, but I can't possibly feel so now.
I find myself studying the situation- thinking about the weak points and the strong points of our line-speculating as to how and where the enemy will make his first attack- studying the probabilities as to whether he will make any attack at all, and finally concluding that they may possibly attack- better be ready for it anyhow, and they may possibly drive us back a little way, but they can't whip us, and their loss in the end will be far greater than ours. I presume that is the way most officers, who have been any considerable time in the service feel about it tonight.
Questions of personal hazard are of secondary consideration, for individual safety is best secured by securing the safety of all; and yet I don't think men become callous to danger, indeed I think it is the reverse, and for myself, I know I took more and greater risks during my first year of service than I would take now, for I was verdant then, and took risks without knowing it, possibly for fear some one might say I was afraid to do this or that.
I guess I had better not write any more to convince you of my moral degeneration, and as my eyelids begin to feel heavy I'll lay down my pen and venture to my blankets, and if Mr. Hardee is running around tonight he had better follow my example, that is, not get into my blankets but into his own; so hoping that a quiet night may usher in a quiet morning, I'll say good night.
Atlanta, Sunday, September 11, 1864
It is a pleasant, breezy afternoon in September, and as I sit here in my tent, on a beautiful grassy hill in the suburbs of the fallen city, and watch our National colors floating gaily from its spires, I feel profoundly thankful that God has permitted me to pass safely through all the stern struggles of this long campaign, and that mine eyes are permitted to see the old flag floating over still another stronghold of the enemy. I knew we would triumph; in the darkest hours of this campaign my faith in our ultimate success was strong; I did not expect the city would fall into our hands without terrible fighting, but I knew we could do the fighting, and had no fears of the result. Our Corps had the honor of giving the grand finishing stroke to the campaign, on the first day of this month, at Jonesboro, on the Macon railroad, about 20 miles south of Atlanta, where we met the enemy, charged his works and carried them with the bayonet, capturing eight pieces of artillery, instead of four as I wrote you before, several stands of colors, over 1,000 prisoners, instead of 500, among them Brig. Gen. Govan, .and utterly routing and scattering the rest of the army confronting us. Oh, it was a glorious battle! But this Division suffered terribly. There was no chance for flinching there. Generals, Colonels, Majors, Captains and privates, all had to go forward together over that open field, facing and drawing nearer to death at every step we took, our horses crazy, frantic with the howling of shells, the rattling of canister and the whistling of bullets, ourselves delirous with the wild excitement of the moment, and thinking only of getting over those breast works-great volleys of canister shot sweeping through our lines making huge gaps, but the blue coated boys filled the gaps and still rushed forward right into the jaws of death-we left hundreds of bleeding comrades behind us at every step, but not one instant did that line hesitate - it moved steadily forward to the enemy's works with a shoutoYer the cannon-over the rebels, and then commenced stern work with the bayonet, but the despairing cries of surrender soon stopped it, the firing ceased, and 1,000 rebels were hurried to the rear all prisoners of war. The General rode forward with the front line despite our protests .and had two horses shot under him during the charge, my tent mate . . . was shot in the right arm, why the other five of us escaped is one of the strange things found in a battle, when we were all similarly exposed to the fire. When the cheer of victory went up, I recollect finding myself in a tangled lot of soldiers, on my horse, just against the enemy's log breastworks, my hat off, and tears streaming from my eyes, but as happy a;, a mortal is ever permitted to be. I could have lain down on that blood stained grass, amid the dying and the dead and wept with excess of joy. I have no language to express the r.apture one feels in the moment of victory, but I do know that at such a moment one feels as if the joy were worth risking a hundred lives to attain it. Men at home will read of that battle and be glad of our success, but they can never feel as we felt, standing there quivering with excitement, amid the smoke and blood, and fresh horrors and grand trophies of that battle field. That night, as we lay on the ground without blankets or tents, we were aroused by sound of distant explosions away off to the North, in the direction of Atlanta, and many were the conjectures as to the cause, but the afternoon brought us the intelligence that the enemy had "evacuated Atlanta last night, blowing up 86 car loads of ammunition, and destroying large amounts of public stores." Then went up more lusty cheers than were ever heard in that part of Georgia before. Atlanta was ours; the object of our campaign was accomplished, and of course, we were happy.
Atlanta, Sunday, September 11, 1864
I presume everybody at home is so deeply immersed in politics as to scarcely give a thought to the armies in the field. One party seems to want peace. That suits us here. We want peace too, honorable peace, won in the full light of day,at the cannon's mouth and the bayonet's point, with our grand old flag flying over us as we negotiate it, instead of cowardly peace purchased at the price of national dishonor.
(great description of city of Atlanta in this letter - describes it as looking less Southern and more Western as he describes it)
Full letters online