Memoir Chapter 19

MEMOIRS OF THE CIVIL WAR
W. L. TRUMAN


CHAPTER 19 – Facing Sherman, May 16 to June 4 ’64

Tuesday, May 17th. Left about nine o’clock this morning and by twelve arrived at Kingston, then on several miles further to the front, where we all unloaded and got ready for business, in one hours time. Heavy firing is going on along our whole front, with artillery and sharp shooting incessently, but I do not expect a battle this evening, as it now four o’clock. We have moved out and taken position in our second line of battle right by a little town called Adairsville. The 1st Mo Brig. arrived tonight, weather wet, considerable rain today, and the Confederate army had no protection in the way of clothing that will turn the rain, therefore every man is wet and will remain so until his cloths dry on him, but this is the lot of the Confederate soldier summer and winter, when in active campaign. This is not the case with our Northern enemies, as they all have waterproof overcoats, in fact our enemies have the advantage of us, by the best of arms, ammunition, clothing, rations and numbers, yet they do not come out from their breastworks and try to walk over us.

Wednesday, May 18th. About nine o’clock last night our line was ordered to fall back, and continued the retreat until sunrise this morning making about twelve miles, which is slow time but the night was dark, roads heavy, and our infantry moved slowly. A line of battle was immediately formed, horses unharnessed and fed, and every man wrapped himself in his wet blanket and in his wet cloths and was soon in the land of dreams with home folks and his best girl, which many of us will never see again, which many of us will never see again only in that way. The bulk of the army, had a good rest as we remained here all day. Cockrell’s Mo. Brig., Ector’s Texas Brig., and Sears Mississippi Brig. which three Brigs. formed Gen. French’s Division, which is in Gen. Polks army corps. I went over to our Mo. Brig. and had a chat with my friend Kirkpatrick, we have not met for ten days of more, and we were surely glad to get together.

Thursday, May 19th. My battery received orders last night to harness up and be ready to move on short notice. Artillery firing and heavy skirmishing have been going on all day, all along our line and it seems that we would have a general engagement at any time, but the enemy may no general advance, about 5 o’clock Gen. French’s division was moved back several hundred yards to a high ridge, right over the little town of Cassville. My battery was just above the town and within twenty feet of the nice home of Gen. Walker’s mother. Gen. Walker is in Hardee’s corps.

Our position over looks a beautiful rich valley which extends to a ridge with timber about two thirds of a mile in our front. We have a splendid position, we are all, infantry and artillerymen anxious for the battle to come off, believing, that with God’s help we will gain the victory. About sunset this evening our skirmish line on the opposite side of the valley were attacked and forced out of the timber, and as they were retreating in nice order in a walk they were charged by a body of the enemy’s cavalry in full view of most of our army. The skirmishers ran together and formed squares in a minute and stood the ground, and we opened on the cavelry immediately with our guns and bursted a few shells among them and they beat a hasty retreat for the timber. The skirmishers deployed again and quietly continued their retreat to within the proper distance of our line of battle. We were sorry to see that we had broken nearly every pane of glass in the windows of Mrs. Walkers house by the jarring of our guns.

Friday, May 20th; 8 P.M. Last night will be remembered by the 1st Mo. battery at least, as being the first time we were ever called upon to build breastworks for our protection on the field of battle, for the simple reason that our battery and the Mo. brigade have never yet fought a battle on the defensive and perhaps will never have that chance. About nine o’clock last night we were ordered to throw up breastworks for our guns, and about twelve o’clock, when we had the job complete, we received orders to retreat and take up position south of Etowah river, six miles to the rear. This order was a complete surprise to us all, as we were assured that the fight would come off here. The army is in good trim and spirits and will give a good account of themselves when the contest comes. The army crossed the Etowah, on three bridges, and two or three pontoons. We took our position at three o’clock this morning and will rest until daylight.

Saturday, May 21th. Moved out two miles from Allatoona, near which place we took our position last night. It is a small place on the R.R. has about fifty inhabitants, is nestled right in among a cluster of high hills, with a deep R.R. cut some eighty feet deep getting into the place. There has been some artillery firing in our rear today, our commissary issued us a few days rations of real sure enough coffee. Gen. Johnston must have captured it from Gen. Sherman during the last few days, our commissary has not had a pound to issue for more than two years except as we capture it.

Sunday, May, 22nd. My Battery and Brig. have remained in camp all day, I have done guard duty today, and could not leave camp. Every thing quiet along the line today. Weather clearing up, have had much rain lately. I received a letter from my Alabama Girl today, which cheered my spirits, and made me feel glad that I was still in the land of the living. She is the Miss, of the home that has offered me a home if I should be so unfortunate as to get sick or wounded. A letter from such a home is refreshing, it also gives pleasure in contemplating a slight temporary misfortune.

Monday, May 23rd. Fell back about ten miles. My battery generally marches in front of our 1st, Mo. Brig.

Tuesday, May 24th. Our Brig. took the lead today, marched about the same distance. Have heard artillery firing in our front. I have been quite sick all day, and had to ride in the ambulance. We are now in line of battle.

Wednesday, May 25th. Moved two miles, and parked our guns. I rode in the ambulance as I am too sick to walk, I tried to write a letter, but felt too bad. We are in line of battle, awaiting an attack. Gen. Hood who is on our right, had a hot fight this evening, repulsing the enemy three times. Polk’s corps holds the center, Hardee, the left. We are in position on a high hill, supported by our Brig. on our left, and Ector’s Texas on our right, and Sears Miss. braves just behind our battery, as a reserve. We are ready and would like to fight it out right here. Our Dr. Bennet, wanted me to go to the hospital, until the fight was over, but that was a thing I would not do, at a time like this, if I can travel at all. Gen. Cockrell arrived in camp this evening, and was received with cheers, by the Brig. and our Battery.   Note 1

Thursday, 26th. I feel much better. We have been waiting the whole day, for the enemy to make an attack, I believe we will all be disappointed and will have to leave without a fight. We regret this so much the position suits us, nothing going on in our front, but sharpshooting which is a dangerous business, to the parties engaged. Our battery and division, have built breastworks, which is the second time for us and to leave then again, without a fight, will be too bad. While at leasure wrote a letter to a lady, not my Ideal though.

Friday, May 27th. Received orders at twelve o’clock today, to move to our left and take another position along with our brigade. What is the use of building breastworks? The enemy will not attack us in our works, if we ever get a fight out of them, Johnston will have to make the attack, and fight them two to our one, and in their breastworks, besides. Gen. Sherman’s tacktics as we see them, is to come up close to our lines, build strong works, and then send an army corps, around and flank us out of our works, without a fight. Gen. Johnston, then falls back until he finds another suitable position, fortifies that one. Sherman moves up, and repeats his tactics. Wherefore he is working his way to Atlanta, without a fight, and we cannot help ourselves, on account of our small army. The position we have been ordered to occupy this evening, is not a good one, and besides we have had too much work today, and are tired of that useless practice.

Saturday, May 28th. About one o’clock A.M. last night received orders to move again with our brigade, and this time go to the right about five miles. Our battery became seperated from the brigade in the darkness last night, and travelled eight miles in a complete circle, and came back to the position we left at one o’clock this morning. We then took a new start, and after going some two miles, learned where our Division was stationed. We then stopped and fed our horses, and rested quite a while. Nothing but heavy skirmishing and artillery dueling today, as on other days. It is now nearly sundown, and we are ordered to harness up to go somewhere on our lines. It is reported some of our brigades captured several hundred prisoners in a charge last night.

Sunday, 29th. Moved about one mile last night and relieved another battery, belonging to Hood’s corps. The works are already built for us. Our Mo. Brig. is on the left of our battery and the “Chubs”, Ector’s Brig., are on our right, so we feel good, to have those tried men for our supports. Heavy skirmishing has been going on all day, along the line, especially if front of our brigade. Gen. French’s Division came here night before last, and relieved Stevenson’s, and we all find the position a very exposed one, with the enemy’s skirmish line close up to the works. Not much cannonading today.

Monday, 30th. About ten o’clock last night Cockrell’s and Ector’s Brigs. undertook to advance their skirmish lines and it almost brought on an engagement. Heavy musketry firing commenced by our men on the left of our battery and some of the batteries opened fire also, which was replied to with cannon and small arms, by the enemies. We fired one round with solid shot, and then loaded with cannister and remained ready in case we should see a line of infantry advancing. They opened on our battery with several of theirs, the shells came thick and fast for a while. Their batteries were not very friendly towards ours as we had already given them a test of our marksmanship. We had two men wounded, Oliver Dickerson and George Taylor. Dickerson slightly wounded a piece of shell, but Taylor perhaps fatally by a minnie ball passing through his temple, just behind his eyes, putting them out. The loss in our brigade was only a few wounded, none fatally. We have a nice young man wounded this evening, while writing a short distance from our works, Frank E. Dey, he was shot in the leg below the knee. He slapped his hand on his leg, and shouted “A sixty day furlow boys”, but he was furlowed until the close of the war.

Four o’clock P.M., news has just come down our line that Col Riley of the 1st. Mo. Reg. was instantly killed while lying asleep a few minutes ago. He is one of the best and bravest officers in our brigade and very much loved and appreciated by his regement. My friend Kirkpatrick is a member of his Reg. and has spoken to me of Col Riley’s merits. Col. R.S. Bevier in his history of the 1st, and 2nd. Mo. Brigs. speaking of his death says, “During the time the army occupied the New Church line, Col. Riley, the gallant leader of the 1st Mo. infantry, was killed while lying asleep on a stretcher, in the rear of his works. He possessed high, and sterling qualities, the stubborness with which he fought, the dash and impetuosity that characterized his every movement, his strict discipline, his kindness to his men, and their affection for him, rendered him a model soldier, and had given him an extended reputation”.  Note 2  I was told by his men, of a rather singular incident that occurred, about one hour after his death, a package arrived for Col Riley, and upon opening it, was found to contain a full Colonel’s uniform, of the finest Confederate grey. He was buried in it. In the skirmish charge last night our lines advanced about seventy yards. The racket kept up by the artillery and small arms during the last week, reminds me the siege of Vicksburg. We have orders to leave here tonight.

May 31st. Last night we put two of our ammunition chests on the carriage, preparatory to move, when orders came to remain where we are. We were ordered to open fire on the enemy’s battery in our front this morning. We gave them ten rounds of solid shot and three rounds of shell to each gun, and we kept the dirt flying from their breastworks, but could get no reply, except two rounds, that hurt no one. We can see them strengthening their lines. We have orders to fire two rounds to each of our four guns tonight as soon as dark. Capt Hoskin who commands a battery just to our left, has orders to fire a few rounds at the same time, when our picket line will make a rush to advance their lines, as the enemies pickets are too close to our main line.

June 1st. We carried out orders last night and our pickets charged under heavy fire, and drove the enemy out of their rifle pits and established their line one hundred yards nearer the enemy. Soon after sunrise this morning, the enemy opened fire on us with three or four guns, we quickly replied with my battery and had them about silenced, when Maj. Storrs ordered us to cease firing. My gun had fired fourteen rounds of shell and the other guns about the same. After we ceased firing, the enemy fired several shots, we were not allowed to reply, as artillery dueling is prohibited. I am glad to report, no one hurt. I have not heard what loss our infantry sustained in the picket charge last night.

Thursday, June 2nd, the enemy has not fired more than five or six shots at us to-day. Our picket line is now within six hundred yards of their battery and keep it pretty quiet, as they pick off every canoner that shows himself. My battery is a little more than eleven hundred yards from the enemeys. It rained this evening and we have no dry place to sleep, but that is nothing strange for a soldier. Corporal Robinson received a slight wound.

Friday, June 3rd, 1864; Rain nearly every day and night, our men in the trenches have a hard life of it, men can stand any thing when they have to. This forrest siege ought to end soon, we have been holding Sherman at bay here in these woods nearly two weeks. He cannot come any further by the front without a fight, and he don’t seem to be hunting for that. He may send his reserve army around and flank us away from here. The sending of letters from the army is prohibited for a while, we suppose our mail is liable to be captured. Nothing has been going on to-day more than the skirmish firing, which means death to many precious souls and wounds to many more on both sides. The widows and orphans and vacant chairs at home that are daily made, are reflections too sad for a soldier to entertain.

Saturday, June 4th; Our Mo. brigade skirmish line charged their disagreeable neighbors late yesterday evening and drove them out of their holes, killing several. Heard some of them say, they have orders to do so again to-day. 5 PM Heavy musketry firing a short while ago in front of our brigade, I suppose it is by that picket charge.

We have just received orders to take our caissons chests from our redoubt as soon as dark and put them back on our caissons and to have our horses harnessed ready to move. We have the report that Sherman’s reserve army is on our flank. We privates and I may say our officers also believe from the best information we can get, that Gen. Sherman has about 90,000 men in our front, which we are of sure, we can say almost posatively is twice the number of Johnston’s effective force, which gives Sherman what we call his reserve or flanking army, wherefore he can force us out of any position, or make us attack him in his breastworks, which our wise Gen. Johnston has so far refused to do. We all love our noble Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, he does not sacrifice the lives of his men rashly. His defensive tactics seem to us to be the only wise and sure one just now.

 


Notes

      1. This is the New Hope Church line

 

      2. Bevier, P 235. Col. Amos Camden Riley

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