Memoir Chapter 22

MEMOIRS OF THE CIVIL WAR
W. L. TRUMAN


CHAPTER 22 – Atlanta

1864 July 3rd. After getting our battery down last evening we moved off in the direction of Marietta, after dark passed through that place and continued our retreat, until nearly daylight, when we haulted, went in batterry and commenced to throw up breastworks. This is a duty now required of us, whenever we form a new line of battle. Our position is about five miles from the Chattahoochee, we finished our redoubt early this morning and have been napping some little as we are all very tired and sleepy. The enemy came up with us early in the day, and has been throwing shells into our lines during this evening, one shell killed two of our men, and wounded another. One of them was sound asleep about thirty feet from me, and never knew what killed him, until he awoke in the other world. One of our drivers was wounded this evening by a cannon ball, also. Our grand old 1st Mo. Brig. is supporting our battery to the right and left, which suits us perfectly. We fired several rounds at two guns that opened on us in our immediate front, and drove them away.

July 4th. 1864. The enemy charged our picket line this morning, and drove it back some little, and opened a heavy artillery fire. We replied to their batteries and kept it up all day. Our pickets report that we dismounted one gun, and blew up three caissons. We expected the enemy to charge us today, as it is the 4th, of July, but they only made a show of fire works.

July, 5th. We fell back a short distance last night crossed the Chattahoochee river, and went into battery on the south bank, and threw up works, the enemy came up about twelve o’clock, and immediately began to shell our redoubt. We did not reply, but continued our work until we finished. Two of our boys were wounded, a twelve pound shell plowed in among us scattering our fire, and causing our camp kettle, with my mess’ rations of cush-cush to make several sumersaults, which was a serious loss to my hungry mess, of eight men.

July 6th. Continued to strengthen our redoubt. The enemy shelled us this evening, but we had no orders to reply.

July 7th,-8th. The enemy has remained very quiet, as well as ourselves.

July 9th. The enemy charged our picket lines this morning, in front of General Sear’s brigade and drove his men back to their second line of pits. Nothing further was attempted, it seems that they will never giver us a fight in our works. Our whole army is south of the Chattahoochee and in breastworks.

July 10th, & 11th. Firing along the line as usual.

July 12th, 13th, & 14th. Nothing more than usual going on in our front, but reports say that Sherman flanking army is crossing the Chattahoocheebay and our flank.

July 15th. It rained hard last night. The enemy fired several shots at us today, I received a letter written by my lamented freind Walter Kirkpatrick, it was written on the 24th, day of June and I think he died on the 25th, some one has said he died in about one hour after he wrote the letter. He commences his letter to me, “Dear Bro., he says he loves me and feels like calling me brother, and says he is perfectly resigned to Gods will and has no fear of death, requests me to write to his mother and two sisters and tell them how he died, which did in 1866 from Lexington Ky. Oh, how it gladdens my heart to learn from his own words, that he is ready and willing to meet his God. He says to me, “Meet me in Heaven, Good-by”. This is the second request, made of me, to meet loved ones, in the Bright and pure home of our God, first as I have mentioned, from my sainted Mother and now, by my pure, brave, true, lamented friend, Irving Walter Kirkpatrick. By the help of the Lord Jesus Christ, I will meet them there.

Saturday, July 16th. We are still resting in our position between Atlanta and Peachtreecreak. I wrote a letter to-day to Dr. Louis Hadden of Belmont Sumpter Co. Ala. who has cordially invited me, if I should get sick or wounded, to come to his home, and be attended to, until able for duty. I have mentioned this noble invitaion before. They enemy has shelled us heavy this evening, and our skirmish line on our right are fighting hard. The enemy is trying to cross the river, and report says they are crossing beyond our right flank. Capt. Hoskin’s Battery relieved ours this evening.

Sunday, July 17th. Heavy firing all along the line, no regard for Sunday.

Monday, July 18th. President Davis’ order relieving Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, from the command of the army, and putting Gen. Hood in command, was read to our battery. It gave great dissatisfaction to every man, as we loved him, and believed him to be a wise safe general, the right man in the right place. We all know Gen. Hood to be a good subordiante officer, but do not expect success with him in chief command. The whole army so far as I know regretted and condemed the change. Right at the time, when his great wisdom and generalship is so much needed. We have been ordered out and are now standing in the road, waiting for our infantry to pass in front. I hear heavy fireing of artillery and small arms occasionally to our right.

Tuesday, July 19th. Took another position last night and threw up breastworks.

July 20th. A severe battle was fought this evening on Peachtree Creek. Our men were successful for a while, driving the enemy out of his breastworks and capturing some artillery, but not being supported were driven out of the captured works. Hundreds of brave men were slain for no purpose, and we cannot afford to loose our brave men, by chargeing and capturing strong breastworks and then loose them by not supporting the men that did the bloody work. Our brigade and battery moved to the battle field, but were ordered back after dark, without being engaged but the brigade lost several men on the picket line. My gallant young friend Frank Carr of the 26th Ark. regiment, lost his leg in this fight, his wound will likely prove fatal.

July 22rd, Gen. Hood attacked Shermans men again to-day with Hardee’s corps, and had a bloody engagement. He stormed the enemy’s strong works and captured them with more than twenty cannon but had not men enough to hold what he had gained, so was forced back again with a loss of more than two thousand men and nothing gained. Our brave Gen. Walker is among the slain. It is reported we captured some two thousand prisoners. Gen. Wheeler with his cavalery captured and destroyed four hundred wagons.

July 23rd. We came back through Atlanta last night. It is a beautiful city, with wide streets and many fine blocks. A large fireproof Bank building, occupying a square to itself, near the center of the city, named the First National Bank, in large bronze letters. Many churches and school buildings, and the resident potion of the city, shows wealth, culture, and refinement. The many palatial homes with lawns and yards full of evergreens, and blooming roses, and flowers of every kind, the spraying fountains, are too grand and lovely for me to describe. My battery haulted for quite a while, right at the gate of one of those many deilghtful and inspiring homes, a woman came to the front gate, with two old servants and a child, to look at the army. I asked permission to go inside among the roses, and flowers that I may enjoy them for a few minutes. Permission was granted telling me that she was only in charge of the property, tha t the owners, had refugeed further South. I entered and gave myself, mind and soul to commune with the almost fairy like scens for a few minutes, and then tore myself away, to be a soldier again.

We are moved from place to place so often now, that we often get separated from our Brig. and will have to keep up with their movements by quoting from Col. R.S. Bevier’s History of 1st, and 2nd, Mo. Brig, Speaking of the battle of Peachtree Creek, on the 20th he says, “Gen. Hood made an attack with a portion of Hardee’s Corps, on Thomas’ advancing column and a bloody engagement ensued, resulting in forcing the Confederates back. The Missourians were formed for a charge and moved forward, but were stoped by a deep mill-pond on Peachtree Creek, and ordered back to the cover of some woods, by Gen. French, where they lay for fove hours, under a heavy artillery fire, losing sixty-one men in killed and wounded, without being able to strike a blow in retaliation”. Speaking of the battle of July 22nd, he says,

Gen. Hood withdrew French’s Division to the inner works of Atlanta, but made a fierce attack with Hardee’s Corps on the enemy’s left. Hardee’s men were at first successful, repulsing the enemy and capturing most of his artillery, but eventally exasuted and wassted with terrible slaughter, they were forced back losing most of the captured guns.

July, 23rd. Gen. Mc Pherson of the Northern army, was killed yesterday, and two of his staff captured by a few of our skirmishers, belonging to the 24th Texas Reg., Claburn’s Division. It appears our skermish line had driven the enemy’s picket line back some distance through the woods, and brush unknown to Mc Pherson, and he came rushing along with his staff and when only a few yards from three or four of our pickets & when ordered to hault he wheeled his horse, threw himself forward to one side and tried to make his escape. He was fired on, and a ball struck him in the small of his back, passing out at his shoulder. He lived but a few minutes. His horse was captured, and our pickets took from his body a gold watch, which they truned over to their officer, and Gen. Claburne returned it by flag of truce today, to be given to his wife. They also captured a canteen full of good whiskey, on Gen. Mc Pherson saddle, and six or eight of them, passed it around, one to the other until the canteen was empty, and then they started out to capture Sherman’s army, and actually brought in, after a hard fight, quite a large squad of Yankee prisoners. All our Irish battery boys, are rejoicing this evening over the fruits of McPherson’s whiskey. This story comes direct from Clayburn’s men, and we all believe it to be true. Like the assault of the 20th, this was one of the most reckless, massive, and headlong charges of the war, where immense prices were paid for momentary success, and the terrible recoil of numbers gave a lesson to the temerity of the new commander. Happily the Mo. Brig. were but little more than spectators.

July 23rd. All quiet except the skirmish battle that continues from day to day, and often during most of the night. We give it but little attention, but it means death to many a brave man, it is the worst kind of fighting. Our rations are so good just now, that it should be mentioned, plenty of hard-tack, bacon, and vegetables. What a change, from a pint cup full of unsifted cornmeal, and one pound of poor beef, for a day’s rations.

July 25th. I went over to the Ky. Brig. to look for some of my kinfolks and friends, I found none, but heard of many.

July 27th. The Ga. State Melitia, are coming in and taking their places in the trenches, many old men and boys, but we old soldiers feel that they will do good fighting, if attacked in their works, but we do not expect Sherman to attack us in our breastworks. We build works to protect ourselves, from his shells and bullets, fired at us from behind his own works, and not from his attacks. Every battery man that can be spared from the guns is ordered to take a musket and get in the trenches close by and do his duty in case of an attack.

July 28th. A battle is in progress on our left. Hood has attacked Sherman again, and is driving him,. We hope he will succeed this time. Gen. French sent Ector’s Brig. and our Battery (Guibore’s) to the battle, we went at a double quick, and came under fire in a short time. We moved around quite a while amidst the shells and whistling minies, before we took position, and opened fire on their infantry. Darkness closed the contest, and Gen. Hood ordered his men back into their breastworks. Another fruitless battle at the expense of hundreds precious brave men that can never be replaced. These battles are the beginning of the end, as we can al see. This army is being destroyed at a rapid rate, and when that is done, the end will come. I was struck on the left arm with a spent ball, but only received a bad bruise. Our comrade Hartly was killed, a minie ball pierced his wind-pipe, and he died hard, we had to hold him, to keep him from running about until he died. Two more of our men were wounded. Gen French says, “the attack was a failure because it was fought by weak detailed attack, instead of a consolidated force”. On the 31st, he says, “To day is Sunday, and it dawned, as though peace had spread her white wings over the land, for not a gun has yet been heard, and so it continued most of the day. Divine service was held in the brigades, and in the pond in front of my quarters, a baptism took place.”

Aug. 5th. Our battery has been moved to the extreme left of our line of battle in front of Atlanta, and have taken position on the left of a ridge that slopes abruptly into a bottom of thick undergrowth. I can see no troops or works to our left and I am satisfied there is none. There is a dense pine thicket to our left and rear, so thick that a man can hardly get through it. We are ordered to build a redoubt for our guns, we lay off our own works and build them to suit ourselves, and make such improvements from day to day, as we find necessary. After we have a few duels with the enemy we know where to strengthen and improve, and so does our enemy, as we see the dirt flying, when we cease firing. We were fired on some little today, as Corporal Thomson of my gun was wounded in the leg, and I have been appointed in his stead. I much prefer the place to being a cannoneer, as it gives me a chance to try my marksmanship. I used to be a good shot with a squirrel rifle, and believe that I can place a shell just where I want it in the enemy’s ranks. Our battery was serrenaded tonight, by the band of the 9th, and 10th, Miss, Reg. Mississippi loves and knows the Missourians, as more than half of their number that cross the Mississippi river into the state of Miss. offered up their lives in her defense and upon her soil.

Aug. 6th. The enemy charged our pickets, but were driven back by the help of our battery.

Aug. 7th. Our Northern brothers have kept up a heavy artillery fire this evening, in our front, their picket line charged ours today but were repulsed, when our line made a countercharge and drove theirs into their main works. We were honored again tonight with a serenade by the 9th, Miss. band. Their works join our redoubt on the right. Our 1st. Mo. Brig. is some distance down the line to our right, we hear from them every few days, by a note being passed down the line to some of us. We often send a note or letter to them by getting it started down the line, it passed from man to man while they are lying in the trenches until it gets to its destination. Some of the news is passed up and down the line by word of mouth, which we call Grape-vine Telegraph.

Aug. 8th. We fired a few rounds during the day, to scatter the enemy’s working squads, who were building breastworks. We have had much rain lately, which is a great hardship to our men in the trenches, without any protection. We lie here from day to day, and often from week to week without being relieved, as we have no men in reserve to give relief. Gen. Johnston turned over to Gen. Hood 41,000 men at Atlanta besdies our cavelry and I do not believe he can muster 30,000 of that number. We understand that Gen. Sherman has about 80,000 in the neighborhood of Atlanta. Nevertheless, we all believe that if he will attack us in our breastworks, he will be defeated.

Aug. 9th. I went back to the camp about a mile and got a change of clothes. When I returned we concluded to fire a few rounds at the enemy. Lieut. Murphy who is in command lets us boys do just as we please in that matter and Gen. French would not care if we fired day and night for a week. He seldom comes around and when he does if we are not firing, he is sure to see something for us to shoot at. Our enemy pokes it into us everyday and we return the compliment. They have three batteries working on us. Two of them are on our right which gives us a cross fire, and they make things lively, when they all turn loose on us.

Aug. 10th. We opened the ball early this morning, and continued it long and steadily, as we had plenty attention given us for our smartness. As near as I could count, will say the enemy replied with twenty guns, we were all reminded of our daily experiences on Kennesaw mountain. In about one hour most of their guns ceased firing, but we continued to hammer away at them and made some fine shots, bursting our shells right in their breastworks and raising a cloud of dust. Many of the enemy’s guns are too far to my right to train my gun upon them without losing too much time and besides our works are so constructed that we catch their fire without much damage. It is the guns in front that we are most concerned about, they do the execution.

Aug 11th. They advanced their skirmish line last night, the minie balls whiz around us today, they have plenty of targets as the men move around in the rear of their works, as usual, and I have not noticed any one hurt today. Our battery has remained quiet all day for a rarity, and have let the other side have all the fun to themselves. They seem to be selfish enough to prefer it that way, as they have hammered us all day long. Their rifle guns have damaged our embrazurs somewhat, and we will have to repair the damage tonight. One of their shells entering through the embrazure bursted right in our midst, covering us with smoke and dust. Every man was lying down on their blankets, some asleep, the balance trying to sleep or reading, and strange to say, not a man was hurt, although every man on my gun by infallible signs realized he had a close call. How merciful is our God, all men should praise Him.

Aug. 12th. We made the necessary repairs last night, and masqued our guns by covering our works with green bushes, but they have hit them several times today, doing no damage. The infantry men that support us are Mississippians and a fine looking body of men. They tell us when our picket line at a certain point was driven into their 2nd line a few days ago, nine of our men were killed. Our Captain, one Lieut. and seven privates, and that they are still so close to the enemy’s lines that no one can approach them, without being killed, as the two lines as so close together at that point. This seems to be a neglect as their bodies could be recovered by flag of truce. We saluted the enemy with a few rounds.

Aug. 13, 14, 15, 16th. Still keeping house in our redoubt and trying to live at the same place. We banta the enemy with a few shots every day, generally in the morning and then give them the right of way and they surely do use it, but the only damage they have done wwith their ton of iron, during the past week so far as I know is to destroy the pine thicket to our left and rear. Every one of the tens of thousands of small pine saplings have been cut down by their shells and minie balls and most of the trees have been stripped of their limbs and bark. The glancing minie balls are very dangerous. One struck a limb high up glanced and struck one of our infantry boys, by our redoubt in the knee, and crushed the bone, I noticed the oil running out of the knee joint.

Wednesday, 17th. The killing business is at a very low ebb on this part of the field, notwithstanding the daily racket of the big guns, it seems miraculous to us how we escape from annihilation. It is the Lord’s work, not the will of our enemies.

Thursday, Aug 18th. A sad day for the writer, as my dear friend Jonnie Wharton was mortally wounded by a minie ball, late this evening. He stepped over to the infantry line to get the daily paper, was returning slowly and reading, when a few feet of me I heard the ball strike him. It passed through his right arm, into his right side, and lodged in his skin on the left side. I sprang forward, and caught him in my arms, as he was falling, and carried him into the redoubt, and then a short distence to the rear, until an ambulance came to take him back to our hospital. He said that he was giong to die, and that he was not afraid to die, which every one knew to be so, as he was a pure Christian man. Some one told him to cheer up he would get over it, he looked at the setting sun, that was beaming in his face, and remarked, “I will never see another setting sun in this life”, and so it proved to be. He died about ten o’clock at night, with his head in my lap, thus passed from this life of sin and suffering, a brave, pure, Christian man, and my true friend. My precious freind Walter Kirkpatrick was taken at Kennesaw, Frank Carr, at Peachtree Creek, and now Wharton has left me. By the grace of God, I am what I am, and by His grace I will meet them again in peace. They all died in the full hope of glorious resurection. God be praised forever more.

Aug. 19th. I was given permission by Lieut. Murphy, who also dearly loved Wharton, to go back and have a coffin made and to see our friend properly buried. I had him buried in Atlanta cemetary, and placed a board at his head, marked John Wharton, 1st Mo. Battery. While there among the many hundreds of newly made soldier graves, I found the grave of Kirkpatrick, and Ellis. The latter was a member of my battery, and a real handsome pure young man, his head was always a mass of curls. Wharton and I were members of Capt. Frez Mc Cullough’s company, Poter’s Reg. Green’s Brig. in the Missouri State Guards. At Springfield, Mo. we joined Wade’s Battery of 1st, Mo. Volunteers, C.S.A. at the same time. Jonnie anticipated going into the Methodist ministery if living at the close of the war. The big guns are roaring on our center and right as well as left. I returned to the redoubt about four o’clock P.M., and found that the boys had been hotly engaged with the enemy nearly all day, and had four men wounded, but it is thought their wounds will not prove fatal.

Aug. 20th. Business dull. Both parties appear to be willing to rest awhile. I found time to write a letter to Rev. Haygood, of Foresyeth, Ga. telling him of Jonnie Wharton’s death, as Jonnie was engaged to his daughter.

Aug. 21st, 22nd. All quiet in front. When the fog cleared up about nine thirty we found out that the picket lines had made a truce and both sides had met on half way grounds and were having a jolly good time together. It was reported to Gen. French, and he rode up to my battery, took out his field glasees and looked long and steadily upon the Christ-like scene, and then told Lieut. Murphy to fire a shot or two over there and make them get to their places, the two shots were fired from my gun. As the first shell passed over them, they all jumped up shook hands and told each other goodby, then made a break for their rifle pits. I believe that a permanent peace could be made in twenty-four hours if left to the fighting men of both armies.

Aug. 23rd. We engaged in our almost daily target practice, some little today, and worked a little on our redoubt. This is the thirteenth redoubt we have built for our guns on this Sherman campaign, our first one was somewhere about New Hope Church. Every time we retreat and form a new line, we build works as we want some place to lie behind and be protected, until Gen. Sherman gets ready to flank us out. We do not expect to fight behind them, when we fight we generally attack the enemy in his strong works, drive him out, capture his cannon, etc, and then are forced back, by the weight of numbers into our breastworks, and the fight ends. This is a suicidal practice, and we boys know it, but we will never murmur or flinck from the command of duty. We hope and expected great things while Gen. Johnston was in command.

Aug. 24th. The enemy shelled us heavy today, we did good for evil and did not reply. The news came up the line the other day of the death of Lieut. Col. Samules, of Col. Gates Reg. of the 20th, is too true, also the death of Lieut. Col. Mc Dowell, of the 3rd, Mo. Infantry and many others of our Mo. Brig. These brave men are picked off one at a time, either on the picket line or as they move around attending to their duties on our line of battle. Both line of battle are in range of the skirmish lines on either side. I saw an infantry man a few days ago, killed by a Northern sharp shooter, that was fully one mile away, it was twelve o’clock and dinner had been brought in, a group of men were squatting around the mess pan when one was struck in the back by a minie ball passing through him, and the soul of that poor hungry ragged Confederate private passed over the border into the presence of the living God. Such thing happen around the lines daily, doubtless on both sides, yet the men move around and take the chances. The main public road leading into the city of Atlanta, passes near our redoubt and but a short distence behind our main line of works, and as I walked into the city last week the minie balls kept the dust flying in the road, most of the way.

Thursday, Aug. 21st. We fired awhile at the enemy’s batteries, our only targets, and received a light compliment. No damage or loss of men.

Friday, Aug. 26th. The enemy fell back or moved away on our left, and right, but are still in force on our center.

Saturday, Aug. 27th. The enemy were heard moving their artillery away from our front last night, and we opened fire on their camp together with several other batteries along our lines, and kept it up almost all night. Today we threw four shells from my battery, into their camp, and receiving no reply, our skirmisk line advances, and found their camp deserted. I in company with other members of my battery, walked over into their work, just in our front, to the point where most of our fire had been directed, the trees were torn into pieces, and everything bore the marks of the deadly missels of war. No one seemed to know what the enemy intends to do, whether he is retreating or on a nother flank movement, if the latter he has never taken his whole army with him, therefore it looks like a retreat. I suppose Gen. Hood knows.

Sunday, Aug. 28th. Our horses caissons, and limbers were brought up this morning, and we limbered up to leave this temporary home of ours, where for five weeks we have lived like the balance of the Confederate army, without shelter, exposed to dew, rain, and a burning sun, and to what is nearly as bad, a daily shower of deadly missels, that fell around and about us, while we were eating and sleeping and reading and writing letters to our Southern girls, who always encourage us to fight it out to a finish, on the firing line. We Missourians at least are willing to do so, as we cannot return home until this family quarrel or fued is settled. We moved over to our dear old Mo. Brig. from which we have been seperated so long, and went into park. Our Brig. has been in the front all the time, and have lost many of her best fighting men from picket firing. I will quote what Col. R.S. Bevier of the Brig. says in his History of the 1st, and 2nd Brigs. which are now one, and to its stewardship, during the siege of Atlanta, “About noon of the twentieth of July, Gen. Hood made an attack with a portion of Hardee’s Corps on Thomas’ advancing column, and a bloddy engagement ensued, resulting in forcing the Confederates back. The Missourians were formed for a charge and moved forward, but were stopped by a deep mill pond on peachtree Creek, and ordered back to the cover of some woods by Gen. French, where we lay for five hours, under a heavy artillery fire, loseing sixty-one men killed and wounded, without being able to strike a blow in retaliation. The next day, Gen. Hood withdrew French’s Division to the inner lines or works around Atlanta, but made a fierce attack with Hardee’s Corps on the enemy’s left. Hardee’s men were at first successful, repulsing the enemy and capturing most of his artillery, but eventually exhausted and wasted with terrible slaughter giving way and losing most of the captured guns. Like the assault of the 20th, this was one of the most reckless, massive and headlong charges of the war, and the terrible recoil of numbers gave a lesson to the temerity of the new commander. Happily the Mo Brig. was little more than spectators. From this time until the first of Sep. the siege of Vicksburg was re-enacted. Constant fighting heavy duty on the skirkish line dialy loss of some good men, but no pitch battle was perticipated in by the Brig.” The Brig. went out on picket duty this morning to feel for the enemy. We hear artillery firing this evening, in the direction the Brig. went.

Aug 29th, 30th. We have remained in park all day. Wrote a letter home by flag of truce, the letter is sent or mailed to Judge Ould, Old Point Comfort, Va. unsealed, he presents it to a Northern commissioner who reads it, and if it contains no contrabande news he will seal it and forward ot to its destination. I received two letters from Forsythe, Ga., one from Rev. Haygood, and the other from his daughter, to whom Jonnie Wharton was engaged to be married, if he should live until the war was over. They both sent me a pressing invitaion to come to see them, that Jonnie had spoken so often of me, that they felt that they knew me, and if I should be so unfortunate as to get sick, or wounded to come to their home, and let them take care of me. So here was a Ga. home near the battle grounds offered me, as well as the one in Alabama. How precious are such friends, that volenteer to care for the homeless if in need.

Aug. 31st. We moved a short distence to our right and took a position in some works. It is reported that a battle was fought today at Joneboro, and we got the worst of it. I wrote to my Alabama girl.

Sep. 1st, I answered Jonnie Wharton’s girls letter. One of our boys fell out of a two story window in his sleep, and is badly hurt, not used to sleeping higher than the ground. We are getting ready to move, I think we are going to give up Atlanta, the siege guns have been spiked, the R.R. south of here is reported cut.

 


Notes

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