Memoir Chapter 23

MEMOIRS OF THE CIVIL WAR
W. L. TRUMAN


CHAPTER 23 – AUTUMN CAMPAIGN – posted 6/13/2004

Sep, 2nd. Left Atlanta about 10 O’clock last night, it was distressing to look upon the destruction of so much public property, the whole surrounding country was lighted up by the fires and bursting shells. The saddest thing of all, was to leave the beautiful city with its fifteen thousand inhabitants, all non-combattants, principally women and children, without provisions and without money, and without fuel. We can only commit them to the hand of a merciful God, and into the hands and power of Gen. Sherman, hoping that he will not let them starve or suffer them to be insulted or abused. Many of our infantry boys, found whisky, and drank too much and the rear guards had trouble to get them out of town. We marched all night, and all of today. Weather warm and dusty.

Sept. 3rd. Camped about 11 o’clock last night, was up before day this morning. Marched until twelve o’clock, reaching our line of battle at Lovejoy’s station, and relieved Slocumn’s battery in the works. French’s Division relieved Brown’s Divison.

Sept. 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th. Were spent in the redoubt subject to a cross fire from the enemy’s guns. Many of Gen. French’s men were killed in the trenches, and on the picket line. Several from the Mo. Brig. One of Capt. Kaniff’s men of the 1st, inft. came to our battery in a run today, after Father Donnelly, the priest who stayed with my battery, He said three of four of Kaniff’s men were mortally wounded by a shell, and wanted the priest. It takes good soldiers to lie under a deadly fire, without being able to return it.

Sept. 9th, Sherman has fallen back to Atlanta. Sept. 10th. Ir is repirted that Sherman has notified Hood, that all of the people of Atlanta will be put outside of his lines on Monday the 12th.

Sept. 12th. We are still in camp near Lovejoy station. Are told that Gen. Hood and Sherman have agreed upon a ten days truce. This is a strange act. I suppose it is for the purpose of getting the women and children out of Atlanta, before any more fighting takes place. They are leaving today. The Mayor and Council could not prevail upon Gen. Sherman to recall the order; the limit of human suffering, and misery, this order will entail is beyond human conception. These people some fifteen to eighteen thousand of men, are marching out into an impoverished country, without homes and without any visable means of support. Hundreds of them are old, and too feeble to support themselves, hundreds are infants and children of tneder age, hundreds are young maidens and brave women of riper age. Oh, the heartaches that go with that banished city, as they turn their backs upon comfortable and beautiful homes and are dirven into the country within our lines, without a tent to shelter them from the weather, and without food. What a gloomy field for mediataion, not a light upon which to build a hope. Turned out hungry and destitute, upon a hungry and destitute peuploe, but among friends that will do what they can. This act gives our army great trouble and sorrow.

Sept. 16th, and 17th. Still in camp. Our battery and the whole Mo. Brig. agree to fast one day, and have our commissary to issue that days rations to the destitute people, who were driven out of Atlanta. I believe and hope the whole army will do as much. We Missourians, have taken the lead, ever remembering our sufferings people at home.

Sept. 21st. Our army has moved to Palmetto on the West Point and Atlanta R.R. Maj. Dtorrs’ battallion of artillery to which my battery belongs, seldom camps with the main army, but on high ridges to the right or left.

Sept. 29th. Resting quietly in camp. The army from what I can learne is concentrating at his point for a move Northward. Pres. Davis reviewed most of the army a few days ago. My battery was not included. I see from our daily papers that he made a speecj, and gave us all to understand, that Gen. Hood would move to the rear of Gen. Sherman, and destroy his communications, I suppose Sherman will make a note of this warning, by our commander-in-chief, and will not be idle. We men who do the fighting, do not approve of such publicity.

Oct. 1st. Crossed the Chattahoochee river and are moving Northward.

Oct. 4th. Are in camp near Lost Mountain, French’s division including our Mo. Brig. has moved to Sherman’s rear, to destroy the R.R. We have been left behind to our sorrow. We attribute this treatment to Figure Head, “Little Toby”, Lieut. Harris, through whom we receive orders. He has no influence with superior officers, and less with us. We do not depend upon his orders, in a fight, except they come form a higher source. Perhaps Maj. Storrs is fully aware of all this, but had other use for us.

Oct. 14th. I have written nothing in my diary for the last ten days. Nothing of interest has transpired, except with Gen. Stewart’s corps. He is destroying the R.R. at different places, and capturing the garrisons at fortified places. We understand Gen. French had a bloody and hotly contested battle at Allatoona. He captured everything except one fort, in which the garrison took refuge, and they had no time on account of the near approach of reinforcements, to cpature that. Our 1st. Mo. Brig. was into it, and lost heavy, of course, as it has never yet been known to stop when started on a charge, until the enemy gets out of their way. We have been on the move during the last few days, and are now in camp, three miles from Jacksonville, Ala. Resting quietly in camp. Attending church every day in Jacksonville. It seems to me we ought to be making forced marches toward our object point, where-ever that may be, brfore winter overtakes us, and puts a quietus to our further progress. We cannot stand a winter coampaign without warmer clothing than we have. I walked out a little ways into the country forraging, and succeeded in finding half a bushel of sweet potatoes, for sale at $2.00.

Oct. 20th. We all rejoiced this morning, when we received orders to move. We were soon on the road and marched twelve miles.

Oct. 21st. Started before daylight, marched sixteen miles to Gadsdon by three o’clock. crossed the Coosa river and went into camp near our dear old 1st. Mo. Brig. They had much to tell us, about the Allatoona fight, said that they and Ector’s Texas Brig. had to lock bayonets with some Iowa, and Illinois troops, before they could get them out of their trenches, and that the Texans were badly handicapped, as but few of them ahd bayonets, they had used them for pot hooks, a they had never had a chance to use them on the enemy before. They had to club their muskets, but promise to take better care of their bayonets hereafter, as they find that thaos Wester Yankees, with Southern blood in their veins are getting very contrary of late about giving up their breastworks. As we were not with the brigade in this battle, I will quote from Col. R.S. Bevier’s History. He says of Allatoona, “The place was strongly fortified, on the summit of the mountain, he had perched himself in three forts, with a formidable line of entrenchments around each, within three hundred yards of the works, the trees had been felled, but not cleared up, and a very brushy and tangled space was left for some distance near the entrenchments.” Before he proceeds further, he quotes Lieut. Warren’s account, he was a member of the 1st, and 2nd consolidated Mo. Reg., but known as the 1st, Mo. Warren says, “Just as the first faint gleam of daylight appeared, displaying to out eyes, as we deployed along the ridge, the work that was before us. Three forts guarding Allatoona pass, stood out in bold relief on the opposite hill, within musket shot. Our line was quickly formed, as I looked across the intervening space to the bristling forts, and viewed the rugged mountain side, with the interminable abbitis that lay between, and then cast my eye along our slender line, I thought to myself, there will be hot work here if the regiments are made of resolute men. Everything being ready, a messenger was sent in to demand a surrender, the officer passed down our front and we watched the point where he disappeared over the hill with peculiar interest. We had not long to wait; as he passed us in returning, one of our boys asked, ‘Is it surrender or fight, Major’? ‘Fight was the laconic reply.’ Caniff ordered the company to throw off everything, but accountrements. Our example was initated by the rest of the regiment. A command to load at will, was followed in a few minutes by the bugle call to forward. Our skirkish line under Lieut. Lamb charged and drove in the enemy’s skirmish line. As we advanced we could see the gallant Lieutenant and his little band, sheltering themselves as best they could just below the fort. The brave fellow was killed before we came up. When we reached the abattis our line was momentarily checked, by the time our line had made its way through the net work of fallen timber, all our organization was gone, companies and regiments were throughly mixed up. The first works we reached were carried with a rush. Some prisoners were captured, but most of hte garrison fled to the next fort, where the fighting was much more desperate.”

Col Bevier speaking of the capture of the second fort, says, “Our men were met with a murderous fire of all arms, but pressed on to the fortifications, the color bearer, Harry De Jarnette of the 2nd, Reg. was shot down, but the fallen colors were raised immediately and planted upon the works. The abttle now raged fiercely and considering the number of combattants, was one of the bloodiest and most desperate of the war”. The Federals stood their ground and with fiery impetuosity, our boys rushed upon them with the bayonet. The furious strife lasted for twenty minutes, during which the bayonet was the chief weapon used, and at the expiration of that time the fort was in our possession. Sargent John M. Regland of the 1st,and 4th, Infantry captured the flag of an Iowa Reg. on the breastworks”.

I will now quote a little from Gen. French, in his Hisotry of Two Wars, Page 232. “I summoned the commander to surrender the place. I then supposed the garrison consisted of only about nine hundred men, as reported to me at Acworth. The flag was met by a Federal staff officer and he was allowed seventeen minutes to return and answer. The time expired without any answer being received whereupon Maj. D.W. Sanders impatient at the delay, broke off the interview and returned. No reply being sent me the order was given for the assault, by directing the advance of Cockrell’s Brig. Emerging from the woods and passing over a long distance of abattis formed by felled trees, and under a severe fire of musketry and artillery, nobly did it press forward, folllowed by the gallant Texans. The enemy’s outer line and one redoubt soon fell. Resting again to gather strength and survey the work before them, they rushed forward in column and in a murderous hand to hand conflict that left the ditches filled with the dead, they became masters of the second redoubt. The third and main redoubt, now filled with those driven from the captured works on the West side of the R.R. was further crowded by those that were coming out of the fort on the East side from the attack of Gen. Sears, with his Miss. Brig. The Federal forces were now confined to one redoubt and we occupied the ditch and almost entirely silenced their fire, and were preparing for the final attack. Pending the progress of theses events, I received a note from Gen. Armstrong dated seven A.M. and one at twelve A.M. informing me of the enemy’s infantry and cavelry advancing up the R.R. I showed Gens. Cockrell and Young the dispatches I had received and informed them of my intention not to remain and make as assault on fort C. lest reinforcements for the garrison should arrive before we could leave the place. They demurred and wanted to remain and capture the place. Col. Gates of the 1st, and 3rd. Mo. declared he could capture fort C. in twenty minutes by way of the sally port, that they were so crowded insode that but few men could fire. I adhered to my decission to withdraw, aftre event, showed that a cavelry force arrived just three hours after we left Allatoona and reinforced the garrison of the fort.”

Cockrell’s 1st, Mo. Brig. lost, 42 killed, 182 wounded, and 22 missig. Gen. Ector’s Texans and Gen. Sears Miss. Brig. lost about as many. Thus our Mo. Brig. is short 246 men and nothing gained for the cause. What a loss to the State of Missouri, and the Confederacy. Gen. French’s statement of the war records puts the Federal force within the works at 2,137 and his attacking force at 3,197. Gen. French says he is perticular about these figures because here perhaps happened the bloodiest tragedy in the history of the war. We Missouri boys always considered the Iowa and Illinois soldiers the very best in the Northern army, for wherever we met them we found them hard to move. Gen. Course’s report as found in Gen. French’s History, page 238, says, “The gallant Col. Redfield of the 39th Iowa, fell, shot if four places and the extraordinary valor of the men and officers of this regiment, and the seventeenth Ill. saved us Allatoona”. These were the men, especially the 39th Iowa, with whom the Mo. boys had the hand to hand death struggle in the trenches. We even had to fight our homefolks. For Gen Corse says, “An effort was made to carry our works by assault, but the 12th Mo. Battery was so ably manned and so gallantly fought, as to render it impossible for a column to live within a hundred yards of our works”. But Gen. Corse gives the glory and credit of his escape from capture to the brave Iowa boys, just where it belongs. Hear the fact from his pen, “Sears [Young] and Cockrell both rallied and made their assaullts in front and on the flank with so much vigor and in such force as to break Bowett’s line and had not the 39th Iowa, fought with the desperation it did, I never would have been able to get a man back inside the redoubt, as it was their hand to hand conflict, breaking the enemy to that extent, that he must stop and reform before undertaking the assault on the fort. Under cover of the blows they gave the enemy the 17th and 93rd, Illinois, and what remained of the 39th Iowa fell back into the front”.

Oct. 33nd. Moved early and marched twelve miles over a mountainous road. Passed Mrs. Sansom’s house a short distance from Gadsden. It was her daughter, of twelve summers, who mounted behind Gen. Forrest is the dead hour of night, and piloted him to an obscure and practically unknown crossing on Black Creek and thus enabled the “Wizard of the Saddle” to cross his men and rout and finally capture Gen. Streight and his two thousand cavelry. The brave young miss, was serrenaded last night by the 1st, Mo. Brig. band.

Oct. 23rd. Started before daylight and marched twenty-two miles and camped late at night and it was one o’clcok before we were through cooking, I am tired and sleepy. We crossed Sand Mountian and man and beast were put to a severe test of endurence.

Oct. 24th. We pushed on for the Tennessee river at Decatur, Ala. Have heard the old familiar bark of the “War Dogs” in our front today, which tells us ther is game ahead. We passed through two small villages, Summersville and Brooksville; nothing to sell in either place. All business and enterprise is banished from this section.

Oct. 27th. After delays and a slow march through rain and mud, we are before Decature, and the enemy’s flag is flaunting before us. Some of our batteries are firing at their forts, to let them know that we are here.

Oct. 31st. We are still waiting here and living at the same place on parched corn, when we cannot do better. Every man in my battery had a fine ear of corn issued to him last night, by our commissary, for his days rations. I heard no grumbling or complaint from any one. We all know how to make such sacrifices, many of our poor people living within the fighting territory have not so much at times. When we suffer for clothing and food, we are reminded of the sufferimg of our poor people in many parts of the Southland. Children, whose father is in the army, or who has been slain in battle, crying for bread and the poor greif stricken mother, has it not. This is so sad, and yet so true. We have passed many places or homes during the last few days, that were in actual want of the necessaries of life. May our merciful Heavenly Father provide. I saw four men today, who were frightfully burned by the blowing up of one of our caissons of ammuniiton. There faces were as black as the blackest negro I ever saw. This is a rich beautiful country but no crops, the fencing is about all destroyed, and only small truck patches are raised.

Nov. 3rd. Have moved down to Tuscumbia, Ala. and in camp three miles from Florence. We can hear the roaring of the Shoals, as the water rushes and gushes and bounces and flounces for three miles or more over the tens of thousands of rocky bolders at the bottom of the Tennessee river. It is a grand sight to look upon. The city of Florence is at the lower end and the city of Decature at the upper end of these shoals. Boats pass up and down only during high water season. The town of Tuscumbia is located on the prairie and right in the midst of it, is a wonderful spring, some 300 ft. in circumference, gushing out of the ground cold and clear as a crystal and about ten feet deep, forming a large creek, as its waters flow from the fountain head. Fish of many sizes can be seen at all times even resting on the bottom ten feet below the surface. There is a Female College here, but no school of course at such a time as this.

Nov. 15th. We are still encamped here with the winter rains pouring upon us almost daily. It is said we are waiting for our supply train. It is greatly delayed by the weather and bad roads. Our army is badly equiped for a winter campaign, but our General does not seem to think of that. We must go forward and gain victories over great odds, or die in the attempt. Thousands have done the latter, since Gen. Hood took command. Our rations are short, ther is not much in this section of the country to live on. We have a pontoon bridge across the Tenn. river, just below the shoals. I was down to the river today. A potion of our army is on the other side, building breastworks, to protect the bridge, I suppose. Two efforts have been made by the enemy to cut loose the pontoon bridge. The last effort to cut loose the bridge was nearly successful. The party was captured.

 


Notes

  1. Page reference pending

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