Entering the City
Chapter 56 (September 4, 1864 - October 24, 1864)
After besieging Atlanta for more than a month and having erected strong fortifications confronting it, and then in one night to withdraw all the troops from our works, leaving them without a Yankee in them, in my humble opinion was one of the greatest moves of the war. It ranked General Sherman as the greatest general of the war.
The march to the city was so hard that only one or two gun stacks could be made, when we came to a halt, but others soon followed. After Sherman had taken possession of the Macon railroad, over which the Rebels had intended to run their trains, loaded with ammunition, they found this impossible. They started east on the Augusta railroad but within a few miles they found the Yankee cavalry had torn up the tracks. The trains returned to the city and there blew up the arsenal and every place where any ammunition was stored. The night of this explosion was the night prior to our entering into the city. Nearly every member of Company G was out on the skirmish line that night. We could plainly hear the explosions and see the light, making it almost as light as day, All their military stores were destroyed.
We entered the city on Sunday, September 4, 1864. The siege lasted just 41 days. On entering the city we found the people, to protect themselves from our shells, had dug caves or dug-outs in their lawns and gardens, and there the women and children stayed nearly all the while. This was war for them to the fullest extent. We changed our camping grounds several times while in the city, frequently occupying the Rebel works.
Rebel General Hood had now determined to compel Sherman to abandon Atlanta by marching his army north along the Nashville, Chattanooga and Atlanta Railroad and finally on to Nashville and Franklin, Tenn., where Pap Thomas (as he was familiarly called by the boys) gave Hood such a whipping as to almost destroy his army. General Sherman followed him as far as he thought necessary then returned to the city and made preparations for his wonderful “March to the Sea.” And now a little of our camp life within the city.
On Friday, October 21, our brigade of six regiments started out with 500 six-mule wagons after corn and forage for the animals. Passed thru Decatur, crossed South River and went into camp. Marched 13 miles.
On the 22nd, the wagons were driven thru immense corn fields, from three to four men followed each wagon breaking off the ears in the husk, until all the wagons were filled, then run into park. After the wagons were loaded Captain Byers said. “Now boys, you may do some foraging for yourselves.” Glad for the chance, we came to a log stable in which was a colt. He seemed very quiet and gentle. Some of the boys hooked this colt into an old buckboard or something of that sort, while the rest were out gathering chickens, ham, geese, cornmeal, sweet potatoes, and anything good to eat, with which to load this vehicle, so that we might get those precious things to camp without carrying them. The old lady of the house called to us that we had better look out. “Fur just down thar in the woods air our men.” We told her we were after something good to eat and not after her men. It took but a short time to get things ready to start. The wagon was filled up as much as it could carry. We had also secured a yearling bull. Colonel Griggs, of the Company, Ed Fisher, and the writer, claimed ownership. Griggs put a gun sling around the little fellow’s neck, by which to lead him to camp. We had all sorts of edibles gathered and we also felt happy that we had beef on hoof, and hoped to get all back to camp without much trouble to ourselves.
The caravan was now ready to start. We wanted Yankee Garman to get on the wagon and drive, but we had difficulty to persuade him. He said this colt never had a harness on before, and the harness and wagon were in bad shape and he would not risk it. Yankee took the lines after while and hollered “Git up.” That aroused the geese and chickens, and they began to flop their wings, which frightened the colt, and off he went, down the road, Yankee Garman holding on to the lines and running along side until the speed increased so much that he was compelled to drop the lines. The precious load was scattered along the highway about one-fourth of a mile, where the colt turned off into another road with only the shafts and one of the front wheels hanging to him. Now we began gathering up our wares. Ed Fisher and the writer decided to carry a goose 13 miles back to camp. Colonel Griggs, Fisher and Company claimed ownership of the bull. One goose and a yearling bull was all we had out of the entire cargo. We cared nothing for the colt, and had no further use for him.
On October 23, Sunday, we broke camp and started back to Atlanta. While marching along Griggs took off his cap and stooped down in front of the gentleman cow bellowing; when unexpectedly the little fellow was put on his metal, he bellowed in reply to Griggs, who was acting the fool in front of him. The bull’s head went down and his tail in the air and he made a dive thru the company and off to the woods as fast as he could go, Griggs holding on as long as he could and when he left go Griggs said: “There goes my gun sling.”
Fisher and I held on to the goose and brought it to camp the afternoon of Monday, the 24th. That night we put this goose under our bed and some time after midnight the goose got out and started to quack and fly from one end of the tent to the other. We caught and tied it and on the morrow we skinned it and had a fine goose roast. We thought this repaid us for all our trouble.