The Siege of Atlanta
Chapter 55 (July 22, 1864)
Siege of Atlanta Begun July 22, 1863
After the battle of Atlanta Sherman’s army closed in the erection of earthworks commenced at once, and the siege of Atlanta was on. The death of McPherson caused quite a rivalry among the generals as to who should take his place. Sherman had placed General Logan in command of the Army of the Tennessee by virtue of his seniority. But Sherman did not consider him equal to command three corps. General Hooker expected to be chosen to succeed McPherson, but instead General O. O. Howard was placed in command.
This offended Hooker and he resigned as commander of the 20th corps.
General Slocum, while we encamped at Bridgeport, Alabama, was sent to take command at Vicksburg, Miss. General Slocum now returned and took Hooker’s place. General A. S. Williams, senior division commander, was in command of the corps until Slocum returned.
Atlanta was well fortified, even beyond our expectation. This line of Sherman’s at Atlanta, if my memory serves me right, was the sixteenth line of breastworks which we erected from May to September, each about ten or twelve miles in length. The ones we now occupied were first class. If the reader thinks Sherman’s bummers, as they were called, had an easy time of it he is sadly mistaken. We drove the enemy from Bridgeport, Ala., to Atlanta, Ga., a distance of 178 miles, every inch thru the enemy’s country, erecting nearly 200 miles of works, and this during the heat of the summer. This certainly was no child’s play. During all these hardships, we yet had some little fun. When off duty, the boys amused themselves by playing checkers, cards, figmill, etc. The chessmen were made with our pocket knives. We had a Colonel Bushbeck in our brigade and Joe Ulsh would forget the names of the chessmen and especially the Bishop, which he always called Bushbeck, so we nicknamed Ulsh Bushbeck and he still goes by that name with the company boys.
The firing was kept up day and night, every fifteen minutes two 32-pounders would throw their shells into the city. On a quiet night we could hear the shells crashing thru some building then explode, setting fire to the building. In reply to our cannon the Rebels would drop a gentle reminder (64-lb shells) into our camp, which would create quite a stir.
One morning when all was quiet along the line and all were asleep, except the men on the skirmish line, and those upon the breastworks, all the artillery along the Rebel lines opened on us at a given signal. It took us but a very short time to get into our works and I want to tell you we hugged them tight. When daylight came General Geary rode along the line and told us that tomorrow morning our artillery would wake up the Johnnies. Forty-five cannons were put into shape and next morning all opened on the forts and works in our direct front. Each gun fired fifteen shots, making a total of 675 shots. These all went into the city, exploding and doing much damage. Prisoners captured later told us that had we charged their works in the morning, we could have easily captured the city, as the foe had vacated their works and sought places of safety. At night a large Rebel gun would open fire and we could see the flash before the shell arrived, so when we saw the flash of our gun, as the boys called it, every one would yell down, and everyone would seek a place of safety.
As time went on many little incidents occurred. One night when all was quiet and the boys were having sweet dreams of home, suddenly the Johnnies, just in front of us fired a volley of musketry. Johnnie Marks, who was tenting with Dan Gross, lost his cap and in the excitement to get into our works Dan put on the cap. Johnnie, still hunting for his cap, said: “Dan, wu ist mi hoot?” [“Dan, where is my hat?”] Just then another volley was given, when Johnnie in a much louder tone yelled again, “Dan, wu ist mi hoot?” [“Dan, where is my hat?”] Now the third volley came, when he was still looking for his cap and a little more excited, screamed with all his might: “Dunner wetter, Dan, wu ist mi hoot?” [“Thunder weather (exasperated, annoyed – this is a swear word), Dan, where is my hat?”]
Our railroad bridge over the Chattahoochie River, about six miles in the rear, was now completed and the railroad finished to our works.
Sometimes it is said that everything was run too slow during the Civil War, that should such a war be conducted today everything would be run on a swifter scale. The Chattahoochie bridge, 740 feet long and 90 feet high, was rebuilt by 600 men in four and one-half days. Who could do any better?
The train would sometimes come right up to our line and whistle for all that was in it. It made it a little unpleasant for us, for the Rebels would always open their artillery on them. Yet we enjoyed seeing our trains coming right up to the front.
General Sherman now thought he had all things in readiness for the capture of the city. He moved the whole army off to the right 17 miles to Jonesboro, evacuating the works about Atlanta. Our corps, the 20th, fell back to the rear. There we fortified. This great move was made at night. When daylight came the Rebels, as they afterwards told us, came over to our works and found us gone. They spread the news over the city and a great jollification followed saying that the Yankee army was retreating.
But soon they heard of Sherman’s army down at Jonesboro on the Macon Railroad south of the city. The Rebel army at once started in pursuit. General Slocum, who was to keep a sharp lookout, found the enemy going out of the city, ordered us on a forced march to Atlanta. We arrived soon after the Rebel rear guard had left. With our pioneer corps in advance cutting down the Abbattis and Chev-aux-de frise, opening a road for the troops to march thru, we were soon in the city and occupying the Confederate camps and fortifications. Sherman gave Hood a good thrashing and, when they wanted to return to Atlanta, they found to their surprise that it was occupied by General Slocum’s Corps. Of course, that included Company G. And we feel proud that Company G has the honor to have been with the first Yankees to enter the city.