Diary of a Union Soldier in Georgia — The Fall of Atlanta, Part II

These entries detail the remaining time that the one hundred and twenty-ninth regiment spent in war-shattered Atlanta. It is excerpted from History of the One Hundred and Twenty-Ninth Regiment, Illinois Volunteer Infantry, by William Grunert.

Potter House

Sept. 3, 1864 Our brigade yet remained behind the old entrenchments on the Chattahoochee, guarding both bridges leading over the river here, and a large quantity of supplies that had arrived and been deposited here. Atlanta had been taken but a few days ago, and here was the nearest and most suitable place for a depository of supplies, &c. The enemy, having recovered from his whipping at Jonesboro, gathered his scattered forces and had retreated towards Macon, there to await, what our next move would be. The enemy’s cavalry was principally in our rear, tearing up railways, burning bridges and trains, laden with supplies for our army, and tried their best generally to cut off our communication with the North, hoping thereby to compel us to evacuate Atlanta. The report came in today that the rebel cavalry were between here and Marietta, and the report must have been true, as no trains arrived as usual. We were on our guard, in order not to be surprised, but the enemy moved Northward.

Sept. 4 The hospital of our division that had till now been here at the river, was moved to the city. The weather was cloudy and rainy.

 Sept. 7 Everything was quiet here; no trains bad reached us, and we heard nothing from other points, as not only the track but also the telegraph had been demolished by the enemy. Our main army had left Jonesboro and camped around Atlanta.

Destruction of Atlanta

Sept 8 The general talk was that all Illinois troops were to be sent home for the Presidential election, but very little faith was placed in the report . Several trains arrived and the commissary stores here were moved to Atlanta. The track of the Louisville-Nashville Railroad had been destroyed by Wheeler’s cavalry on several places, and we had not received any letters for some time. We also received the news that the guerrilla chief John Moroan had been taken prisoner by a private of the 13th Tennessee cavalry in Kentucky, and shot. The weather was very hot.

Sept 11 We received new clothes and looked like respectable men again, and not like ragged beggars. The weather was windy and warm.

Sept. 12 An address from the President and Lieut. Gen. Grant was read to us, thanking the army under Sherman for the deeds of valor done during the campaign. In honor of the capture of Atlanta and the troops that captured it, 100 minute guns were fired in all the Northern cities and from all the forts by order of the President. An order was issued that each flag of the army having participated in the capture of Atlanta, should have the inscription, “Atlanta,” affixed on it. The weather was very warm today.

Confederate Lines

 Sept 13 Guerrillas were doing mischief in our neighborhood and persons were frequently attacked and robbed on the road from here to Atlanta.

Sept. 16 The hour for marching was fixed at 6 a. m. We assembled punctually and marched to the North side of the Chattahoochee, where the brigade was assembling, crossed the river then, and at 7 o’clock we passed over a part of the battlefield of the 20th of July. About 8 o’clock we reached our former entrenchments in front of Atlanta, passed the graves of the fallen dear comrades, that were “sleeping the sleep that knows no waking,” and many of us could not resist the silent tear at the thought of the many pleasant hours, privations and sufferings, enjoyed and endured in company with the fallen heroes, now slumbering beneath the silent sod! They had fallen in defense of our glorious country— peace to their ashes, and may the memory of those days fill us with new love of our Republic and its glorious freemen! We halted and remained for some time, although under quite different circumstances as formerly, when we were in continual danger of the enemy’s shells, balls and bullets, and nothing was heard but the roar of artillery and the rattle of musketry. A solemn silence reigned today, not disturbed by the howl of shells, the moans of the wounded, nor the last yells of the dying! The thoughts of our men there now, I do not dare to describe, or even suppose! We continued our march and at 10 o’clock we reached the ruined city with its (formerly) inimical fortifications, passed straight through the city and went in camp about 1 mile further South. The day was excessively hot and the roads covered with dust several inches deep. After we had been dismissed, a number of our men went to the enemy’s former works on the South side of the city. They were very strong and in their erection every modern invention in the art of war had been added—but all of no avail—the doom of rebellion had been sealed!

Sept. 18 A more suitable camping ground was selected today and cleared of the dirt and brash piled there. Received the first mail again for some time. During the night a heavy rain commenced. Beautiful and valuable deserted frame houses in the neighborhood, that had been riddled by bullets and balls, were torn down and doors, lumber and even shingles taken and used in erecting tenements in camp, in order to be as comfortable as possible while we remained here. The timber was carried from a distance of sometimes more than half a mile, as the houses in our immediate neighborhood had been “appropriated” by troops before our arrival. But we were satisfied with what we received and in case of necessity were willing to do our share in burning down what we had so laboriously erected.

Atlanta after capture

Sept. 20 Several of our men who had left camp had gone to the city, and had commenced demolishing houses there, were arrested by the provost guard. A heavy rain commenced at sunset, and lasted the whole night.

 Sept. 26 The parade announced for the 22d took place today. At 11 o’clock a.m. the brigade assembled and marched to the headquarters of the division, where the division was assembling and where we were received by the delightful music of the 33rd Massachusetts regiment. Thence the division moved with music to the parade ground, northwest from the city, where we arrived at 1 o’clock p.m. The parade was before Gen. Slocum, the first one held before him. Gen. Slocum was well satisfied with our movements, although they were not as they would have been on even ground; the ground was very uneven and stony, and not in the least suitable for a parade ground.

Train destroyed by rebels


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