Sunday, July 6, 2014

150 Years Ago Today - Inching on Atlanta

As the guns fell silent at Kennesaw Mountain on June 27th, 1864, Sherman was already looking for ways around the Confederate defenses. Federal generals Schofield and McPherson began to move around the Confederate left, which once again forced Johnston to withdraw and move south toward the Chattahoochee River, only about six miles from Atlanta.

During these movements Lt. Hamilton Branch took time to write home to his mother. Branch was a member of the 54th Georgia Infantry, which was part of Gen. Hugh Weedon Mercer's Brigade in William Henry Talbot Walker's (pictured) Division.

"In Reserve of Walker's Division
1/2 Miles of Chattahoochee River
July 6th 1864
My Very Dear Mother
After writing to you on yesterday we were moved one mile to the left and placed in position behind a portion of the stockade erected by Genl Shoop Genl Johnston's chief of Artillery this was the strangest sight we have seen since we have been here, it put me in mind of the fortifications I have read of in the account of the first American settlers lives, it was made thus on every little rise and commanding every little valey there were built redouts and block houses and all between these there were rails and logs about 12 feet in length stuck up in the ground close together, the whole forming (as some of the men remarked) a wall between the cornfeds and wheatfeds, and I would have liked it better if the wall had been 1/2 mile in height and had been built farther north, we remained at that place doing nothing until dark when Bill arrived and we went to work with good will, after eating we were ordered to pull down the stockade and build a breastwork instead, this we did working all night and until 9 oclock this morning when we were ordered to stop work and fall in this we did and were moved back into the woods about 200 yds where we dined immediately after dinner (or in fact before Capt. Anderson had finished for he had to eat as he was marching) we were ordered off an marched about 1 mile to this place and were put in reserve of our division, as soon as we stopped I put for the river and took a nice bath and put on my clean clothes. I then went back and just as I had arrived and was sitting down writing to you, we were ordered off again and are now (after having marched 1/2 mile to the left) in the trenches, and ready for a fight, we do not know how long we will stay here, and would not be at all surprised if we were moved in five minutes--thus it is we work all night and march all day and rest all the other time therefore we soldiers have plenty of rest and time to spare. We have not had a gun fired at us now for thirty-six hours in fact there is very little firing along the lines now, the enemy are shelling our pontoon bridges both on the right and left, and we are now putting some in the center. I do not know whether we will cross the river or not. Old Joe [Gen. Johnston] knows what he is at and will take care of us and do what is best. Praying for Gods blessings on you I remain your devoted son

President Jefferson Davis quickly grew tired of Johnston's continued retreats and on July 17 replaced him with battle-battered and amputated Gen. John Bell Hood. The highly offensive-minded Hood would strike at Sherman's legions time after time around Atlanta to great destruction of his army and to little to no gain. Regardless of defending commanders, Atlanta fell in the opening days of September, which was yet another body blow to the Confederacy, and a massive boost for Lincoln's reelection chances.  

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