Tuesday, July 29, 2014

150 Years Ago Yesterday - Ezra Church

Confederate Gen. John Bell Hood was nothing if not committed to his belief in offensive attacks. Rather than attempting to out maneuver the enemy or picking places for fighting defensively with the benefit of cover to protect his rapidly dwindling men, he bleed his army in the engagements around Atlanta.

On July 28, 1864, fighting broke out on the west side of Atlanta as Hood attempted to block Sherman yet again. Trying to strike first Hood slammed into Gen. John "Black Jack" Logan's XV Corps near Ezra Church.

There, away for his unit, who was guarding army communications, was Union army chaplain George W. Pepper. Pepper belonged to the 80th Ohio Infantry of Green Berry Raum's (pictured) Brigade.

Chaplain Pepper witnessed the deadly damaged caused by the the severe fighting:

"Here in the woods where Logan's corps was first engaged (on the 28th), there is not a rock or tree, or leaf, but shows the desperate strife. One section of woods is literally cut off, torn down, scattered. Acres of this forest are topped by canister and grape-shot and shell almost as completely as our farmers top their cornfields with a sickle.

At the corner of the cornfield where the corps was engaged, there is a piece of oak rail fence and part of a stone wall. In one length of that fence behind which the rebels were concealed, I count 100 bullet holes. And along that field, and within the distance of 80 rods, we count 1,600 dead rebels, most of them lying on their backs, eyes open, faces black, hands folded on their breasts.

Here lies one upon his side, eyes closed, feet slightly drawn up, his head resting easily upon his knapsack. He looks a weary soldier, sound asleep. I speak to him, he stirs not; put my hand upon him, he will not wake. Dead.

Here is a soldier, a rebel captain, sitting against this tree. His limbs are crossed, and his cap hangs naturally upon his knee. One hand in the breast of his coat, the other hangs by his side. Dead.

Here, leaning against this wall, is a rebel soldier with his leg broken below the knee, and a Union surgeon lying dead across his feet. They are both dead. The surgeon was evidently dressing his wound when he received his death shot, for there is the bandage wound twice around the limb, the other end of which is still in the dead surgeon's hand. The rebel soldier evidently bled to death."

More fighting would be needed before Atlanta finally fell on September 1. But the Union army's morale was excellent following the fight at Ezra Church and they as well as their Confederate enemies knew it was only a matter of how much more time and how many more casualties before the inevitable.

Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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