Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Major Charles Fessenden Morse: July 9, 1864

Near Vining's Station, Ga.,
July 9, 1864.

The 2d of July, Saturday, I was Field Officer of the day, and had charge of the brigade picket. That night I received notice that the enemy were expected to leave very soon, and to watch them closely. I went out to the picket line, intending to stay there till morning; the night was pretty dark, and though only about three hundred yards of open field lay between our line and the rebels', yet nothing could be seen at that distance. Occasionally, shots were fired. At one in the morning I ordered three men and a corporal, whom I knew to be cool, brave men, to crawl up within a few yards of the nearest rebel picket post, if possible, and see if they were still there. In about an hour they returned, and reported that they had been near enough to hear the enemy talking, and had been fired upon twice; however, from general appearances, I made up my mind that they were going, and so reported.

At a little before daylight, the whole picket line was ordered forward. We advanced and got into the enemy's works without opposition, taking quite a number of prisoners. These works were the most formidable I have yet seen, — more of the nature of permanent fortifications than ordinary field works. The breastworks were of the strongest kind; then about ten yards in front was a chevaux de frise of a double row of pointed rails, and in front of this, an almost impenetrable abattis about one hundred yards wide.

I got into Marietta among the first with my skirmishers. I found it to be a beautiful place, though now almost deserted by its inhabitants. We drove out the rear guard of cavalry and artillery; among them could be seen numbers of citizens, men and women, running off like fools, leaving their property to be destroyed. For the first time in the South, I saw here pretty, neat country places, like those of Jamaica Plain and Brookline, with green lawns and hedges, and ornamental shrubs and trees about them; the houses appeared to be well furnished, but I suppose before this, the riff-raff of the army has rifled them of all worth taking. The Military Academy was a fine building, with gymnasium, etc., about it; it has been converted into a hospital. By sunrise the whole army was moving and on the heels of Johnston. We were right on him when he got into another of his lines of works. My skirmishers took about fifty prisoners; judging from that, the army must have taken at least one or two thousand.

July 4th, nothing occurred except a few changes of position. On the morning of the 5th, the enemy were gone from our front; we followed them up, and found them in their next line, about three miles off.

From one part of our line I had a distant view of Atlanta, the spires and towers rising in plain sight above the everlasting forests, which seemed to extend without a break, excepting an occasional corn-field, from Tullahoma to this place. We are now in front of the rebel position, their two flanks resting on the Chattahoochie, as do ours. We are told that we shall be here a few days, so I suppose there can be no obstacle to the enemy crossing the river whenever they want to do so. In my limited sphere of observation, I can give you for facts only what I see; the causes are all beyond me, as I know nothing of any movements beyond our own corps.

SOURCE: Charles Fessenden Morse, Letters Written During the Civil War, 1861-1865, p. 173-5

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