Sunday, July 3, 2016

Major Charles Fessenden Morse: July 25, 1864

In The Trenches,
One And A Half Miles From Atlanta,
July 25, 1864.

Considerable has been accomplished since my last. On the 17th, I was on picket on the north bank of the Chattahoochie; late in the afternoon I was ordered to withdraw my line, as the army was moving to cross the river a few miles above. As my sentinels left, over the river bank, the rebels called out, “Have you got marching orders, Yanks? We are off at six.” I joined the brigade about ten that night, crossing on pontoons.

The next day, we marched to Peach Tree Creek, about four and a half miles from Atlanta, our second division securing a crossing. On the 20th, all of Thomas's army was over and in position fronting Atlanta. McPherson and Schofield, with the Fifteenth, Sixteenth, Seventeenth and Twenty-third Corps, by a flank movement, had crossed the Charleston Railroad and pushed up quite near Atlanta; about noon, our pickets and theirs connected. We were busily at work strengthening our position, when, without a word of preparation, the rebels in heavy force burst upon our picket line. Our brigade was in the second line. The first line advanced and breasted the shock in fine style. The fighting was quite severe till dark, when the enemy were repulsed and retired to their works. Our corps lost sixteen hundred killed and wounded, and buried five hundred and eighty-one rebels in front of its line. The loss in the regiment was trifling, —  Captain Sawyer severely wounded and three men not severely. Skirmishing continued throughout the 21st.

On the 22d the enemy retreated to their main line of works around Atlanta; we are now encircling them closely. The Macon Railroad is still in possession of the rebels, but it is the only one left to them. Operations now bear the character of a siege; there is constant cannonading going on from each side night and day, and consequently we have to stay in the trenches all the time. A few minutes ago a shell burst in the Third Wisconsin on our left, severely wounding three officers who were together in a tent. Just above us is a twenty-pound Parrott battery, which has fired, with hardly an intermission, for forty-eight hours; every shell is supposed to drop in the city. Since we have been here, there have been three or four assaults on our line, but they have all been repulsed without difficulty. We are now strong enough to resist anything.

I was told the following story, which was brought in by a citizen who lives in the outskirts of the city, in a fine house in plain sight of our line. He says that a few days before our arrival here, Davis, Johnston, Bragg, and other officers met at his house for consultation. After considerable talk, Davis expressed himself very much dissatisfied with Johnston for his constant retreats. Johnston said he had done what, in his opinion, was for the best; that he had brought off his army intact, but that he had not felt strong enough, at any time, to offer or accept battles; in conclusion, he said that if the President thought there was any officer who could manage his army better than he could, he would at once tender his resignation. Upon this, Johnston was relieved and the command offered to Hardee; he declined the honor, saying that he had perfect confidence in Johnston, and if, in his (Johnston's) opinion, Atlanta couldn't be held, he was bound to agree with him. The army was then offered to Hood, who jumped at it and said he would have Sherman on his way north in twenty-four hours. Hood believes in fighting, and has probably lost ten thousand men since he assumed command; but, as yet, we continue to look towards the Gulf.

SOURCE: Charles Fessenden Morse, Letters Written During the Civil War, 1861-1865, p. 180-2

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