Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Lieutenant Colonel Charles Fessenden Morse: September 11, 1864

Atlanta, Ga., September 11, 1864.

To-day being Sunday, my office is closed, and I have a little time to tell you of some of the events of the last ten days.

September 2d, about eleven o'clock, we received the glorious news that Atlanta had been surrendered to a reconnoitering party from our Third Division. Our First Brigade was immediately sent forward to occupy the place, and about four P. M., the whole corps followed. We entered the city about dark, with bands playing, etc. Our regiment went into camp in the City Hall Park, having been detailed as the provost guard. The next morning, we took possession of the City Hall. I took the court-room for my office; the other rooms were taken for headquarters, guard-rooms, etc. My private room was with the Colonel, in one of the finest houses of the city, opposite our camp, — Brussells carpet, elegant beds and other furniture. The family were very glad to have us occupy the house for their own protection; they are very fine people, and I think have very little sympathy with the South.

Our first few days were terribly hard ones, but now that the army is settled in position and we have reduced things to a system, we are getting along very well; I doubt if to-day there are many cities in the North, of the same size, which are quieter or cleaner than this one. Atlanta is a very pretty place, and less Southern in its appearance than any I have seen. It is quite a new town, and its buildings are generally in good condition; there are, on the principal streets, some fine warehouses, banks and public buildings; the depots are the best I ever saw for railroad accommodations. There are large numbers of elegant residences, showing evidence of a refined population; in a good many cases they are deserted. Our shells destroyed a great deal of property, but I am sorry now that a single one was thrown into the city, for I don't think they hastened the surrender by a day. They did not harm the rebel army, the only casualties being twenty harmless old men, women and children, and two soldiers. There are differences of opinion about this kind of warfare, but I don't like it. General Sherman is going to make this a strictly military point, and has ordered all citizens, North or South, to remove within a limited time; the present population is ten or twelve thousand, so you see it is no small undertaking.

This measure, although it seems almost inhuman, I believe to be an actual military necessity; it is simply one of the horrors of war. We shall send people North who have always lived in a state of luxurious independence, but who will arrive there without a dollar of our money; their only property being their household furniture, etc. The gentleman who owns this house, a Mr. Solomon, is a fine old man; he is seventy-two years old and in poor health. It is a most pitiable sight to see him walking about his house and grounds, bent over with age and suffering, and to think that he must leave his home where he has lived so long. Fortunately, he has a son-in-law in Nashville, who is well off and will take care of him; but, as he says, it is pretty hard for a man of his years, who has been independent all his life, to have to depend on charity now. He had a son, a classmate of General Howard's, who died in the United States service about five years ago.

This is only one of hundreds of cases, but thinking or feeling about them is useless. I shall do what I can to get them off comfortably. There is a sort of armistice here for ten days. Trains of the two armies will meet at a fixed point and transfer their passengers and goods.

Sherman says that we shall wait here till about the end of October, when the corn crop will be ripe, and then go down and gather it. He is the most original character and greatest genius there is in the country, in my opinion.

SOURCE: Charles Fessenden Morse, Letters Written During the Civil War, 1861-1865, p. 188-90

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