Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Chapter 56


An intelligent, quick-eyed, sunburned boy, without an ounce of surplus
flesh on face or limbs, which had been reduced to gray-hound condition by
the labors and anxieties of the months of battling between Chattanooga
and Atlanta, seemed to be the accepted talker of the crowd, since all the
rest looked at him, as if expecting him to answer for them. He did so:

"You want to know about how we got Atlanta at last, do you? Well, if you
don't know, I should think you would want to. If I didn't, I'd want
somebody to tell me all about it just as soon as he could get to me, for
it was one of the neatest little bits of work that 'old Billy' and his
boys ever did, and it got away with Hood so bad that he hardly knew what
hurt him.

"Well, first, I'll tell you that we belong to the old Fourteenth Ohio
Volunteers, which, if you know anything about the Army of the Cumberland,
you'll remember has just about as good a record as any that trains around
old Pap Thomas--and he don't 'low no slouches of any kind near him,
either--you can bet $500 to a cent on that, and offer to give back the
cent if you win. Ours is Jim Steedman's old regiment--you've all heard
of old Chickamauga Jim, who slashed his division of 7,000 fresh men into
the Rebel flank on the second day at Chickamauga, in a way that made
Longstreet wish he'd staid on the Rappahannock, and never tried to get up
any little sociable with the Westerners. If I do say it myself, I
believe we've got as good a crowd of square, stand-up, trust
'em-every-minute-in-your-life boys, as ever thawed hard-tack and
sowbelly. We got all the grunters and weak sisters fanned out the first
year, and since then we've been on a business basis, all the time.
We're in a mighty good brigade, too. Most of the regiments have been
with us since we formed the first brigade Pap Thomas ever commanded, and
waded with him through the mud of Kentucky, from Wild Cat to Mill
Springs, where he gave Zollicoffer just a little the awfulest thrashing
that a Rebel General ever got. That, you know, was in January, 1862,
and was the first victory gained by the Western Army, and our people
felt so rejoiced over it that--"

"Yes, yes; we've read all about that," we broke in, "and we'd like to
hear it again, some other time; but tell us now about Atlanta."

"All right. Let's see: where was I? O, yes, talking about our brigade.
It is the Third Brigade, of the Third Division, of the Fourteenth Corps,
and is made up of the Fourteenth Ohio, Thirty-eighth Ohio, Tenth
Kentucky, and Seventy-fourth Indiana. Our old Colonel--George P. Este
--commands it. We never liked him very well in camp, but I tell you
he's a whole team in a fight, and he'd do so well there that all would
take to him again, and he'd be real popular for a while."

"Now, isn't that strange," broke in Andrews, who was given to fits of
speculation of psychological phenomena: "None of us yearn to die, but the
surest way to gain the affection of the boys is to show zeal in leading
them into scrapes where the chances of getting shot are the best.
Courage in action, like charity, covers a multitude of sins. I have
known it to make the most unpopular man in the battalion, the most
popular inside of half an hour. Now, M.(addressing himself to me,) you
remember Lieutenant H., of our battalion. You know he was a very fancy
young fellow; wore as snipish' clothes as the tailor could make, had gold
lace on his jacket wherever the regulations would allow it, decorated his
shoulders with the stunningest pair of shoulder knots I ever saw, and so
on. Well, he did not stay with us long after we went to the front. He
went back on a detail for a court martial, and staid a good while. When
he rejoined us, he was not in good odor, at all, and the boys weren't at
all careful in saying unpleasant things when he could hear them, A little
while after he came back we made that reconnaissance up on the Virginia
Road. We stirred up the Johnnies with our skirmish line, and while the
firing was going on in front we sat on our horses in line, waiting for
the order to move forward and engage. You know how solemn such moments
are. I looked down the line and saw Lieutenant H. at the right of
Company --, in command of it. I had not seen him since he came back, and
I sung out:

"'Hello, Lieutenant, how do you feel?'

"The reply came back, promptly, and with boyish cheerfulness:

"'Bully, by ----; I'm going to lead seventy men of Company into action

"How his boys did cheer him. When the bugle sounded--'forward, trot,'
his company sailed in as if they meant it, and swept the Johnnies off in
short meter. You never heard anybody say anything against Lieutenant
after that."

"You know how it was with Captain G., of our regiment," said one of the
Fourteenth to another. "He was promoted from Orderly Sergeant to a
Second Lieutenant, and assigned to Company D. All the members of Company
D went to headquarters in a body, and protested against his being put in
their company, and he was not. Well, he behaved so well at Chickamauga
that the boys saw that they had done him a great injustice, and all those
that still lived went again to headquarters, and asked to take all back
that they had said, and to have him put into the company."

"Well, that was doing the manly thing, sure; but go on about Atlanta."

"I was telling about our brigade," resumed the narrator. "Of course, we
think our regiment's the best by long odds in the army--every fellow
thinks that of his regiment--but next to it come the other regiments of
our brigade. There's not a cent of discount on any of them.

"Sherman had stretched out his right away to the south and west of
Atlanta. About the middle of August our corps, commanded by Jefferson C.
Davis, was lying in works at Utoy Creek, a couple of miles from Atlanta.
We could see the tall steeples and the high buildings of the City quite
plainly. Things had gone on dull and quiet like for about ten days.
This was longer by a good deal than we had been at rest since we left
Resaca in the Spring. We knew that something was brewing, and that it
must come to a head soon.

"I belong to Company C. Our little mess--now reduced to three by the
loss of two of our best soldiers and cooks, Disbrow and Sulier, killed
behind head-logs in front of Atlanta, by sharpshooters--had one fellow
that we called 'Observer,' because he had such a faculty of picking up
news in his prowling around headquarters. He brought us in so much of
this, and it was generally so reliable that we frequently made up his
absence from duty by taking his place. He was never away from a fight,
though. On the night of the 25th of August, 'Observer' came in with the
news that something was in the wind. Sherman was getting awful restless,
and we had found out that this always meant lots of trouble to our
friends on the other side.

"Sure enough, orders came to get ready to move, and the next night we all
moved to the right and rear, out of sight of the Johnnies. Our well
built works were left in charge of Garrard's Cavalry, who concealed their
horses in the rear, and came up and took our places. The whole army
except the Twentieth Corps moved quietly off, and did it so nicely that
we were gone some time before the enemy suspected it. Then the Twentieth
Corps pulled out towards the North, and fell back to the Chattahoochie,
making quite a shove of retreat. The Rebels snapped up the bait
greedily. They thought the siege was being raised, and they poured over
their works to hurry the Twentieth boys off. The Twentieth fellows let
them know that there was lots of sting in them yet, and the Johnnies were
not long in discovering that it would have been money in their pockets if
they had let that 'moon-and-star' (that's the Twentieth's badge, you
know) crowd alone.

"But the Rebs thought the rest of us were gone for good and that Atlanta
was saved. Naturally they felt mighty happy over it; and resolved to
have a big celebration--a ball, a meeting of jubilee, etc. Extra trains
were run in, with girls and women from the surrounding country, and they
just had a high old time.

"In the meantime we were going through so many different kinds of tactics
that it looked as if Sherman was really crazy this time, sure. Finally
we made a grand left wheel, and then went forward a long way in line of
battle. It puzzled us a good deal, but we knew that Sherman couldn't get
us into any scrape that Pap Thomas couldn't get us out of, and so it was
all right.

"Along on the evening of the 31st our right wing seemed to have run
against a hornet's nest, and we could hear the musketry and cannon speak
out real spiteful, but nothing came down our way. We had struck the
railroad leading south from Atlanta to Macon, and began tearing it up.
The jollity at Atlanta was stopped right in the middle by the appalling
news that the Yankees hadn't retreated worth a cent, but had broken out
in a new and much worse spot than ever. Then there was no end of trouble
all around, and Hood started part of his army back after us.

"Part of Hardee's and Pat Cleburne's command went into position in front
of us. We left them alone till Stanley could come up on our left, and
swing around, so as to cut off their retreat, when we would bag every one
of them. But Stanley was as slow as he always was, and did not come up
until it was too late, and the game was gone.

"The sun was just going down on the evening of the 1st of September, when
we began to see we were in for it, sure. The Fourteenth Corps wheeled
into position near the railroad, and the sound of musketry and artillery
became very loud and clear on our front and left. We turned a little and
marched straight toward the racket, becoming more excited every minute.
We saw the Carlin's brigade of regulars, who were some distance ahead of
us, pile knapsacks, form in line, fix bayonets, and dash off with
arousing cheer.

"The Rebel fire beat upon them like a Summer rain-storm, the ground shook
with the noise, and just as we reached the edge of the cotton field, we
saw the remnant of the brigade come flying back out of the awful,
blasting shower of bullets. The whole slope was covered with dead and

"Yes," interrupts one of the Fourteenth; "and they made that charge
right gamely, too, I can tell you. They were good soldiers, and well
led. When we went over the works, I remember seeing the body of a little
Major of one of the regiments lying right on the top. If he hadn't been
killed he'd been inside in a half-a-dozen steps more. There's no mistake
about it; those regulars will fight."

"When we saw this," resumed the narrator, "it set our fellows fairly
wild; they became just crying mad; I never saw them so before. The order
came to strip for the charge, and our knapsacks were piled in half a
minute. A Lieutenant of our company, who was then on the staff of Gen.
Baird, our division commander, rode slowly down the line and gave us our
instructions to load our guns, fix bayonets, and hold fire until we were
on top of the Rebel works. Then Colonel Este sang out clear and steady
as a bugle signal:

"'Brigade, forward! Guide center! MARCH!!'

"And we started. Heavens, how they did let into us, as we came up into
range. They had ten pieces of artillery, and more men behind the
breastworks than we had in line, and the fire they poured on us was
simply withering. We walked across the hundreds of dead and dying of the
regular brigade, and at every step our own men fell down among them.
General Baud's horse was shot down, and the General thrown far over his
head, but he jumped up and ran alongside of us. Major Wilson, our
regimental commander, fell mortally wounded; Lieutenant Kirk was killed,
and also Captain Stopfard, Adjutant General of the brigade. Lieutenants
Cobb and Mitchell dropped with wounds that proved fatal in a few days.
Captain Ugan lost an arm, one-third of the enlisted men fell, but we went
straight ahead, the grape and the musketry becoming worse every step,
until we gained the edge of the hill, where we were checked a minute by
the brush, which the Rebels had fixed up in the shape of abattis. Just
then a terrible fire from a new direction, our left, swept down the whole
length of our line. The Colonel of the Seventeenth New York--as gallant
a man as ever lived saw the new trouble, took his regiment in on the run,
and relieved us of this, but he was himself mortally wounded. If our
boys were half-crazy before, they were frantic now, and as we got out of
the entanglement of the brush, we raised a fearful yell and ran at the
works. We climbed the sides, fired right down into the defenders, and
then began with the bayonet and sword. For a few minutes it was simply
awful. On both sides men acted like infuriated devils. They dashed each
other's brains out with clubbed muskets; bayonets were driven into men's
bodies up to the muzzle of the gun; officers ran their swords through
their opponents, and revolvers, after being emptied into the faces of the
Rebels, were thrown with desperate force into the ranks. In our regiment
was a stout German butcher named Frank Fleck. He became so excited that
he threw down his sword, and rushed among the Rebels with his bare fists,
knocking down a swath of them. He yelled to the first Rebel he met:

"Py Gott, I've no patience mit you,' and knocked him sprawling.
He caught hold of the commander of the Rebel Brigade, and snatched him
back over the works by main strength. Wonderful to say, he escaped
unhurt, but the boys will probably not soon let him hear the last of,

"Py Gott, I've no patience mit you.'

"The Tenth Kentucky, by the queerest luck in the world, was matched
against the Rebel Ninth Kentucky. The commanders of the two regiments
were brothers-in-law, and the men relatives, friends, acquaintances and
schoolmates. They hated each other accordingly, and the fight between
them was more bitter, if possible, than anywhere else on the line.
The Thirty-Eighth Ohio and Seventy-fourth Indiana put in some work that
was just magnificent. We hadn't time to look at it then, but the dead
and wounded piled up after the fight told the story.

"We gradually forced our way over the works, but the Rebels were game to
the last, and we had to make them surrender almost one at a time.
The artillerymen tried to fire on us when we were so close we could lay
our hands on the guns.

"Finally nearly all in the works surrendered, and were disarmed and
marched back. Just then an aid came dashing up with the information that
we must turn the works, and get ready to receive Hardee, who was
advancing to retake the position. We snatched up some shovels lying
near, and began work. We had no time to remove the dead and dying Rebels
on the works, and the dirt we threw covered them up. It proved a false
alarm. Hardee had as much as he could do to save his own hide, and the
affair ended about dark.

"When we came to count up what we had gained, we found that we had
actually taken more prisoners from behind breastworks than there were in
our brigade when we started the charge. We had made the only really
successful bayonet charge of the campaign. Every other time since we
left Chattanooga the party standing on the defensive had been successful.
Here we had taken strong double lines, with ten guns, seven battle flags,
and over two thousand prisoners. We had lost terribly--not less than
one-third of the brigade, and many of our best men. Our regiment went
into the battle with fifteen officers; nine of these were killed or
wounded, and seven of the nine lost either their limbs or lives.
The Thirty-Eighth Ohio, and the other regiments of the brigade lost
equally heavy. We thought Chickamauga awful, but Jonesboro discounted

"Do you know," said another of the Fourteenth, "I heard our Surgeon
telling about how that Colonel Grower, of the Seventeenth New York,
who came in so splendidly on our left, died? They say he was a Wall
Street broker, before the war. He was hit shortly after he led his
regiment in, and after the fight, was carried back to the hospital.
While our Surgeon was going the rounds Colonel Grower called him, and
said quietly, 'When you get through with the men, come and see me,

"The Doctor would have attended to him then, but Grower wouldn't let him.
After he got through he went back to Grower, examined his wound, and told
him that he could only live a few hours. Grower received the news
tranquilly, had the Doctor write a letter to his wife, and gave him his
things to send her, and then grasping the Doctor's hand, he said:

"Doctor, I've just one more favor to ask; will you grant it?'

"The Doctor said, 'Certainly; what is it?'

"You say I can't live but a few hours?'

"Yes; that is true.'

"And that I will likely be in great pain!'

"I am sorry to say so.'

"Well, then, do give me morphia enough to put me to sleep, so that I will
wake up only in another world.'

"The Doctor did so; Colonel Grower thanked him; wrung his hand, bade him
good-by, and went to sleep to wake no more."

"Do you believe in presentiments and superstitions?" said another of the
Fourteenth. There was Fisher Pray, Orderly Sergeant of Company I. He
came from Waterville, O., where his folks are now living. The day before
we started out he had a presentiment that we were going into a fight, and
that he would be killed. He couldn't shake it off. He told the
Lieutenant, and some of the boys about it, and they tried to ridicule him
out of it, but it was no good. When the sharp firing broke out in front
some of the boys said, 'Fisher, I do believe you are right,' and he
nodded his head mournfully. When we were piling knapsacks for the
charge, the Lieutenant, who was a great friend of Fisher's, said:

"Fisher, you stay here and guard the knapsacks.'

"Fisher's face blazed in an instant.

"No, sir,' said he; I never shirked a fight yet, and I won't begin now.'

"So he went into the fight, and was killed, as he knew he would be. Now,
that's what I call nerve."

"The same thing was true of Sergeant Arthur Tarbox, of Company A," said
the narrator; "he had a presentiment, too; he knew he was going to be
killed, if he went in, and he was offered an honorable chance to stay
out, but he would not take it, and went in and was killed."

"Well, we staid there the next day, buried our dead, took care of our
wounded, and gathered up the plunder we had taken from the Johnnies.
The rest of the army went off, 'hot blocks,' after Hardee and the rest of
Hood's army, which it was hoped would be caught outside of entrenchments.
But Hood had too much the start, and got into the works at Lovejoy, ahead
of our fellows. The night before we heard several very loud explosions
up to the north. We guessed what that meant, and so did the Twentieth
Corps, who were lying back at the Chattahoochee, and the next morning the
General commanding--Slocum--sent out a reconnaissance. It was met by the
Mayor of Atlanta, who said that the Rebels had blown up their stores and
retreated. The Twentieth Corps then came in and took 'possession of the
City, and the next day--the 3d--Sherman came in, and issued an order
declaring the campaign at an end, and that we would rest awhile and

"We laid around Atlanta a good while, and things quieted down so that it
seemed almost like peace, after the four months of continual fighting we
had gone through. We had been under a strain so long that now we boys
went in the other direction, and became too careless, and that's how we
got picked up. We went out about five miles one night after a lot of
nice smoked hams that a nigger told us were stored in an old cotton
press, and which we knew would be enough sight better eating for Company
C, than the commissary pork we had lived on so long. We found the cotton
press, and the hams, just as the nigger told us, and we hitched up a team
to take them into camp. As we hadn't seen any Johnny signs anywhere,
we set our guns down to help load the meat, and just as we all came
stringing out to the wagon with as much meat as we could carry, a company
of Ferguson's Cavalry popped out of the woods about one hundred yards in
front of us and were on top of us before we could say I scat. You see
they'd heard of the meat, too."

John McElroy