Charles Wright Wills.

Army life of an Illinois soldier, including a day by day record of Sherman's march to the sea; letters and diary of the late Charles W. Wills, private and sergeant 8th Illinois Infantry; lieutenant and battalion adjutant 7th Illinois Cavalry; captain, major and lieutenant colonel 103rd Illinois Infa online

. (page 25 of 31)
Online LibraryCharles Wright WillsArmy life of an Illinois soldier, including a day by day record of Sherman's march to the sea; letters and diary of the late Charles W. Wills, private and sergeant 8th Illinois Infantry; lieutenant and battalion adjutant 7th Illinois Cavalry; captain, major and lieutenant colonel 103rd Illinois Infa → online text (page 25 of 31)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

the mile post says 15 miles to Atlanta. The march has been
through a miserable rough country.

We have now been more than half-way around Atlanta,
and I have not yet seen a country house that would more
than compare favorably with the Coleman Mansion, or a farm
that would in any respect vie with the stumpiest of Squire
Shipley's stump quarter, or the most barren and scraggiest of
Copperas creek barren or brakes. At 12 p. m. they aroused
our regiment to tear up railroad track. In one and one-quar-
ter hours we utterly destroyed rails and ties for twice the
length of our regiment.

We, by main strength with our hands, turned the track up-
side down, pried the ties off, stacked them, piled the rails
across and fired the piles. Used no tools whatever. On the
29th the 1 6th Corps moved down and destroyed the railroad to
Fairburn. On the 3Oth the army started for Macon railroad,


Kilpatrick's cavalry in advance. He did splendidly. Had
hard skirmishing all the day. Took at least a dozen barricades,
and went about as fast as we wanted to. He saved the Flint
river bridge, and our corps crossed it, and by 12 p. m., were
in good position with works within one-half mile of Jones-
boro and the railroad.

Darkness kept us from taking the road that night. The
enemy had a strong line of pickets all around us and we built
our works under their fire. At daylight the 3ist, we found
the Rebels in plain sight in front of our regiment. I never saw
them so thick. Our regiment is on the extreme right of the

Near Jonesboro, August 31, 1864.

We were afraid we would have no battle this month, but
our fears were disappointed in a very summary manner this
p. m. Hardee, in command of his own and Hood's old corps,
attacked the Army of the Tennessee again, the weight of the
assault being on our corps. The second division, M. L. Smith's,
had the hardest of the fighting. The position our regiment
held was unluckily too strong. They did not dare attack us.
But we had a splendid view of the fight, both on our right and

Six Johnnie lines of battle debouched from the woods on
our left, and swept right across our front on open ground,
within long musket range, say 600 or 700 yards. This was
2 :3O p. m. They were coming over to attack the i6th Corps.
A five-gun battery on the right of our regiment and two guns
on our left opened on them with spherical case, and threw
some canister. They had hardly fired two shots when a Rebel
10-pound Parrott opened on them in front, and a Napoleon
battery on our left flank. The Rebels shot admirably and you
may imagine our regiment was in a pretty warm position,
though our works and traverses made the danger but little.

In ten minutes from the time we first saw the Rebels they
struck the i6th Corps, and after a right heavy fight of near
an hour they came back flying. Our boys, though not near


enough to do much effective shooting, put in 40 or 50 rounds
apiece, just to keep our hands in. About the same time they
struck Morgan L. they struck our first brigade and the left
of our brigade. Our division repulsed them easily and Mor-
gan L. slaughtered them awfully, but he had a hard fight. They
charged up close to the left of our regiment, but owing to the
direction of our lines not where we could fight them. Our
brigade took one colonel, one major, three captains, one lieu-
tenant and 30 men prisoners. The 2d division took several
hundred. I can't guess what their loss is, though it is not as
heavy as on the 22d or 28th of July, for they did not fight
nearly as well. Besides losing a host of men in this campaign,
the Rebel Army has lost a large meaure of vim, which counts
a good deal in soldiering. Our loss in this fight is compara-
tively nothing. Say 30 men in our brigade; we have four or
five scratched in our regiment, but only one much hurt. A
spent 12-pound solid shot rolled on him.

Kilpatrick started for the railroad south this morning. He
has had a big fight with Cleyburn's division, but don't know
much about it.

During our fight to-day Schofield and Stanley, 23d and
4th, took the railroad and are destroying it. Hood, with Folk's
old corps, are above him and cut off from Hardee.

September ist, '64.

A real autumn morning. We were aroused at 3 a. m. and
the air was then almost crisp. A breath of cold air is a luxury
we can appreciate. A fresh, cool breeze is now stirring and I
can almost hear the leaves falling. It is a real yellow fall and
does me more good than aught else could, except a letter from
home. Haven't had one from you for ten days. A prisoner
says that yesterday's fight was rougher on them than the 28th
of July fight. He said their brigade came up in front of our
men, and though they did not stay more than long enough to
take one look, when they got back under cover they were 500
men short. They afterwards charged again, and he said he
doubted whether any of them got off alive and sound.


This is the I24th day of the campaign, exactly 90 of
which we have been under fire. Have also moved 340
miles, though the direct road would be much less. The
boys say we just finished the summer campaign in time to
commence the fall ditto. I guess the movement surprised
Hood. Prisoners all say they understood it to be a raiding
party. 'Tis a rather mighty one.

The country between these two railroads is rather better
than any we have seen before in Georgia, but I never saw
any in Illinois half as poor. Hardly any of the land has been
under cultivation since the war commenced. A little sickly
corn and a few patches of sorghum and millet are about
all the farming evidence I have seen.

Northern Alabama and a few counties in Mississippi are
the only passable parts of the Confederacy that I have
seen. Mrs. Lee Henty's grand plantations, with their "hos-
pitable mansions, whose broad verandas, supported by
graceful pillars," etc., are principally "bosh," at least as
far as northern Georgia is concerned. The health of the
regiment is excellent, the men being, if anything, healthier
than the officers. The lieutenant colonel and major,
though both with us, are not yet reported for duty. Cap-
tain Boyd, Lieutenants Fox, A. & J. Smith are quite unwell.

Captains Post, Vorhees, Smith and myself have at dif-
ferent times been all the officers fit for duty. I believe
I am the only one who has never been off duty during the
campaign, though Post, Smith, Vorhees and Dorrance
have lost but a few days each, Smith, I believe only one.
I don't believe these Rebels can be in very good spirits. I
am afraid I'd be a little blue if we'd been whipped as often
as they have this campaign. Most of the prisoners are
great "peace" men, but they all say that their leaders will
never give up as long as they can raise a brigade to fight.
Every pup of them has hopes that the Chicago Convention
will do something for them, they hardly know what. I
heard one of the boys say he wished that the Convention
could be induced to charge us in these works. There's
talk of our going home to vote.


About 2 p. m. a signal officer in a tree reported that he
could see our troops moving in line down the railroad
toward us. It was the 23d and 4th Corps. The I4th
which held the left of our line, about the same time com-
menced to swing its left around, and by 4 p. m. a battle
opened. The I4th broke the enemy's line before the 23d
got up, and alone rolled the Rebels up in fine style. By
dark the I4th had captured from 12 to 20 pieces of artillery
and a large number of prisoners. Three hours more of
daylight and Hardee would have had no corps left, for the
4th and 23d were swinging further to the left, and would
have been in his rear in less than two hours, when our
whole line would have closed in on them.

Six miles south of Jonesboro, September 2, 1864.

At daylight our skirmish line moved forward and found
the Rebels gone. When our boys reached the railroad
a train of cars was just loading some wounded ; the boys
made for it, but it outran them. They left a number of
their wounded, and when the I4th broke them on the ist,
we captured several hospitals, in one of which were several
officers. I saw in a hole by a hospital two legs and three
arms. One can't help pitying these Rebel soldiers. They
have been whipped here until they have lost all spirit.
They don't fight with any spirit when they are attacked
and it's more like a butchery than a battle. Our brigade
in advance we started after them. The looth Indiana and
6th Iowa were deployed as skirmishers, and met the Rebel
line almost as soon as they started forward. They drove
them finely for four miles, when our skirmishers reported
that they had run the Rebel army into fortifications.

The country here is quite open, the fields being from
half to a mile or more wide, bordered by a narrow strip of
wood. The 46th Ohio and our regiment were now de-
ployed to relieve the skirmishers, and take a close look at
the enemy's position. They were shooting at us from
some rail fences within range, and a mile away, over the


fields, we could see them digging; seemed to be construct-
ing a line of pits. We pushed forward under a heavy
skirmish fire, and took from a S. C. Brigade the line of pits
we saw them making, and went on a little way until we
drew a fire from their main works, when we retired to the
pits we had taken and prepared to hold them. Found tools
in them. This was 3 p. m. About dark the Rebels made
three little sorties, but only in light force. We easily
repulsed them. Captain Post was wounded in the right
breast. Loss in the regiment is seven wounded, raising the
loss in the regiment to 178. The iO3d and 46th Ohio
captured 19 prisoners and killed and wounded at least 25.

September 3, 1864.

Rebels still here. Congratulatory order from Sherman
commences, "Slocum occupied Atlanta yesterday at n a.
m." We can see nothing of our position here. I don't
know where the 23d and I4th are. Our line here is very
crooked, but generally faces southeast. Commencing at
our right our line runs I7th, I5th, i6th and 4th. Kilpatrick
is on our right or in the enemy's rear. Can't hear a word
of Hood's or Folk's old corps or the militia. Hardee is in
our front, and they are the only Rebel troops I know
aught of. Cheatham's Division faces us, and a S. C. Bri-
gade is opposite our brigade. Captain Wilkinson was
wounded in the arm to-day.

September 4, 1864.

Received a half official notification to-day that the cam-
paign and fighting are over. Orders to clean up arms came
also, and the boys, showing their contempt of the enemy's
power to do harm, took their guns all to pieces and set to
polishing the should-be bright parts, right in view of the
enemy's pickets.

September 5, 1864.

News of the capture of Fort Morgan. Orders to march
at 8 p. m. I was detailed to bring off the pickets, which
was accomplished without trouble. Rebels did not know


when we left, as we heard them shooting after we got
back in our old works at Jonesboro. The whole army
moved into the works we built the 3Oth. I, with my
pickets, got back just before day.

September 6, 1864.

Lay quiet all day. Some Rebel cavalry followed us up
and fired a few shots into our regiment's works .from the old
Rebel fort, but Osterhaus swung his pickets around and
gobbled 25 of them, and the rest troubled us no more.

September 7, 1864.

At 7 a. m. moved out on our return, and camped for the
night on the left bank of Flint river, six miles south of East-
point. The Rebels had fortified to this place, and I don't know
how much farther south. As soon as Hood found out that
Sherman was attempting to turn his left, he commenced ex-
tending his lines down the railroad. He had built six miles of
new works when we reached Jonesboro the night of the 3Oth
of August. His line was too long for his troops, so he sent two
corps to oppose us, and the 23d and 4th moved into the vacant
space in his line right over his works.

Near Eastpoint, September 8, 1864.

We are again in camp for a rest; don't know for how long.
What do you think now of the confidence I have so often ex-
pressed to you in Sherman and his army? I have every hour
of the campaign felt that a failure in it was impossible.

The following complimentary orders were issued, as dated
immediately after our going into camp at Eastpoint:


Eastpoint, Ga., September 9, 1864.

No. 16

It is with pride, gratification, and a sense of Divine favor
that I congratulate this noble army upon the successful termi-
nation of the campaign.

Your officers claim for you a wonderful record for exam-
ple, a march of four hundred (400) miles, thirteen (13) dis-


tinct engagements, four thousand (4,000) prisoners, and
twenty (20) stands of colors captured, and three thousand
(3,000) of the enemy's dead buried in your front.

Your movements upon the enemy's flank have been bold and
successful ; first upon Resaca, second upon Dallas, third upon
Kenesaw, fourth upon Nickajack, fifth via Rose well, upon the
Augusta railroad, sixth upon "Ezra Church" to the south-
west of Atlanta, and seventh upon Jonesboro and the Macon
railroad. Atlanta was evacuated while you were fighting at
Jonesboro. The country may never know with what patience,
labor and exposure, you have tugged away at every natural
and artificial obstacle that an enterprising and confident enemy
could interpose.

The terrific battles you have fought may never be realized
or credited, still a glad acclaim is already greeting you from
the government and people, in view of the results you have
helped to gain, and I believe a sense of the magnitude of the
achievements of the last hundred days will not abate but in-
crease with time and history.

Our rejoicing is tempered, as it always must be, by the sol-
dier's sorrow at the loss of his companions-in-arms. On every
hillside, in every valley throughout your long and circuitous
route, from Dalton to Jonesboro, you have buried them.

Your trusted and beloved commander fell in your midst ; his
name, the name of McPnERSON, carries with it a peculiar feel-
ing of sorrow. I trust the impress of his character is upon
you all to incite you to generous actions and noble deeds.

To mourning friends, and to all the disabled in battle, you
extend a soldier's sympathy.

My first intimate acquaintance with you dates from the 28th
of July. I never beheld fiercer assaults than the enemy then
made, and I never saw troops more steady and self-possessed
in action than your divisions which were then engaged.

I have learned that for cheerfulness, obedience, rapidity of
movement, and confidence in battle, the Army of the Tennes-
see is not to be surpassed, and it shall be my study that your
fair record shall continue, and my purpose to assist you to
move steadily forward and float the old Flag in every proud
city of the rebellion.

(Signed) O. O. HOWARD,

Major General.


Ass't. Adj't. Gen' I.



EASTPOINT, GA., September n, 1864.

Officers and Soldiers of the Fifteenth Army Corps:

You have borne your part in the accomplishment of the
object of this campaign, a part well and faithfully done.

On the ist day of May, 1864, from Huntsville, Ala., and its
vicinity, you commenced the march. The marches and labors
performed by you during this campaign will hardly find a
parallel in the history of war. The proud name heretofore
acquired by the I5th Corps for soldierly bearing and daring
deeds remains untarnished its lustre undimmed. During the
campaign you constituted the main portion of the flanking
column of the whole army. Your first move against the enemy
was around the right of the army at Resaca, where, by your
gallantry, the enemy were driven from the hills and his works
on the main road from Vilanaw to Resaca. On the retreat of
the enemy, you moved on the right flank of the army by a
circuitous route to Adairsville, in the same manner from there
to Kingston and Dallas, where, on the 28th day of May, you
met the veteran corps of HARDEE, and in a severe and bloody
contest you hurled him back, killing and wounding over two
thousand, besides capturing a large number of prisoners. You
then moved around to the left of the army, by way of Acworth,
to Kenesaw Mountain, where again you met the enemy, driv-
ing him from three lines of works, capturing over three hun-
dred prisoners. During your stay in front of Kenesaw Moun-
tain, on the 27th of June, you made one of the most daring,
bold and heroic charges of the war, against the almost impreg-
nable position of the enemy on Little Kenesaw. You were then
moved, by way of Marietta, to Nickajack Creek, on the right
of the army, thence back to the extreme left by way of Mari-
etta and Roswell, to the Augusta railroad, near Stone Moun-
tain, a distance of fifty miles, and after effectually destroying
the railroad at this point, you moved by way of Decatur to the
immediate front of the Rebel stronghold, Atlanta. Here, on
the 22d day of July, you again performed your duty nobly, "as
patriots and soldiers" in one of the most severe and sanguinary
conflicts of the campaign. With hardly time to recover your
almost exhausted energies, you were moved again around to
the right of the army, only to encounter the same troops against
whom you had so recently contended, and the battle of the
28th of July, at Ezra Chapel, will long be remembered by the
officers and soldiers of this command. On that day it was that
the 1 5th Corps almost unaided and alone, for four hours con-


tested the field against the Corps of HARDEE and LEE.. You
drove them discomfited from the field causing them to leave
their dead and many of their wounded in your hands. The
many noble and gallant deeds performed by you on that day
will be remembered among the proudest acts of our nation's
history. After pressing the enemy closely for several days,
you again moved to the right of the army, to the West Point
railroad, near Fairburn after completely destroying the road
for some distance, you marched to Jonesboro, driving the
enemy before you from Pond creek, a distance of ten miles.
At this point you again met the enemy, composed of LEE'S
and HARDEE'S Corps, on the 3ist of August, and punished
them severely, driving them in confusion from the field, with
their dead and many wounded and prisoners left in your hands.
Here again by your skill and true courage you kept sacred the
reputation you have so long maintained, viz.: "The I5th
Corps never meets the enemy but to strike and defeat him."
On the ist of September, the I4th Corps attacked HARDEE,
you at once opened fire on him, and by your co-operation his
defeat became a rout. HOOD, hearing the news, blew up his
ammunition trains, retreated, and Atlanta was ours.

You have marched during the campaign, in your windings,
the distance of four hundred miles, have put "hors-du-combat"
more of the enemy than your corps numbers, have captured
twelve stands of colors, 2,450 prisoners and 210 deserters.

The course of your march is marked by the graves of patri-
otic heroes who have fallen by your side ; but at the same time
it is more plainly marked by the blood of traitors who have
defied the constitution and laws, insulted and trampled under
foot the glorious flag of our country.

We deeply sympathize with the friends of those of our com-
rades-in-arms who have fallen; our sorrows are only appeased
by the knowledge that they fell as brave men, battling for the
preservation and perpetuation of one of the best governments
of earth. "Peace be to their ashes."

You now rest for a short time from your labors ; during the
respite prepare for future action. Let your country see at all
times by your conduct that you love the cause you have es-
poused; that you have no sympathy with any who would by
word or deed assist vile traitors in dismembering our mighty
Republic or trailing in the dust the emblem of our national
greatness and glory. You are the defenders of a government
that has blessed you heretofore with peace, happiness and pros-
perity. Its perpetuity depends upon your heroism, faithfulness
.and devotion.


When the time shall come to go forward again, let us go
with the determination to save our nation from threatened
wreck and hopeless ruin, not forgetting the appeal from
widows and orphans that is borne to us upon every breeze to
avenge the loss of their loved ones who have fallen in de-
fense of their country. Be patient, obedient and earnest, and
the day is not far distant when you can return to your homes
with the proud consolation that you have assisted in causing
the old banner to again wave from every mountain's top and
over every town and hamlet of our once happy land, and hear
the shouts of triumph ascend from a grateful people, proclaim-
ing that once more we have one flag and one country.


Major General Commanding.


EASTPOINT, GA., September 13, 1864.

Officers and Soldiers:

The commander-in-chief, the department commander, and
corps officer have each expressed to you their approbation of
your conduct during the campaign just closed. They have
spoken in general terms to the army, the department and corps.

It is my privilege to address your immediate organization.
Your department commander announces the capture of four
thousand (4,000) prisoners by the Army of the Tennessee.
You have taken one-third of that number. This army has
taken from the enemy twenty (20) battleflags; eight of these
were wrested from him by your prowess.

Your lists of killed and wounded in battle are larger by
one-half than any other division in the Army of the Tennessee.

You have destroyed as many of the enemy as any similar
organization in the entire army.

You have never been defeated in this or any other campaign.

Your record is therefore spotless, and you should be and
doubtless are proud of it. Your friends at home and the corn-
try at large will some day understand and appreciate your

Had your lamented department commander been spared, his
familiarity with your history, and identification with your-
selves, would have commanded for you more complete justice.
Your corps commander is not now, nor has he ever been, slow
to acknowledge your merits, but he is powerless to do more.


Your organization will probably soon be changed, and the
stranger to you will reap the reward of your devotion and self-
sacrifice. The just reward, always so highly prized by the
true soldier, may not be yours, but the consciousness of duty
well performed will remain with you forever. You will sus-
tain your high reputation by doing battle, as heretofore, for
your country, and not for men. Do so cheerfully. My con-
nection with you as your division commander may possibly
soon be severed. Support any future officer as you have sup-
ported me, and success must attend your efforts. I ask from
you the same kind of remembrance I shall ever give to each
true soldier of this command.


Brigadier General U. S. Vols.


[The Army of the Tennessee remained at, or near, East
Point, until October 4th. When General Sherman decided
to destroy Atlanta, he gave the inhabitants their choice as
to where they would go, either north, south, or remain,
and take their chances in the ruined city. Prisoners
captured during the campaign were also exchanged,
and a detail of some 70 or 80 men from the regiment,
commanded by Captain Wills, and a like command
from the looth Indiana, was given the duty of guard-
ing the "neutral ground" at a place called Rough and
Ready, some eight or ten miles south of Atlanta. This
duty being performed, the detail rejoined the regiment,
having been so occupied about ten days. The 4th Division
was here broken up, and the "old 2d Brigade" was trans-
ferred to the ist Division, commanded by Gen. C. R.

The diary is now resumed.

October 4, 1864.

We have been expecting to move for several days. The
Rebels have crossed the Chattanooga and are moving on
our rear, a la Jonesboro. If half the force they took over

Online LibraryCharles Wright WillsArmy life of an Illinois soldier, including a day by day record of Sherman's march to the sea; letters and diary of the late Charles W. Wills, private and sergeant 8th Illinois Infantry; lieutenant and battalion adjutant 7th Illinois Cavalry; captain, major and lieutenant colonel 103rd Illinois Infa → online text (page 25 of 31)