John J. Hight.

History of the Fifty-eighth regiment of Indiana volunteer infantry. Its organization, campaigns and battles from 1861 to 1865 online

. (page 33 of 47)
Online LibraryJohn J. HightHistory of the Fifty-eighth regiment of Indiana volunteer infantry. Its organization, campaigns and battles from 1861 to 1865 → online text (page 33 of 47)
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fi Atlanta to draw rations. It is said that

we will not marcli until the election is

over, and the men paid.

^ f ''' M\ jA This afternoon a small squad of rebel

■ i^ iJ^^' cavalrv crossed the Atlanta road, cap-

' ^X '^- ' -,*«■,' turing a few mules and a wagon or two,

LT"!!! . '*^' r' and mortallv wounding the vidette. Our

THos. J. HADDOCK * Regimeut fell in in great haste and ran

Private Company K. 1 .1 '^ J ,11

towards the scene, recruits and all.
Colonel Buell, not understanding the nature of the country,
made a bad disposition of his forces. Instead of immedi-
ately possessing the bridges and fords on Peach Tree creek
and the Buck Head road, he ran after the rebels. Of
course, we did not overtake them. They crossed the
bridges before we got to them. I returned from the chase,
verv tired.


* Was mustered in Decemlicr, 1S61 , and served three years. He is now
(1895) liviniit this is not soldiering. A soldier is not to remain idle,
but must be active in the vocation to which he is called.
We will, therefore, cheerfully, abandon our pleasant quar-
ters and go wiiere duty calls.

It was about eiofht o'clock when the tinishing touches on
the destruction of the railroad bridpfe were made. It was a
complete wreck. After this was done our comfortable
cjuarters were burned. The impression amongst officers
and men, is, that we are to pass through the country,
burning as we go. Hence, a commencement is made on
our own quarters. These shanties could do the enemy no


good. They may be worth something to some future
Yankee army, or to the poor people residing in these parts.
Finally, all things were ready and the command given,
"Forward." As the Regiment moved out, it presented the
appearance of a Brigade, so largely had the Companies
been recruited.

We remained several hours b}- the roadside, awaiting the
passage of the army ; but the Tiber still rolls on. General
Sherman and statYpass. He had new clothing, and looked
neater than he ever appeared to me before. But, at his best,
there are no outward signs of greatness. He appears to be
a very ordinary man.

Towards noon, we moved oft', by a road that leads by the
place where our mules were captured. This is a better
route to Atlanta than the one traveled by the army, and it is
but little longer. The country is sterile. There are a few
little, poor farms; most of the way is an unbroken forest.
There is but one article to be* found in abundance — wood —
and that of an inferior quality ; the timber is generally
scrubby oak.

As we entered Atlanta we saw in various directions, burn-
ing houses. The work of destruction has commenced. We
pass through the city and encamp in the southeastern
suburbs, where there is no wood, except houses.

It is now settled that our men are to get no pay, though
the money is, and has been, for some time, at hand. This
is bad on the families of the poor.

We are ordered to march with twenty days' rations and
four days' forage. We all think that we are destined for
Savannah. Only a few of the more timid anticipate any
difliculty from the enemy. If Lee evacuates Richmond to
meet us, the Southern Confederacy is undone. Even
tliough he should destroy Sherman's army, Richmond tails,
and the Confederacy falls soon after. Grant will be as
strong as ever, and Thomas will soon be as strong as Sher-
man has ever been in these parts. But Lee cannot destroy
Sherman, nor even defeat him. We have sixty thousand


men, as brave as ever trod the face of the earth. They can-
not be defeated by any army which Lee can bring against
us. I wish we had an hundred thousand ; but sixty will suffice.

It seems to be the general impression in the public mind,
that this expedition is undertaken because Hood, by his flank
movements, makes it impossible for Sherman to hold
Atlanta. But this is a mistake ; this advance was deter-
mined when Hood was south of us. It would have been
executed had he remained there. Now, since his removal
north, Sherman can get along better. Hood is playing into
Sherman's hands very nicely.

We lay down to-night on the ground. This goes a little
tough, after enjoying so long, our pleasant quarters on the

Tuesday, November 15. — Late last night I was awakened
by Colonel Moore coming to the tent door and saying :
"Well, we divide in the morning: I take the four right
Companies and half of the train, and march at daybreak,
wi'ih the 20th Corps, on the Decatur road. Adjutant, you
will go with Major Downey. Chaplain, you can take your
choice." I lay awake an hour or two discussing the advan-
tages of each detachment. I thought of my tent going one
way and my mess another. I called up in m}- mind the
probable direction of each party. I thought the 14th Corps
would be likely to march south, and visit Macon and Mil-
ledgeville. This, with other considerations, inclined me to
go with the left wing of the Regiment. So I fell asleep,
with my mind only partly made up.

We were up before day. M}^ mind was fully made up to
accompany the left wing, which goes with the 14th Corps.
Colonel Moore and Dr. Patten exchange messes with
Adjutant Behm and myself. At eight a. m., they left us.
We are to remain in camp until to-morrow. Accordingly,
the opportunity was improved to have our washing done.
Colonel Buell had a pontoon drill during the tbrenoon, and
also reorganized some of tlie squads to suit the division of
the Regiment into two detachments.


I have spoken before of the fact that the rebels burned
many houses, in the outskirts of the city, when they occu-
pied it. When thev evacuated, they destroyed some build-
ings containing supplies and ammunition. Many houses
were badly torn by shot and shell, during the siege. Some
buildings were burned at the same time, bv us, to give free
range to our guns, or uncover the rebel sharpshooters. After
the capture of the city many frame houses, especially in the
suburbs, were torn down to make huts for the soldiers.
They were in need of houses, and in no other way could
these have been easil}" and quickly constructed.

Since that time, a house has occasionally been destroyed
by the torch of the incendiary. Of late, it has been known
to all the army that this citv was to be evacuated. Now,
when conquerors give up a city, there is a spirit wi'diin man
which says, "Leave not one stone upon another." People,
under similar circumstances, often destroy their own cities,
but, usually, the love of property prevents this. A notion
has possessed the army that Atlanta is to be burned, but I
suppose the wish is tather to the thought. This idea has
been strengthened b}- preparations, which are being made by
the authorities, to blow up some of the more substantial pub-
lic buildings. Hence, fires have increased of late, and
drunken men have destroyed whole blocks. As we entered
the city, yesterday, many houses were on fire, some of them
being storehouses and shops, burned by order. The city
was illuminated all last night, by the lurid glare of the con-
flagration. This morning, a large cluster of frame hospitals
in the eastern part of the city were simul'aneouslv given to
the flames, by men detailed for that purpose. First, there
was a hammering and banging within, as the kindling was
being prepared ; and soon the flames began to rise from the
numerous small buildings. The lumber used in the con-
struction of the houses was pine, hence the flames spread
rapidly. The}^ present a brilliancy, the equal of which
some old firemen had never seen. While this grand sheet
of flame and smoke, and flying cinders, rolled up into the


heavens, lesser fires were glowing in all parts of tlie city.
At the same time, the army, in heavy colnmns, was moving
east and south from the citv. Eastward marched the 20th
Corps, the best equipped of the army. The 15th and 17th
moved south. Long trains of wagons accompany each
wing. In the camps, deserted by the 20th, in the city, there
was no end to the trash, some of which is of some value.
Chairs, camp stools and tables lie in confusion, and there are
old pots, dishes, fragments of clothing, corn, etc.

Mere are a compan}^ of poor people, huddled together in
an open lot. Thev are collecting their scant property from
their houses, either now burning, or soon expected fo burn.
Some of the women were crying, some wringing their hands
in agony, and some praying aloud to the Almighty. How
far these people are deserving of pity, it is hard to tell.

A little house, near our camp, was burned. Another fine
frame residence, near bv, was soon in flames. Tlie fires
continued to burst out in all parts of the city, most of them
being the work of incendiaries. It was the design ot the
authorities to destroy many of the buildings which would be
of use to the enemv — how man}', I never learned. But,
even these were not, in most cases, fired by orders, but by
stragglers. This work of voluntarv incendiarism spread,
in spite of tlie guards, and resulted in the destruction of a
large quantity of clothing and salt meat, belonging to I lie
14th Corps.

The compact business blocks, in the center of the city,
were spared until the afternoon. In the morning, some of
the depots and machine shops were blown up, and in the
afternoon all were given to the flames. In some of the
buildings were shells, whicli favored us with frequent explo-
sions, thus adding the sound of war to the exciting scenes.
At last, night, which usually puts an end to battles, came,
but it onlv increased the conflicts of the flames. Such a pic-
ture as now presented itself to my gaze, I had never seen
before. Tlie fires in our cities at home sink into insignifi-
i-ancc, Atlanta seemed a \vvy pandemonium. In all hues


of glory and terribleness, in all forms and fashions conceiv-
able, the flames and smoke surged amongst the burning
buildings, like ocean waves, and struggled upward like a
thousand banners in the sky. I low many years of toil and
frugalitv were, this night, reduced to ashes. How many
loved homes exist no longer, save in memorv. The snn set
upon a man weahhv : it rose, and found him a beggar. Tlic
beautiful city has become a desolation. How terrible are the
retributions of rebellion. How wondrous the judgments of
an avenging God against the crime of slavery.

The work of destroving the railroads was carried on very
busilv to-dav. Our people are making a thorough wreck of
them. Tl^e rails are torn from the ties, which are tlien piled,
and hud across them. Tlie ties are then tired, and the rails,
while red hot in the center, are twisted. A rail, simp]}'
bent, can be used again, without being taken to the shop for
repair, but a twisted bar cannot. The instruments for twist-
ing are two — one is a handspike, a green piece of timber
about six feet long, and three inches in diameter ; the other
is a substantial iron hook and ring, fastened together. The
hook grasps, with an iron hold, upon one end of the flat,
lower surface of the rail, and througli the ring is placed the
end of the handspike. At the other end of the bar, there is
the same arrangement, only for twisting in the opposite
direction. While one set of hands is twistincf one wav, the
other holds stead}', or twists in the contrary direction, and
the center of the rail, being softened by the heat, gives wav
under the pressure, and twists. Occasionally, an end will
bend or break. This is hard, hot work ; but strong hands
and willing hearts make it easy. The boys all like the fun.

During the day, the 14th Corps came in from the rear,

Online LibraryJohn J. HightHistory of the Fifty-eighth regiment of Indiana volunteer infantry. Its organization, campaigns and battles from 1861 to 1865 → online text (page 33 of 47)