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BATTLE NEAR ATLANTA.
The sanguinary assault by the rebels upon our right wing, on the twentieth, so shattered and disorganized their regiments, that they made no further offensive demonstrations during the twenty-first. Our own army, also, on the right wing, had escaped disaster at such cost that it was little disposed to advance, even if it had possessed the requisite strength; they were sufficiently rejoiced to see the rebel columns, beaten and broken, falling back before them." On the twenty-first, however, they advanced their line half a mile or so, and occupied the crest of the slope which descends into the valley of Peach-tree creek, and throwing up strong works of defence, remained quiet during the day. They reported to us of the center and left, certain movements of the enemy during the day, southward through Atlanta toward our left, which betokened another storm. It was not difficult to see that the rebels, goaded into a desperate energy by their continued retreats, and spurred on by the fiery words of their new leader, Hood, were forging another bolt to be hurled against us.
The Twenty-third corps, constituting the centre, having strongly intrenched itself the night before, remained quiet during the twenty-first, though preparations were being made to open upon the rebels, when the time came for united action of the whole army, with all the batteries that the ground would allow to be got into position. Prompt and daring as usual, the Signal Corps had established a station of observa. tion in the top of a tall tree, half a mile from the enemy, from which they could look down into Atlanta, two miles distant, with ease. To try an experiment, one of the pieces of Cockrill's battery, a three-inch Rodman gun, was brought near the tree and Lieutenant Reynolds took his station in the tree with a glass, to direct the gunners in their aim. The piece was heavily charged, and the first shell is supposed to have gone high above the city and fully a mile beyond it. The second was sent lower, and passed within ear-shot of the populace, as a slight commotion could be observed among the crowds on the house-tops. The third was directed much lower, and wrought a decided moral effect at least, as it cleared the tops of the houses of the gazing Atlantians, in a remarkably short space of time. General McPherson's cannons, also, were able to throw shells into the city, as they were planted even closer than those of the Twenty-third corps.
General Blair had pushed forward his corps during the day, so as to bring them sharply in conflict with the enemy, causing pretty severe loss in wounded and captured. I have not been able to obtain full particulars of their movements, but it appears to have been made rather independently of the rest of the army, and to have entailed a loss disproportionate to the gain. The division of General Giles A. Smith was
thrust out, so that it occupied three sides of a square, and in advance of its supports on the left and right. In doing so, it encountered strong opposition, but maintained all the ground it had occupied and threw up lines of breastworks.
July 22-2.25 A. M.-It is a splendidly bright moonlight night, such as enables one almost to read, and all about camp, and along the whole battle-line, there is a silence contrasting strangely with the incessant rattle of musketry which fulled us to sleep. What does it mean? Guard, I say, how goes the night? Have the rebels fallen back from Atlanta? Where's all the noise we heard last evening?"
Morning showed that the rebels had withdrawn from the main line of fortifications at which they had first brought us to a halt, about two and a half miles from Atlanta, and had retired to another, which was about a mile and a half nearer the city. This they had done all along the line from the extreme right of General Thomas to the left of General McPherson, shortening their front, of course, and enabling us to shorten our own. As developed by the subsequent startling movements and events of the day, their reason for this move was obvious, and was the dictate of a daring and resolute mind, such as now appears to be at the head of the rebel armies, and drew us on after them into a pursuit which came near proving unfortunate. It seems to me to have been simply this: They designed, by thus shortening their lines and relieving some portions of their army from their left, to push the relieved corps rapidly and desperately against our left wing early in the forenoon, before our marching column had come in proximity to the rebel works, and were deployed and had thrown up defences. They could rely on our following them up closely as soon as we discovered they had fallen back; and, even if we did so with the men fully deployed in line of battle, they hoped to strike us before any works could be put in our front to break the assault.
That this was their design appears from the testimony of a rebel Colonel who was captured in the assault, and said that the orders delivered to them were to assault our lines early in the morning. Fortunately for us, certain delays which took place in their march postponed the attack till nearly eleven o'clock, at which time our men had moved forward so as to come in sight of the new rebel works, had deployed and partially, and in some places wholly, completed their intrenchments.
The Army of the Tennessee advanced along the main Decatur road in a direction nearly west, and parallel to the railroad, with the Sixteenth corps on the right, next the Twenty-third, the Fifteenth on both sides of the railroad, and the Seventeenth south of it, its extreme left being about two miles below it. The Twentythird moved along a branch of the Bucktown road, which enters Atlanta in a south-west direc tion, and in consequence of the convergence of
these roads the Sixteenth corps was early tack commenced, and constructed very slight crowded out and thrown in reserve, in which position it was when the assault took place. The Fourth corps moved nearly parallel with the Twenty-third, but no portion of the assault was directed against it.
The rebel force which struck this portion of the line was the corps commanded by Hardee, and evidently expected to find in opposition only a thin line, if it did not count on having gone so far around as to come in altogether below. I am inclined to the latter opinion. About eleven o'clock they debouched from the woods into an open field, in which a good part of the works of the Seventeenth corps were constructed, along a ridge called Leggett's Bald Knob, and rushed upon us with the utmost fierceness, according to their usual manner. The Third division, General Leggett, was on the left of the corps, and that commanded by General Giles A. Smith occupied the right, holding, as I have said, the general position of three sides of a hollow square, though, of course, there were many deviations and breaks from so exact a figure. The men received the onset with steadiness, delivering their fire with all possible rapidity; but the overpowering numbers of the enemy, massed, as usual, in many lines, bore down all opposition at first; and breaking over the works, they drove our men back, some many rods and some less, and appeared likely to crush and scatter them in hopeless confusion and ruin, despite the obstinate valor of the troops and their almost superhuman efforts. The prospect was gloomy indeed, and dismay sat upon every countenance save those of the brave men who contended in the ranks now, if ever, for the very existence of the Army of Tennessee. If they were utterly broken and scattered, then there was little hope for the rest of the gallant army, flanked as it would be, and right well did they know it.
In the rear, fifteen hundred or two thousand ponderous supply wagons and ambulances were greatly endangered, and came streaming back in rear of the Fifteenth corps (which till then was a safe refuge), and extended over far along behind the Twenty-third, crowding and jamming in the narrow roads, in the woods, in the greatest confusion and consternation. A courier arrived at corps headquarters in hot haste, summoning every man who had a gun, or could get one, to mount his horse and come to the fight. Every one bestirred himself; the escort and the Provost Guard saddled, mounted and were off to the scene of peril, and did such service as they were able.
It was an evil hour for the Seventeenth corps, and they were rapidly approaching that point where the endurance of the bravest had reached its limits.
At this critical moment, the Fourth division of the Sixteenth corps and one brigade, Colonel Morrill's, of the Second (the other was at Decatur), arrived on the left wing, and stayed the tide of the rebel onset. Colonel Morrill's brigade had come up a few minutes before the at
works somewhat in the rear of the line of the Sixteenth corps; but as soon as the latter began to be pushed back, they at once leaped over their works, and together with the Fourth division, which was just then arriving, rushed boldly into the open field, and met the enemy face to face. They held their ground firmly and, when the rebels at last fell back, carried off their wounded behind their breastworks. The Seventeenth, thus timely reinforced, hastily threw up a slight line in rear of their old one, and held it throughout. All this was transpiring on the left of the corps. It is extremely difficult to give a connected narrative of the various turns of fortune through the whole corps, so great was the confusion and disorganization caused by the partial success of the attempt to flank them. The ground was uneven and sharply furrowed by gulleys, with bushes growing thick along the bottom of them, and shreds and patches of breastworks dotted and streaked the ground in almost every direction. The terrible and confused character of the strife may be conceived when it is related that the Iowa brigade, of General Smith's division, fought successive times during the two dreadful hours of the battle on both sides of their works. They would fire upon the rebels in front of them until they were somewhat repulsed, and by this time they would be attacked by another party, or a part of the same, in their rear, and, facing about, would pour into their antagonists a fire from the other side. I, myself, visited the scene of this dreadful struggle the morning afterward, and received a confirmation of the almost incredible story by seeing the rebel corpses lying plentifully about on both sides of the breastworks, mingled with those of our own men.
About noon, McPherson rode along the front just on the left of the Seventeenth corps, and made some inquiries as to the progress which the Sixteenth Corps was making further to the left. Not being satisfied he rode forward to ascertain for himself. He was accompanied by only two of his staff and a portion of his escort. A fatal impulse carried him into a gap of several hundred yards, between the Seventeenth and Sixteenth, and of which both he and his staff were entirely ignorant, and advancing to the top of a ridge, with his staff somewhat in the rear, he was suddenly confronted by a party of rebels who rose from ambush, and calling on him to halt, at the same time fired a volley which injured none but himself. A ball pierced his right breast, and severing, it is supposed, a large blood-vessel above the heart, caused instant death from suffocation by the discharge of blood about the lungs. The rebels succeeded in rifling his person of a portion of the money he carried with him and his gold watch, though a valuable diamond ring was left on his finger. A party was soon formed, which charged on the rebels and brought off his body. A sergeant of his escort, a mere boy, displayed great bravery in the rescue, and received a severe
wound while carrying him away. The body was placed in an ambulance and slowly conveyed along the rear of the lines to the house where General Sherman, General Schofield and their staff were, where the General commanding, with head reverently uncovered, took a last look at him who had been so conspicuous among his counsellors, and upon whom he had leaned as the right arm of his strength. It was a sad hour for the Army of the Tennessee-sad for the whole Army.
It is quite impossible at this time to arrive at accurate estimates of the loss in killed wounded, and captured, because it is so early after the engagement, when there are yet many men whose wounds are not dressed, and many even unsheltered by tents. Men were carried to such places as could be found, such as were safest; no distinction between divisions and brigades could be preserved in getting them into hospitals; many of the dead were yet unburied, and some not even brought away from under the fire of the rebels, and many are missing, who may yet report themselves to their regiments. All was done for the wounded that could be; the surgeons worked at the tables all night, but in some hospitals the morning saw their task little more than half completed.
the bank to the left, and the other to the right. They poured a destructive fire directly on the flanks of the regiments next the road, which, of course, threw them into confusion and caused them rapidly to fall back. Over the breastworks thus cleared other regiments speedily rushed, and, forming a solid column, charged along the inside of our works, literally rooting out our men from their trenches, thinking, no doubt, that when they had once dislodged them from their works they would make no further stand. The Second division, the centre of the corps, had been weakened by detaching half of Colonel Martin's brigade to the assistance of the Sixteenth on the left, and was consequently wholly dislodged from its position. Falling back a short distance into the woods, they halted, reformed, and began to deliver upon the rebels, who rushed on apparently regardless of them until they reached the First division, which occupied the right. This division immediately swung around its left, and secured a cross-fire upon the head of the rebel column, and at the same time the Second division, now fully reformed in the woods, and strengthened by the return of the detached brigade, which had come a mile at the double-quick in a broiling sun, charged upon their flank and drove them quickly over the works in confusion. Just as the rebels, while charging along the works, had reached the First division, they came out in plain view in an open field, on a ridge which confronted another about half a mile distant, on which
The Eleventh Iowa, belonging to the Iowa brigade, which fought so obstinately on both sides of their works, are reported to have lost about two hundred men, killed, wounded, and missing. The Sixty-fourth Illinois lost one hundred and fifty-three. Still it must be remem-rested the left of the Twenty-third. Immediately bered that these numbers may be much reduced by the appearance of missing men.
After the violence of the shock upon the Seventeenth had passed by, and the enemy were repulsed, and a degree of quiet again restored upon the left, the enemy massed a second time for an assault upon our left, this time directing it upon the centre of the Fifteenth corps, and eventually on the left of the Twenty-third. About four in the afternoon, Cheatham's corps (Hood's old corps), advanced above the railroad with great rapidity, and charged upon our line with the same impetuosity that they had on the Seventeenth. Written words can scarcely depict the incredible audacity and the seeming total recklessness of life which characterize the rebel charges of this campaign. Here, also, as in the Seventeenth, the men had not been halted a sufficient length of tin.e to complete perfectly their fortifications, as they had been engaged a good part of the day in feeling for the rebel position and strength. The Fifteenth corps lay extending across the railroad. General Wood's division on the right, General M. L. Smith's in the centre and on the railroad, and General Harrow's on the left. Where the line crossed the railroad there was a deep cut, which was left open and uncovered by any cross-fire, and right here was a mistake, and one which cost us much mischief. Two rebel regiments dashed right up this gorge, below the range of our musketry, and passing to the rear, separated, one regiment scaling VOL. XI.-Doc. 17
four pieces of Cockrill's battery, one section of the Second Missouri, two twenty-pounder Parrotts, and two twelve-pounder Napoleons, of Captain Froelich's battery, were put in position, and poured into the rebels a terrific enfilading fire of shells at short range. The effect was admirable. The rebels were scattered in the ntmost confusion. The charge upon their flank coming about the same time, put them utterly to rout.
Between the two ridges of which I have just spoken there intervenes a slight hollow, and down obliquely along the side of the one on which the rebels had appeared, our forces had constructed a line of works, from which they had just swung around in order to meet the advance of the rebels, Returning to it as the rebels were driven back by the shells, they enjoyed the sight of their discomfiture in safety. But as the rebels ran back, they soon came under cover of a strip of woods running along the ridge, and going around some distance to rear, they emerged at another point, and being half concealed by the tremendous smoke of the batteries, rushed down to the works, thinking to lie under their cover and pick off our gunners. What was their surprise, on arriving at the works, to find our boys lying thick along the other side! They had lain down out of sight, to draw the rebels on. Of course the latter could not run away, as they were exposed both to the shells and a fire in the rear from the infantry.
Our boys then reached over the works at their leisure, and laying hold of the rebels by the collars, hauled them over as prisoners of war.
Below the railroad, the rebel regiment which clambered out of the cut on the south side of the railroad did not prove so completely an entering wedge to clear our men from their works as its companion. That part of the Second division, however, and two brigades of the Fourth division were driven back from there twice, and twice they rallied and repulsed the rebels, and held their ground. It was desperate struggle, a struggle for life; the men fought over the works hand to hand, with bayonet and with breech, with a determination which knew no yielding. Such was the spirit, in fact, with which they fought everywhere, and such fighting alone it was which saved the Seventeenth corps from being crushed, and the Fifteenth from being hopelessly broken asunder, and bringing irretrievable disaster upon the entire centre and left of the army.
tally wounded and had fallen into our hands, some even being prepared to say that they had seen his body in one of our hospitals, or, at least, had seen those who had. A Major and several other officers were also taken.
While the attack was raging so furiously on the left, the rebels had despatched a strong body of men by a wide circuit, to surprise and attempt to retake the village of Decatur. This post was held by the Sixty-third Ohio, Thirtyfifth New Jersey, and Twenty-fifth Wisconsin, a brigade of the Sixteenth corps, and appears to have been attacked by twice its own number. Having taken the precaution to station men along the Decatur road, to prevent reinforcements from being sent out from the main army, the rebels assailed the town with great fury and carried it. Our forces were driven entirely out into the woods, but they speedily reformed, and charging in turn, dispossessed the rebels after a hard fight, in which they lost about three hundred men, and held the place In a terrific charge upon the Second Regular against all opposition. There was some artilbattery, nearly every horse was shot, and all lery employed on both sides, but how much or the pieces taken for the moment. The men, what sort I cannot learn. Lieutenant-Colonel however, rendered it impossible for the rebels Brown, of the Sixty-third Ohio, was mortally to draw them off, by a rapid fire from the sharp-wounded, and Adjutant Farr killed. The post shooters, and charging in turn they were all retaken. Battery A, First Illinois artillery, was at the railroad, two pieces below it and four above, and all were captured when the rebels charged over the bank upon them. The two below the railroad were retaken, but the remaining four were dragged out through a road-way, and conveyed away to the rebel lines before our columns could re-form. Battery H, First Illinois, commanded by Captain De Grass, twenty-pound Parrotts, were all taken and retaken. The Captain, though a mere beardless boy, clung to his guns to the last extremity, emptying the contents of his revolver upon the rebels, and only leaving them after he had assisted in spiking them with his own hand. All his horses were shot, one whole team, consisting of eight, falling in their traces, just as they had stood in line; and as the Captain looked upon the wreck and slaughter of his battery, he wept like a child. He had made the rebels pay a dear price for their brief possession, as one of the guns was burst by being charged with three loads of canister. As soon as he returned, and could unspike the guns, he gave the rebels a parting salute, which they would, no doubt, have been most willing to omit.
The Seventeenth corps captured three stands of colors; the Sixteenth, four. The Thirteenth Iowa captured the colors of the Forty-fifth Alabama; the Eighty-first Ohio brought off another, and the Thirty-ninth Ohio a third.
The number of prisoners taken I should estimate at about one thousand. The Fifteenth corps captured two regiments entire, and the Sixteenth and Seventeenth captured about four hundred and fifty more. Among these was Colonel Hardee, from which there straightway sprung a rumor that General Hardee was mor
could not have been considered as of any particular value to the rebels, except as a point for rendezvous for small parties to sally out upon our trains. The design of creating a diversion in our rear, no doubt, formed a principal reason for the attack.
The rebels appear to have preconcerted a series of petty attacks upon our rear during the day, in order to harass and distract attention from the main business in front. A train of one hundred and twenty wagons, loaded with three days' rations for the Army of the Tennessee, was attacked near Decatur, but escaped with the loss of no more than two or three wagons. A regiment, also stationed at the bridge at Ros well, was fired upon by a force of cavalry, but repulsed them and held the bridge.
The right wing of the army was extended so far around toward the west side of Atlanta, that its operations could not be observed, and was so distant that even the sound of its cannon was not to be heard in presence of the uproar in our front, but signal-officers report that during the engagement in the afternoon, they were pouring into the devoted city a heavy fire from cannon, as the smoke could be seen rising up in thick clouds.
TWO MILES NORTH OF ATLANTA, GA.,
There is little occurring in this grand army, at the present time, of particular interest. The Army of the Tennessee now occupies a strong position on our right wing, having been changed from the extreme left on the twenty-sixth. All day yesterday we could hear very distinctly the shrill whistle of the locomotives entering and departing from Atlanta. The cause of this extensive railroading we cannot fathom, although
officers assert that the city is being evacuated, while others insist that strong reinforcements are arriving. Both of these rumors are idle suppositions, neither of which are entertained at General Sherman's headquarters. For the past two days the enemy have been moving large bodies of troops to our left, and at an early hour this morning quite heavy cannonading was heard in that direction, and at the present hour of writing (nine o'clock A. M.), still continues with unabated fury. It is supposed by general officers that Hood has massed large forces to assault Schofield, with the belief that, by some grand coup de main, he can succeed in turning our left flank. As General Sherman has full knowledge of the designs of the enemy from scouts and deserters, it is fair to presume that he has taken ample means to guard against any such calamity.
Deserters continue to flock inside our lines, many of whom are men of intelligence and good education. These men report that the greatest dissatisfaction prevails in Johnston's old army at his supersedure, and the appointment of Hood in his place. The troops are amazed at the reckless manner in which Hood has led his troops against the "Yankees." They avow that had Johnston remained he would have abandoned Atlanta after becoming convinced that to hold it would imperil his army. Hood, they believe, will have to surrender Atlanta within a few days, and will also lose a great portion of his army. The change of rebel commanders is not distasteful to our officers, for, though they expect he will fight and risk more than Johnston, yet there is apparent in all his movements thus far a blind desperation that reminds one of the bull butting the locomotive. Since the removal of Johnston his army has been terribly cut up, according to the testimony of rebel officers and surgeons now in our hands. The loyal public need entertain no serious apprehension for the safety and victorious progress of this invincible army. The hour is rapidly drawing nigh when the bugle-notes shall again sound the advance," On to Atlanta."
Brigadier-General Knipe, commanding Third division, Twentieth corps, performed a very saucy, yet brilliant little "Yankee" trick, yesterday morning. The General had learned from his pickets that the rebel pickets were in the habit of sleeping upon their posts, and were also addicted to late rising. He determined to try his luck at nabbing the napping rebels. Two companies of the Second Massachusetts and Fifth Connecticut were accordingly ordered to proceed cautiously to the enemy's reserve picket post in their front, and if possible surround it. The plan was beautifully executed, and before the drowsy fishes could be made aware of their ludicrous situation they were safely within the strong meshes of a "Yankee net, from which escape was impossible. This neat little excursion netted a handsome profit, General Knipe making a haul of one hundred
and six prisoners, including four commissioned officers.
After the prisoners were safely bagged, one company was sent with them to the rear, while the remaining company took possession of the depleted rebel picket post, determined not to be "relieved" except by "blue coats." Shortly after a company of rebels were leisurely marching down the road to "relieve" their comrades, when a few bullets whistling through their ranks laid two or three low, and so sadly demoralized the balance that they took to the woods in great disorder. In half an hour after a superior force came down boldly, bent upon dislodging the impudent "Yanks" from their picket post, but at last accounts our troops were settling the dispute with leaden messengers, and the prospects of Massachusetts and Connecticut yielding to the insolent demands of South Carolina and Mississippi were not very encouraging. We still hold the position, and it is a very favorable one, commanding a fine view of the rebel line.
NEAR ATLANTA, Georgia, August 2, 1864.
The campaign is running to its fourth month, with scarcely a day but a large part of the command is under fire. Our losses in killed or wounded are already over a thousand, but this is no fair proportion of the losses of our army, as the fates have, as usual, put us in warm places.
Will the people keep up their pluck and fight the thing out? It all depends upon their steadfastness of purpose. If Richmond does not fall sooner, the Army of the West will finally make its way to the back door. If none of the Eastern rebel army comes here, we will wear this one out before the close of the season, and it is but a matter of time when the entire force of the enemy must waste away. Will the people hold out?
Johnston's veteran army, by his official report, June twenty-fifth, contained 46,628 armsbearing men, including 6,631 of Wheeler's cavalry. They have lost since that time 5,000 prisoners, and in their three assaults upon our works since arriving in front of this place, at least 20,000 men. They have received from Mississippi 3,500, and are receiving, from Governor Brown's proclamation, about 8,000 militia. This gives them to-day an army of about 25,000 veterans, and 8,000 militia; 33,000 in all.
These figures are substantially correct. The hope of being reinforced by Kirby Smith is at last given up. After exhausting the militia of Alabama and Eastern Mississippi, which may amount to ten thousand more, if they have the power to force them out, I cannot for my life see how the enemy can make up the wastage of their army.
I know the rebel army, when it was joined by Polk just before the fight at Resaca, was seventy-one thousand strong. This included Polk, and besides the additions before men