“Affairs At Atlanta”


July 15, 1864

Collection: The Civil War
Publication: The Charleston Mercury
Date: July 15, 1864
(Correspondence Columbia Carolinian.)
ATLANTA, July 8, 1864.

Having been here less than two
hours, it is impossible to write a clear, comprehensive and
reliable account of the situation of military affairs; but one
gloomy fact is patent above all others, namely, that the
citizens of Atlanta are darkly, deeply, desperately blue. I
have yet to hear a cheerful word, or yet to see cause for the
expression of any other than the most sanguine hopes. It is
evident that the people have been disappointed. They believed,
and not without reason, that the backward movement of General
Johnston would have resulted before now in a decisive
engagement twenty miles away from their homes – that the line
of the Kennesaw Mountain was the last that would be occupied by
our forces – and from that point Sherman would be driven back
to his original base in confusion and defeat. But they read in
pending events the most portentous signs. Our army has been
still further withdrawn to the banks of the Chattahoochee, the
enemy are within twelve miles of the city, and the population
is agog with excitement. Affrighted ones are removing their
goods, chattels and personal corporosities with all possible
speed; the curb stone philosophers are in a quandary, puzzled
as they speculate, and wild in their indulgences of the most
extravagant theories; while a few of the soberer minded quietly
await the issue of events and put their trust in God.
In reality, there is yet little cause for alarm. From the
beginning General Johnston is said to have regarded the
Chattahoochee as his choicest position; and to have expressed
every confidence in his ability to hold that point. Hence his
present step is one wholly consistent with his entire plan of
campaign, and promises that success which could we penetrate
the mind of that great chieftain, might perhaps be seen looming
up in the magnificent proportions of a complete and decisive
victory. If he held out stubbornly at Kennesaw Mountain, it
was for a special purpose, which purpose has been fully
subserved. Kennesaw Mountain was in itself equal to a corps of
twenty thousand men, and its occupation has enabled our
engineers to add the finishing stroke to the fortifications
which now line the banks of the river. This done, Johnston
fell back; and here he confronts, let us hope for the last
time, his wily adversary.
Of the disposition of our forces I must not speak, further
than to remark that the various positions to which they have
been assigned are believed by high military authority to be
adequate to every emergency. Of the position of the enemy I am
as yet ignorant, save that skirmish firing indicates their
columns pressing our lines at one of the ferries on the left.
There has also been sharp artillery practice, growing out of an
attempt by the enemy to plant a battery that would command the
river. The telegrams of today, however, will advise you of all
the facts with which I am thus far acquainted.
From the frankly expressed opinions of two or three
prominent officers, I confidently infer that our strength,
topographically, has never been greater and our prospects never
more flattering. With Sherman ninety miles from his base,
seventeen railroad bridges to pass over, a score of curves to
turn and swamps to cross, he is from this moment completely in
the power of our General, provided the latter uses the means at
his command. That he will do so, there is little reason to
doubt. The enemy themselves confess to the destruction, in one
day, of five trains, and on another of two trains, showing that
our bold cavaliers are already at work. Other parties, large
and small, are likewise on the wing, and the genius of
destruction will, it is believed, soon be in full and
systematic sway.
It is almost useless, however, to speculate on the coming
events. Already they cast their shadows before, and we know
that the sunshine is not far behind. Several days will
probably elapse before the enemy complete their works and
consolidate for a general battle, and you may, therefore, for
the present expect to hear only of the heavy skirmishing which
has marked the past two months. Tomorrow, I leave for the
front, where I shall write more fully and to myself more


From Accessible Archives
For more information: