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1864 June 13: “We are at the front, right up to the rebels who are strongly intrenched along the mountains about 18 or 20 miles from Atlanta”

June 13, 2014

Fierce but inconclusive fighting had occurred in Georgia at New Hope Church on May 25, 1864, at Pickett’s Mill on May 27, and at Dallas on May 28.  By June 1 heavy rains were making the roads impassable to a 19th century army.  On June 14, one day after Edwin Levings’ letter and following eleven days of steady rain, Union General William T. Sherman was ready to move again.  But he won’t get very far, very fast because of the Confederate rifle pits and breastworks described by Edwin.

On June 27, Sherman will attempt to break the stalemate by attacking the Confederate position on Kennesaw Mountain.  Big Shanty—mentioned here—will be a site of major fighting in the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain.

The original letter is in the Edwin D. Levings Papers (River Falls Mss BO), in the University Archives and Area Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.

Camp of the 12th Wis. Vols.
1½ miles beyond Big Shanty,
Ga. Monday, June 13th, 1864.

My Dear Parents,

                                 An opportunity is offered for mailing letters at 4 P. M. and I gladly improve it to inform you where I am, how I am, and what is transpiring here.  We are at the front, right up to the rebels who are strongly intrenched along the mountains about 18 or 20 miles from Atlanta and are pecking away with some spirit.  We are doing the same to them.  Are posted on the left of the R. R. which is in operation up to our lines.  In front of us at the distance of 1 mile is Lost Mountain, at the base of which the rebels have breastworks and forts ready to receive us.  On the summit is stationed their Signal Corps and it is thought they have two heavy guns up there also.  We are in the valley, which is of a rolling surface, and are intrenched also.  Our camps and fortifications are in the edge of the woods about 1 mile from theirs.  Our breastworks we built yesterday and the day before of rails logs, timber &c, with earth thrown up in front.  The rifle pits are but 60 rods beyond and but 80 or a 100 rods from the rebel pits.  I do not know whether the intention is to charge the rebels over such ground or not.  If it is, there will be a bloody time.  The enemy has all the advantage and it looks as though he could keep it if we move forward in his front.  The belief is that 2 Corps have moved to flank them, and our demonstrations are mainly to divert their attention.  Certainly, the rebels have a tremendously strong position and I think Sherman had got something to do before he gets them out of it and captures Atlanta.  As yet the rebels have not opened on us with artillery in our front, (I mean the 17th corps) but they can shell our camp if they choose, in which case we shall have to make for our works.  They would evidently like to draw us out, and then they would treat us to some of their “water melons,” I think.  It is stated by the best authority that Johnson’s [sic: Joseph E. Johnston] force is 80,000.  7 A. [Army] Corps, at least, are represented here, the 4th, 14th, 15th, 16th, 17th, 20th & 23rd.

I wrote on the 9th to you from near Acworth.  We are about 6 miles from there.  The 3rd Div. had the advance the following day & drove the rebels from Big Shanty.  The rebels’ cars left that morning, and ours came in yesterday, blowing loud and long, to let the rebels know we can keep ourselves in supplies.  The next morning we moved forward and took up our present position.  We expected a battle but did not have it,—there was some warm skirmishing later in the day and our Brigade lost a few men, none from the 12th.  We advanced through the woods to to [sic] open fields, the rebels retreating.  Then my Co. lay down under cover of the woods till relieved at night by another.  The balance of the regiment in the meanwhile throwing up breastworks.  We are already [sic] to receive the butternuts, now.  It rains hard all the time and we can’t keep dry ¼ the time.  Has rained everyday for the past 10 days. [June 13 being the 11th day.]   I sleep with one Hodges.  We have put up our oil cloths & sleep above the ground, the water running under us.  Our hard marching is over and I am thankful.  [paragraph break added]

I had a letter the other day from Cousin Almond.  He says it rains all the time there, and but but few crops are in.  (That was May 31st)  Uncle Myron’s resignation was accepted and he is home,—at Canton with his family.  Uncle Israel is at Madrid on a visit.  Cousin Daniel Packard had been wounded and was home on 30 day furlough.  Geor A. Packard is among the wounded under Gen. Butler [Benjamin F. Butler].  No particulars from him.  I have written you all of interest.  I will write when I can and you must do the same, not waiting for me.  I have the best of health and shall try and keep it.  I shall look for Homer next week.  By that time I hope we shall have the privilege of telling the people of victory.  I hear no news from Richmond.  I wish you would send me papers,—some with miscellaneous reading, any kind you have.  You do not know what a pleasure it is to us to have something to read, situated as we are.  I think there is not a sick man in the Company.  The regiment draws rations for 740 men.  We left quite a number behind, some of whom are sick, some tired & some afraid to come to the front.  But I must close.  Now write to me good long letters, and God be with you all.

Your affectionate boy,
Edwin
.

Edwin Levings letter of June 13, 1864, from the Edwin D. Levings Papers (River Falls Mss BO) in the University Archives & Area Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls

Edwin Levings letter of June 13, 1864, from the Edwin D. Levings Papers (River Falls Mss BO) in the University Archives & Area Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls

 

 

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