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1864 September 24: Atlanta Occupied — “There was something soul-stirring in that one long, loud shout of victory”

September 28, 2014

The following letter describes the Union entry into Atlanta and what they found.  It appeared in the September 24, 1864, issue of The Prescott Journal.

The 22nd Wisconsin Infantry included men from northwest Wisconsin, primarily in Company C but also scattered in other companies.  Unfortunately, we do not know who the letter-writer “Fair Play,” was.  General Joseph Hooker’s XX Corps, which gets a paragraph here, included the 3rd Wisconsin, 22nd Wisconsin, 26th Wisconsin, and 31st Wisconsin infantries.


The Occupation of Atlanta. 

Affairs on the Lower Mississippi. 

From the Twenty-Second Regiment. 

The Success is Georgia—Feeling the way to Atlanta—
Entrance of the City—Rejoicing of our Troops—
The Welcome of his People—How they Suffered—
The City very much Damaged—Great Destruction of Property by Hood—
Thousands of Deserters coming in—Our Troops enjoying themselves. 

Correspondence of the State Journal.

ATLANTA, Ga., Sept. 4, 1864.

After a campaign of four months of weary marches, hard fare, and the loss of many brave men, we are happy to write from this place.  Yes, the “Gate City” that “Hood felt able to hold,” “THE place where he was going to stand,” has been occupied by Yankee soldiers.  Sherman has succeeded, and the rebel army is routed, whipped, and driven out.  Atlanta is ours.  [John B. Hood, William T. Sherman]


from the 3d division, 20th army corp stationed at Turner’s Ferry during the late movement, commanded by Col. John Coburn, who has commanded the 2d brigade during the campaign, started from the Ferry at 6 a.m. of the 2d inst. and proceeded in the direction of Atlanta.  The column of 900 men moved out on the Atlanta road, the skirmishers and flankers extending away to the right and left, “feeling the way” through woods and over by-roads.  We saw nothing until within sight of our old works, where some few cavalry of butternut persuasion were discovered by our advance, and routed with a loss of two captured.  Here occurred a little skirmishing of the old sort.  Our line halted to rest and the column got into position, for an advance.


Col. Colburn having made proper disposition of the forces and gave necessary instructions, the expedition moved forward over our old works, through abattis, pit-falls, over the rebel worksnow deserteddown and up, until at the very edge of the city, the Mayor and City council came out and surrendered the city to Col. J. Colburn, with remarks appropriate.  The Mayor requested the Colonel to wait a few minutes, as there was some rebel cavalry about town.  Col. Colburn told him that he should move in immediately, and did so, the rebel cavalry leaving hastily enough at the approach of our skirmish line.


came out to meet us.  The long looked for Yankees had really come.  The star spangled banner once more floated over the city.  On went the skirmishers to the south side of the city, the column moving up White Hall street to the City Hall.  Then could you have heard that cheer !  Oh, Messrs. Editors, there was something soul-stirring in that one long, loud shout of victory.  The people gathered around us and one’s right arm was in danger.  Women cursed the rebels who had abused and plundered them of everything.  Men began to crawl from their places of concealment, from the rear guard of Hood’s army who were left to conscript and bring up able-bodied men.  Our hands were full of work to take care of the deserters who had managed to “flink” the cavalry.  There are many good Union people here now, a great many mechanics and merchants from the North here, hailed our coming with an unusual greeting.


shows signs of war unmistakably.  Beautiful houses and public buildings are battered by our shells.  The stores have been robbed by the rebels, who,

“Loth to leave, determined to leave nothing.”

Fences had been burned, the gardens plundered, and everything justified the voice of the citizens, who said had Hood staid [sic] there another day they would have had nothing left.  The people had to resort to “gopher-holes,” or bomb-proofs, for protection during the hours of bombardment.  One woman told me that for ten days the family had lived under ground, so exposed were they to our shells.  Many have been killed or injured by the shot going through their houses.  Yet for all this there are many who have undergone what they have, rather than leave, hoping soon to be inside our lines.  Thank God they hoped not in vain.  What must these poor people have suffered.

There are many fine buildings here.  The city is beautiful for its shade trees and shrubbery.  There have been extensive manufactories here of munitions of war, and the building that contained the State Iron Works is an extensive affair, though the machinery has been removed.  But I will not attempt to describe just now the buildings.  The principal public institutions are the City Hall, Female Seminary and Medical College.


Most of the corps came up during the night of the 2d, and the tramp, tramp of the soldiers, the rumbling of the artillery, and the cheer after cheer of each successive regiment told plainly that Atlanta is ours, and “Hood is played out.”

Gen. Slocum  and Gens. Geary, Williams, Ward, Knipe, Ruger, and the other brigade commanders have established themselves here.  The 2d Massachusetts is doing Provost duty here, their Colonel being Provost Marshal of the city.  Gen. Slocum commands the post.  [Henry W. Slocum, John W. Geary, Alpheus S. Williams, William T. Ward, Joseph F. Knipe, Thomas H. Ruger].


Hood seems to have vented his rage on being obliged to abandon Atlanta in the destruction of property.  He massed about one hundred cars, five engines, and twenty-eight car-loads of ammunition at the immense rolling mill, and in one vast fire destroyed over two millions of dollars worth of property, and that such as the Southern Confederacy could not spare or replace.  Piles of ammunition, guns, etc., were thrown into wells, mud-holes, and stored up in cellars, &c.  All this tells truly that Hood was surprised to find Sherman in his rear.


are occupying convenient camps in and about the city.  The men are in fine spirits, got plenty of tobacco, and already the streets are full of army teams and stores.  The blue-coats and shoulder-straps are very plenty and there is much in the appearance of Atlanta to correspond with the occupation of Nashville by our army.


The battles of the 31st ult. and 1st inst. were sanguinary.  The rebel Hood finds himself driven back, headed off, and whipped completely.  Deserters are continually coming in who report the rebel army very disheartened.  We have over two thousand deserters from different regiments, all the way from the 1st Confederate down to the Georgia militia.

There is a fresh breeze to-day—the shower of yesterday has cooled the air.  There is a warm sun shining.  The bands are playing, the soldiers are going to church, and everything looks and feels like the good old times.  The news is encouraging from Sherman.  All honor is due our army and its good General.

More anon,                    FAIR PLAY.

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