Atlanta History Center

Jul 28

From the Archives: Civil War Letter

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Thursday July 28 1864

My dear Wife.. To day I have again the opportunity of writing to you; Yesterday was a day of great excitement with new and old issue it was thought generally that the great fight would take place; but it was a failure sure as no fight came;  at this moment the pickets are firing faster than 20 persons could count them; The bombs are flying thick also. The cause of the great excitement on yesterday was produced by some of our Mississippi pickets who were surprised by a Yankee line of battle while they were asleep and came running in which made us gather our arms quick and prepare for battle; there is not a particle of a doubt but what the new issue will fight if they are but in ditches; but it makes them sick to talk about an open field fight; we had three or four wounded on yesterday by the yankee sharpshooters This is a cool delightful place where I am now writing I am sitting of [off] some distance from our pits close to a nice fine building; where a gentleman and his family lives a wife and 5 children he is a refugee from Va and has just bought the place where he is now  he has a cellar under his kitchen where his family is now staying and never come out only when the cannonading ceases, the yankees can shell his house with all ease; I saw one burned up yesterday morning and one last night; it was I suppose done on account of being in the way of the cannon; We are now on the right wing of Hood’s army I mean the Ma while Hoods, Cleburnes, Hindmans, Cheathams, Polks old corps and several others are nicely waiting upon them;  since I commenced to write this heavy firing has commenced on the left; on yesterday the yanks tried all day tried to flank us on the right but some how they learned that the new issue was there last night they moved to the left; and we the new issue moved also farther to the right our whole line of battle is about 18 miles long the new issue occupy the right while the old issue occupy both right center and left and are watching every move the Yanks make; just a moment ago W Mercier was sitting here talking to me a shell came by making their usual noise He turned pale and said I must go and get some water he first asked me what it was I told him that it was one of Hoods ducks with one wing broken; as it was one of our guns making cross fire on the yank pickets; We have no picket duty to do the regulars do all of that; We have not had a good nights sleep since last;  sunday week the day we went to Westpoint; we have either been marching or under marching orders or fighting orders on guard duty to watching the fire of our pickets to see if they hold their own  N. B. tell Henry to write to me tell him I have not received his letter yet it may come our mail was in great confusion for awhile but it is all right now I lay me down this morning to take a sleep I had a dream; what you reckon it was I dreamt that I was at home had shoat good bacon ham beans squashes cucumbers apple pie fried peach pies chicken pies and good buttermilk cool; it made me so mad when I awoke and looked for the table and it was not there; but instead I found myself in a ditch about 5 ft. deep and for my table only 3 boards 4 ft. long and instead of my own family to look upon I found as far as my eyes could see in both directions a nasty dirty set of white men like myself.  (The boards were my bed)  Howdy Otis; Alice; Flora; Willie and Peter; this is all Pa can send you.  I hope that by my being here may some day gain for you all lasting liberty.  Good bye. A. T. Holliday
N. B. You must be certain to send me some paper.  I can’t keep it as I am often wet all over.  I don’t keep Warren with me at all now.  He stays at the cook camp all the time.

Jul 26

From the Archives: Civil War Letter

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Tuesday 26th July 1864

My Dear Wife,

Yours of the 21st was received a few moments ago we are now at Camp Hood near Atlanta; we came here last night about 10 o’clock; we are all about broke down; but we have no ditches to cut here as the work is all done and well done the best we have been in yet the yanks never can charge us here; the works are very strong; the pickets are keeping up a regular fire all the time; it is reported that the Yanks moved last night they are trying to flank again; I heard this morning that the yankee raid had got to Madison I hope it is not so if they get to Wilkes you must have all my horses and mules hid off and get some white man that will do to guard them; Our own cavalry is as bad about stealing as the yankees are and have to be watched; You must hide such things as you can; I have no idea that they intend to do much only on the railroad; we have a force after them; I think Hood will manage them all right; They can’t take Atlanta unless they make a Vicksburg scrape of it; you had best send Alfred to Savannah; none of the Wilkes reserves are here yet; I heard they had gone to Milledgeville as guards there  We are looking for more reinforcements here every day; tell all the children howdy; Frank Gartrell has had a riseing on one of his hands that has relieved him from duty for several days it is getting well now fast; E is doing very well; A good many of the Regt. try to play out when they think that a fight is on hand; we have no idea how long will stay here; direct your letters to Atlanta; Tell John and George that I am glad to hear that they are doing well; Give my best respects to Henry and tell him his cider came in very well as we had been traveling all night in the dust and on top of the cars at that.  Who would not be a soldier and fight for this country
Good bye A. T. Holliday

From the Archives: Civil War Letter

Atlanta July 26th   1864
My own dear Husband
    As the shells have given us a little respite, I concluded to occupy a portion of the time in writing a few lines to you for I know you must feel an anxiety bordering on despair in regard to our welfare. I do not know that this will reach you, still I will make the trial. I wrote you last week about the time everybody + everything was leaving. Mr P- sent it to you by hand. I have been hoping you would write to us as the train comes up every day. if you have it has not come to hand. Mr P- does not go to the train every day and if any one was to bring a letter they would not know where to deliver it. Well you wish to know how we are getting along. bad enough. Mr P- did not succeed in getting off + as he did not get a house in Cuthbert, was unwilling to take his chances in the woods, so we thought it best for us to be together + moved in to a large white house on Marietta st. just below Dr. Alexander (now owned + occupied by Dr. Sells). we moved up last Friday. could not get a wagon nor dray for love nor money. so we employed several men + procured a hand wagon + Anna + Sukey + myself carried all day. indeed I nearly broke down. have not entirely recovered yet. I was perfectly sore all over. my arms hips indeed all my limbs were so sore + stiff next day I could scarcely move. The shells commenced whizzing pretty soon in the day + fell pretty close around our house + on the track. I was afraid to go back + forth. one fell just behind me on Marietta St. + not ten steps from Sukey + Hattie but thanks to a kind providence did not explode. if it had no doubt some of us would have been hurt. it cost about $50.00 to get up here. I do not know that we are nay safer here than at home. but then it is more satisfaction to be together especially as there was a man about + then we would have a better chance to procure work if there is any to be had. There is no cellar to the house we occupy but Dr Sells had kindly offered us the use of his which has five rooms in to + the side fronting the street is entirely underground. the partitions are all of brick, they have been very kind indeed. we have slept there three nights. The first night the Dr’s family and all of us piled up in one room.  we cook at home principally but sometimes have run from an unfinished meal to seek shelter. Sunday evening there was a cessation before night. Ma + MR P- thought to sleep at home but about 10 oclock they came running over + the Dr + wife came down stairs again. the shells have fallen all around us. the house just below has been damaged considerably + the family in it. The Dr premises have been struck twice. he found one shell on top of the house not exploded having bounded there from the ground. the other passed through the front yard close to the corner of house cutting off an arbor vitea [sic].  The Wesley Chapel is nearly ruined + many other buildings consideraby [sic] damaged + some lives lost. a little child was killed in its mothers arms + her face was much injured with splinters. two wagoners were killed below here. one soldier killed in Mrs Pounders yard. oh we have been in great dread + anxiety but Providence has so far preserved our lives. there was no shelling last night + none so far today. God grant it may cease. We are only tolerable well. I have not recovered from my cold. my cough is better. Hattie + Charlie have come very near being laid up with croup. I was quite uneasy about him last night. Bascom was barking a little this morning also. Hattie is as well as usual. Dr. Sells has advised Ma to send Ann off. says the enemy will surely take her. also adivsed [sic] her to dispose of her money. saying it would be useless to her. I know not what would be for the best. please inquire what negroes are bringing in Macon, also inquire what are the chances for transportation from Macon to Anderson. I am not very well satisfied at this house. yet I know we would be very lonely indeed at our old home. not one of our old neighbors are left except Mrs. Messet + our cellar so small I know not how we would manage. we lost our chickens as the shelling was so severe we could not go back for them. Johny could you get leave of absence for a day or two + come up and see us. you would not be in danger of being captured + it would be some satisfaction to see you once again. I could go own I suppose but could not get a room private at the hospital + could not go to the hotel you know. I know it is useless to ask you to come + stay with us. no doubt you say that would be dishonorable to return, remain + take the oath, but oh what a solace, what a comfort, what great pleasure, what a protection to have you here. oh that it could be so. you know not our anxiety our suffering of mind. though I know you are willing to do all you can for us it would not have been so dishonorable if you had been compelled to take the oath. do Johny come up + stay a while with us if you can. if you cannot do please write to us. I fear we will never behold your face again. oh you know not how that thought pierces my inmost soul. still I pray we may yet meet again. I have not time to write much as we wish to get as much work as possible done while there is no shelling. a good many have had bomb proofs made. Miss Chattie is going to have one made in the ditch along the railroad. she is nearly distracted. some families are leaving still. I must close by praying the protection power of the Almighty to be over you + us. oh that we may be permitted to meet again upon earth. God is our only protection. if He forsakes us in this hour of trial we are ruined. pray to Him, my husband that He will shield us + guide us through every danger. farewell perhaps forever. do write + come up if possible + see us. Good-bye once more.
                        Your loving but distressed wife
                            Julia Davidson
All join in love to you + are anxious to see you. I know not what we will do for provisions when our stock is exhausted. there is not one thing in the place in the way of provisions. Johny I am getting rather uneasy about my situation. you know what I mean. Johny I beg of you please do not return to your command. I know you are not able to stand it + if you should go I would not know it + you might be killed + I would never find it out + you are not needed. so for my sake for the sake of your children do not return soon. think of us + our condition + do save your life + health as long as possible.
I saw Capt. Mount Friday. he says they do not need you + says you ought not to have left us no matter if you were transferred. They could not have hung you for it. Come do come + see us.

Jul 25

From the Archives: Civil War Letter

Monday morning July 25, 1864

My dear Wife; We are now again in 2 miles of Atlanta we arrived here at 12 last night; a heavy fight was going on at the time we arrived and continued until just before day this morning; I can now hear the cannon now very rapidly; Atlanta is being shelled Luke Turner is here just from there he says all the hotels have been shot through; but no serious damage has been; Warren is here I found him this morning he brought the box through with him the pies we had to through away; I was glad to see it; the last letter I wrote you that I was sick; I am still sick but keep up; While I was at Westpoint I went to Wyches I and all the Hughleys and Burdetts but only had a few moments to remain; but none of them knew me at any of the places except Wyches family; I have not received the money yet neither do I know when I will; we may be ordered into a fight at any moment; Warren had to go by Augusta and Macon and got off 6 miles from Atlanta and made his way to this place some how; The excitement at Westpoint when we got there was very great we went to work and fortified all along the river; I stood guard 3 nights out of 6 while there without any relieve [sic].  Ef and Rack are both doing tolerable well considering the hard times we have to go through; I have not seen a news paper in a week; Tell all the children howdy and all the folks generally Our letter now come by Griffin you direct to Atlanta; and we will get them Good Bye
A. T. Holliday

Jul 23

Relocation and Restoration of Atlanta Cyclorama

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The Atlanta History Center is honored to be asked to restore and preserve The Cyclorama of the Battle of Atlanta painting and the steam locomotive Texas. These unique, historic artifacts need specific expertise to ensure their ongoing care for generations to come. As stewards of Atlanta’s history, we are prepared to dedicate the resources necessary for the restoration, interpretation, and preservation of these historical artifacts.
 
While the specifics of the Cyclorama and the Texas’s move to the Atlanta History Center are contingent on City Council approval, preparations to safely transport these important pieces of Atlanta’s history to their new home will continue to be mapped out. With plans to expand the Atlanta History Center’s facilities in place, these artifacts can continue to be given a distinct display in a museum environment.
 
The Atlanta History Center is home to one of the most comprehensive Civil War collections in the nation, offering visitors an unparalleled opportunity to learn about the Civil War as well as the details of the Atlanta Campaign when viewing the Cyclorama. The organization, as a whole, is prepared and excited to host this iconic, historic painting and steam locomotive for Atlanta’s community and visitors to enjoy for many years.

Click here for more information.

Atlanta Fortifications

Union forces threaten to cut Atlanta’s railroad supply lines. To Sherman’s surprise, Confederate General John Bell Hood attacks north of Atlanta…

Watch Episode 14

Georgia Public Broadcasting and the Atlanta History Center commemorate the 150th anniversary of Union General William Tecumseh Sherman’s 1864 march into Georgia with the original series, “37 Weeks: Sherman on the March.”

Jul 21

View of the ATL skyline from Grant Field. c. 1967
Browse and order prints from our collection.

View of the ATL skyline from Grant Field. c. 1967

Browse and order prints from our collection.

From the Archives: Civil War Letter

Atlanta July 21    64
My own Dear Johny
    I wrote you the other day in reply to your first. Mr. Parrott got home yesterday.  brought me another letter informing me that your case has been rejected. oh is it possible that men who have Mothers wives &  little ones can be so hard hearted. it is nothing but meaness [sic]. not because they can not do it, but will not. I tell you there is not a man out of service who cares the snap of my finger for a soldiers family. indeed I believe Parrott does not want us and his to go with him for fear we will be thrown on his hands. he will get off himself but no danger of his putting himself to any trouble about us. We are very much distressed this evening. They are fighting all round. The small arms are distinct. besides we have parted with our cow & calf for $250.00. We all took a good cry about it for what will we do now. The children took it quite hard but we could not have kept her this winter if we stay. The county is eat out & where is food to come from. besides we could not keep her all the time & if out, she was in danger of begin driven off. The men of Atlanta have brought an everlasting stain upon their name. instead of remaining to defend their homes they have run & left Atlanta to be defended by the army & women & children. shame, shame on such a set of weak kneed men who would thus abandon their homes & leave poor women to the mercy of the enemy. Well Johny what have you done? have you been successful. evey [sic] one who has talked to me say you did very wrong, transfer or no transfer to leave until you saw your family at a safe distance. Lt. Reid was here today. he said if he had been in your situation he would not have moved a step until he had arranged for his family & if the enemy had come in he would have remained & taken the oath if need be & been paroled & then he could have taken care of his family. for said he if the government will not give a man a chance to fix for his wife & little ones then he ought to take it. I look upon the oath as not valid. a person takes it only for protection anyhow & we will have to take it if we left. which we will be for there is now no chance for us. There is not a man who would have done as you have. evry [sic] one says they would not have moved an inch. let the officers say what they would. and now tonight the hospital leaves here. the wagons have all gone to Griffin and they think by morning our men will be in the ditches around town and the shelling will begin. one or two shells have already falen[sic] in town. Mr P may leave in the morning. if so I  will try & send this by him. I do not know that I will ever have the chance to write you again. I know not that I shall ever see you again. oh the thought is unendurable to be cut off from him I hold so ear, my bosom companion my comforter in sorrow The sharer of my joys the father of my children my husband the only protector I have on earth. oh how can I bear up under it. going into service was hard enough to bear but this is worse but God is the only one who can take care of us. There is not a bit of provisions in the city. all the flour meal & bacon have been run off. what are we to do who have to remain- starve to death.  Sherman sent in a demand for the surrender of the city. they have been fighting heavy all day and are still at it. Dr. Hatcher & Capt. Harden have just left. have been advising us to stay if it was possible. they would do all they could for us, but it was out of their power to do so. The only chance is to take a trunk or two & leave on the passenger & leave everything behind.  This would be sacraficing [sic] too much. would lose all our provisions bed clothing &c. how can we do that & start out to a land of strangers. oh if you were only here. I would be reconciled to my fate. then I would not fear of sufferings. I gave your coat & piece of cloth to Mr. Fair to put in your trunk for safety. Capt H- & Dr. H- said tonight they thought our men would fall back tonight to their ditches & then I suppose it will not be more than a week before the enemy will be in. oh how I do wish we had left sooner when we could have got a car. now it is too late. they only bring up enough to carry the wounded off. Well Johny I must close and yet I would prolong this letter as much as possible for I fear I will not write another soon. Would I could see you once more & fold you in one long last embrace, but why need I wish this. twold [sic] only lacerate my wounded heart afresh & we are parted now & we bid each other adieu. little thinking that in this time circumstances would transpire to separate us perhaps forever. for if we get out I will not know where to find you. for I can not receive letters from you if the enemy remains here any length of time.. & we succeed in getting out I think we will try & make our way to Allens. & if possible I will correspond with them so you can hear from me in this way. God help us for there is no help in man. oh how crushing the thought that we are seperated [sic] & perhaps we who remain here will suffer. I must stop for my eyes are blinded in the tears I can scarcely tell how I am writing. & fear you can not read this. Good-bye my dear husband. I commend you to God & pray He will take care of you & grant that we may see each other again in this world. if not, may we meet each other on the shores of the bright world above. pray for us that we may be kept safe from all harm. Ma joins in love to you.
                            Your loving & devoted wife
                                Julia
[NOTE: this document was made from a transcript of the original letter. The AHC dose not own the original letter- AHC]

Aftermath

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Although Hood’s attack fails to trap and destroy Thomas’s Army of the Cumberland, he has come close to succeeding, especially on the Union right flank where troops were not entrenched.  But Thomas’s men were veterans.  They recovered from their surprise, regained their nerve, and eventually repulsed the attack. 

Hood is not deterred by his tactical defeat at the Battle of Peachtree Creek. Almost as soon as the battle is over, he begins planning his next move.  Two days later, on July 22, he will attack again, this time east of Atlanta using a great flanking maneuver reminiscent of his mentor, General Robert E. Lee.  Once again the attack fails, but barely. 

Hood tries again on July 28, but this time the attack fails dramatically. 

Nevertheless, Hood’s attacks around Atlanta in July 1864 unnerve Sherman.  During the month of August he resorts to besieging Atlanta, hoping to bombard the city into submission.  From a military standpoint, this bombardment accomplishes nothing, as Lincoln’s political fortunes continue to decline. 

Finally at the end of August, Sherman does what he should have done in late July:  send the bulk of his army south toward Jonesboro, there to cut the last remaining railroad supply line into the city.  With this single stroke, Sherman practically wins the war.

The fall of Atlanta on September 2, 1864, convinces doubting northern voters that the war for union and emancipation is winnable.  Northern morale skyrockets as white Southern morale drops.  Lincoln wins re-election easily.  With the Union now fully committed to winning the war, the outcome becomes inevitable.

Atlanta was the last great turning point of the Civil War.

Union Officers in front of Hood’s former headquarters in Atlanta after the fall of the city.

Many years after the war, Lieutenant Stephen Pierson of the 33rd New Jersey Regiment visited the battlefield of Peachtree Creek.

“I visited the battlefield, with a party of Southern gentlemen. The ground located, I mentioned the fact of a Rebel battery, which seemed to have our range perfectly, as their shells came quick and fast and exploded in just about the right place every time. As I was talking, one of our party, Captain Evan Howell of The Atlanta Constitution turned to me and said…… ‘Do you know whose battery that was? - well it was my battery; furthermore, this battle was fought on my grandfather’s plantation, where I was born and raised, and you may believe that I made my guns talk for all they were worth that day!’ I took my hat off to him and gave him my hand. I thanked my God then, as I do now, that he and thousands of other brave men, who fought on his side are today fellow citizens of the United States of America. I believed that afternoon, and do now that he was wrong and we were right. But as I listened to him and tried to put myself in his place, I gained a clearer conception of why it was that he believed that he was right and I was wrong. I gave to him as I give to him now, my honor and respect.”

To follow the battle, use #PTCbattle.

July 21, 1864 – 12:00 AM

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Sherman finally receives Thomas’s report about the battle.  Now he understands that he has been fooled:  Hood’s army was off to the west conducting an attack and McPherson could have marched into Atlanta that afternoon from the east.  

Watch the drama of the Battle of Peachtree Creek unfold as we post real-time updates, personal accounts, images and artifacts from the Battle of Peachtree Creek. To follow the battle, use #PTCbattle.

Jul 20

July 20, 1864 – 8:00 PM

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Still unaware of the battle just ended to his west, Sherman tells General McPherson and his Army of the Tennessee to delay its advance on Atlanta from the east, believing Hood’s entire army lay along its path. 

Watch the drama of the Battle of Peachtree Creek unfold as we post real-time updates, personal accounts, images and artifacts from the Battle of Peachtree Creek. To follow the battle, use #PTCbattle.

July 20, 1864 – 7:00 PM

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Union troops fan out across the battlefield, retrieving the wounded and burying the dead.  The Confederates have suffered about 2,500 killed, wounded, and missing.  The Union has lost slightly fewer:  about 2,300 casualties.

In the area of Confederate General Featherstone’s attack along present day Dellwood Drive, forty-five dead Mississippi soldiers are buried in a mass grave, along with their colonel.

Nearby, Captain John P. Seemann is buried along with others from his 26th Wisconsin regiment.  Their graves are marked with wooden boards on which are carved their names.  This is the scene that Union photographer George Barnard records in October, 1864. Two years later, Union bodies will be re-interred in the newly-established National Cemetery at Marietta. 

Only photograph of the battlefield of Peachtree Creek. Taken by George Barnard about October 1864.

Watch the drama of the Battle of Peachtree Creek unfold as we post real-time updates, personal accounts, images and artifacts from the Battle of Peachtree Creek. To follow the battle, use #PTCbattle.

July 20, 1864 – 6:30 PM

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Before the renewed Confederate attack can get underway, Hood notifies Hardee that east of Atlanta, General Wheeler is once again in dire need of reinforcements.  Sherman’s armies in that area are advancing far more quickly than Hood anticipated. 

Hardee calls off the attack.  It is just as well for the Confederates, who have now lost the element of surprise.  The Union army is now entrenching all along the line.  Further assaults would be futile.   

Watch the drama of the Battle of Peachtree Creek unfold as we post real-time updates, personal accounts, images and artifacts from the Battle of Peachtree Creek. To follow the battle, use #PTCbattle.

July 20, 1864 – 6:15 PM

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General George H. Thomas sends Sherman a report about the battle:  “The enemy attacked  me in full force at about 4 p.m. and has persisted until now, attacking very fiercely, but was repulsed handsomely all along my line.”

Sherman is unaware that the battle had even taken place.  

Watch the drama of the Battle of Peachtree Creek unfold as we post real-time updates, personal accounts, images and artifacts from the Battle of Peachtree Creek. To follow the battle, use #PTCbattle.

July 20, 1864 – 6:00 PM

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Confederate troops are sent to find Bate, whose division spent almost the entire afternoon in the wrong place, unable to help the Confederate forces.

Several Confederate commanders believe there is still enough daylight left to continue the attack. General William J. “Old Reliable” Hardee, commanding the troops on the field, orders up the division of the Irish-born general Patrick Cleburne.

Watch the drama of the Battle of Peachtree Creek unfold as we post real-time updates, personal accounts, images and artifacts from the Battle of Peachtree Creek. To follow the battle, use #PTCbattle.