Head Quarters Co. “A” 129th Regt. Ills. Vols.
Chattahoochie River, Ga.1
October 9th 1864
My Dear Wife
It seems an age almost since I heard from you, and the prospects now are not very flattering as there is yet no communication with the north. I have commenced this letter in order to send by the first train that goes out. A longer time has elapsed since I last wrote, I think, than at any former time since I have been in the service. The interruption of our communication is much less serious than we anticipated as we have well authenticated reports that the railroad is free from farther molestation, and, as soon as it can be prepared, we shall again have the pleasure of hearing from home.
It looks just now very much like a premeditated affair of Genl. Sherman’s.2 For two weeks he was sending large numbers of troops to the rear, finally Genl. Thomas left also; but, instead of disposing the troops along the line of the road, all were massed at Allatoona pass awaiting the enemy. You will doubtless have full particulars of the Battle before this reaches you. We know but little yet save that Genl. Thomas defeated the Rebel Army with a loss of over 200 killed, many wounded, & several hundred prisoners.3 We have heard nothing yet of Sherman’s operations.4 Kilpatrick with the Cavalry has captured and destroyed the enemy’s Pontoon train and a large portion of their supplies.5
Our Corps, with a portion of each Corps of the Army, were left behind. We are very strongly fortified and would be able to withstand the Rebel army until the main Army returns. We entertained some fears about our supplies, as the Army took fifteen days’ rations with them, but there was no need of alarm as there is amply sufficient for any emergency. Our ration of bread has been increased to 1-1/2 lbs. per day and all else in proportion except meat, and the boys have all they wish. The health continues excellent. Every man in my Company is fit for duty, & Dr. Wood told me yesterday that he had only one patient in the Regiment. Large numbers of those in the Hospitals have returned, & my Company is larger than at any time since the Campaign opened.
The weather since the first of this month has been very wet until two days ago. It is now very cold, &, if it were not for the continual high wind, there would be a killing frost. It is with difficulty that we keep comfortable with overcoat on over the fires. If it continues much longer, we will build chimneys.
I presume Smith and Sutcliff have reached home ere this, as they left the 27th Sept., though they were probably detained in Chattanooga several days.
I have no doubt but you feel great anxiety not being able to hear from the Army. Bro. John [Murphy] is with Sherman.6 Sammy is in Chattanooga with his “Battery.” I did not see John as he passed here as I was on duty, but several of the boys in the Company saw and talked with him.
I am sorry now that I did not keep a diary for you, but it rained so constantly, & we were continually moving from point to point strengthening the fortifications that I neglected it. Allen Fellows has a complete one, which he will send home by the first mail.
We moved from Atlanta to the river on the 1st two days before the Army commenced to move. Alf Huetson was out to see us yesterday; he is very well and is much pleased with his comfortable quarters in the city. I have not answered the letters I received from Carlisle yet, but will try and have them in readiness for the first mail.
As it was too cold for [church] service this morning, we will probably have preaching this afternoon if the weather is favorable. The sun is shining very brightly, but the wind is raw & cold. My hand becomes so numb that I cannot write with[out] going to the fire occasionally. The roads are improving rapidly; they must have been almost impassible in rear of the Army for the past week. Green was much disappointed in not receiving his promised book; it was doubtless captured on the trains that were destroyed yet may possibly come yet. 7 o’clock P.M.
I stopped writing for dinner, & it was so cold that I postponed writing thinking it would be more calm. At three o’clock, Lt. Scott invited me to go with him to the house of a citizen where he had been invited to preach. The time passed so pleasantly that I have just returned. The congregation was composed of several families, refugees from Atlanta and the surrounding country. The parlor is very nicely furnished, & I sat there trying to imagine myself at home. Oh, how I wished that this evening could have been spent at home.
I learned on my return to the Company that [Major] Hoskins intends to start home in the morning & that all letters must be sent up to-night, so I will haste to send this by him. I find it hard to forgive him for not giving me this opportunity since he was at home scarce six months ago. But it is doubtless all for the best.
The bridge is completed, & the first train passed over about an hour ago.7 How earnestly we will look for mail now.
God grant that my loved ones are all well and happy. I have had the blues very badly several times during the past two weeks, but now I am living on hearing very soon from you. Kiss baby for me & tell him I would surely go to see him & Mama if it were possible. The picture [of the baby] will soon be coming, will it not? Give my love to Mother and Maggie. I would have written to the Sabbath School also if I had known Hoskins was going so soon. I did not think the way would be open for sometime yet, but I must close and gather up the mail. It is now past tatoo.
It seems so long since I had an opportunity to talk to you even by letter that I am loth to quit yet. Accept much love and a kiss, & may the richest of Heaven’s blessings rest upon you.
Your affect. Husband
J. F. Culver
- General Sherman on the 29th learned that two corps of Hood’s Army of Tennessee had crossed to the north side of the Chattahoochie, about 25 miles southwest of Atlanta. To counter a Confederate thrust into Tennessee and an attack on his railroad supply lines, Sherman on October 1 notified his subordinates that he would reinforce General Thomas in Tennessee, and with the rest of his “army group” strike for Savannah and Charleston, believing that Hood would be compelled to follow. If, however, Hood turned his columns toward the Western & Atlantic Railroad, south of the Etowah, Sherman would fight him. Cox, Atlanta, pp. 223-24. Consequently, on October 1, the 1st Brigade, Ward’s division, was ordered to take position to protect the Chattahoochie Railroad Bridge. Breaking camp, the 129th Illinois passed through Atlanta and tramped up the Marietta road in a driving rain storm. It was dark by the time the regiment reached the river. After Colonel Case had detailed Company D to man a picket line, the rest of the regiment crossed the river and camped. During the night the rain-swollen river swept away the railroad and wagon bridges. A pontoon bridge was laid the next day, and Company D rejoined the regiment. Grunert, History of the 129th Illinois, pp. 107-08.
- General Sherman, on October 3, satisfied that Hood was striking toward Marietta and the Western & Atlantic, put his “army group” in motion. Slocum’s XX Corps would hold Atlanta and the Chattahoochie bridges and the other corps would march for Smyrna Camp Ground, south of Marietta. Hood, by this time, was near Lost Mountain with two of his corps, and the third (Lt. Gen. A. P. Stewart’s) was driving for the railroad. On the 3d Stewart effected a lodgment on the Western & Atlantic, capturing Acworth and Big Shanty. After paroling the prisoners, damaging the railroad, and cutting the telegraph, Stewart sent one division (French’s) to capture the post at Allatoona Pass and marched to rejoin Hood with the remainder of his corps. Meanwhile, the Army of the Cumberland (less the XX Corps) had recrossed the Chattahoochie and by nightfall on the 4th was camped in and around Marietta. Howard’s Army of the Tennessee was also north of the river at Smyrna Camp Ground, while the Army of the Ohio was preparing to cross at Pace’s Ferry. Cox, Atlanta, pp. 225-26.
- J.F.C. was mistaken as to details. General Thomas with two divisions had been rushed to Middle Tennessee to protect the Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad against Forrest’s horse-soldiers. Their mission had been accomplished, and by October 6, Forrest had returned to his base, having seriously damaged the less important Tennessee & Alabama and Memphis & Charleston Railroads. On the morning of October 5, Major Gen. Samuel G. French’s division assailed the post at Allatoona Pass, defended by 2,000 men commanded by Brig. Gen. John D. Corse. There was a savage fight. When French learned that Sherman’s infantry was at Kennesaw, 15 miles away, he broke off the attack and rejoined Hood’s army at New Hope Church on the 6th. After the fight. Corse buried 230 dead Confederates and counted more than 400 prisoners. Union losses were 205 killed and wounded. Ibid., pp. 227-31.
- Sherman now massed his “army group” west of Marietta, while observing Hood’s movements, and turned out large working parties to repair the railroad and rebuild the Chattahoochie Railroad Bridge. Having concluded that Hood’s goal was to draw his “army group” out of the heart of Georgia, Sherman refused to be led away. General Corse was sent to Rome with his division, from where he could cover the Western & Atlantic between Resaca and Cartersville. Sherman now repeated a proposal, previously made to General Grant, that he be allowed to abandon the Western & Atlantic, evacuate Atlanta, turn his back on Hood’s army, and march for Savannah by way of Milledgeville and Millen. Ibid., 233-34.
- There was no truth to the report that Union cavalry under Brig. Gen. Judson Kilpatrick had “captured and destroyed the enemy’s pontoon train and a large portion of their supplies.”
- John Murphy was still detailed to Bridge’s battery and had accompanied that unit on its return to Middle Tennessee.
- General Slocum on October 9 notified General Sherman that the railroad bridge, swept away on the night of the 1st, had been “repaired and the train has gone over.” O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XXXIX, pt. III, p. 163.