After a severe day’s marching, we have turned the flank of the enemy again

Joseph Culver Letter, May 24, 1864, Page 1

Hd. Qurs. Co. “A” 129th Ills.
In the Hills near Allatoona
May 24th 1864
My Dear Wife

After a severe day’s marching, we have turned the flank of the enemy again & are fortifying ourselves among the hills south west of Allatoona. The Rebs seem to understand retreating to perfection, & it is probable we will not get an opportunity to do more than shell them a few minutes.1 The present Campaign thus far has been a perfect success.

We expect a mail to-night & news from home. The troops endure the hardships of the Campaign with great fortitude. There has been a great many cases of sun stroke within the last two days, but I think none have resulted seriously. Co. “A” were deployed as flankers to-day, & we came in this evening very weary.2

My health is very good and seems to improve rather than diminish. I heard from [Lt.] Smith yesterday; he is getting along finely. Allen Fellows is well.

I do not think there will be much fighting this side of Atlanta which we are nearing rapidly. If the Rebs cannot fight through this country, they will surely not stand long any place. We captured two more cannon yesterday. We carry our bridges with us. The Rail Road bridge across Etowah River, I understand, was saved without any serious damage.3

All the boys are well & in good spirits. The country through which we are passing is very fine and promises fine crops. Everything is pleasing. The fruit will soon ripen, & berries are coloring.

I must close as the mail leaves shortly. We have built quite a formidable fortification in front of our guns to prevent a surprise.4 There was some cannonading on our right & light skirmishing on our front as we came in, but that has been an every day occurrence for so long that we have ceased to notice it. Write often. Our mail goes and comes quite regularly.

Genl. Sherman issued an order urging soldiers to write to their families and friends but forbidding newspaper correspondence.5 I will write every opportunity. May Our Father in Heaven preserve you in health & bless us with all things needful. Give my love to Mother and Maggie, Chris [Yetter] & Nate [Hill] are well. May Holy Angels guard thee.

Your Affect. Husband
J. F. Culver

  1. The 129th Illinois remained near Cassville until 4 A.M. on May 23. When it moved out, Butterfield’s division marched to the southwest, crossing the Etowah at Milum’s Bridge shortly before sundown. To guard against sunstrokes, Colonel Case had his men “put fresh leaves in our hats.” Nightfall on the 24th found the 129th Illinois camped in the hills near Burnt Hickory. One of the soldiers, echoing Lieutenant Culver, reported, “Many of our men suffered so much from the sun and heat that they could not assist” in erecting breastworks, and “threw themselves on the cold ground to sleep and rest, not caring for any supper.” Grunert, History of the 129th Illinois, pp. 65-66; O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XXXVIII, pt. II, p. 382. General Johnston, after abandoning his position in front of Cassville on the 19th, had posted his army astride the Western & Atlantic Railroad at Allatoona. General Sherman wisely determined to flank Johnston’s position. After establishing his base at Kingston, his “army group” crossed the Etowah on a broad front and, abandoning the railroad, struck toward the southeast, flanking Johnston’s fortified Allatoona line, with Marietta as their goal. Horn, Army of Tennessee, p. 320. []
  2. During the day the vanguard skirmished with Confederate cavalry, the greyciads capturing some of Hooker’s foot-soldiers. O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XXXVIII, pt. II, p. 382; Ibid., pt. IV, p. 742. []
  3. The XX Corps had crossed the Etowah on May 23 on a pontoon bridge laid by the army’s Pioneers. Culver was mistaken. On May 20, Maj. Gen. Joseph Wheeler’s cavalry division, covering the Confederate retreat from Cassville into the Allatoona lines, had crossed the Etowah, burning the railroad bridge. O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XXXVIII, pt. III, p. 946. []
  4. The opposing armies no longer disdained throwing up breastworks whenever they halted for the night. The Confederates grew so adept at it that the Federals said, “The Rebels must carry their breastworks with them.” But so well did they emulate this example that the Confederates countered, “Sherman’s men march with a rifle in one hand and a spade in the other.” Horn, Army of Tennessee, p. 331. []
  5. General Sherman on May 20 had notified the troops there was no truth to the rumors that he had “prohibited the mails to and from this army.” On the contrary, he wished to encourage them “to keep up the most unreserved correspondence with their family and friends wherever they may be. Army, Corps and Division Commanders should perfect their arrangements to receive and transmit mails, and all Chaplains, Staff Officers & Captains of Companies shall assist the soldiers in communicating with their families.” Sherman, however, discouraged “the maintenance of that class of men who will not take a musket & fight but follow an army to pick up news for sale, speculating on a species of information which is dangerous to the army and our cause, and who are more used to bolster up worthless and idle officers, than to notice the hardworking and meritorious whose modesty is generally equal to their courage and who scorn to seek the cheap flattery of the press.” Circular, May 20, 1864, Mil. Div. of Miss., Regimental Papers, 129th Illinois, NA. []

About Colleen Theisen

Outreach and Instruction Librarian. Lover of coffee, as well as 19th century photography, painting, tourism and print.

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