WWilliam Graham's War Between the States

Sherman's Atlanta Campaign

On April 4, 1864, the 11th and the 12th corps (of which the William Graham's 107th Regiment was part) were combined into a new Twentieth Army Corps. Together with other army corps, they were to form an army of 100,000 under General William T. Sherman, which would become of one of the most famous armies in the history of warfare.

The map (Click to enlarge) graphically represents the movements of Sherman's new army from May to September 1864.

Sherman's army was part of the plan to devastate the underbelly of the Confederacy. The Twentieth Corps started, May 4, 1864, on the Atlanta campaign, and during the next four months participated in all the important battles, its hardest fighting occurring at Resaca, May 15th, at New Hope Church, May 25th, and at Peach Tree Creek, July 20th. The 107th fought hard in the many skirmishes and battles on its way to Atlanta, losing a great many men in the battle of New Hope Church, also known as Dallas. They were among the first troops to enter Atlanta, and they were part of its provost guard while Sherman's other corps sought to engage and defeat Hood's army.

Camp near Cassville, Ga
5-21-1864

Libbie Graham

Thru the providence of God I am enabled to write you a few lines this morning. My last letter to you was dated Snakes gap [Snake Creek Gap] [Battle of Rocky Face Ridge] beyond Resaca. Since then we have had a battle [Battle of Resaca] with the Rebs which you have undoubtedly heard of before. This time it lasted two days. Our Corps was partly engaged both days. The second day we were engaged the 141st regiment [this was Hiram Platt’s regiment, brother of William’s future wife Mary Platt] was in sight of us and was engaged at the same time.

It fought bravely. I never saw a regiment stand fire better. It lost nere one third of its men killed and wounded. When the rebs came out to charge on the 141st, they had to come within range of the right of our regiment and our company being on the right we brought our guns to bear on the gray coats and got a kind of a crossfire on them so we helped our Elmira brothers not a little. The rebs stuck to it I think about 15 minutes, then broke and ran behind their entrenchments. Our company lost three men one killed and badly wounded. I tell you sister the shot and shells fell thick and fast around me. But the lord was merciful to me and we lost few.

We have had hard marching and very hot weather to chase Jo Johnson [Confederate General] in but we came up to him day before yesterday and after a few hours skirmishing and maneuvering we succeeded in driving him from another very strong position here.

We are coming into the richest part of the state. This town Casville is quite a nice little town but after our army got into it a few hours it was a different looking place. A great many of the inhabitants fled and the soldiers went in and destroyed furniture and everything. I don’t believe in such things more than to take what is eatable so I did not go into houses.

There was no men in town. The rebs told the people that they had gave us a terrible whipping and we were mad and would burn the town. We found lots of rebel newspapers and of all the lies I ever read, they were the worst. Oh it is awful the way the leaders lie to the people .

We know that Jo Johnson is going to make another stand 11 miles from here but if he don’t get reinforced he will have to fly again.

Sister your letter dated May 8th came to hand last night and I tell you I was glad to hear from you & write often. I have got a cold when we were skirmishing. I fell in a creek and got wet and [we] had to lay on our arms all night without fires. But after all the Lord blessed me and preserved me from many dangers so far. With his protecting care around me I fear nothing.

Write soon dear sister. Adress Co? B 107 reg. NY 20th Reg. Army of Cumberland via Chatanooga to your brother William Graham.

Commentary

Cassville is sometimes referred to as the "Battle that never was", as Johnston had hoped to isolate and destroy part of Sherman’s army here. However, the trap was not sprung after John Bell Hood hesitated in the face of what he believed was a much larger Union force. Cassville was destroyed by Sherman (11/5/64) in retaliation for Southern guerrilla activity in the area. It was not rebuilt until the 20th century

At Rocky Face Ridge, Gen. Joseph E. Johnston had entrenched his army on the long, high mountain of Rocky Face Ridge and eastward across Crow Valley. As Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman approached, he decided to demonstrate against the position with two columns while he sent a third one through Snake Creek Gap, to the right, to hit the Western & Atlantic Railroad at Resaca. The two columns engaged the enemy at Buzzard Roost (Mill Creek Gap) and at Dug Gap. In the meantime, the third column, under Maj. Gen. James Birdseye McPherson, passed through Snake Creek Gap and on the 9th advanced to the outskirts of Resaca where it found Confederates entrenched. Fearing defeat, McPherson pulled his column back to Snake Creek Gap. On the 10th, Sherman decided to take most of his men and join McPherson to take Resaca. The next morning, Sherman’ s army withdrew from in front of Rocky Face Ridge. Discovering Sherman’s movement, Johnston retired south towards Resaca on the 12th.

The Battle of Resaca took place May 13-15, 1864. Casualties were about equal on both sides. This is the battle William Graham describes in his letter.

Battle of Resaca

Gen. Joseph E. Johnston had withdrawn from Rocky Face Ridge to the hills around Resaca. On the 13th, the Union troops tested the Rebel lines to pinpoint their whereabouts. The next day full scale fighting occurred, and the Union troops were generally repulsed except on the Rebel right flank where Sherman did not fully exploit his advantage. On the 15th, the battle continued with no advantage to either side until Sherman sent a force across the Oostanula River, at Lay’s Ferry, towards Johnston’s railroad supply line. Unable to halt this Union movement, Johnston was forced to retire.

General William T. Sherman

A week after this letter was sent, the regiment participated in the Battle of Dallas or New Hope Church which resulted in a Union victory. In that battle the Rebels suffered some 600 more casualties than the Union forces. Prior to the battle, Johnston’s army fell back from the vicinity of Cassville-Kinston, first to Allatoona Pass and then to the Dallas area and entrenched. Sherman’s army tested the Rebel line while entrenching themselves.

The Battle of Dallas occurred on May 28 when Lt. Gen. William J. Hardee’s corps probed the Union defensive line, held by Maj. Gen. John A. Logan’s Army of the Tennessee corps, to exploit any weakness or possible withdrawal. Fighting ensued at two different points, but the Rebels were repulsed, suffering high casualties. Sherman continued looking for a way around Johnston’s line, and, on June 1, his cavalry occupied Allatoona Pass, which had a railroad and would allow his men and supplies to reach him by train. Sherman abandoned his lines at Dallas on June 5 and moved toward the railhead at Allatoona Pass forcing Johnston to follow soon afterwards.

Since Sherman took great pains to ensure security measures for his supply and communications lines, he could be fairly confident that supplies would continue to flow without interruption. The unwillingness of Richmond to temporarily abandon Mississippi and to utilize the substantial forces available there to counter the primary Union threat against Atlanta demonstrated the flaws in Confederate President Davis’ command system. Union diversionary operations in Mississippi effectively kept Forrest – probably the only cavalry leader who could have seriously threatened Sherman’s logistics – away from the Union commander’s railroad lifeline. Because of Sherman’s detailed advance planning, the railroad from Chattanooga to Atlanta (the part of the line in Union hands) was well defended, and the Union army well maintained.


3 or 4 miles So. of Chattahoochee River
7-18-1864

To: Libbie Graham

I will sit down and commence sending you a few lines. Although I have to write under difficult [condition] since my writing desk is my little pocket testiment.

Yesterday afternoon we crossed the river on a pontoon bridge. The 4 corps crossed above her and drove the Rebels away from the river so we could lay the bridge yesterday. Sunday I was on picket along the river right below the railroad bridge opposite the Rebel fortifications. They have very strong work there but Gen. Sherman was not fool enough to try to cross the river at that point. But struck onto his old tactics & struck onto their flanks. There is some skirmishing this morning and we are [feinting?] of them.

The Lord knows what will happen before night but we will put our trust in Him who can control armies as well as individuals. But with the help of the Lord we are not afraid to meet Joe Johnson’s army anywhere outside their breastworks.

I do hope this campaign will soon end in the fall of Atlanta. We are tired and we cannot get vegetables and such things and our rations of hard bread and meat is little enough for us.

Besides we want tobacco. Oh sister I wish if you could get the money you would send me a 1/2 Ib or one Ib of good plug tobacco and I will send you the money as soon as I get paid off or if you can see Dr. Bell get the money of him.

It will cost 32 cents to send it by mail. Write on it ‘soldiers package’, It come cheaper. If you can send it, send it soon. Direct it the same as you would a letter and say ‘soldiers package’ below the directions. I like to smoke and can’t get anything to smoke.

I am in the service two years today. If the Lord spares me another year I will be home whether the war ends or no. The government owes us over six months pay now if we ever stop long enough to get it, I will send you some. The weather is very warm here, the land is awful broken here and mostly all woods. Once in a while plantations but deserted by all except sometimes an old [Negro] or two.

Well I must stop. The skirmishers are just going out. That denotes a forward movement so fighting Joe Hooker’s men must go in today. He never asks his men to go where he is afraid to go himself. We have great confidence in him and the Rebels fear him. They told us the other day they would rather meet any other corps in a fight than Hooker’s.

Well it is two hours later and we have not moved yet so I will try to finish up short and write again as soon as I can. This is a very broken country here but the most romantic and wild I ever saw, really lovely. No underbrush in the woods. We are working a little to the left of Atlanta but it is not more than 8 or 9 miles distant.

As to being tired of the war, we are all tired of it but we must fight it out and whip them. We can not afford to lose so many men and treasure for nothing. No never. If those peace copperheads, our infernal traitors at the north, will stop hounding about peace we will soon whip them.

I saw an Atlanta paper the other day & you could plainly see that their only hope was that Vallandigham and his followers can affect something provided they could gain one victory over our forces somewhere. To help then, let the people turn out and help capture those who have been [bold?] enough to go into Maryland and Grant capture Richmond and they [the South] are down, whipped foreever.

If the North would take hold of it with half the spirit the Rebs do here we could have the thing finished up this fall. Yet God forbid we should clamor for peace now. Rather let the women at home go out in the field and raise all the produce they can and send their husbands to help finish it. I don’t believe in this faint spiritedness at all.

Commentary

The Chattahoochee River Line (July 4-10, 1864) was revolutionary in its design and formidable in its strength. It was called "one of the strongest pieces of field fortifications I ever saw" by Union general William Tecumseh Sherman. Stretching along the northern bank of the Chattahoochee River, General Joseph Johnston's Confederates took up the line as a defensive position following the battle of Kennesaw Mountain. They occupied 36 distinctive, small forts called "Shoupades" (after their designer, Confederate general Francis Shoup) and a network of trenches connecting them. The River Line was such a well-engineered defensive system that Union forces declined a direct assault; instead they dug themselves in to engage in daily artillery duels.

Example of pontoon bridge used to quickly cross rivers

Union forces feigned to the right, but crossed the Chattahoochee by the left. Rapidly assembled bridges soon spanned the Chattahoochee, and wagons and men of Sherman’s army were pouring across the waterway to flank the Confederate position. By noon of July 17th Johnston's forces were confronted behind his first line of intrenchments at Peach Tree Creek, prepared in advance for this very occasion.

Johnston was forced once more to retreat. At this critical moment the Confederate Government being dissatisfied with General Johnston, relieved him, and General Hood was substituted to command the Confederate army on July 18, 1864. Thus the significance of the date of William Graham's letter.

To secure the real prize – the city of Atlanta – the Federals had to sever its railroads; four lines radiating out of the city to various vital points of the Confederacy. Once across the Chattahoochee, Sherman controled the first, the Western & Atlantic railroad.

William T. Sherman, leaning on breach of gun, and staff at Federal Fort No. 7 outside Atlanta

William Tecumseh Sherman received recognition for his outstanding command of military strategy as well as criticism for the harshness of the "scorched earth" policies that he implemented in conducting total war against the Confederate States. Military historian Basil Liddell Hart famously declared that Sherman was "the first modern general".[1]

Sherman served under General Ulysses S. Grant in 1862 and 1863 during the campaigns that led to the fall of the Confederate stronghold of Vicksburg on the Mississippi River and culminated with the routing of the Confederate armies in the state of Tennessee. In 1864, Sherman succeeded Grant as the Union commander in the western theater of the war. He proceeded to lead his troops to the capture of the city of Atlanta, a military success that contributed to the re-election of President Abraham Lincoln. Sherman's subsequent march through Georgia and the Carolinas further undermined the Confederacy's ability to continue fighting. He accepted the surrender of all the Confederate armies in the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida in April 1865.

Gen. Joseph Johnston, faced with Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman's advance from Chattanooga to Atlanta in the spring of 1864, reverted to his strategy of withdrawal. He conducted a series of actions in which he prepared strong defensive positions, only to see Sherman maneuver around them, causing him to fall back in the general direction of Atlanta. Johnston saw the preservation of his army as the most important consideration, and hence conducted a very cautious campaign. He handled his army well, slowing the Union advance and inflicting heavier losses than he sustained. On June 27, Johnston defeated Sherman at the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, but the purely defensive victory did not prevent Sherman from continuing his offensive. Critics have claimed that Johnston's strategy was entirely defensive and that his unwillingness to risk an offensive made the chance of a Confederate victory impossible.

Jefferson Davis became increasingly irritated by this strategy and removed Johnston from command on July 17, 1864, shortly before the Battle of Peachtree Creek, just outside of Atlanta. His replacement, Lt. Gen. John Bell Hood, was overly aggressive, but ineffective, losing Atlanta in September and a large portion of his army in the Franklin-Nashville Campaign that winter. Davis's decision to remove Johnston was one of the most controversial of the war.

Joseph Hooker became known as "Fighting Joe" during the Civil War due to civilian clerical error, however the nickname stuck. His military career was not ended by his poor performance in the summer of 1863. He went on to regain a reputation as a solid commander when he was transferred with the 11th and 12th Corps of the Army of the Potomac westward to reinforce the Army of the Cumberland around Chattanooga, Tennessee. Hooker was in command at the Battle of Lookout Mountain, playing an important role in Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's decisive victory at the Battle of Chattanooga. He was brevetted to major general in the regular army for his success at Chattanooga, but he was disappointed to find that Grant's official report of the battle credited his friend William Tecumseh Sherman's contribution over Hooker's.

Hooker led his now 20th Corps (William Graham's Corps) competently in the 1864 Atlanta Campaign under Sherman, but asked to be relieved before the capture of the city because of his dissatisfaction with the promotion of Maj. Gen. Oliver O. Howard to command of the Army of the Tennessee, upon the death of Maj. Gen. James B. McPherson.

Prior to Atlanta, the 107th regiment participated in two more battles after Dallas; Kennesaw Mountain at the end of June and Peachtree Creek two days after this letter was written.

The Battle of Kennesaw Mountain took place on June 27, 1864. On the night of June 18-19, Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, fearing envelopment, withdrew his army to a new, previously selected position astride Kennesaw Mountain. This entrenched arc-shaped line, to the north and west of Marietta, protected the Western & Atlantic Railroad, the supply link to Atlanta. Having defeated General John B. Hood troops at Kolb’s Farm on the 22nd, Sherman was sure that Johnston had stretched his line too thin and, therefore, decided on a frontal attack with some diversions on the flanks. On the morning of June 27, Sherman sent his troops forward after an artillery bombardment. At first, they made some headway overrunning Confederate pickets south of the Burnt Hickory Road, but attacking an enemy that was dug in was futile. The fighting ended by noon, and Sherman suffered high casualties - 3000 to 1000 for the Rebels.

Clement Laird Vallandigham was an Ohio unionist of the Copperhead faction of anti-war, pro-Confederate Democrats during the American Civil War. Vallandigham was a vigorous supporter of constitution states' rights and although personally opposed to slavery, believed that the federal government had no power to regulate the institution. He further believed that the Confederacy had a right to secede and could not constitutionally be conquered militarily. He supported the Crittenden Compromise and proposed (February 20, 1861) a division of the Senate and of the electoral college into four sections, each with a veto. He strongly opposed every military bill, leading his opponents to allege that he wanted the Confederacy to win the war. He was the acknowledged leader of the Copperheads and in May 1862 coined their slogan, "To maintain the Constitution as it is, and to restore the Union as it was."


Commentary

The almost two month gap in William Graham's letters (July 18 to September 9, 1864) leaves out the tedium, interspersed with moments of terror, of the siege of Atlanta. Luckily, I discovered an excerpt of a letter from the 107th Regiment commander, Colonel Nirom Crane, that filled the gap.

Letter from Colonel Nirom M. Crane,
Commander of the 107th N. Y. Vols.
8-12-1864

" My command has suffered terribly. I commenced with the advance of this army last April, with six hundred muskets, and now I have just three hundred and seven fit for duty. I have lost over two hundred and fifty in battle, and am losing more almost every day. I have also lost some of my best and bravest officers, among others Maj. Baldwin. Just now, we are within three hundred yards of the enemy's main line, and are compelled to burrow like rabits to escape the bullets and shells which are aimed at us from every available point and at all hours of day and night. We have laid in the trenches nearly three weeks, and I can assure you, this sort off work is wearing us out very fast—however, we can and do stand it with a good heart. Our army line is now about twelve miles long and I think we are good for the work before us. Hood's army has been very recently strongly reinforced; and how soon we shall take Atlanta I cannot tell, but hope quite strongly."

Federal soldiers relaxing by guns of captured fort during Siege of Atlanta

The Battle of Peachtree Creek occured on July 20, 1864. Under Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, the Army of Tennessee had retired south of Peachtree Creek, an east to west flowing stream, about three miles north of Atlanta. Sherman split his army into three columns for the assault on Atlanta with George H. Thomas’s Army of the Cumberland moving from the north. Johnston had decided to attack Thomas, but Confederate President Jefferson Davis relieved him of command and appointed John B. Hood to take his place. Hood attacked Thomas July 20, 1864 after his army crossed Peachtree Creek. The determined assault threatened to overrun the Union troops at various locations. Ultimately, though, the Yankees held, and the Rebels fell back. Victory went to the Union with the Confederates suffering a level of casualties which they could not long sustain: 4,796 to the Union's 1,710.


Camp of 107th NY near Atlanta, GA
9-7-1864

Libbie Graham

Your welcome letter dated August 23rd has come to hand. But your letter made me feel bad as well as good. I reasoned with myself whether my sister could be so foolish as to turn copperhead. I thought not. I concluded that you wrote more of the spirit around you than you did your own.

Now dear sister, I am going to give you my opinion plainly of things in general. I will say that I have the utmost confidence in the government and Abraham Lincoln as its president. It is the only government at present in the United States.

Every person that don’t do all in their power to help put down the wicked Rebellion I consider as enemies. Those North[erners] that would in word or deed do anything to hinder or discourage those who are laboring to help put down the Rebellion or by their crys of Peace, when there is no peace, encourage the rebels, ought to be sent south of our lines and turned over to Jeff Davis and then let them worship him their idol. Yes sister, I would shoot them far quicker than any southerner for they are a far more dangerous enemy - a cowardly sharkish enemy who are afraid to expose their cowardly [carcasses?].

Anyone who would barter the best and greatest government on the globe off to be ruled by a stinkin aristocracy of slave holders - for if we are whipped in this struggle they are the victors - would soon have the whole country under their control.

I have had a fair chance of seeing how they govern a country. A poor white man has no chance. They won’t allow them to have a foot of land if they can help it and won’t allow any schools where a poor man can afford to send his children. So poor white children grow up in ignorance - perfect tools for the rich can be led by them into anything, as they are in this Rebellion.

I will say in regard to our army that the more we suffer and the more of our comrades we see laid on the ground shedding their life blood caused by a Rebel ball, the more do we feel determined to never give up. The Lord being our helper till the last Reb is killed or throws down his arms. Every day this war continues makes the Union worth more.

Sister if you hear of my death on the battlefield before a month, let no selfish sorrow take hold of you. But say it was the Lord’s will he died that others, the oppressed of all nations, might here have a home in a free country.

As to the Draft, I would say it is hard I know for them to leave those dear ones, but it is no harder than for thousands of those who are now in the field. Let every man who is drafted come or find a substitute without any whining and swell up our army this fall and let no peace man cry till the Rebs do first. My word for it, there won’t be an organized Reb army anywhere next spring.

Now you have my opinion of things & the opinion of the army generally. Now sister I never want to hear you so doubting or despondent again. If you hear anyone (as you will without going far I know), ask them do they want to throw away all the blood and treasure that has been spent since this war began and have the prospect of another bloody war in a few years just for the sake of some selfish purpose or because they are afraid to shoulder a musket and defend the government they live under. He who if called on to fight for this government ought not be permitted to live under it if unwilling to fight for it.

Last friday we left the Chattahoochee River on a reconnaisance to see if the Rebs was still in our front and after skirmishing all over 5 or 6 miles we found their pickets and were returning to camp. The orders come to countermarch back. We had started out without breakfast and had nothing but our guns and our acoutrements and had only three hardtacks [hard bread] with us, expecting to be back in a few hours.

So we went back toward Atlanta and when we had got within 3 or 4 miles of the city our Company[?] sent back word that our forces were going into the city and so we pressed on. When we got within sight of the city we saw the old flag - the Stars and Stripes float over the town - and I tell you there was no copperhead. Cheers went up but one good Union shout.

Well, we marched right in and were surely the first troops in. Oh what a sight on every hand our shells had tore almost every house. Well what would appear to you strange, many a poor woman waved her handkerchief and some had spied [our] old flag crying God Bless you boys. Oh how glad some poor men[?] were who had hid themselves for months waiting for us.

But what desolation! The Rebs had to get out lively and had to burn up train after train of cars laden with valuable supplies, ammunition and artillery. I could not begin to tell you how much they destroyed, but it was awful. General Sherman had cut off every railroad so they could not get out anything. The newspapers will tell you all better than I can but I am telling you from what I can here. By the People[?] this Reb army is most gone up. Sherman has given them a death blow lately.

Well our things came up in the wagons and we are now in camp right in the city doing patrol and guard duty. General Slocum commands our corps and has command here now of the city. I think this corps could hold this place against five times its number of Rebs. We don’t know where is the rest of the army. We hear it is away toward Macon somewhere and if we get that place, Goodby Johnny Reb in this part of the Confederacy.

Well I will send you some old reb newspapers before long and some trinkets. You need not send me anymore tobacco for the people gave us lots of it. I have got all I can smoke in three months if the Lord spares me. I had a letter from the doctor lately. He said father was well. You must take care of yourself. For if the Lord is willing, I want to spend happy days with you when this wicked rebellion is put down. I would hope we will get payed off before long.

Commentary

[Note at top of letter - Don’t show this letter to anybody, it is so badly written. On side - I have had sweet potatoes today & different good things. Excuse the writing for the ink won’t flow.]

Abraham Africanus I is a rare Copperhead political pamphlet from 1864 that satirically depicts Abraham Lincoln making a pact with the Devil to become the monarchical ruler of the United States
The Copperheads were a vocal group of Democrats in the Northern United States who opposed the American Civil War, wanting an immediate peace settlement with the Confederates. The name Copperheads was given to them by their opponents, the Republicans, because the venomous, although not usually deadly, copperhead snake can strike without warning (unlike a rattlesnake). The Copperheads nominally favored the Union and strongly opposed the war, for which they blamed abolitionists, and they demanded immediate peace and resisted draft laws. They wanted Lincoln and the Republicans ousted from power, seeing the president as a tyrant who was destroying American republican values with his despotic and arbitrary actions.

This letter was written during the campaign leading up to the 1864 election where Abraham Lincoln won a second term. Sherman's capture of Atlanta contributed to Lincoln's victory at the polls. Lincoln had been a Republican but he ran under the National Union Party banner against his former top Civil War general, the Democratic candidate, George B. McClellan, and the Radical Republican Party candidate, John C. Frémont.

Jefferson Davis was President of the Confederate States. At the adoption of an ordinance of secession by Mississippi on January 9, 1861, Davis resigned from the United States Senate (where he was a senator from Mississippi) and returned to Mississippi. On February 9, 1861, a Constitutional convention at Montgomery, Alabama named him provisional President of the Confederate States of America and he was inaugurated on February 18, 1861. In meetings of his own Mississippi legislature, Davis had argued against secession; but when a majority of the delegates opposed him, he gave in.

William Graham's description of the ruling forces in the South as a stinkin aristocracy of slaveholders is probably the most vivid depiction in these letters of his strong feelings regarding the Confederacy. Remaining a loyal soldier of the Union army for almost three years through numerous battles, despite a debilitating illness, backs his words with strong action.

Woodcut of early schoolroom, 1826-27

Public education, whether for whites or blacks, was nonexistent in the South before slavery ended. Wealthy whites sent first their sons and later their daughters off to private schools and colleges in the North and England. They objected to paying taxes to support education for those with lesser means regardless of race.

As soon as slavery ended, freed people began setting up schools all over the South. Many southern whites were shocked, appalled, infuriated by this phenomenon. Some responded by burning down schools, threatening teachers, whipping and killing black teachers and writing editorials dripping with disgust.

Eventually though, some white elites began to notice that former slaves were outpacing poor whites on the educational front. Powerful whites began to discuss the need to provide schooling for poor whites. Then, during Congressional Reconstruction when black men and white Northern Republicans were elected to legislatures in the South, states passed laws that provided for public schooling for whites and blacks and imposed taxes to fund the schools.

William Graham's words, "... that others, the oppressed of all nations, might here have a home in a free country." signify by this poor Irish immigrant (1) a strong bond with poor immigrants from throughout the world and (2) his powerful feelings of appreciation for the value placed on the individual in his adopted country.

There was no general military draft in America until the Civil War. The Confederacy passed its first of 3 conscription acts 16 April 1862, and scarcely a year later the Union began conscripting men. Government officials plagued with manpower shortages regarded drafting as the only means of sustaining an effective army and hoped it would spur voluntary enlistments.

Union Pickets
Union pickets relaxing after successful siege of Atlanta

But compulsory service embittered the public, who considered it an infringement on individual free will and personal liberty and feared it would concentrate arbitrary power in the military. Believing with some justification that unwilling soldiers made poor fighting men, volunteer soldiers despised conscripts. Conscription nurtured substitutes, bounty-jumping, and desertion. Charges of class discrimination were leveled against both Confederate and Union draft laws since exemption and commutation clauses allowed propertied men to avoid service, thus laying the burden on immigrants and men with few resources. Occupational, only-son, and medical exemptions created many loopholes in the laws. Unpopular, unwieldy, and unfair, conscription raised more discontent than soldiers.

Hood evacuated Atlanta on September 1, 1864 and the 20th Corps took possession the next morning. Thus essentially closing the Atlanta Campaign.

Sherman pursued Hood to Lovejoy but found him concentrated with his entire command in a position that was too strong to be assaulted. Union forces returned to Atlanta September 4-8, 1864.

Thomas's command (Army of the Cumberland - where William Graham and the 107th Regiment fought) occupied the town, Howard's (Army of the Tennessee) was located at East Point, and Schofield's (Army of the Ohio) was at Decatur. Unable to advance farther, but determined to hold his gains, Sherman evacuated the Southern civilians from the city and converted it into an armed camp that could be held with the smallest possible force. Sherman in November cut loose from his base in Atlanta and undertook his March To The Sea.

General Henry Warner Slocum (September 24, 1827 – April 14, 1894), was a Union general during the American Civil War and later served in the United States House of Representatives from New York. During the war, he was one of the youngest major generals in the Army and fought numerous major battles in the Eastern Theater and in Georgia and the Carolinas. Controversy arose from his conduct at the Battle of Gettysburg, where he was accused of indecision and a dilatory advance to the battlefield, earning him the derogatory nickname "Slow Come".

 Slocum was born in Delphi, a hamlet in Onondaga County, New York. He attended Cazenovia Seminary and worked as a teacher. He obtained an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point, where he did well academically—considerably better than his roommate, Philip Sheridan.

As indicated in William Graham's letter, General Slocum now commands the 20th Corps. General Joseph Hooker asked to be relieved and Sherman replaced him with Slocum.


Camp of 107th NY Atlanta, GA
10-12-1864

Libbie Graham 

I will commence this letter for you but the Lord knows when you will get it or whether you will ever get it or no. For we have no communication with the North at present nor have we had in over two weeks. Yes dear sister we are cut off from those dear ones at home - no letters, no newspapers, no news of any kind - except a telegraph dispatch once in a while that General Slocum gets from General Sherman. We have that read to us when it comes but that kind of news is very short.

Well this is the first time since we came into the service that we had the Rebel army in our rear. Now we have Rebs in front of us, Rebs on each side of us, and Rebs in the rear of us. Surrounded by enemys. No friends to write to nor [accessible?] except that Heavenly Friend, that God in whom we trust ourselves and our course knowing that He will bring everything round right in the end.

There are no troops in Atlanta but our Corps, the 20th. All the rest of the army went back toward Chattanooga several weeks ago. General Slocum has command of the city. I think that the greatest part of the Rebel army has gone in our rear. General Sherman’s forces has cleaned them off of the Railroad. But they desttoyed so much of the road that we have had no trains through from Nashville in a long time. We expect communication to be opened in a few days.

I suppose the Rebs thought they would starve us out of here. In that I think they will be mistaken for we get full rations of the most of things. We are not very plenty of meat but we would all willingly live on half rations a month or 6 months before we would let them have this place back. As to their taking it by force they would have a good time. They have got the old 20th Corps here, that single [stem?] that never broke for them.

Well sister I suppose you would want a long letter seeing you have not heard from me in so long. So here it is. This old blank book affords good long paper and I know you won’t care what kind of paper I write on if I only write.

I must tell you how we get along here now. We have got good [?enty] built in our regiment. You know our regiment and the 141st and 19th Michigan volunteers and 66th Ohio are under command of Col. Crane (our Colonel) doing the city guard duty so we have a good place and light duty.

Well as I told you, I and my tent mate have a nice little shanty, table and chairs and stove dishes. Furnished right up to the [handle?] for a soldier’s house. You would laugh if you could see our little notions fixed up, chairs and everything. Well just such a place, such a castle as your fancy pictured when you were a little girl building play houses as a model of perfection for a little house.

Well we have not got payed off yet but the paymaster is here. We have signed the payroll and we expect it [any] day. I will send you some when I get it.

We heard Richmond had fell and then we heard it had not. God grant that it may before long.

Write soon. Remember me to Anna, Mr. & Mrs. Scoby and God bless my sister. Your affectionate brother, William Graham

Commentary

Wagon train in Union occupied Atlanta

20th Corps - The Twentieth Corps started, May 4, 1864, on the Atlanta campaign, and during the next four months participated in all the important battles, its hardest fighting occurring at Resaca, May 15th, at New Hope Church, May 25th, and at Peach Tree Creek, July 20th. It was also actively engaged in the investment and siege of Atlanta, sustaining losses daily in killed and wounded while occupying the trenches.

During the four months fighting from Chattanooga to Atlanta, it lost over 7,000 men killed, wounded and missing. Before reaching Atlanta, Hooker had a disagreement with Sherman, and asked to be relieved. He was succeeded by Major-General Henry W. Slocum, the former commander of the Twelfth Corps, and one of the ablest generals in the Union armies. Upon Hood's evacuation of Atlanta, some troops of the Twentieth Corps--Coburn's Brigade of Ward's Division--were the first to enter and occupy the city, the entire corps remaining there to hold their important prize, while Sherman and the rest of the Army marched in pursuit of Hood.

Chattanooga - Abraham Lincoln was keenly aware of the importance of Chattanooga (city history). The President had said that, "...taking Chattanooga is as important as taking Richmond." Rails from the city linked major distribution centers of the Confederacy; it was a key in his plan to "divide and conquer" the Confederacy.  

Colonel Nirom M. Crane - Civil War Union Brevet Brigadier General. First served in the Civil War as Lieutenant Colonel of the 23rd New York Volunteer Infantry. He was then detailed to the staff of Major General John F. Reynolds, serving as his Assistant Inspector General. He then served as the Deputy Provost-Marshal-General of the Army of the Potomac before being promoted to Colonel and commander of the 107th New York Volunteer Infantry, which he led at the Battle of Gettysburg (where a monument to his regiment stands on Slocum Avenue, near Spangler's Spring). His unit was soon transferred to William T. Sherman's Army in the South, with whom he led the regiment in the Atlanta Campaign, the March to the Sea, and the operations in the Carolinas that ended the War in that region. Colonel Crane occasionally commanded a Provisional Brigade during that time. He was brevetted Brigadier General, US Volunteers on March 13, 1865 for "gallant and meritorious services during the recent campaign in Georgia and the Carolinas".

Richmond - Richmond, Virginia, served as the capital of the Confederate States of America during the vast majority of the American Civil War. It was the target of numerous attempts by the United States Army to seize possession of the capital, finally falling to the Federals in April 1865. Not only was Richmond the seat of political power for the Confederacy, it served as an important source of munitions, armament, weapons, supplies, and manpower for the Confederate States Army.


The above is the last letter of William Graham of which I am aware as of 2012.

H Graem © 2008