The Civil War History of the 57th Indiana (#25)
“The weather was intensely hot, and after our works were completed and timber chopped down, we were exposed to the scorching rays of the sun. Much of the time during the day we were obliged to be in the trenches; and it was necessary to have our means of protection from the sun as well as the enemy. Each company forthwith commenced building an arbor of brush, which was placed on forks several feet above the works.
“At night, one third of the men were to be awake and on duty; and all were ordered to have their accoutrements on. A regiment was sent each day to the skirmish line where it would remain for twenty-four hours. Then it was relieved in a regular rotation. Although there was a great deal of firing done by the enemy’s artillery, and some of them sixty-four pounders, there was rarely anyone hurt behind our main line of works.
“Our lines were all the time being extended on the right. The work of extending and strengthening our lines continued until near twenty miles long, and still the enemy presented a force in front of our right wing. Any attempt on our part to assault the impregnable line of forts and entrenchments which surrounded Atlanta would have resulted in a useless sacrifice of human life.
“Gen. Sherman now devised a bold and important movement which would give us the substantial fruits of a victory. We challenge the annals of history for an example superior to the one displayed by him in so completely deceiving the enemy and keeping them in total ignorance of his plan until it was nearly consummated. The 20th Corps were ordered to take the position on the Chattahoocie River near Vining’s Station to prevent the enemy from making movement toward Marietta, while all the other forces of the vast army were to join in the contemplated expedition to the rear of Atlanta.
“At precisely 11 o’clock P.M., August 25th, the left of Sherman’s army evacuated the line of works, cut loose from its base, and took up the line of march to the right and rear of Atlanta. Falling back by way of Peachtree Creek battle ground, we continued our movement until we could see the morning star, when we halted for a short nap.
“After breakfast, we moved on, and it will long be remembered by those who engaged in it as one of the most trying scenes connected with our marching experience. The heat was almost suffocating and water very scarce. At 1 o’clock a halt was called. There were not more than twenty or thirty men of each regiment present with their colors. On September 27th the 4th Corps marched five miles, again taking position on the extreme right. Whenever a position was taken for the night, or even a few hours, our lines were formed fronting toward Atlanta, and a line of works thrown up.
“Hood, now fully awake to the importance of decided action, moved two Corps of the rebel army - Hardee’s and Loring’s - down the Macon Road to Rough and Ready, Ga., where they established a line covering the railroad, and fortifies it. Our advance was gradually continued toward Rough and Ready, while Gen. Howard with the Army of the Tennessee was sent on to Jonesboro, Ga.
“On the morning of September 1st the position of the different armies was as follows: Howard confronted Hardee at Jonesboro, who was in a strong line of works with his right resting on the railroad line, one mile north of town. The 4th, 14th, and 23rd Corps were on the road toward Atlanta. Hood, with a fragment of his army, was still persisting in his fanatical purpose of “holding Atlanta.” But it required one more day’s operations on the part of Gen. Sherman to convince him that Atlanta would soon be untenable. The thrilling and important events of that day were to bring to a successful and glorious termination to or long and arduous campaign. The army was confident in the ability of its great commander to lead them to a complete victory.
“Our 4th Corps was ordered to destroy the railroad in its advance south. We commenced at once upon the task to which we were assigned, and by 4 o’clock P.M. we had torn up the track, burned the ties, and heated and bent the rails, so that they were unfit for use, to within two miles of Jonesboro. Orders were now received to move forward and form our lines. While the troops were forming, Gen. Newton (Division Commander) rode up to Gen. Wagner (Brigade Commander) and told him to send out the best regiment as skirmishers. ‘I’ll give you the 57th, and that’s as good as I’ve got,’ said Wagner, as he gave orders for the 57th to advance to the front.
“The regiment deployed at intervals of five paces, and at the sound of the bugle moved forward. We soon found the enemy and fighting commenced. With slight loss we drove back the outposts of the enemy, and took possession of a skirt of timber within three hundred yards of the rebel line. Between us laid an open meadow and beyond was another piece of timber in which the enemy was posted. Darkness was about to close the scene when a charge was ordered. In the dark and confusion the other regiments of our brigade were moved to the right of our position. When the line of battle moved forward on the charge, Col. Opdyke, then commanding the 3rd Brigade, with the 15th Missouri and the 12th Ohio, advanced in the rear of the 57th. This mistake caused but a momentary pause, and when the line dashed forward across the open field, driving the enemy from their rifle pits, and capturing few prisoners, who remained. The timber in our front was so thick, and the night so dark, that no further movement was attempted; but the 57th remained on duty, and stood up in line all night, ready for any desperate move the enemy might make.
“At 2 o’clock A.M., we could plainly hear the sound of the explosion at Atlanta, where the enemy was blowing up their arsenals, machine shops, and magazines. When day dawned the enemy were gone, and our forces quietly took possession of the town of Jonesboro. After waiting two hours to draw rations and bury our dead, we marched in pursuit.
“Six miles south of Jonesboro, at Lovejoy’s Station, the enemy took a strong position, and waited our approach. As we neared the rebel lines, the 4th and 15th Corps were massed for a charge; but none was made. Once more our lines were established and earth works thrown up.
“On Saturday, September 3rd, Gen. Sherman issued to his victorious army a congratulatory order containing the welcome tidings that Atlanta was ours, and “fairly won.”
“A detachment of cavalry, sent by Gen. Sherman to ascertain the cause of the heavy explosions on the night of the 1st, returned with intelligence that the enemy evacuated in great disorder the same night, and that our forces on the north, under Gen. Slocum, had taken possession of the city, which was formally surrendered by the mayor and a deputation of citizens.
“As announced in the order from Gen. Sherman, the objective point of our campaign was gained, and we were now to have a season of rest. We remained in the line of works before Lovejoy Station until midnight of the 5th. We then withdrew to Jonesboro, and remained until the morning of the 7th, when we commenced the march to Atlanta. At night we camped seven miles south; and on the morning of the 8th of September, with colors floating and bands playing, the 4th Army Corps marched triumphantly through the streets of the conquered city.”
(Atlanta Campaign, northern Georgia, August-September, 1864)
Excerpts taken from “Annals of the Fifty-Seventh Regiment, Indiana Volunteer Infantry: Marches, Battles, and Incidents of Army Life” written by Asbury L. Kerwood immediately after the war.