My paternal grandmother lived in Virginia her whole life, and told me stories about how her grandfather, an officer with Gen. Lee, told her of how they had no rations but whiskey and water as they retreated toward Appomattox. My maternal grandmother was born in Pueblo, Colorado, and her grandfather was a Union officer with a Michigan artillery battalion. Here is one of his letters to his wife during the height of the fighting.
Joseph Tuley Wright V
In Sight of Atlanta, July 23rd 1864
About 10 yesterday we were ordered to take a position on a rise of ground in sight of the city and fortify. We took our cannoniers picks and shovels and started leaving our horses and guns until we had got a breastwork fixed.
The Rebels at this time were throwing their shells at us from their works. Shell after shell came crashing through the trees, bursting, throwing the cast iron in every direction. Some of them would strike the ground, throwing the dust all over us, but we kept steady at work and got a detail of 50 infantrymen to assist us. In 2 hours we had a work sufficient to protect us, got our guns and got them in position and went at them, throwing shells at their forts and into the city. At the same time we were doing this, there was the heaviest fighting on our left I have heard in the campaign. The Roar of the artillery and sharp crack of the rifles was enough to sicken the worst of the fighting.
Gen. McPherson who was in command of the army of the Mississippi Consisting of the 15th, 10th and 17th Army Corps was killed yesterday about 4 p.m. He was a good officer and we mourn his loss.
The 16th Corps, commanded by Gen. Dodge was marching by a flank and was attacked by two Rebel Divisions commanded by Hood and Hardy. They drove our men back with a great loss to us of men besides the Generals, Gen. Cox commanding the 3rd Division of our corps went to reinforce him, charged the rebels, drove them back, capturing a large number.
In a very short time they rallied their forces and made another charge. Our men repulsed them, killing a large number. They retreated leaving their dead and wounded in our hands.
The Army of the Mississippi is on our left, the Army of the Ohio is in the center consisting of 2 divisions commanded by Gen. Cox and Gen. Hascall and fourth division commanded by Gen. Schofield. The Army of the Cumberland consists of 3 corps commanded by Gen, Thomas which are 4th, 14th, and 20th.
Saturday the 23rd, it has been very quiet around the City. We fire at their works once in 15 minutes. They reply on or in about an hour. I think they do not want to draw our fire on account of the City. We can fire in any part of the City we wish to with our guns.
We have a position on the southeast side of town. Our troops are cutting and building a road around the town as far as our lines extend so we can reinforce any part of the army in a short time.
Atlanta is certainly about to be besieged.
It is now almost sun down. Some of the boys are at work on the fortifications, some are reading the
news, others are telling large stories and a few are hunting grey backs, and a band is playing some national airs.
We drove the enemy from this place yesterday about 10 a.m. and commenced to build works under a heavy fire of artillery, but now have changed. We have a good work in front of our guns and the infantry have built their lines of works. It would take 3 times our number to drive us out of here now.
It has not been a day of rest for us, although we have not had any fighting it has been very quiet along our line today. We have not fired a shot today, we have been fortifying all day. Some of the batteries have fired a few shots into town. We think we are very well protected now from the enemy’s guns. Our loss on the 22nd is not so severe as first learned. We lost in killed and wounded about one thousand men. The Rebs lost more than that number killed. Our men have buried one thousand yesterday and they were not all buried yet.
I presume their loss in killed, wounded and prisoners will exceed 5 thousand men.
God only know what suffering this war has cost. I can stand and see thousands of men from our works
of our Army and are within sight of 5 of our batteries and as many of that number of Reb cannon. I can also see the Reb Army lines and ours and the crack of the sharp-shooters or both sides with now and then the roar of cannon.
Our flags are flying from over the line of work and our dog tents look like a lot of Shanghi hen coops.
Such is camp life. Please excuse this poor writing and spelling and show this letter to no one is the wish of your soldier boy.
My foot is quite large yet but not enough to keep me away from my command.
I write this on my knee and in haste.
Capt. Marshal M. Miller