Throughout the war when Union troops came upon
an area abandoned by the rebels, they would find the boxes and
crates used for rebel ammunition and war materiel. Most were
marked "Made in Atlanta." Many of the southern railroads
used for military and commerce went through Atlanta. It was the
geographic, business, manufacturing and supply center for the
south. It had to be taken and taken by Election Day November 1864.
McClelland was running against Lincoln on a platform of allowing
secession. He was getting a lot of interest and would likely win
in November if the war were not turned around.
Gettysburg was a valiant defense. Petersburg was a site of
heavy battle. But the Union was not winning the war and the
sentiment from England and Europe had gone sour due to their need
for the south’s cotton. What does this have to do with our hero
Pvt. Williams? Everything. The 91st is now needed to
help carry out the capture of Atlanta. No more skirmishes so much
as full out war between large Corps with Sherman against Gen. Joe
Johnston. Johnston is outnumbered but he is determined to resist
Sherman to the best of his ability.
While the 91st is fighting in the Gap, Sherman is
marshalling his Army of three main Corps to move on Atlanta down
the railway starting in Cleveland outside Chattanooga Tennessee
near the Georgia border. The plan is then to push Johnston back
south. This would mean fighting their way into Georgia through the
cities of Ringold, Dalton, Resaca, Rome, Kingston, Cartersville,
Acworth, Kennesaw, Marietta and Smyrna just to get to the
outskirts of Atlanta. If the Western Atlantic railroad could be
kept intact, it could support a long supply line down to Atlanta
and to the sea.
The 91st arrives in Cleveland on Sunday May 22nd
by railroad from Knoxville via Sweetwater and Athens. Stayed three
days. Holder writes, "It is a rite purty town, and I received
a letter from home." On that same Sunday, religious services
are held on both sides. In the headquarters of the rebel armies,
Gen. Polk puts his bishop’s robe over his uniform and preaches
to a large assemblage that includes Johnston and Hodd, two recent
converts. Sherman stays in his office where he hears a Kingston
church bell ringing—he has the ringer arrested.
The 91st proceed by rail 28 miles to Dalton in
Georgia where a hard battle had been fought 10 days earlier. And
it is not many miles from the bloody Chickamauga battleground.
Then to Resaca 17 miles below where earlier Union casualties
totaled 3000. Then they arrive at Kingston (of church bell fame)
on the 26th where they went on "chain guard and
heard cannonading to the south." They do not know it but on
May 27th a battle line has formed at New Hope Church
just south of them. And on May 28th the battle of
Dallas Georgia is on. On May 30th and 31st
the 91st "saw many wounded and 100
prisoners." They left Kingston and marched 14 miles to the
front on June 1, 1864. "Pickets was attacked and 1 man killed
and 2 wounded." On that same day a Sergeant Hager of the 20th
Corps at the front line writes his wife, "We are exposed to
sharpshooters all day and heavy firing at night….the boys are
very much tired out. Few men can look on death with indifference
…especially under such appalling circumstances." That June
1st day was another hot, sultry humid day like every
day since the terrible thunderstorm of the night of May 25th.
Also on June 1st , Gen. Logan’s 20th Corps
arrives to Join Sherman’s forces. Also on that day Sherman’s
cavalry secures the railroad all the way south to Acworth. On June
2nd it rains all day, heavy at times. It is relief from
humidity. But later in the summer it will be their demon. It rains
so hard that night that Gen. Cox periodically sticks out one boot
and then the other as he rides to drain some of the rainwater out.
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