Williams Family from Evansville, Indiana


On June 3rd the 91st crossed the Etowah River and marched a total of 15 miles to Allatoona. The Etowah is the last large river before coming to the Chattahoochee outside Atlanta. The 23rd erects a pontoon bridge to replace the bridges destroyed by the rebels. Shortly after crossing Sherman hears one of his supply wagon trains was overtaken by Wheeler’s cavalry and some of the wagons burned. The remaining 70 are taken back south. More bad news on the 3rd. Grant has thrown his 100,000 men against Lee’s 45,000 along a six mile front at Cold Harbor, nine miles east of Richmond. More than 7000 northerners were killed or wounded. Many with their names pinned to their jackets in expectation of the worst. The southern loss is only 1200. Meade conducted the attack but Grant takes the blame. He rally needs some good new in the west. But most of the northerner population feel the eastern war to be the more important. This even though the whole eastern war is fought in one small part of one state. Rain continues on June 4th.

At Allatoona the 91st rejoined Gen. Schofield’s XXIII Army of the Ohio. They were assigned to Gen. Hascall’s 2nd Division, in the first Brigade under Col.? Cooper. In that Brigade also are the 25th Michigan, 3rd Tennessee and 6th Tennessee Regiments. Catton says the 23rd was hardly more than an Army Corps and not the three Corps listed. Gen. Thomas had the main force. Right away, as part of the 23rd, the 91st sees "heavy skirmishing on their left" through June 5th. Then on the 6th the rebels in front of the 91st fell back according to Pvt. Holder. Castel says they fell back to Lost Mountain

Gen. Joe Johnston is not counter attacking and is methodically falling back to the consternation of President Jefferson Davis of the CSA. But he has confidence in Johnston. Jefferson Davis put Johnston in charge after Gen. Bragg seemed to not be able to win. From Catton’s book, "Bragg had made hash of his Kentucky invasion in the late summer of 1862, he had let victory slip through his grasp at Murfreesboro, and he had utterly failed to make proper use of his great victory at Chickamauga (near Chattanooga). After Chattanooga, Davis removed him and brought him to Richmond on his staff. Johnston was put in his place. Davis and Johnston disliked each other but Davis felt it was the right thing to do. Johnston was trusted and even revered by his 60,000 men.

Johnston and Grant are very different generals. Yet both share the same basic viewpoint of the war that drove their strategies. Grant made his known after being installed as the head of all the armies in March 1863. Both men felt that land and position was not as important as wearing down the other side. Armies had to be destroyed to win the war. As long as the rebels were still fighting, the war would go on and time was on the rebels’ side. This drove Grant to order Sherman to attack and it drove Johnston to always retreat when he felt his losses were unacceptable. Jeff Davis and most southerners did not share Johnston’s opinion. Davis wired Johnston at Allatoona that Johnston’s decision May 18th to retreat from Resaca was very disappointing. Historians said Davis pulled his punch because he was really furious. Johnston answers several days later that it would be too hazardous not to. In Castell’s book, he says Lee had not found attacking a superior force of 120,000 with the same number of troops Johnston has. And Johnston’s decision could demoralize Lee’s troops in the east. These chickens will come home to roost later. Meanwhile in Atlanta the newspapers support Johnston and proclaim over and over that he will hold Sherman at bay in north Georgia. When Johnston retreated several times, the papers said he had planned this all along and was waiting for the time to destroy Sherman (and our hero Pvt. Williams).

On June 4th, Col. Butterfield reports the 91st Indiana Volunteer Regiment was assigned to the First Brigade, Second Division, twenty Third Army Corps…and participated in it’s various movements until June 10th. It should also be mentioned that Johnston and Sherman both have excellent engineering support. Sherman uses his to erect hasty but strong fortifications as they move south. Johnston preplans the next retreat and has strong fortifications built ahead of time. This will save many of his men and make life difficult for the Union troops including Pvt. Williams.

On June 6th, Pvt. Holder writes, "Weather warm, country broken land, good but rocky, our line of battle at Altunia Mountian is 13 miles long. This may be called one fite, it coemst at Altunia Mountian the 5th day of May, with some intermissions, we drove Johnson’s Army a distance of 7 or 8 miles and driving them, and they are hard to drive, we marched ½ mile to breast works and camped a general move up toward the rail road. And June 7th- All quite, we marched 1-1/2 miles east and campt, land better, cotton a plenty. June 8th- Went to a meeting, preaching by George Miller, in Georgia of the 3rd Tennessee Regiment." Note the preacher was also part of Hascall’s Division and Coopers 1st Brigade.

Pvt. Holder doesn’t speak of hot sultry days. He is used to them in West Franklin. He also doesn’t speak of lice, but some letters home from Union troops do. Every chance the soldiers get they peel off their shirts and grasp the lice hard in their fingers to kill them. When there is any break in action, they peel of all their clothes and boil them and leave to dry. This takes time and they don’t worry about appearances sitting around with blankets or rubber panchos. This procedure gives several days of relief. The cavalries of both sides have little relief due to their need for constant patrolling.

An interesting story occurred at Allatoona pass much later after the 91st Indiana passed through. After the fall of Atlanta, Confederate Gen. Hood returned to the area to wreck the Union communication lines including those through Allatoona Pass. Union Gen. Corse was under siege for a Confederate division at the "Star" fort at the pass. He wired Gen. Sherman that he needed reinforcements immediately and didn’t think he could hold on. Sherman wired him back saying, "Hold the fort for I am coming". Sherman did and the fort was saved. Word got around and someone wrote a church song that became famous with the same title. Back to the action.

Castell says during the two weeks preceding June 7th, Gen. Johnston anticipated Sherman’s thrust around Johnston’s left and obtained defensive victories at New Hope Church and (widow) Pickett’s Mill. But he could be faulted for not blocking Sherman’s shift to Acworth. The victories did boost morale which had sagged so low they had to shoot 16 deserters en masse as a deterrent. But in the past month Sherman has marched 80 miles into Georgia. Sherman has about 100,000 men at this point to Johnston’s 70,000. The conditions at the front are so bad that many men on both sides are finding excuses to lag behind the lines pretending to be foraging or nursing or whatever. Sherman calls them "skulkers" and orders them shot. Any commanders not doing so will not be favored. In doing so, he also was battling outrages by some of the men against the population. Polk does some of the same on the rebel side.

Sherman’s objective is the same –Marietta and the Chattahoochee River above Atlanta. He tells subordinates he will not run headlong into fortifications. A small part of Sherman’s armies is unique. It is the 1st Alabama Cavalry. Many had scars of dog bites from rebel soldiers trying to keep them in the south. Crossing the Etowah, Chaplain Hight remarked, "who would ever think that someday black and white southerners would be a part of the army invading Georgia?" About this time, according to Castell, one noted Posey County Hoosier, Gen. Hovey, threatens Schofield he will resign if all the ten Indiana regiments he recruited during the winter should be under his command instead of only five. Sherman decides Hovey has to go. He is a politician general and has done way more than his part to help the cause but his ambition is now hurting.

On June 8th the Republican Party (temporarily called the Union party) nominates Lincoln again. Andrew Johnson as vice president. On June 10th Sherman advances with Schofield (and the 91st ) on his right. Stoneman’s Division of cavalry protects Schofield’s flank. From the 91st perspective Pvt Holder says "marched 4 miles and halted in a ½ mile of the rebs, and comenst schrimishing, some heavy cananading." This is the 7th straight day of rain and slippery red mud that bogs everything down. Boots and wagons stuck in mud. The 23rd Corps Army of the Ohio is stopped on the on the Sandtown Road ½ mile north of Gilgal Church in front of confederate fortifications. In Atlanta a day of prayer is called for to beseech for the defeat of Sherman. Sherman meanwhile is at the top of a long steep grade of the railroad called Big Shanty. He can see the mountain tops between him and Atlanta-- Brush, Pine, Lost and Kennesaw Mountain peaks. On their summits signal stations are wigwagging and defensive works being prepared. Sherman’s staff falsely feels a general fight isn’t expected here. More rain. Commissary wagons can’t always get through. Someplace the 23rd soldiers are offering 50 cents for a piece of hard tack and eating grass considered sheep graze. On June 10th, according to Col. Butterfield, "the 91st was put in position in front of the enemy’s works which were situated on Pine Ridge. The regiment remained in this position until the morning of June 15th, up to which time no casualties occurred."

About this time the Etowah Bridge is completed and a locomotive appears after 3 weeks of separation. Sherman is extremely happy and orders it to traverse back and forth blowing its whistle. This even though it brings the wrath of the rebels in the form of cannonading. The 23rd is ordered to push on to Gilgal Church and Pine Mountain. The rebels are worried Sherman is sending Schofield around their western flank to Roswell on the Chattahoochee. They spread their forces to defend over a ten-mile length and Johnston gets worried they are too spread to hold the line. Sunday June 12th still raining. Sherman hears that Gen. Forrest with 3,,500 cavalry defeated 8,000 Union cavalry and soldiers in Northern Mississippi and captured 200 wagons. Many rebels hope Forrest will be turned loose on Sherman’s communication and supply lines down to Gilgal Church and Big Shanty on the railroad. For orientation here it should be noted that the following locations are roughly on a line from west to east: Dallas, New Hope Church, Pickett’s Mill, Gilgal Church and Big Shanty (the furthest east and on the railroad). These locations are roughly just north of a line of mountains from west to east called Elsberry, Lost and Kennesaw Mountains. They can easily be seen from tall buildings in downtown Atlanta across the Chattahoochee. On June 14th the rain stops but Pvt Holder takes no notice in his diary. He does mention the "heavy firing on our left…heavy cannonading and on the 15th a man in the 91st is killed (not on the Company A list)." This, as the rebels were pushed back again and 91st took over their works.

A strange occurrence happens on June 14th when Sherman travels to the foot of Pine Mt. He sees a group of rebels on the summit and asks for three volleys of cannon fire to show his troops the rebels cannot taunt him. Unbeknownst to Sherman the group on the mountaintop includes generals Johnston, Hardee and Polk. The 5th Indiana Battery is given the order and they fire several shots to establish the range followed by the ordered three volleys in salvos. The first shot goes over the heads of the group. They seem defiant and do not take cover. Then as salvos rain down, one of the large cannon balls passes through the chest and instantly kills General Polk. Johnston and Hardee are almost overcome with grief on the spot and the troops mourned their loss as the news traveled around. It is quite possible that Pvt. Williams was on of the witnesses to this event. That same day Sherman gets the message that Gen. John Hunt Morgan had been routed while making another foray into Kentucky. But Forrest is on the loose and the danger to the Atlanta campaign worries Sherman.

June 15 is another fair weather day at the front. Col. Butterfield records, "The enemy haven been driven from his works, orders were received to move, and the Ninety-first, in company with the other regiments of the (First) Brigade, advanced in line of battle and took possession of the rebel works at 3 p.m. June 15." He further reports, …at 4 p.m. on the 15th, "in obedience to orders from the brigade commander, the regiment advanced with the brigade a distance of half a mile, driving the enemy and sustaining a loss of 8 men killed and wounded. As this advance was merely a demonstration, the regiment was ordered to fall back to its line of work, where it remained until the next day." This is also the day when one man, of the 91st, as previously mentioned, was killed. A summary of the 91st Indiana Volunteer Infantry battles states," on the 15th the regiment was engaged in the fight that caused the enemy to abandon his strong position on Pine Mountain." Sherman senses a general pullback and orders the 23rd to take Gilgal Church and threaten Lost Mountain. Schofield finds he cannot even reach the intersection of Marietta and Sandtown Roads west of Gilgal Church. On the 16th, Gen. Thomas of the 23rd comes to the front of Kennesaw Mountain where Sherman expects no big resistance. Thomas has the 5th Indiana Battery and others open fire on the fortifications on the mountain. Captain Simonson of the 5th, who was able to kill Gen. Polk with cannon fire 55 hours earlier, crawled forward on his stomach rolling a log to get a better view. This master artilleryman was killed by a Confederate sniper’s shot to his head. The rebel sniper was later captured and said he "got him on the third shot." Col. Butterfield reported of the 91st Indiana that day, "Another advance was made over the same ground (as the day before) under brisk fire from the enemy’s skirmishers, a number of whom were killed and taken prisoners in our front. After advancing half a mile the regiment (91st) halted and threw up works. Where it remained until the next morning (17th)

At Gilgal Church the 23rd Corps realizes the rebel is vulnerable to cannon fire and Cox’s 3rd Division move around to the right to set up a cross fire that proves very effective. The 23rd Corps is now ready to turn Johnston’s left as he himself had feared earlier. Thomas is ordered to press forward not knowing the strength and resolve of the rebels on Kennesaw Mountain. To Pvt. Holder and many of the 91st, these days were all pretty much the same: "Fighting all day, didn’t get far, drove rebs out of their works."

On that day of June 17th,Sherman’s plans start working and then come to a full stop. All Union forces that day meet large numbers of dug in Confederates. Hascall’s Division (including the 91st ) is ordered to find a way to outflank the enemy on the right. Pvt. Holder’s notes only say that on the 19th the 91st "marches 2 miles" while "fighting all day". The official regimental report from Col. Butterfield says, At 8 AM the regiment in company with the (First) Brigade, advanced from 3 to 4 miles without any loss, went into position, where it remained until June 19th, when it advanced two miles without opposition, went into position, where we remained until June 22.

Sherman is very upset at events of the day of the 17th and is so enraged at Thomas that Sherman sends a private letter to Grant venting his feelings saying Thomas and his troops are not determined enough—this is a little self serving and Sherman knows Grant dislikes Thomas. But Grant has troubles of his own when a major offensive to cross the James River fails. It should not have. June 20th brings more rain and mud. Schofield is bogged down crossing Nose’s Creek although he did cross Mud River. Meanwhile the artillery has been able to hit any point on the Kennesaw peaks however the infantry is too mired down to ascend it at all. Sherman orders Schofield to proceed down Sandtown Road. From the book Decision in the West, "Gen. Hooker deploys his divisions- Butterfield on the left, Geary in the center, and Williams on the right- along a line that runs south from the IV Corps to Kolb’s Farm on the Powder Springs Road. At the same time, Hascall’s 2nd Division of the 23rd Corps goes into position on the other side of that road, with Strickland’s 2nd Brigade facing east and the other two brigades slanted off the southwest to protect the right flank. Still further to the right, Cox’s 3rd Division entrenches around the Cheney house to guard against a Confederate thrust from the south or west." Hearing there are many rebels in front of them poised to attack, Hooker and Schofield order digging in.

Hascall sends his 14th Kentucky Regiment forward to help reconnoiter. Meanwhile, the 91st digs in inside the area of the 50 degree angle formed by the Y in the junction of the Powder Springs Road and the Macland Road. Bethel Church was on corner of that junction at the time. They are a half-mile west of Kolb’s Farm. Harold and Howard Williams, great great grandson’s of Pvt. Williams have separately traveled to this area and experienced the eerie silence and peacefulness of this place in the 20th century. Almost all is as it was then. Even the farmhouse at Kolb’s Farm is preserved and it is an interesting experience to follow the footsteps of the 91st and see the same places and buildings and even cemetery headstones they saw. Actually, "Fighting Joe" Hooker’s troops and Strickland’s Brigade of Hascall’s Division are more in line with the rebel forces than the 91st. Hooker is very worried but gets no further reinforcement. At 5PM on the 22nd the rebels move forward thinking Schofield is not dug in. Hood believes this is his chance to crush Schofield and outflank Sherman for a final blow. Incredibly, the 14th Kentucky waits in cover until the advanced rebel force is crashing around in the brush 30 feet from them when they open fire. After the second repeat of this valiant effort, Hascall orders the 14th back to the main line leaving 69 dead rebels. A single Union regiment has stopped an assault by two rebel brigades.

But it has just begun. North of Kolb’s farmhouse, in a cleared area, the first charge of rebels in the clear is made. They give the rebel yell while advancing steadily and in good order toward several of Hooker’s brigades. Batteries of Hascall’s Division, possibly including 91st, open up with other Union cannon "in a crossfire of shell and canister." The latter being a shotgun type load of lead grape sized shot. The rebels even ranks dissolve into a "confused mass". The survivors have no choice but to run for their lives into the closest ravine where their torment doesn’t end due to the continued volleys of shot into them. Other rebels try alternate routes to the Union works and are mired in bogs. Casualties are 1500 on rebel side and 250 on Union side , 70 of which are in the brave 14th Kentucky. From the perspective of the 91st Company B, Pvt. Holder writes of the day being much like those before and after. Filled with "fighting all or much of the day", "rebs falling back", "sandy and boggy". On the 22nd, he said, "some fighting on the rite and in front of us…considerable loss to both sides, the bullets whistled sure." For the week and ½ of June 16th to the 26th the 91st is involved with skirmishing or fighting almost every day. On the morning of the 22nd, Sherman tells Schofield he will meet him tomorrow at Mrs. Kolb’s. Col. Butterfield reports that the 91st was ordered on the 22nd to move from the positions taken on the 19th and move to the Powder Springs and Marietta Road, where it remained until the next day. The night of the 22nd from 5:30 up to 10PM Sherman got troubled messages from Thomas saying he is taking two heavy attacks of 3 rebel Corps and his right isn’t covered. Sherman can’t understand and sends flurries of communication to clarify and finds Schofield is doing fine holding the flank and Thomas has overstated the rebel force. At midnight Sherman gets a clear message from Schofield and gets some sleep.

At daylight on June 23rd Sherman meets with Hooker and Schofield in a little church near Kolb’s farmhouse. It must have been the Bethel Church which was where Hooker and Schofield’s troops were shoulder to shoulder. Pvt. Williams was either there or within ½ mile at the most. Schofield got so mad, when Sherman said Hooker didn’t feel Schofield was covering his flank, that Pvt. Williams may have heard the shouting between the two general officers. Schofield pointed out that his dead Kentuckians were further into the battle than Hookers men. Sherman told Hooker to "never let this happen again" and Hooker went off to "sulk". Schofield’s memoirs indicate it must have been Hascall that made the case with Sherman. In Hooker’s defense, Sherman had placed him in bad situations before and he was therefore somewhat leery.

The weather has cleared and roads are drying quickly. That is good for Sherman and for the 91st. Next, Hascall’s Division with the 91st advances beyond the Kolb farmhouse and fortifies. Hoods men can be seen up ahead setting up in strong force. Pvt. Holder says, ‘fortifing this morning, but little fighting today (not sure why the word is now correctly spelled), occupied in building breastworks. Col. Butterfield records. "..engaged in building works in front of the enemy, where we remained until the morning of July 1st. At this point, on the 23rd, Johnston desperately wants Davis to send cavalry help to cut Sherman’s supply and communication lines but he doesn’t get it. Sherman feigns a movement on his left toward Marietta and makes his "real attack at a point south and west of Kennesaw." Thomas is called on to make the main charge and Schofield to threaten the enemy flank but to "attack near the Marietta and Powder Springs Road". None of the commanders like the plan but are told to carry it out on the 27th. Fortunately for the 91st , Sherman visits his right flank on the evening of the 25th where the 91st is located. He sees his orders to the 23rd are not good. He changes them to have Hascall move around to his right and engage the rebels to make them spread out and be vulnerable to direct attack. The 26th is Pentecostal Sunday and many truces are arranged to allow many men to attend services. Part of the Schofield’s 23rd Corps is building a bridge over Olley’s Creek, which parallels the east - west Powder Springs Road about a mile to the south.

Just before dawn on the 27th the troops in the center of Hooker’s line hear of their impending charge. They should not have been surprised in that the field hospitals had been cleaned out the previous day and lots of room made for new patients. Sherman’s plan to wheel right around the Kennesaw Mountains is being readied. On the 27th , the Union and rebel troops are in a line almost due north and south. At 8 AM 51 pieces of artillery opened up on Kennesaw. Simultaneously, an unknown number of cannons open up on the rebel positions at Cheatham Hill. The battle is on. Also on the 27th , Hascall’s 91st apparently followed the general plan which took them to the right of the main battle but kept them in the fray nonetheless. Pvt. Holder describes the 27th , "fighting all day, I was out on the scirmish line all day, loss not known." He notes "hot days", actually the thermometer reached 100. McCook’s 52nd Ohio has an "ominous stillness" in their ranks from knowing their danger. McCook strides up and down reciting Horatius at the Bridge with the lines. "Death cometh soon or late; And how can man die better, than facing fearful odds." McCook was mortally wounded that day in front of Cheatham Hill as his brave 52nd Ohio successfully attacked the rebel stronghold on the hill. As he was carried away he yelled his last order, "Stick it to them." Just to his left Gen. Harker left his personal papers with a friend and said he wouldn’t live through the day- he didn’t. He was shot off his horse.

The battles on the 27th at and below Kennesaw "Fortress" were furious and bloody. We don’t now why Sherman charged when he had said he wouldn’t do that against heavy fortifications. The Kennesaw stalemate just got to him apparently. At least the 91st was out in open fighting where you had a little control over your destiny. In the rebel lines a Major Holmes says "if I should hold out my hand I could catch a handful of Minnie balls." All around him he hears the sickening thud of Minnie ball through human flesh. Remember they can go through a half foot of pine at 600 yards. Sherman is getting reports form all points in the center that Union troops cannot break through the rebel lines. However, Cox’s 3rd Division of the 23rd Corps has come within nearly a mile of the Chattahoochee River, the last major river before Atlanta. Cox feels that with Hascall’s help he can turn the enemy’s left flank and threaten his rear. That night Sherman studies how the 23rd can reach the rebel supply lines and still get supplies by wagon. He selects Fulton, about 7 miles south of Marietta. But Sherman must move his whole army right to make this work and abandon the precious railway. Can he risk it? He decides to do it, and most of his troops wish that decision came 14 hours earlier. The price is 3000 casualties. Some regiments suffered way out of proportion. The 97th Indiana went into battle with 200 men and received 66 casualties. It’s battle flag torn to ribbons and "covered with blood and brains." A truce is called on the evening of the 28th to carry away the dead and wounded. "Yanks and Rebs mingle in a grisly task with a friendly, sometimes jolly, mood. Yet many men get sick from the stench and cannot eat for some time. Some get autographs from the general officers.

Johnston is pleased at being able to repulse this heavy attack by overwhelming forces. Yet he learns quickly that some of the Union 23rd Corps, by their movements, are closer to Atlanta than any of the rebel army. Sherman is now planning to move McPherson from the railroad all the way around to where the 23rd Corps is and prepare to attack the rebels flank to force withdrawal. They carry the makings of a pontoon bridge in case they find it best to cross the Chattahoochee rather than take Fulton. This preparation all takes time. McCook’s brigade starts digging a tunnel under the rebels with the intention of blowing them up. On June 30th the necessary ten days supplies are received. A short heavy shower cools things off after 6 straight days of torrid temperatures. Sherman tells a telegrapher, "The worst of the war is not yet begun." Some of the signal corpsmen on tree tops see the church spires of Atlanta 17 miles away. The news there that Sherman has been halted is taken with much premature celebration. After nightfall on the 30th, Thomas has a division relieve Hascall’s division, including the 91st Indiana, south of the Powder Springs Road. On June 31st Schofield advances his entire corps to occupy the area between Olley’s and Nickajack creeks in front of the Chattahoochee. This is the present day area of Smyrna and Dobbins Air Force Base. Schofield secures the bridge over the Nickajack leading to Fulton. Meanwhile, Stoneman and McCook’s divisions move down the west side of Atlanta. Pvt. Holder of the 91st says nothing about passing Smyrna. Apparently they were relieved for a few day’s as was Sherman’s plan. Up through June 31 he says there was skirmishing each day and the 91st had to "lay close behind our works."

On July 1st , the 91st is ordered toward Atlanta, "we marched till 10 o’clock, and overtook the rebs and fout them the balance of the day, and lost 10 men out of the 91st, wounded, some of them not bad." Col. Butterfield reports that "on July 1st the 91st was ordered to march in company with the brigade about four miles to the right, where we encountered the enemy…the brigade having been formed in line of battle –the 91st was in the front line on the right of the 3rd Tennessee Infantry—and Companies A and F being deployed as skirmishers, we advanced from two to three miles under a brick fire from the enemy’s artillery and musketry. The regiment lost 2 commissioned officers and 8 enlisted men wounded." This is one of the rare times in the war where we learn more of Pvt. Williams’ actions from published war documents than from the Holder diary.

Meanwhile the news in Atlanta is that Sherman was stopped at Kennesaw. Remindful of the errant Dewey Beats Truman news of the next century. Hascall’s division, leapfrogging Cox, moves south beyond Ruff’s Mill, which is about where Concord Road crosses Nickajack Creek. When Sherman hears of the strong advance he instructs McPherson’s and Smith’s divisions to reinforce Schofield and his Hascall’s division. Schofield’s division scares Johnston more than warranted since he overestimates their size. He doesn’t realize the advancing Union troops are one division (Hascall’s) and they are separated from their corps with only one other division (Cox’s) linking them. A puny size to be moving fast toward Atlanta. No wonder the 91st lost 10 men wounded that day. Maybe Hascall showed his men the Atlanta Intelligencer Headline "Sherman Stopped at Kennesaw." Maybe they know what many others on both sides have been thinking, that once they are across the Chattahoochee River, they can cut off rebel supplies from Alabama and cut Lee off from the crucial south Georgia granaries. All it takes is the disruption of the railroads on east and west sides of Atlanta.

On the morning of the 2nd Smith’s division relieves Hascall’s and the 91st digs in for half a day. This allows new guns to be issued: "ordered from the front to draw guns, we drawed Springfield guns, we are a little in the rear this morning, weather warm." The Springfield rifles were good weapons but no where near the best available. Pvt. Williams’ great grandson Harold Williams is quite familiar with guns, old and new, and laments that his grandfather wasn’t given the breach loading Spencer Model 1860 or similar rifles that allowed four times faster fire rates, although less powerful, but far easier to carry. Those generally went to the cavalry first. It rained hard in the afternoon. At 10 PM the remaining rebels leave from their positions around Kennesaw. The only Union troops disappointed are McCook’s brigade who is just finishing the tunnel under the rebel positions and are less than a day from packing it with dynamite. Many rebels surrender. The main force sets up works above the Chattahoochee River on a 6 mile front centered at Smyrna and extending to Nickajack Creek. Sherman is convinced it is not to fight but to defend the troops crossing the River. But Johnston has another card up his sleeve, it is the use of a thousand slaves to build a line of works covering the railroad crossing. When the rebel troops back into these fortifications they don’t like them and rebuild them into something of which they are more accustomed.

On the 3rd of July the 91st gets the word the last of the rebels have fallen back from Kennesaw. No mention of Independence Day celebrations on July 4th. On the 6th , the 91st sees the slave built rebel works in front of the Chattahoochee. "Marched to the railroad at Ruf Station, 15 miles from Atlanta, and saw strong reb works, and the cars run this evening to the Chahatia (Chattahoochee) within 8 miles of Atlanta, we have been on the front since the 3rd of June until the 2nd of July, and saw as hard a time an eny, I rekin, and I hope I may not see as hard again, " wrote Pvt Holder on the 6th of July. Lt. Col. Charles Butterfield was one of the leaders of the 91st Indiana Regiment since the mustering and was 2nd in command in the drive to Atlanta. He submitted a report on the operations for June and July. It is spotty in that days without battles were not reported.

He reported that from July 2nd to July 6th the 91st "remained in reserve" apparently resting from the battles. On the 6th, the 91st advanced in a clockwise circular movement, centered on Atlanta, while following the Chattahoochee. They stop to camp where the Western and Atlantic Railroad also follows the river before heading north, possibly about 3 miles due north of the railroad bridge. We expect it was just inside where the Atlanta beltway 285 now winds. Col. Butterfield reports, "On July 6th the regiment moved to Ruff’s Station on the Georgia railroad. From the 6th of July to the 20th the regiment was with the brigade in it’s various movements from Ruff’s Station to east bank of the Chattahoochee River, during which time no casualties occurred in it." But the Colonel is getting ahead of our story.

The 91st is apparently in the lead of Schofield’s main corps and "rashions are scarce." At this point, while the rebels are retreating behind the Chattahoochee, Sherman’s master plan for Atlanta is being worked. He plans to feign a movement to the west, where he correctly assesses Johnston expects his assault, and then intends to cut the Georgia railroad as it heads east out of Atlanta near Decatur. Schofield and Thomas main corps would move around Atlanta clockwise and encircle the city while the eastern most of the Union troops would cut the railroad. Apparently Schofield’s cavalry and scouts are sent out in the clockwise circling move on the 7th while the 91st catches their breath, because Schofield reports to Sherman that night "found pretty good crossing near mouth of Soap Creek". Sherman responds with an order to cross. The 91st marches the 7 miles to the northeast to position to cross with "rashions still scarce."

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Copyright © 2001 Williams Family from Evansville, Indiana