This is the eighth chapter to Robert Carden’s story. Chapter 8 covers fierce fighting around Atlanta and the capture of a Yankee garrison.
General Hood was in command of the Army of the Tennessee at this time and if anything was ever out of all sorts it was the Army of the Tennessee. Old Joseph E. Johnston looked after his men and did not run them into any unnecessary engagements. Hood would fight at the drop of the hat and drop it himself, so he thought he would show Sherman a few things out of the ordinary.
We slipped out of Atlanta of the 21st of July and we thought we were doing the same old thing of falling back. He fooled Sherman too, as Sherman stated in his narrative of the Atlanta campaign. We marched the balance of the night and until the next afternoon when we struck Sherman’s extreme left wing and took the Yankees by surprise, I think, as we run right over them and took their works and a number of batteries. We run them out their works and we had possession of them. I saw in passing through where they had fallen back that the Yankees had their dinner on cooking and they did not stay there long enough to set the tables for their company who arrived so unexpectedly, and I have always felt kind of thankful to the Yankee boys for having our dinner ready for us when we arrived for we were tired and hungry.
I felt very sorry for a Yankee officer who had been wounded and was lying in an exposed position, and could not get to a place of safety. He was lying about ten steps inside of the works and just behind us, and the shells and minie balls were making it hot for us. He called to us and asked us to please come and get him down in the ditch where we were, so I started out to bring him in but one of our officers told me to come back and I had to let him lie in his dangerous position. I never knew how he came out.
I ran up on a wounded Dutchman and he was doing a whole lot of Dutch talk. I offered him a drink of water from my canteen and he would shake his head. He might have been cussing me for all I knew.
We held the works that we captured until after night but just across a draw further up their line they held part of the works. I ventured out in front of our line to see what I could find and run up on a dead Rebel and got me a good hat and a few shirts out of the Yankee knapsacks and then went back into our lines.
I do not remember now when we did leave there, but suppose we left that night but we were over toward Atlanta after that as I was on the battle ground several days after that and could see parts of soldiers sticking out of the ditches where they were buried. I don’t know who buried them. I saw the worst shot man there that I ever saw. A cannon ball cut him entirely in two except a little strip of skin on each side.
Gen. McPherson, a union general, was killed here.
After the battle of the 22nd we dropped down to Jonesboro and Lovejoy station and had a little fighting there but not to amount to much.
Gen. Hood concluded that he would let Sherman go on south and he would go back in Tennessee and see about Sherman’s trains that furnished his army their supplies and we started on the march back on the west side of the railroad. I do not remember that we struck the railroad until we got to Dalton. I remember that we marched up close to the town and found in line of battle. The soldiers were lying around on the ground when we saw a Yankee cavalryman who would ride out to within a hundred yards or so of us, fire his carbine and then gallop back toward town. We noticed that he would stop at a house just at the edge of town, then he would repeat the performance, so a soldier of my company and myself went down in a cotton patch and got behind a pile of logs and waited for him to come again. About the time we started down to the cotton patch we saw the Yankee commander and some of our head officers ride along in front of our lines. Our general had demanded the unconditional surrender of the Yankee garrison and I heard that he supposed that we were a Rebel cavalry force and that he was not going to surrender to them, but when he rode around and saw that it was Hood’s army he surrendered the place.
His force consisted of a negro regiment or two with white officers. Myself and the fellow that was with me down in the cotton patch saw our forces start up in town and we hurried on ahead to see if we could capture the Yankee cavalryman but he saw us in time and made his escape, but we went on into town and to the fort. Everybody was hurrying around and the negroes were about half drunk. I saw a negro with a bottle of whisky and told him to hand it over, which he did. I felt so elated over my capture that I showed it to one of our officers and he took it away from me and I did not get even a taste of it.
The fort was built around a big house, a hotel, I think, and I went in and up to the second story and saw a lot of Yankee officers. They were talking about having to go to prison. I ran across one of our generals and he ordered me out of there but I just kept out of his sight and stayed as long as I wanted to.
We did about as we pleased and when night came I saw that a detail was ordered to go into the fort and bring out the sutler’s stores that were there. I went up to the officer in charge and told him to roll me out something. He eyed me closely and said, “Of course, or I wouldn’t be there,” and he hand me a box of raisins and a box of ground pepper, and by the time I had hurried to my company and gave the boxes to the boys of my mess and got back the detail had moved the balance. I run up against a fellow who had got about half a sack of coffee and he asked me and another fellow to help him take it out the back way. We helped him in a neighborly way but by the time we were out we had filled our haversacks with his coffee.
There was nothing more to do in the fort so we were marched down to the railroad and went to fixing it. We would rip up the iron and make pens out of the ties, then lay the irons across the pens and set the pile on fire, and when the irons got hot each end would bend to the ground. We had the negroes helping us and one smart negro refused to help burn the ties and he got a minie ball through him. The rest of them were all right after that.
-Compiled by Leonard Martinez and originally from the memoirs of Robert C. Carden.
Oh, I'm a good old Rebel, now that's just what I am; For this "Fair Land of Freedom" I do not give a damn! I'm glad I fit against it, I only wish we'd won, And I don't want no pardon for anything I done.