The camps of the Army of the Tennessee were grouped so as to present a strong front to the enemy in that direction. Substantial defenses were constructed, occupying a considerable portion of the time allotted for rest. From Decatur, on the left, to the west of Atlanta, our forces were disposed for effective resistance against any attempt to re-occupy the city.
Owing to the diminished strength of the various commands, a consolidation of the Divisions was ordered. The left wing of the Sixteenth Corps was distributed to the Fifteenth and Seventeenth Corps, one Division being assigned to each. The organization of the Fourth Division, Fifteenth Corps, was broken up, on the 15th of September. The two Brigades were assigned to the First and Second Divisions, the First Brigade, excepting our Regiment, to Hazen's Division, and the Second to (p244) Osterhaus' Division. The Regiment was detached from its command, and assigned to the First Brigade of the First Division, consisting of the Twenty-sixth Iowa, Seventy-sixth Ohio, Twenty-seventh, Twenty-ninth, and Thirty-first Missouri, and Twelfth Indiana, Colonel Smith, of the Twenty-sixth Iowa, commanding. Brigadier General Charles F. Woods was temporarily in command of the Division, and Major General Osterhaus in command of the Corps, during General Logan's absence in Illinois.
Thus terminated the history of the Division with which we had served almost two years. It had made a noble record, and many regrets were expressed at its disorganization. During the campaign just closed it had rendered important service, and all felt proud of their connection with the Division. By its disbandment General Harrow was left without a command, and was not again assigned to duty in the army under Sherman.
Atlanta and the surrounding country presented a scene of desolation rarely witnessed. The marks of our shells were visible in the suburbs of the city, on the north, east, and west sides, while the fields and forests were cut up by lines of fortifications or trampled by the enemy. The desolation increased on the arrival of our forces, who were allowed to remove unoccupied buildings for the construction of comfortable quarters. (p245)
Hood's army held a position in our front at Rough and Ready. An arrangement was effected between the respective commanders for an exchange of prisoners, which resulted in the return of several thousand of those captured during the campaign. Among these a number returned to the Regiment, including Captain Huston and Lieutenant Alfont, of Company G. The citizens of Atlanta were at the same time removed beyond our lines, by order of General Sherman. Hood inveighed bitterly against the measure, as one of great cruelty. The correspondence upon this subject between Sherman and Hood was illustrative of the spirit of the men, and of the different aspects in which they regarded the question of privileges due to citizens of a rebellious city. Atlanta was designed solely for military occupation, and the support of hostile citizens might properly be imposed upon the enemy within his own lines, as no other alternative was left the Government, unless it should supply them from the Commissary Department, which would have been both unwise and unjust.
The Atlantic and Western Railroad, which had been re-opened to the rear of our lines in August, was at once repaired, and supplies were accumulating rapidly at Atlanta, during the month of September, in anticipation of a new campaign in the (p246) fall. All was activity on the line of communication thence to Nashville, the hostile armies meanwhile preparing for the renewal of the conflict, both, as the events of the following month indicated, meditating offensive operations.
The success of our cause in the West was coincident with vigorous and persevering efforts in the East. Grant had pushed Lee from the Rapidan back upon Richmond, after a series of fearful conflicts, and, crossing the James, had placed his army in front of Petersburg, the strong outpost of the rebel capital, the possession of which must result in the evacuation of Richmond. The two armies under Lee and Johnston had been so busily employed in resisting the advance of Grant and Sherman that reinforcement of either with organized troops was impossible. The only alternative left the rebel authorities was the most vigorous enforcement of the conscription in the States subject to their control With all the aid thus rendered the progress of our arms had proved irresistible, and Atlanta was ours, while Richmond was invested by invincible hosts.
While our armies were thus surely accomplishing the work of suppressing armed resistance to the authority of the Government, the people were not idle. The mutual influence of the loyal masses and the troops in the field was never so fully exemplified as in the events of 1864. The (p247) spirit of opposition to the Administration had breathed the life of disloyalty into the disappointed political aspirants of the North, who sought and formed an alliance offensive with repudiated military chieftains for the overthrow of the dominant war policy, and the substitution of peace negotiations, upon the assumed impossibility of subduing rebellion by force of arms. The success of the well-matured plans of the opposition party was to be contingent upon the defeat of our armies, which none better understood than the leaders of that party. In proportion to the disasters resulting to our arms was the testimony afforded to the truth of the teachings of those who claimed the name of Democrats, while in the ratio of our success was the refutation of their teachings. Hence it was observable, through the secret ramifications of that foul scheme of disloyal men in the north, that reverses to our arms were welcomed, while the news of our triumphs fell sorrowfully on their hearts. The victory at the ballot-box in November following was the echo of the voice of triumph from the battlefields of the South. The hosts of freedom proved the invincibility of men armed in the holy cause of liberty, and placed the question so clearly before the people that the majority saw, in bold characters, the refutation of the sophistry of secession (p248) sympathizers, written in the blood of heroes slain in battle.
Thus was the great moral influence of the campaigns of 1864 made to decide the scale of destiny, poised in even balance. The extent of influence, attributable to the great victory at the ballot-box, which was exerted over the troops in the field can scarcely be estimated. That it was very great none can dispute, who saw the effect produced upon the army by the announcement of the result. And as Sherman's army had done much to encourage the people to sustain the Administration, none rejoiced more than those veterans, when, on emerging from their long march to the sea-coast, the official announcement of the triumphant reelection of Abraham Lincoln was made to them through the medium of the press. Having sacrificed so much for their country, they rejoiced in the assurance that it was not to be all in vain.
During this period the Christian members of the Regiment met each morning and evening for religious worship. Many hours were thus employed, which will ever be dear to memory. The attention of those attending these services was such as to elicit the admiration of the soldier's character. On such occasions thoughts of other days and the privileges of the sanctuary were mingled with thoughts of the present, when those far away continued to remember us in their supplications. (p249) Amid such thoughts all were serious, and reference was frequently made to home and friends and the influences exerted upon the soldier by those who loved him, and waited for his return, while continually committing him to the keeping of a faithful Father, who cares for all his children. Thus passed the days of rest, which, to the Christian soldier, were days of spiritual refreshing, and to some the beginning of a new life.
The following promotions were made at East Point:
Commissary Sergeant Alfred G. Lee, to Quartermaster, vice McClellan, resigned, to date from July 4th.
Orderly Sergeant John M. Tobias, Co. A, to 1st Lieutenant, vice Waters, killed in action, September 6th, 1864.
Orderly Sergeant Lewis Murray, Co. D, to 1st Lieutenant, vice Blackwell, transferred, September 6th, 1864.
Lieutenant Colonel James Goodnow resigned, September 16th. 1st Lieutenant Charles F. Mather, of Co. C, and 1st Lieutenant Samuel Shenafelt, of Co. E, resigned September 23d, and left for home on the 26th. A number of the officers of the Regiment received leaves of absence and returned to Indiana, among whom was Colonel Williams, leaving Major Baldwin in command. (p250)