Battlefield, near Atlanta, July 25th, 1864
We got a mail yesterday for the first time since leaving the Chattahoochie & among the letters were two from father, & one from you, telling about the Rifle & finding fault because I do not write longer letters, which is I think, a little
ungenerous, seeing that I improve every opportunity to send you news of us. You must remember that my time is not my own, that I have duties to perform which I cannot neglect without injury to the service in which I am engaged, & which duties, at present, take up very nearly all my available time.
There are hundreds of incidents occurring here daily that would be of great interest to you, & to myself in after years, if I could have the chance to record them in either diary or correspondence, but after all, this is only a little matter compared to the real, earnest work, which it is our business to perform. So don't grumble at short, but be thankfull [sic] you get any. My memory is pretty good, & with the assistance of my diary I will be able to give you many an interesting incident when I have a chance.
However, as we are doing nothing today of much account, having built our fort yesterday, & as you have not yet had from us a recital of our adventures since leaving the Chattahoochie, I will give a brief resume of them up to the present. On the morning of the 16th, we were roused at 2 O'clock with orders to withdraw the Guns from the fort overlooking the Chattahoochie, limber up, & prepare to march. This was done, & at daylight our Corps was on the road to Marietta, our Division in the advance, stopped in the middle of the day, & rested till 5 in the afternoon, then resumed march & stopped for the night near Marietta. Took up line of march early next morning & passed through town on the Roswell road, which latter place we reached in the afternoon, pushed through it, crossed the River on bridge that the 16th Corps put in a week before, & halted 4 miles this side, having made about 20 miles. On the 18th & 19th, we made slow progress toward Decatur, camping on the night of the 19th within 4 miles. Next day passed through Decatur, leaving the 16th Corps there, our Corps taking the advance, & when 2 miles from town on the Atlanta road formed line of Battle & advanced slowly. At almost noon our Inft'y ran on a Rebel Battery & stopped. The Genl. sent back by all the other Batteries of the Division, (we were marching in the Rear), & ordered us up to silence the Reb Guns. Advanced & took position on a hill, along which ran a road through the pasture, at 1800 yds. distance from the Enemy's Battery, unlimbered under their fire, got up the Hotchkiss shell from the Limbers & opened as the boys say, "for God's Sake." They had the Range on us from the start, as they had measured the ground before falling back, & slapped the shells right into us from the first shot, while we had to fire several rounds before we could get the elevation, as the ground is very deceiving, but we kept raising it till we knew what was wanted, & then you could have seen some fine practice. The Action continued for about 50 minutes, during which time each of our pieces fired about 40 Rds, when the Johnnies could stand it no longer & withdrew. Gen'l McPherson came up & told the Capt. he never saw a prettier Artillery duel, and told us also what we had not observed ourselves, that one of our shells knocked one of their Guns up on end which we afterwards found to be true when our fellows took the hill on which the Battery had been, & saw the broken "Stick" of one of their pieces. I never want to see shells fly thicker than they did at as there, & it is a marvel that none of the men were seriously hurt.
Four of our fancy horses were killed, & another wounded, three of them by our shell, which burst under the Limber, throwing splinters & gravel right in the Captain's face, one piece struck the top of my Limber chest close to W., who was giving out Ammnt'n.
A shell burst under the trail of the 5th Piece, tearing it badly & knocking down No. 3, who was serving vent, another unexploded one ricochetted (pro. ricoshayed) & struck the wheel of my piece, doing no damage, but coming very close to Nos. 2 & 4 on that side. Another struck at the feet, almost, of my No. 1 & exploded, enveloping him in a cloud of dust. I was standing close by watching the effect of my shots & when the dust cleared I looked for O'Neal expecting to see him stretched out but there he was, erect in the position of "Ready," which command had just been given when the shell came among us. I admired his coolness so much that I immediately grasped his hand, with a "Bully for you old boy." I could not ask men to stand up under heavy fire any better than did the fellows of my Gun Detachment. I cannot recount half the "hair breadth 'scapes" we had, but you will see we had a hot time of it. When the Enemy's Battery was withdrawn our 2 Divisions of Inft'y advanced & some skirmishing took place in which Genl. Gresham was wounded in front of the Battery. On the night of the 20th we dug little works for the Guns, but did not fire a shot next day, as they put other Batteries in position in front of us.
About 9 A.M. of the 21st, our whole Line, (that is of the Corps) advanced, & charged the Rebel works, lost a large number of men in killed & wounded, took a lot of prisoners & part of the enemy's works, & established the Line within close distance. John Schaller was wounded in this charge, in which his Regt. captured the 21st Ga., but suffered severely. I sent you & his wife particulars of the event, & will only add that I saw him yesterday & both wounds are doing well, his appetite is good & so are his spirits. We are having beautiful weather for the wounded, cool days & chilly nights, which seems almost provident for it has been so only since the heavy fighting began.
This charge I am telling about was right in front of us & we saw the whole of it, but were forbidden to fire a shot, although we wanted much to assist our gallant Infantry fellows, who were under a galling fire from the same Battery we had silenced in another place. If the Genl. had only let Clayton put us in position where he wanted to, we could have stopped the fire of the confounded scamps. But I must get on, that afternoon our Battery was moved out to the extreme Left of the Line & we threw up slight works on the extreme flank. But we did not have enough Range for Rifled Guns, so the Chief of
artillery ordered us out in the evening, & the 2nd Regular Battery with 12 pdr Light Guns went into our works, while we went back & took position in a fort in front of the hill from which we had silenced the Rebel Battery the day before, left our horses harnessed all night, & in the morning found that the Rebs had left their works in front of us, whereupon we unharnessed, & the Inftry advanced a half mile, till the Enemy's Battery began shelling them. Then we had orders to harness & be ready to move to the front, got ready & limbered up the Guns, took an early dinner, & shortly after began to hear dropping shots in our rear. Were told that it was Wheeller's Cavalry playing smash with our Corps train. I jumped on my horse and rode out on the field in front where our fellows were scattered around looking at the bodies of the killed, warned them all to their posts, & spurred back in time to see a Brigade & 2 Batteries of the 16th Corps come up in double quick & form line in the rear of our Battery, facing to the rear. They had not more than got into position when our pickets were driven in, & the Rebel Line advanced,. The 2 Batteries, 14th Ohio, & Co. "H" 1st Mo. opened on them, & the Inftry line soon was engaged heavily, first the Rebs would yell & charge till they came within 50 yds of the Battery, when the fire would be too much for them & they would waver, then our chaps would cheer & charge with the bayonet, fall back again when the enemy rallied, & let the canister play into them, and so it went, till the last time the Johnnies charged when they brought their flag out in plain sight of us, so close to the 14th Ohio that the smoke of their Guns dashed over it, the Canister thundered out twice as fast, our whole Line poured in a deadly volley, the standard bearer fell, the advancing Rebels faltered, our fellows sprang forward & there was a short hand to hand conflict over the fallen flag, the bayonets being locked & the muskets clubbed for a moment, then our chaps got the standard & the Enemy fled, leaving the field, with their heaps of dead & wounded & cords of muskets in our hands. This was only a small part of the field of Battle, for the Rebs charged on our Corps at the same time of this fight with part of the 16th charged on the 15th, & also on the 4th Corps, captured some Artillery, but lost the heaviest in killed, wounded & prisoners that they have since Stone River. This was the only part of the battle that we saw, & so I have described it to you, & you may imagine the rest of the field from it. The Iowa Brigade of our Division is badly cut up, they fought back to back at one time, when attacked in front & rear, & actually jumped over their slight works seven times to repel assaults from their rear; as soon as they would drive them off from one side the Enemy would come up on the other, when they would "charge front to fire to the Rear," & jump over the protecting Earthworks. The 16th & 12th Wis. also were heavily engaged, but the Rebels did not succeed in breaking up a single Regt. of our old Corps, while whole Brigades of theirs were "wiped out," there being hardly a grease spot left of the Kentucky Brigade, which were the ones I saw fight. The Brigade of the 16th Corps that fought them and whose battle I have described is composed of the 66th Ills. (Gen. Ehringer's Regt.) 81st Ohio, & 12th Ills., Gen. McArthur's old Regt. (I had a talk with George last night & he is in splendid health & spirits, is to answer the letter he got from Sarah soon.) You may ask, what was out Battery doing in all this time? We stood at our posts during the first part of the fight in our rear & the rest of the time we were led around by Genl. Blair into 6 different positions, not being allowed to open at any of them. At last, when the heaviest of the fighting was over, a Rebel Battery, to cover the retreat, opened on our advancing skirmishes, when we were allowed to reply & after a few shots effectually silenced the Battery, I forgot to notice that when the fighting at first was beginning to be serious, Genl. McPherson rode down by us, going to the place where the Brigade I have mentioned was forming; he rode right through the line, out to the front where the skirmishing was going on, and before he suspected, was right among the advancing
Enemy. They told him to halt, but he wheeled to escape, when they fired on him, & shot him through the breast. It was not 10 minutes after he passed us till he was hit. No language can tell the grief that fills the heart of every man in the Army of the Tennessee
& especially do we of his old Corps feel his loss. Not a man of us but would willingly have given his own life to save that of our much loved young Commander.
Your Brother Thos. D. Christie
[Postscript on page one] July 26th Couldn't finish this yesterday for we expected to move. All is quiet this M. Rec'd a five from Father yesterday, much obliged.
[Postscript on page five] I send you a piece of handkerchief, 2 stamps and a letter from the Rebel Genl. Tyler to Col. Walker of the 15th Tennessee, all found in the pockets of the dead Colonel, not by me though, for that is a thing I have never done yet, turn dead men's pockets outside in. The field over which the Rebs tried to charge was an awful sight afterwards, & we did not get in all the wounded Rebels till night of the next day.