MAY 29th  –  31, 1864.  (Continued)


Between May 29-31, 1864 Union General Wm. T. Sherman and his commanders were slowly but surely moving their troops away from the Dallas-New Hope front eastward toward Acworth.  The Federals were withdrawing while in contact with the Confederates.  This was accomplished by entrenching subsequent positions to the rear of the army and leaving only a strong skirmish line as a covering force at the front and in sight of the Southerners.  Federal officers left a rear guard to screen the pull out and then quietly withdrew the bulk of the troops, staggered and by divisions. (These were the same tactics employed by Gen. Jos. E. Johnston’s Confederates at Dalton and Resaca.)

On Monday, May 30, Colonel John C. Carter’s Brigade of Cheatham’s Division was encamped near New Hope Church “fifteen miles from Marietta.”  That same day, Major General B. F. Cheatham’s Division received 250 much-needed replacements.  Most of these men had been rounded up or conscripted by Major General N. B. Forrest’s Cavalry.  Dempsey C. Neal, Carter’s Brigade, noted the 51st Tennessee Infantry Regiment received 38 of the recruits.  He wrote:

“Pleasant morning…Capt. Dick Thomas arrived in camp this morning from West Tenn. with 250 recruits for Cheatham’s Division, a great many who had deserted from the Division; some had gone home on furlough and had failed to return until the present (and?) come with company or under guard.  Such men made very poor soldiers…I wish every true Southern man would stand firm for his Country.”

Van Oldham of the 9th Tennessee, Brigadier General George Maney’s Brigade reported the wounded having been sent off during the night and that only the sick remained at the brigade hospital.  Colonel J. N. Wyatt, Brigadier General A. J. Vaughan’s Brigade, recalled “heavy skirmishing along the lines; the enemy seems to be moving troops to our right in the direction of the railroad near Big Shanty.” 

On the 31st, Dempsey Neal recorded the men of the 51st Tennessee “have some very good breastworks, the boys are wishing for the Yanks to come in site.”  He noted that very little firing occurred during the day.  “I saw General (Joseph) Johnston; he seems to be in fine spirits to judge him from his looks.”  Van Oldham journal entry reads thus for the day:

“The sick draw thin (raw)  rations with the nurses.  The nurses use the cooking utensils first so that if a man is able to cook for himself he has nothing to cook in…This evening the medical slaves are packing up wagons (and) loaded teams hitched; most of  the sick sent off and everything ready to move.  Every man is certain that Johnston will retreat farther.  Some of the sick are making considerable noise fearing they they will be left behind if the army moves.  If we can get transportation we will be sent to Marietta tonight.  Dr. (Walter) Brice has left me in charge…”

May 1864 exacted a daily toll of killed and wounded among the soldiers of the Army of Tennessee.  The losses were mostly a result of skirmishing and by sharpshooters.  The picket line was a deadly place to be for soldiers of both armies as the combatants had been in constant contact for the past month.  Alfred Tyler Fielder, 12th Tennessee, Vaughan’s Brigade, noted that Gen. B. F. Cheatham’s men were “much fatigued, having marched, fortified and skirmished with the enemy for the last 23 days.” In the fighting at Ellsberry and New Hope alone, Cheatham’s Tennessee Division had suffered 185 men killed and wounded, including some valuable officers. 

Continued next week.

Lisa DeLancey is a staff writer for The Leader, focusing on education. She is a 2016 graduate of The University of Memphis.