Our Country's Fiery Ordeal

A blog about the American Civil War, written and maintained by historian Daniel J. Vermilya, author of The Battle of Kennesaw Mountain (History Press, 2014) and James Garfield and the Civil War (History Press, 2015)

Dedicated to my great-great-great grandfather, Private Ellwood Rodebaugh, Company D, 106th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, killed at the Battle of Antietam, September 17, 1862.

"And may an Overuling Providence continue to cause good to come out of evil, justice to be done to all men where injustice has long prevailed, and finally, peace, quiet, and harmony to come out of this terrible confrontation and our country's fiery ordeal." -- Albert Champlin, 105th Ohio, Diary entry of June 19, 1864 (Western Reserve Historical Society)

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

"Yes, around comes July and soon will come the honored Fourth."

On July 4, 1864, Federal forces under the command of Major General William Tecumseh Sherman were engaged in a slogging match with Joe Johnston's Confederate Army of Tennessee north of Atlanta. For weeks, Sherman had been pressing southward toward Atlanta, one of the South's most strategically important cities. For every move Sherman made, Johnston would retreat deeper and deeper into the heart of Georgia. By mid-June, however, the Federal advance had slowed to a crawl. On June 27, frustrated and hoping to break the stalemate, Sherman launched an aggressive assault against Confederate positions on and around Kennesaw Mountain, leading to the most severe fighting and bloodletting of the Atlanta Campaign. The Federal assaults were thrown back by firm Confederate defensive lines, resulting in more trenches and stalemate. Yet by July 2, Confederate forces began falling back yet again toward Atlanta, as a result of another Federal flanking maneuver. In the midst of all this, Private Albert Champlin of the 105th Ohio Volunteer Infantry was fastidiously recording his impressions of these events in his diary. During the first days of July, 1864, Champlin was looking forward to the Fourth of July, understanding that, because of the bloody struggle encompassing the nation, that historic day was even more significant. July 4, 1776 was the day in which America declared its independence from Great Britain, as Abraham Lincoln said in his Gettysburg Address, based on "the proposition that all men are created equal." In 1864, in the midst of a struggle "testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure," remembering the nation's birth and its promise for a better future was one of the things which helped Private Albert Champlin to carry on in the midst of the long, bloody, and brutal march toward Atlanta during what would be in many ways the pivotal campaign of the American Civil War.

July 1, Friday—Yes, around comes July and soon will come the honored Fourth. What will be the events thereof? Will they be similar to those of a year ago? [Referring to Federal victories at Gettysburg and Vickburg on July 3 and 4, 1863] At least may God grant that the present great work of our country and nation may continue to advance successfully to the end of putting down treason and rebellion and with them may their enormous parent evils and iniquities be annihilated, and may the time thus come when soldiers can return to civil vocations under Free Government and that even improved.”

July 2, Saturday—artillery firing back and forth

July 3, Sunday—Sherman having again pushed his flanks around those of the enemy, thus compelling them again to evacuate a truly strong hold or do worse by remaining, which Joe Johnson don’t choose to do. Troops are on the move as early as sunrise but our division moves at about 9 AM, bivouacking that night 5 miles south of Marietta, rebels retreated nearly to the river… Thus again Sunday passes, the enemy having again taken it as their day for retreat. They are reported as making another stand this side of the [Chattahoochee] River.

July 4, Monday—Champlin writes of artillery firing on Confederates that morning. Private Champlin and others of the 105th Ohio were sent to Marrieta as a garrison, where they learned of an “extensive and successful charge including part of the 14th Corps made upon the enemies' works, the works carried, many prisoners taken, also considerable artillery besides the rebels loss being heavy in killed and wounded. Number of our killed and wounded not yet reported but must be considerable, our troops being the attacking party. Thankful should be be to Divine Providence that our ever honored and memorable National Birthday is thus made the more sacred by a victory over the Nation’s and Freedom’s enemies.”

Albert Champlin's Diary can be found in the Alfred Mewett Papers Collection at the Western Reserve Historical Society in Cleveland, Ohio

No comments:

Post a Comment