Civil War Journal of Samuel Oliver Bereman, page 17
In the 4th Iowa Cavalry
May - July, 1865
Gen. Crockston joined us today with his Brigade. They left us before we got to Selma and "went it alone". We had not heard from them since tney left and we began to fear they were gobbled up - but they came out all right. They had several fights with Gen. Jackson's Cav. & whipped him every time - took 300 prisoners and several pieces of artillery.
Went two miles out in the country to graze our horses, as forage is getting scarce. I am getting anxious to leave here & go some place where we can have some communication with the rest of the world. Some inhuman wretch burned down our commissary house containing our supplies. It was all captured except the coffee, which cannot be replaced till we get supplies from the north.
Went to the theater in the city at night. They played Scotts "Lady of the Lake." No one who has ever read the poem needs to be told that it is good. It was pretty well acted considering the place. "Love in all corners" a comic piece was played after wards. The price of admission was fifty cents in green backs or fifty dollars in confederate money. All of which goes to show that the southerners have'nt much faith in the rebel "promise to pay".
Two hundred guns were fired today in honor of the Late federal victories and the declaration of peace in this Dept. Well I suppose it is ratified now. The R R. is completed between here and Atlanta. A part of our Regt. were sent up to Augusta by R.R. leaving their horses with us. We have orders to be ready to move at a moments notice.
Started out at daylight - crossed the river and took the road to Atlanta. Marched 29 miles. It is very hot and dusty, but as we are going northward we can stand very well. As long as we are going towards home we wont grumble. Every man has an extra horse to lead.
Marched 24 miles and camped on a small creek close to Griffin on the R.R. Got forage at the Depot in town. It is quite a nice little place for Georgia
Passed through Griffin this morning and Jonesborough in the afternoon where Gen. Sherman's force had a fight with Hood last summer. There is considerable fortifications and from the appearance of the scarred trees they must have had a hard fight of it. Marched 30 miles.
Our command was divided again this morning. All the available men were left to help catch old Jeff. Davis who is said to be in this vicinity trying to make his escape. Hand bills are stuck up along the road offering $100,000 for his capture. "Good-bye Jeff". I'd hate to be in his boots. Raining nearly all day. I am left in command of the co. - what's left of it, 15 men and three times as many horses. Arrived at Atlanta at 2 oclock in the afternoon and camped N.E. of the city. Some of the men of co. K. who went on to Augusta from Macon are here having come back from there to scatter the hand bills describing Jeff. Davis. The rest of them are at Augusta yet holding the place & paroling prisoners as they come in.
Moved camp a mile and a half to get better water. It is likely we will stay here some time. Every thing for miles around is strongly marked by the desolating hand of war. Almost every foot of ground has been camped on, houses burned, fences and shrubery destroyed, &c. Especially in the city has the fire done its work. Sad indeed must be the heart of the returned soldier, who not only looses the battle, but returns to find his home desolate - nothing but a heap of ruins, ashes, and blackened trees to mark the spot so dear to his memory. As we came through a little village yesterday, I saw a man a confederate soldier sitting upon the ground where had been a dwelling burned now his head bowed down weeping! He spoke no word but the sad story needed not words to impress it indellibly on my mind. Let us hope it will prove a warning to all rebels in future.
Our camp is on the outer line of defenses of the city, and every thing indicates a regular storm of "Leaden rain and iron hail" during the siege of Atlanta. The timber is litteraly mowed by grape and canister, shot & shell which still lies thick on the ground.
Well we sent some mail home today - the first we have had a chance of sending since leaving Eastport - except one letter from each co. at Macon. Gen. Upton arrived from Augusta and took command of the Div. We captured a lot of wall tents here, so we have first rate quarters.
Nothing of interest has transpired for several days until last night when the ex President of the ex confederate States (so called). Mr. Jefferson Davis Esq. passed through here on his way to Washington. He was captured by the 4th Mich. Cavalry near Macon. He crossed the R.R. the same day that our boys came from Augusta with the hand bills. I should like to have been the lucky captor. How are you Jeff. Davis - "does your Mother know you are out?" A squad of us went out to Peach tree Creek 4 miles N.E. of here. Some very hard fighting was done here on the 28th of July, before our forces got to the city. In one place I saw twenty graves from one regt - the 46th Penn. On one of the head boards was marked "Wm. Kerlin, co, K. 46th Penn. He was ever brave and faithful." I thought of the lines, "Soldiers rest, thy warfare o'er Sleep the sleep that knows no waking."
Well another important event has come to pass. We received a big mail today, the first we have had since the 20th of March almost two rnonths ago. It is of rather an early date - but is news to us. I only got three letters so I think there must be some more for me on the road. It was a touching scene after the mail was distributed to see every man in the co. standing sitting or in any convenient position eagerly devouring the contents of those white winged messengers from home. The most of the recipients of letters were in excellent spirits as was seen by their bright countenances & joyful exclamations but I noticed some who did not participate in the general joy. One had news of the death of his father, another of a sister, and a third of a near relation and dear friends.
A part of the dismounted men who went to Augusta, came back today. They were relieved by Infty. from Savannah. A part of the regt is yet at Washington.
The 10th Mo. started north today. It is said they are going to St. Louis to be mustered out. We exchanged a lot of mules for their horses. I guess they are going to keep our regt just because we are Veterans.
A detail from our co. started through to Chatanooga with some late rebel officers and congressmen, a part of them will go on to Washington. Gen. Howell Cobb and the secretary of the navy were among the number. The remainder of the dismounted men of the Regt. came in from Washington. They were cos. A. D. and M. commanded by Capt. Abraham.
The 2nd Div. Gen. Song, arrived here from Macon last night and passed on up north ward today. They left two Veteran Regts. and the 4th Regulars at Macon. It is reported in the papers that l,000,000 cavly. will be kept in the service and sent across the Miss. under Gen. Sheridan.
A part of the 1st Div. McCook's passed through here "homeward bound". Well really it makes me almost homesick to see so many going home. One can not help envying them.
Lieut. Van. Sergt. Tallman, Will Howard and myself took a ride out to "Stone Mountain", fifteen miles east of this. It was quite a long ride and we didnt get back till after dark. The Mountain is worth going to see. It seems to be one solid stone rising abruptly to the hight of 2,000 feet. It is inaccessible except on the north side where the slope is more gradual. The lower part is covered with pine, laurel and scrub oak but the upper is entirely barren, nothing but the smooth solid rock.
We left our horses about half way up, where it became as steep they could not climb, and took it on a foot. Amused ourselves by rolling huge stones over the side of the mountain and watching them thunder down like a young avalanche. The spires of the churches in Atlanta are visible from the summit. It used before the war to be quite a place of resort for the southern Gentry. There has been an observitory on the highest point but has fallen into decay from disuse. It formerly contained a telescope piano and refreshments &c. It is quite a treat for us to get out in the country, free from military restraint, and the dullness of life in camp in time of peace.
And now the least of the pleasures is getting a good dinner at some well-to-do citizens house. Of course it would become us to pay for our meal, but not having had the pleasure a visit from the Paymaster for - I dont know how many months - we nave nothing to offer "mine host", So we have to use strategy - just as a good Gen. would do in a battle, Seeing a good looking farm house about noon, we had occasion to stop for a drink of water and to rest a moment. We sat on the porch chatting with the old men until he was called to dinner. Of course he could not well help inviting us to dine with him which of course we were too polite to refuse, and having been invited to dine it would be the hight of ill manners to offer to pay, so thanking him kindly for his generous hospitality we rode away after dinner. Upon the whole we spent the day very pleasantly.
The detail of the 24th returned today only having gone as far as Resaca, 85 miles north. We had a speech from Col. Winslow. He thought we were getting too anxious about going home and tried to comfort us but failed. There is a growing discontent in the regt. arising from being kept in the service in "time of peace".
This being the day set apart by the President as a day of humiliation [humility(?)] and prayer it was observed by citizens and soldiers. A meeting was held in the city and presided over by the chaplain of the 3rd Iowa.
Heard some good news. Got a Chicago paper in which was an order - no not an order but said there would be one to muster out all Vol. troops in case of Kirby Smith's surrender & I see that he has surrendered.
Lieut. Hallowell and sixteen men were sent east on the cars dismounted with four days rations. Dont know where they are going. Went out in the country and gathered two big buckets full of blackberries, and perhaps we didnt have a feast! Had two pot pies and some stewed with flour doins in them
Yesterday we had a feast - today a famine - or something like it. Had to borrow hard tack for dinner (which was about all we had) dont know what we will do for tomorrow. "Let every day provide for itself." From some cause we get poorer rations and less of them now than ever before - that is when we were where we could get them. The hard tack is nearly all wormy - ditto the bacon. The former has some obscure stamp or brand on them, which we cannot decipher, but some of the "wise acres" pronounce it "Mr. Noah & co. Ante Delivian". Some that was left over.
Lieut. Hallowell and party returned, have been to Washington trying to capture some specie, said to be a part of Jeff. Davis property, but they failed, although they caught several men who had helped to secrete it.
Had turtle soup for supper! Nat our cook caught one in his fish trap in the Chatahoocha river. It was splendid sure. Should like some every day. Good as Oysters.
Got up before daylight and went out blackberrying four miles in the country. As we passed along the quiet woods the air was made vocal by the song of a thousand "strange bright birds", just a waking to greet the god of day Among them the mockingbird was prominent. This is their native home, and the woods are full of them. They are the sweetest of America's songsters. Of a clear night they may be heard at all hours - perhaps singing in their dreams - who knows. Well we got six gallons of luscious berries - besides what we ate - which we threw in for good measure. Also a lot of plums and got back to camp before dinner. Received six letters this evening - but they were all old - some of them written in March.
Had an old fashioned Insection today. Horses quarters, arms & equippments &c. "One step nearer home. In addition to our regular rations we drew some sanitary goods - pickles potatoes &c. much obliged - come again.
Well we have got a new Capt. at last - Ambrose Hodge, Adjut. of the Regt. Thanks to Col. Winslow who thinks we havnt material in the co. for a Capt. He is A. A. A. Gen. of the Brigade and will likly stay there. At least we hope so. He is formerly of Co. S.
June 21st 1865
The 1st Ohio who have been doing guard duty in the city are ordered awa:' - to South Carolina and our Regt. will take their place. We have done little or nothing for some time so it will be a change for us to go to work again. The Ohio regt. at first refused to go (they are like us want to go home) but concluded to do so.
Moved our camp on to the Macon road, we were too far from the city to do provost duty. We have a very nice camp within ten yds of the R.R. and less than half a mile from the central part of the city. A part of the Regt. is away doing duty in another part of the state. Co. A. and ours are by ourselves in a small grove, on a hill overlooking the city. We have a splendid spring just across the R.R. which supplies us with water for ourselves and horses.
Went out to the cemetery, half a mile east of the city. It is a very extensive graveyard at present - being the last resting place of between four and five thousand soldiers, of both armies, besides being the citizens burial ground before the war. There are several acres of ground where the foot board of one grave makes the head board for the next, so close are they. The soldiers were killed during the siege, or died from wounds received then.
Had a false alarm last night. It was about the "wee hours" of the night. I was sleeping very soundly and dreaming I think of home, (but to tell the truth was so badly scared that I forgot it) when bang! went a gun right close by our tent. I sprang upright in bed and reached for my arms. The report of the gun was followed by an awful yell of pain and agony, a gurgling choking sound, a struggle and a heavy fall! I was horror struck, amazed I first thought of the rebels or guerrillas, but then "the war is over" then I thought I was President and had been assassinated, but soon was relieved of my terrible anxiety by hearing one of the boys hollor out "Steal my meat will you?" and another "I guess that dog wont get hungry any more", followed by loud laughter & then I knew what the matter was and laughed too. The dog was carrying of some of our rations and got shot! There are thousands of people here in the south that are in a starving condition - they have to draw rations from the Gov. or they would starve, and yet they keep more dogs than - well the saying - "A fool for luck - a poor man for children and a nigger for dogs", ought to be changed a little. They are about as necessary to some families here as a fifth wheel would be to a wagon. "The perfumed light steals through the mist of alabaster lamps and every air is heavy with the breath of of orange flowers that bloom in the midst of roses."
4th of July
Which we celebrated by having a review of the Brigade. Of course we did not enjoy it at all as we had to sit for two mortal hours on our horses in the hot sun - coats buttoned up to the chin, with all our arms & accouterments on. Besides I am getting tired of military life in time of peace and think it is high time something were done towards getting us out of service. Instead of which things have the appearance of us being kept in for an indefinite length of time. Col. Winslows and some of the other officers have come down here to see us. We are actually under orders to go to Americus, two hundred miles south of this, near the Florida line. We all declare we wont go, but I expect it will be like the 1st Ohio. We got up a petition in our co. and got it signed by neary all the regt. - except some of the officers - and sent copies to Adjt. Gen. Thomas, Gen. Grant, the Secty. Staunton, the President &c. asking to be mustered out. The cars came through from Chatanooga for the first time today. A part of our force have been at work on the R.R. and the bridge over the Chattahoocha ever since we've been here.
There was a Brigade of Infty landed here today from Dalton, and is said to have come to relieve us. I dont care to be relieved if we have to go south, but to go north - oh yes, of course!
Intolerably hot! Cant keep cool by laying in the shade and fanning ourselves. They dont keep thermometers down here - have no use for them - the mercury all runs out at the top! Which is the latest joke of the season. "Oh, for a lodge in some vast icehouse." Some negroes came in from the country, some of them wounded, others badly scared, and reporting to have left several dead, the effect of some unrepentant unreconstructed rebels. Who ought to be hung.