Blocking the Union path to Atlanta, Gen. Sherman’s combined Army of the Tennessee, the Cumberland and the Ohio made a massive frontal assault on the Confederates.
They were thrown back with heavy losses, but after weeks of fighting, still forced the Southerners to fall back toward Atlanta, and an eventual Union victory.
Fighting with the 1st and 27th Tennessee infantry regiments, and the Rock City Guards, Watkins wrote:
“Well, on the morning of June 27th (1864), the sun rose clear and cloudless, the heavens seemed made of brass, and the earth of iron, as they began to mount toward the zenith.
“Everything became quiet, and no sound was heard save a peckerwood on a neighboring tree, tapping on its old trunk. ... On the distant hills we could plainly see officers dashing about hither and thither, and the Stars and Stripes moving to and fro ... making preparations for the mighty contest.
“My pen is unable to describe the scene of carnage and death that ensued in the next two hours. Column after column of Federal soldiers were crowded upon that line. ... the whole force of the Yankee army was hurled against this point, but no sooner would a regiment mount our works than they were shot down or surrendered ... Yet, still the Yankees came.
“The sun beaming down on our uncovered heads, the thermometer being 110 degrees in the shade, and a solid line of blazing fire right from the muzzles of the Yankee guns being poured right into our very faces, singeing our hair and clothes, the hot blood of our dead and wounded spurting on us, the blinding smoke and stifling atmosphere filling our eyes and mouths ... made it a perfect pandemonium.
“Hell had broke loose in Georgia, sure enough.”
As the fighting ebbed, Pvt. Sam and his exhausted fellows had tongues parched and cracked for lack of water, faces blackened from powder and smoke.
“Poor Walter Hood and Jim Brandon were lying there among us, while their spirits were in heaven,” Sam wrote.
And he closes the book: “The tale is told, the world moves on, the sun shines as brightly as before.”
Christy is news editor at the Enid News & Eagle. Go to his column blog at http://enid news.com/historicallyspeaking