Item description: Letter, dated 8 September 1864, from Robert Stuart Finley to his fiancee, Mary A. Cabeen. Finley was a member of the 30th Illinois Infantry, serving in Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, and Georgia.
Item citation: From the Robert Stuart Finley papers #3685-z, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
East Point Ga. Sept 8th 1864
Your letter of Aug 18th was received yesterday morning and I assure you it was read with pleasure. We had been cut off from all mail facilities for two weeks & were glad to get back to where we could write and receive letters once more.
I suppose that every one in the North is rejoicing over the glorious news that Atlanta has fallen into our hands and that the Rebs have received a sound & wholesome lesson in the shape of a signal defeat. Vive la Sherman! May his praises be on the lips of thousands and a grateful nation fail not to do him honor.
On the 26th of last month the army began the movement which placed the doomed city in our hands and ended this long and arduous campaign. Evacuating our works in front of the place during the night Sherman moved the army westward toward the Chattahoochee river, as if he intended to fall back across the river, and the movement was so admirably conducted that Genl Hood was completely deceived. We then made a forced march south & east and struck the R.R. to Montgomery almost entirely undefended. Destroying this for several miles we marched on to the Macon Road where they met us in force and a severe & bloody battle was fought in which the rebels were defeated and driven back and Our Army occupied the Rail Road at the station of Jonesboro. During the fight a part of the Army of the Cumberland gained the road between the Rebs and Atlanta thus compelling them to retreat toward Macon and leave Atlanta and their militia who were garrisoning it at our mercy.
In the battle of Jonesboro the enemy lost heavily in killed wounded and prisoners. Our loss was considerable but nothing compared with theirs. A large number of their wounded fell into our hands.
The 20th Corps were left at the River to guard the bridge & supplies and took possession of Atlanta as soon as it was evacuated by the Militia.
The 30th were very lucky on this march. When we reached the first RR the Regt was detailed as train guard for the Division and thus we did not have to go into the fight. Lieut Foster was struck by a shell on the 28th and his left arm was so shattered that it had to be amputated. There were no others wounded in the Regt.
On the morning of the 4th we started with the train for Atlanta and arrived there the next morning at 8 o’clock and stayed there until 4 o’clock P.M when we were ordered back to this place with the train.
Atlanta is quite a city and in time of peace was no doubt a nice place, but it now bears the marks and hard knocks of the seige. Several large buildings have been burst down and houses torn & shattered by yankee Shells.
This place is six miles south of Atlanta & is the Junction of the Macon & Montgomery Rail Roads. It is probably that the Army of the Tennessee will stop there and the Army of the Cumberland go into Atlanta. The troops are just beginning to come in this morning and selecting their camps. I don’t know how long we will be permitted to stay here but hope at least a month or two and until we are all paid off.
Adjr Poak started to Chattanooga on the 25th of last month with the non-veterans to have them mustered out. He has not returned yet. Col Rhoads started with him going home on leave of absence and a Capt is commanding the Regt. We heard from Col Shedd after he was captured and he was all right. Several of the prisoners escaped after they got to Macon and got back safe into our lines.
It is raining some today and is so cool that a fire would be very comfortable, but our house is very open and no fireplace. We just have a tent fly open at both ends, and you can imagine how comfortable it would be in a cool rainy day. We have had several heavy rains in the last week or ten days.
I am sorry to hear of my friend John Porter’s ill health. I inquired of the boys in his Regt & they said he had gone home but did not know how he was getting along. I hope he may recover and return to duty soon.
I hope that Sherman will let us go home this fall to vote for President. I would like to go and give our vote for Abe and Andy. I think it a shame and outrage that the US Soldiers cannot be allowed to vote in the field. If they give us the chance I am sure we would all go not only to vote buy to enjoy the hospitality of our kind friends for a little season. We could be then in time for the fairs, the fruits and all the good things of life.
There is a rumor that all the veterans of the 17th Corps are going to be mustered out of the service because their musterin Rolls were wrong and that they could not be paid the bounty money without new rolls.
I hope it is so but I have no faith in the rumor myself. We will probably find out more about it in a few days. I hope the girls will send all the boys that are fit for soldiers down here as recruits so that there will be some chance for us to go home.
I am a little interested in hearing how the draft succeeds in Illinois. I expect there will no doubt be some resistance made in some places.
I must close as I have no particular news to write and hope you will excuse this apology & when we get fixed up a little I hope to do better.
Give me all the news when you write about local matters & friends. Give my respects to all- write soon & believe me as ever,