Item description: Letter, dated 16 June 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 transcription available below images.]
Camp near Big Shanty Sta. June 16th 1864
Your kind letter of June 4th came to hand yesterday and was quite welcome. Situated as we are on the battle field amid the crowded throng of thousands of soldiers, the almost continual clicking of musketry and occasional roar of Artillery, it is quite a relief to receive and read a kind letter from a friend.
I realized this pleasure on yesterday, for while reading your letter the Artillery was firing vigorously and with an almost deafening roar about fifty rods in front of us, and the infantry were making a charge upon the rebels a little to the left of our batteries; while the deadly music of the musketry mingled with battle cry of the brave boys rushing upon their deadly foes. How strangely conflicting scenes seem to commingle upon the battle field. Just before the battle all is joy & mirth – the greeting of friends – in a moment the meeting of foes – the deadly conflict and then the shout of victory or the wail of suffering and the agony of death. O! kind disposer of events hasten the glad day when such scenes shall be forever ended in our land.
We left Huntsville the next day after I wrote to you last, and after a long and severe march with wet weather and bad roads we arrived at the Hd. Qrs. Of Gen. Sherman near Acworth on the 8th of this month.
On the 10th the whole army advanced to this place and found Johnsons army occupying a strongly fortified position around the base of Pine and Lost Mountains. When we came here it was raining and continued raining almost incessantly for four days so that very little was done except skirmishing.
Yesterday the weather cleared up and some fighting was done. Our lines were advanced the 4th Div. of our Corps making a charge on our left driving back the enemy and capturing about 400 prisoners. One Regt. (the 31st Ala.) of about 100 men was taken with its officers. Our Regt. was not engaged although they were moved up to occupy an advanced position and to support a regt. holding our rifle pits.
During the engagement yesterday Lieut. Greenough (of Co. F. 30th Ills. and Aid de Camp to Genl. Force comd’g our Brig.) was shot by a rebel sharpshooter and died instantly. He was standing near one of our batteries looking through a field glass at the advancing line of skirmishers when he was shot. There was a large crowd around and among them several Generals, none of whom had any business there except to see what was going on, but as soon as he fell the crowd was soon dispersed. Lieut. Greenough was the one of the best and bravest officers in our Division his death was a severe loss & deeply regretted by all who knew him. His body was sent to his home in Marshall Ills. to day in charge of his friend, Noyes Barber.
All has been quiet in our front to day except an hour or two this afternoon there was some brisk cannonading. This is only about twenty miles from Atlanta, while it is rumored that Hooker has crossed the river to our right, and is probably trying to get between them and Atlanta with a large force. If he accomplishes this and causes them to evacuate their works here Shermans victory is complete.
Our losses in the fight yesterday were comparatively light & Sherman I think has been doing well when we consider that he has sent north of prisoners and deserters together, then hundred and forty of Johnsons Army during the last six days.
I hope that the next 4th of July may be like the last, and much more, a day in which the north together with the army in the field, shall celebrate signal victories for the federal arms. But while we rejoice over our success we are called to mourn and drop the tear of sympathy for brave and loved boys who have nobly fallen upon the battle field to secure for us these successes. The living heroes of this struggle for our countries honor, the nation will ever delight to welcome and reward but, –
“The hearts adoration shall still be for those
Who know naught of the triumph that blesses the close;
Who from the dark battle field never returned,
To hear the warm praises so gallantly earned;”
You have my warmest sympathy in the loss of your loved brother. The ways of providence are mysterious yet I trust you mourn not as those who have no hope. His country demanded the sacrifice and it is a sweet consolation to know that he died nobly and in a good cause.
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I thought I had taken a large enough sheet of paper to write all I wanted but I have filled it up with much that I expect will not be interesting to you and hope you will pardon me for writing so much, but you need not read it if you get tired before you get through, especially this page. But I want to answer some things in your last letter.
You have a poor opinion of your own photo. I haven’t taken it for a cigar lighter yet and do not expect to very soon. If M.F.W. is going to send me one of her, she is a long time about it for it hasn’t come to hand yet. Perhaps your information was mistaken about her intentions. I haven’t heard a word about her since I was at home and do not know where she is. And if she should think proper to send me her photo it would have to be much better looking than the original to even compare with yours, so you need not fear the fate of yours.
The boys in the 30th are generally well they are now occupying rifle pits only four or five of the Regt. have been slightly wounded since we came here. They have been quite fortunate thus far. The 102nd are several miles out to our right in Hookers Corps and I have not seen any of them yet. I believe I am but little acquainted with any one in that Regt. I have met some old acquaintances in Ohio Regts. And in the 9th Ills. I must close as it is nearly mail time and take this to the Office. The cars run to this station now and we get the mail through direct. Please excuse this cross writing as I do not believe in it as a general thing. Direct as before and write as soon as convenient. I remain as ever.
Your sympathizing friend,