Item Description: Letter from Benedict Joseph Semmes shortly after his arrival in Atlanta, GA. He writes about the evacuation of the city, but feels confident the Confederates will never abandon Atlanta. He also mentions the sinking of his cousin Raphael Semmes’ ship, the CSS Alabama. During the Civil War Benedict Joseph Semmes served first as a Tenessee Volunteer, and subsequently as Chief Depot Commisary in Tennessee, Kentucky, and Georgia.
Item Citation: Folder 12 in the Benedict Joseph Semmes Papers, #2333, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Atlanta July 13, 1864
My beloved E:
I arrived here on Sunday: the army having crossed home side of the Chattahoochee, where our emis now are, made it necessary that the supplies should be received from here being but about 4 1/2 miles to the Troops. The greatest consternation prevailed here when the movement became ? and the thousands of idlers and speculators that crowded this den of thieves fled in dismay with what of their ill-gotten goods and money they could carry off. The Troops laugh at the terrors of this class but feel great compassion for the unfortunates who dare not remain here should we evacuate the place. With some exceptions the people that remain and either those who are unable to leave, or who will be pleased with the presence of a Yankee Army. Though every preparation has been made by the offices of the Government for the final evacuation of Atlanta stores and manufacturers machinery etc removed I do not believe we shall give it up. The movements of the opposing armies may expose the city, like Petersburg to the shells of the enemy, and partial destinction, but I do not think the place will ever be abandoned now. The enemy yet hesitate on the approach banks of the river- no considerable force yet returned to cross- our troops are eager to meet them no matter at what odds and we now confielty expect some reinforcements from ? the Mississippi, said to be already on the march from this side of that river. On the whole we are cheerful and confident and there is no abatement in the spirits of the soldiers and their reliance upon the ability of the General no matter what other may say.
Genl Bragg arrived here this morning, supposed at the request of Genl Johnston to consult with him- his appearance here will give great satisfaction to the troops. I found the Claytons in sad affliction when I arrived- Mary and and Gunsie, both very ill and consiquently their parents obliged to remain here happen what may. Gunsie has typhoid pneumonia and Mary has a sort of nervous fever and is currantly under hallucination that she is about to die and will be lost- she is a mere shaddow now and was looking so fresh and handsome when I saw her before. Cousin Caroline and Mr Clayton are worn out with watching at night and all day- and so is Pauline, Spencer’s wife, who will not leave them until the army should evacuate this point.
John Dawson has returned to his regiment and is now in command, Col Margerney is asking Brigadier Genl commanding Vaughn’s Brigade Genl Vaughn having lost his foot recently by a shell, Brad Lucket is quite well and arrived here yesterday- I have not seen ? for some days- he is at work somewhere in the front.
I suppose you have heard of the loss of the Alabama- Raphael is much condemned for fighting at all, and especially with his ship in bad condition after a long cruise around the world. The Yankee commander John A. Wenslow (?) played a regular Yankee Trick- after he struck the colors, the sign of surrender, the Alabama came close up in the act of boarding when the Yankee fired into her which caused the loss of the vessel. Thank God however that cousin Raph is safe and I doubt not will soon be afloat with another and finer ship.
Sometimes, of ease, in spite of all my occupations and the unceasing crowds of officers and men around me, I feel my peculiar yearning for you my beloved an I became low spirited + heartsick. I have been disappointed more than you dream of in not seeing you once more before this campaign- now it is impossible until winter -(oh so long)- perhaps not then- your loving letters give me so much pleasure and comfort that I evant them always to be loving letters- several letters that make my hear rush into my mouth and my arms close upon-air. Bless you my precious E for all those severtands- I shall repay you, with inherent in the way you love best.