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Dalton

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

ON the twelfth of March, 1864, Ulysses S. Grant was placed in command of all the Federal armies, and on the twenty-sixth joined the army in Virginia. He says: — "When I assumed command of all the armies, the situation was about this: the Mississippi was guarded from St. Louis to its mouth; the line of the Arkansas was held, thus giving us all the Northwest north of that river. A few points in Louisiana, not remote from the river, were held by the Federal troops, as was also the mouth of the Rio Grande. East of the Mississippi we held substantially all north of the Memphis and Charleston railroad as far east as Chattanooga, thence along the line of the Tennessee and Holston Rivers, taking in nearly all of the State of Tennessee. West Virginia was in our hands, and also that part of old Virginia north of the Rapidan and east of the Blue Ridge. On the seacoast we had Fort Monroe and Norfolk, in Virginia; Plymouth, Washington, and New Berne, in North Carolina; Beaufort, Folly and Morris Islands, Hilton Head and Port Royal, in South Carolina, and Fort Pulaski, in Georgia; Fernandina, St. Augustine, Key West, and Pensacola, in Florida. The remainder of the Southern territory, an empire in extent, was still in the hands of the enemy.

"Sherman, who had succeeded me in the command of the Military Division of the Mississippi, commanded all the troops in the territory west of the Alleghanies and north of Natchez, with a large movable force about Chattanooga.... In the East, the opposing forces stood in substantially the same relations toward each other as three years before or when the war began; they were both between the Federal and Confederate capitals. . . . My general plan now was to concentrate all the force possible against the Confederate armies in the field. There were but two such . . . east of the Mississippi River and facing north; the Army of Northern Virginia, General Robert E. Lee commanding, was on the south bank of the Rapidan, confronting the Army of the Potomac; the second, under General Joseph E. Johnston, was at Dalton, Georgia, opposed to Sherman, who was still at Chattanooga. Besides these main armies the Confederates had to guard the Shenandoah Valley — a great storehouse to feed their armies from — and their line of communications from Richmond to Tennessee. Forrest, a brave and intrepid cavalry general, was in the West with a large force, making a larger command necessary to hold what we had gained in Middle and West Tennessee.... I arranged for a simultaneous movement, all along the line."

"On the historic fourth day of May, 1864," says General William T. Sherman, "the Confederate army at my front lay at Dalton, Georgia, composed, according to the best authority, of about forty-five thousand men, commanded by Joseph E. Johnston, who was equal in all the elements of generalship to Lee, and who was under instructions from the war powers in Richmond to assume the offensive northward as far as Nashville. But he soon discovered that he would have to conduct a defensive campaign. Coincident with the movement of the Army of the Potomac, as announced by telegraph, I advanced from our base at Chattanooga with the Army of the Ohio, 13,559 men; the Army of the Cumberland, 60,773; and the Army of the Tennessee, 24,465 — grand total, 98,797 men and 254 guns."

Johnston took command at Dalton in December and spent the winter bringing back efficiency to the shaken Army of Tennessee. In his account of the following campaign, he says: "An active campaign of six months, half of it in the rugged region between Chattanooga and Dalton, had so much reduced the condition of the horses of the cavalry and artillery, as well as of the mules of the wagon-trains, that most of them were unfit for active service. . . . In the course of an inspection, and as soon as practicable, I found the condition of the army much less satisfactory than it had appeared to the President on the twenty-third of December. There was a great deficiency of blankets; and it was painful to see the number of bare feet in every regiment. . . . There was a deficiency in the infantry, of six thousand small arms. . . . The time of winter was employed mainly in improving the discipline and instruction of the troops and in attention to their comfort. Before the end of April more than five thousand absentees had been brought back to their regiments. Military operations were confined generally to skirmishing between little scouting parties of cavalry of our army with pickets of the other. . . . The effective strength of the Army of Tennessee, as shown by the return of May first, 1864, was 37,652 infantry, 2812 artillery, and 2392 cavalry. . . . On the fifth, the Confederate troops were formed to receive the enemy. . . . My own operations, then and subsequently, were determined by the relative forces of the armies, and a higher estimate of the Northern soldiers than our Southern editors and politicians, or even the Ad-ministration, seemed to entertain. This opinion had been formed in much service with them against Indians, and four or five battles in Mexico — such actions, at least, as were then called battles. Observation of almost twenty years of service of this sort had impressed on my mind the belief that the soldiers of the Regular Army of the United States were equal in fighting qualities to any that had been found in the wars of Great Britain and France. General Sherman's troops, with whom we were contending, had received a longer training in war than any of those with whom I had served in former times. It was not to be supposed that such troops, under a sagacious and resolute leader, and covered by entrenchments, were to be beaten by greatly inferior numbers. I therefore thought it our policy to stand on the defensive, to spare the blood of our soldiers by fighting under cover habitually, and to attack only when bad position or division of the enemy's forces might give us advantages counterbalancing that of superior numbers. So we held every position occupied until our communications were strongly threatened; then fell back only far enough to secure them, watching for opportunities to attack, keeping near enough to the Federal army to assure the Confederate Administration that Sherman could not send reinforcements to Grant, and hoping to reduce the odds against us by partial engagements." And later, of the situation in July before Atlanta: "The troops themselves, who had been seventy-four days in the immediate presence of the enemy, labouring and fighting daily, enduring toil and encountering danger with equal cheerfulness, more confident and high-spirited even than when the Federal army presented itself before them at Dalton, and though I say it, full of devotion to him who had commanded them, and belief of ultimate success in the campaign, were then inferior to none who ever served the Confederacy or fought on this continent."

And again, toward the elucidation of this campaign, General Sherman speaks: "I had no purpose to attack Johnston's position ' t Dalton in front, but marched from Chattanooga to feign at his front and to make a lodgment in Resaca, eighteen miles to his rear, on his line of communication and supply. This movement was partly but not wholly successful; but it compelled Johnston to let go at Dalton and fight us at Resaca, where, May thirteenth to sixteenth, our loss was 2747 and his 2800. I fought offensively and he defensively, aided by earth parapets. He fell back to Calhoun, Adairsville, and Cassville. . . . I resolved to push on toward Atlanta by way of Dallas. Johnston quickly detected this, and forced me to fight him, May twenty-fifth to twenty-eighth, at New Hope Church, four miles north of Dallas. . . . The country was almost in a state of nature — with few or no roads, nothing that an European could understand. . . . He fell back to his position at Marietta, with Brush Mountain on his right, Kenesaw his centre, and Lost Mountain his left. His line of ten miles was too long for his numbers, and he soon let go his flanks and concentrated on Kenesaw. We closed down in battle array, repaired the railroad up to our very camps, and then prepared for the contest. Not a day, not an hour, not a minute, was there a cessation of fire. Our skirmishers were in absolute contact, the lines of battle and the batteries but little in rear of the skirmishers, and thus matters continued until June twenty-seventh, when I ordered a general assault . . . but we failed, losing 3000 men to the Confederate loss of 630. Still the result was that within three days Johnston abandoned the strongest possible position and was in full retreat for the Chattahoochee River. We were on his heels; skirmished with his rear at Smyrna Church on the fourth day of July, and saw him fairly across the Chattahoochee on the tenth, covered and protected by the best line of field entrenchments I have ever seen, prepared long in advance. No officer or soldier who ever served under me will question the generalship of Joseph E. Johnston. . . . We had advanced into the enemy's country one hundred and twenty miles, with a single-track railroad, which had to bring clothing, food, ammunition, everything requisite for 100,000 men and 23,000 animals. The city of Atlanta, the gate city opening the interior of the important State of Georgia, was in sight; its protecting army was shaken but not defeated, and onward we had to go. . . . We feigned to the right, but crossed the Chattahoochee by the left, and soon confronted our enemy behind his first line of entrenchments at Peach Tree Creek, prepared in advance for this very occasion. At this critical moment the Confederate Government rendered us most valuable service. Being dissatisfied with the Fabian policy of General Johnston, it relieved him and General Hood was-substituted to command the Confederate army. Hood was known to us to be a `fighter.' . . . The character of a leader is a large factor in the game of war, and I confess I was pleased at this change."

But in the early Georgian spring, pale emeralds and the purple mist of the Judas tree, July and that change were far away. The Army of Tennessee, encamped in and around Dalton, only knew that "Old Joe" was day by day putting iron in its veins and shoes upon its feet; that the commissariat was steadily improving; that the men's cheeks were filling out; that the horses were growing less woe-begone; that camp was cheerful and clean, that officers were affable, chaplains fatherly, and surgeons benevolent ; that the bands had suddenly plucked up heart; that the drills, though long, were not too long; that if the morale of the Army of Tennessee had been shaken at Missionary Ridge, it had now returned, and that it felt like cheering and did cheer "Old Joe" whenever he appeared. Men who had been wounded and were now well; men who had been on furlough, men who had somehow been just "missing," came in steadily. Small detachments of troops appeared, also, arriving from Canton, Mississippi, and from northern Alabama. The Army of Tennessee grew to feel whole again — whole, bronzed, lean, deter-mined, and hopeful.

From northern Alabama came in March the th Virginia. For the —th Virginia there had been the siege of Vicksburg and the surrender; then the long slow weeks at Enterprise, where the Vicksburg men were reorganized; then service with Loring in northern Mississippi; then duty in Alabama. Now in the soft spring weather it came to Dalton and the Army of Tennessee.

The village was filled with soldiers. The surrounding valley was filled with soldiers. From the valley, rude hills, only partially cleared, ran back to unbroken woods. There was Crow Valley and Sugar Valley, Rocky Face Mountain, Buzzard Roost and Mill Creek Gap, and many another pioneer-named locality. And in all directions there were camps of soldiers. Sometimes these boasted tents, but oftenest they showed clusters or streets of rude, ingenious huts, brown structures of bark and bough, above, between, and be-hind them foliage and bloom of the immemorial forest. Officers had log cabins, very neatly kept, with curls of blue smoke coming out of the mud chimneys. Headquarters was in the village, a white house with double porch, before it headquarters flag, and always a trim coming and going. At intervals the weary and worn engines, fed by wood, rarely repaired, brought over an unmended road a train of dilapidated cars and in them forage, munitions, handfuls of troops. But in the increasing confidence at Dalton, in the general invigoration and building-up, the tonic air, the running of the sap, the smiling of the world, even the East Tennessee, Virginia, and Georgia, and the Western and Atlantic, roadbed and rolling-stock and force of men, took on, as it were, an air of lively instead of grim determination. Outside of the town was the parade ground. Drill and music, music and drill, and once or twice a great review! Here came Johnston himself, erect, military, grey-mustached, with a quiet exterior and an affectionate heart, able and proud. With him rode his staff. Staff more than worshipped Johnston; it loved him. Here, too, came the lieutenant- and major-generals — Hardee, one of the best — and Hood the "fighter," well-liked by the President — Patrick Cleburne and Cheatham and Stewart and Carter Stevenson and Walker, and many another good leader and true. Here the artillery, reorganized, was put through manoeuvres, and Joe Wheeler's cavalry trotted across, and in the morning light the bugles blew. It was a lovely Southern spring, with soft airs, with dogwood -stars and flame-coloured azalea, with the fragrance of the grape and the yellow jessamine, with the song of many a bright bird, building in the wood. The Army of Tennessee, strong at Chickamauga, fallen ill at Missionary Ridge, convalescent through the winter, was now in health again.

There was a small house, half hidden behind two huge syringa bushes. It had a bit of lawn no bigger than a handkerchief, and the bridal wreath and columbines and white phlox that bordered it made the handkerchief a lace one. Here lived Miss Sophia and Miss Amanda, gentlewomen who had seen better days, and here "boarded," while the army was at Dalton, Désirée Cary.

Miss Sophia designed and carried out wonderful bouquets of wax flowers. Miss Amanda was famed for her bead bags and for the marvellous fineness of her embroidery. Miss Sophia was a master-hand at watermelon rind "sweetmeats," carving them into a hundred pretty shapes. Miss Amanda was as accomplished in "icing" cakes. Sweetmeats and wedding and Christmas cakes, embroidery, and an occasional order of wax flowers had for years "helped them along." Long visits, too, after the lavish, boundless Southern fashion, to kinsfolk in South Georgia had done much;—but now there was war, and the kinsfolk were poor themselves, and nowhere in the wide world was there a market for wax flowers, and there was no sugar for the sweetmeats, and no frosted cakes, and life was of the whole stuff without embroidery! War frightfully snatched their occupation away. As long as they could visit, they visited, and they valiantly carded lint and knit socks and packed and sent away supplies and helped to devise substitutes for coffee and tea and recipes for Con-federate dishes. But kinsmen had died on the field of battle, and kinswomen had grown poorer and poorer. One had made her way to Virginia where her boy was in hospital, and another had gone to Savannah, and another's house had been burned. Miss Sophia and Miss Amanda had retired up-country to this extremely small house which they owned. Beside it and its furniture they apparently owned nothing else. Even the stout, sleepy negro woman in the kitchen was a loan from the last visited plantation. Désirée, applying for board, was manna in the wilderness. They took her — with faintly flushed cheeks and many apologies for charging at all — for fifty dollars a week, Confederate money. She had a bare white room with a sloping roof and a climbing rose. There was a porch to the house, all bowered in with clematis and honeysuckle. Miss Sophia and Miss Amanda rarely sat on the porch; they sat in the parlour, where there were the wax flowers and a wonderful sampler and an old piano, and, on either side the fireplace, a pink conch shell. So Désirée had the porch and the springtime out of doors.

Captain Edward Cary's beautiful wife made friends quickly.

Officers and men, the Virginia had now for months rested her bound slave. It was not long before that portion of the Army of Tennessee that had occasion from day to day to pass the house began to look with eagerness for the smiling eyes and lips of Désirée Gaillard. Sometimes she was out in the sunshine, gravely pondering the lace border of the handkerchief. Army of Tennessee lifted hat or cap; she smiled and nodded; Army of Tennessee went on through brighter sunshine. She was presently the friend of all. After a while Johnston himself, when he rode that way, would stop and talk; Hardee and Cleburne and others often sat beneath the purple clematis and, sword on knees, talked of this or that. They sent her little offerings — small packets of coffee or of sugar, once a gift of wine, gifts which she promptly turned over to the hospital. If they had nothing else, they brought her, when they rode in from inspection of the scattered camps, wild flowers and branches of blossoming trees.

Edward came to her when it was possible. The th Virginia was encamped among the hills. Often at dusk he found her at the gate, her eyes upon the last soft bloom of the day. Or, if she knew that he was coming, she walked out upon the road toward the hills. The road was a place of constant travel. Endlessly it unrolled a pageant of the times. War's varied movement was here, the multiplicity of it all; and also the unity as of the sound of the sea, or the waving of grass on a prairie. Troops, incoming or outgoing, — infantry, artillery, cavalry, — were to be found upon it. The commissariat went up and down with white-covered wagons. Foragers appeared, coming in to camp with heterogeneous matters. Ordnance wagons, heavy and huge, went by with a leaden sound. Mules and negroes abounded — laughter, adjuration, scraps of song. Then came engineers, layers-out of defences and the clay-plastered workers upon them. Country people passed — an old carryall filled with children — a woman in a long riding-skirt and calico sun-bonnet riding a white horse, gaunt as death's own — sickly looking men afoot — small boys, greybeards, old, old negroes hobbling with a stick — then, rumbling in or out, a battery, the four guns very bright, the horses knowing what they drew, breathing, for all their steadiness, a faint cloud of brimstone and sulphur, the spare artillerymen alongside or seated on caissons — then perhaps cavalry, man and horse cut in one like a chesspiece — then a general officer with his staff — couriers, infantry, more foragers, a chaplain bound for some service under the trees, guard details, ambulances, more artillery, more cavalry, commissariat, " Grand Rounds," more infantry.... Désirée loved the road and walked upon it when she liked. She grew a known figure, standing aside beneath a flowering tree to let the guns go by, or the heavy wagons; moving, slender and fine, upon the trampled verge of the road, ready with a friendly nod, a smile, a word — a beautiful woman walking as safely upon a military road as in a hedged garden. The road loved to see her; she was like a glowing rose in a land of metal and ore. And when a mile from town, perhaps, she met her husband, when, turn-. ing, she came with him back through the sunset light, when they moved together, of a height, happy, it was as though beings of another race trod the road. There needed no herald to say, "These are gods ! "

But much of the time Désirée was alone. She asked for work at the hospital and was given it, and here she spent several hours of each day. There were no wounded now at Dalton, only the ill, and these in the wisely cared-for, steadily built-up army, lessened always in number. Suffering there was, however, now as always; moanings and tossings, delirium, ennui, pain to be assuaged, crises to be met, eyes to be closed, convalescence to be tended. In Dalton as else-where the Confederate women nursed with tenderness the Con-federate ill. Désirée did her part, coming like something cordial, something golden, into the whitewashed ward. When her hours were over, back she came to the house behind the syringas, bathed and dressed, and ate with Miss Sophia and Miss Amanda a Con-federate dinner. Then for an hour they sewed and knitted and scraped lint; then, when the afternoon had lengthened, she took the palmetto hat she had braided and went out of the lace handkerchief yard to the road and walked upon it.

Miss Sophia and Miss Amanda had attacks of remonstrance. "Dear Mrs. Cary, I don't think you should! A young woman and — pardon us if we seem too personal — and beautiful! It 's not, of course, that you would suffer the least insult — but it is not customary for a lady to walk for pleasure on a public road where all kinds of serious things are going on —"

Désirée laughed. "Not if they are interesting things? Dear Miss Sophia, I stopped at the post-office and brought you a letter."

Miss Sophia put out her hand for the letter, but she held to her text a moment longer. "I do not think that Captain Cary should allow it," she said.

The letter was from Richmond, from the cousin who had gone to nurse her son. Miss Sophia read it aloud.

MY DEAR SOPHIA: -

I am here and George is better — thank God for all His mercies! The wound in the leg was a bad one and gangrene set in, necessitating amputation, and then came this pneumonia. He will live, though, and I shall bring my son home and keep him while I live ! The city is so crowded, it is frightful. We in Georgia do not yet know the horrors of this war. I could hardly find a place to lay my head, but now a billiard-room in a hotel has been divided off into little rooms, each no bigger than a stall in my stable, and I have one of these. I go for my meals to a house two streets away, and I pay for shelter and food twenty-five dollars a day. Flour here is two hundred and fifty dollars a barrel. Butter is twelve dollars a pound. We live on corn-bread, with now and then a little bacon or rice. Yesterday I bought two oranges for George. They were eight dollars apiece. Oh, Sophia, it's like having George a little boy again! Two days ago there was a dreadful excitement. I heard the cannon and the alarm bell. George was a little light-headed and he would have it that there was a great battle, and that the boys were calling, and he must get up ! At last I got him quiet, and when he was asleep and I went to supper I was told that it was a Yankee raid, led by an officer named Dahlgren, who was killed. The reserves had been called out and there was great excitement. We have since heard fearful reports of the object of the raid. The President and his Cabinet were to be killed, the prisoners freed and set to sacking the city which was then to have been burned. Oh, my dear Sophia, what a world we live in! I was in Richmond on my wedding journey. I feel dazed when I think of now and then. Then it was all bright-hued and gay; now it is all dark-hued, with the strangest restlessness! I never saw so many women in black. You always hear military sounds, and the people, for one reason or another, are out of doors in great numbers.

The church bells have been taken down to be melted into cannon. The poverty, the suffering, the crowding are frightful. But I do not believe there is another such people for bearing things! George is a. great favourite in the ward. They say he has been so patient and funny. My dear Sophia, I always think of you with your plum colour silk bag and your spools of embroidery thread! I wish I had those spools of thread. Yesterday I had to do some mending, and I went out and bought one spool for five dollars. — George is waking up! I will write again. If he only gets well, Sophia, — he and the country!

Your affectionate cousin,

Miss Sophia folded the letter. "Dear George! I am glad enough that he will get better. He was a sad tease! He used to say the strangest things. I remember one day he said that behind Amanda embroidering he always saw a million shut-in women sticking cambric needles into the eyes of the future. And he said that I had done the whole world in wax, and he wondered how it would be if we ever got before a good hot fire. — He was n't lacking in sense either, only it never had a chance to come out, Maria spoiling him so, and darkeys and dogs always at his heels. — No, dear Mrs. Cary, you're a young woman, and — you'll pardon me, I know! — a beautiful one, and I don't think Captain Cary ought to allow it!"

March went, April went, May came. On the first of May, Désirée, walking on the road, thought she observed something unusual in the air. Presently there passed cavalry, a great deal of cavalry. She leaned against a wayside tree and watched. Presently there rode an officer whom she knew.

He lifted his hat, then pushed his horse upon the dusty turf beneath the tree. "We 're ordered out toward the Oostenaula! Sher-man's in motion. The volcano is about to become active."

"Is it going to overflow Dalton ?"

"Well, it would seem so! Though sometimes there's a new crater. We'll see what we'll see. Anyhow, Cary'll be sending you to the rear."

"I'll fall back when the army falls back."

Edward came that night and plead with her. She could go to Kingston on the cars and thence to Rome to the westward, out of the region of danger — "Edward," she said, "have n't I been a good campaigner ?" "The best —"

"Then, when you can do a thing well, why do something else poorly ? This is the way I am going to live, and when you wed me you wed my way of life."

"If harm came to you, Désirée —"

"And I might say, `If harm came to you, Edward,' — I know that harm may come to you, but — I don't say it, and you must not say it either. With you is my home, my Cape Jessamine, and I am not going to leave it."

"With you is my home, my Cape Jessamine — and all the gods know I love you here —"

"I am not going to Rome. Let us walk a little, in the moonlight."

The next day came in from Savannah Mercer's brigade of four-teen hundred. On the third the scouts reported a great force of the enemy at Ringgold. On this day, too, the cavalry pickets were driven in along the Cleveland road. On the fifth the great blue host formed in line of battle near Tunnel Hill. Over against them were drawn the grey. The fifth and the sixth were days of skirmishing, of reconnoissance, of putting forth fingers and drawing them back. In the first light of the seventh, under a wonderful sunrise sky, the blue army began a general advance.

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