Yankees Reload Their Carbines Underwater

June 27, 1864/2014
Volume 5, Issue 26 (194 Issues Since 15 October 2010)

In Blockaded Richmond, Jefferson Davis’s Wife Gives Birth

Varina Anne Davis, 1898

Varina Anne Davis, 1898

“On June 27, 1864, with the sound of the guns of Petersburg audible in Richmond, Varina [Davis] gave birth to her [sixth and] last child, a daughter and namesake, Varina Anne Davis, known as Winnie. [Winnie was born just two months after her five-year-old brother Joseph died falling from a balcony.]

“By now the blockade of the capital had reduced Richmond’s citizens to desperate measures, and the Davises were no exception. Jeff sold every horse he could spare; Varina sold her best clothes, her carriage, and her jewelry ‘to get the necessities of life,’ Jeff worked night and day, ignoring meals and sleep. ‘Darkness,’ Varina later wrote, ‘seemed now to close swiftly over the Confederacy.'”


Berkin, Civil War Wives, p. 171.


Winnie Davis: Daughter of the Lost Cause by Heath Hardage Lee

The Battle of Atlanta Approaches, Panic Reigns 

“After the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain on June 27, a panic gripped many townspeople, who packed their families and belongings and fled. [Even though Kennesaw Mountain was a costly Union failure, Sherman’s forces continued to progress toward Atlanta]. Even [Atlanta] Mayor [James M.] Calhoun sent his wife and two children away. Confederate officials began moving arsenal machinery to Macon and Augusta. On July 5 General Johnston ordered the military hospitals to pack up and leave.”


Stephen Davis, “Atlanta as a Confederate Hub,” in the Civil War in Georgia, p. 137.

Why Atlanta Was Important

“Atlanta was indeed a great prize. Its population had doubled to 20,000 during the war as foundries, factories, munitions plants, and supply depots sprang up at this strategic railroad hub. The fall of Atlanta, said Jefferson Davis, would ‘open the way for the Federal Army to the Gulf on the one hand, and to Charleston on the other, and close up those rich granaries from which Lee’s armies are supplied. It would give them control of our network of railways and thus paralyze our efforts.’  Because the South invested so much effort in defending the city, Atlanta also became a symbol of resistance and nationality second only to Richmond. . . .”


James M.  McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom, p. 751.

Yankees Reload Their Carbines Underwater

“Slaves had prepared two more defensive positions between Kennesaw Mountain and the Chattahoochee River, which flowed from northeast to southwest only eight miles from Atlanta. Johnston had told a senator . . . on July 1 that he could hold Sherman north of the Chattahoochee for two months. By the time Davis received word of this assurance on July 10, the Yankees had crossed the river. . . . At one point Yankee troopers swam the river naked except for their cartridge belts and captured the bemused [Confederate cavalry] pickets. At another ford, blue horsemen waded dismounted through neck-deep water with their Spencer carbines.

‘As the rebel bullets began to splash around pretty thick,’ recalled a Union officer, northern soldiers discovered that they could pump the waterproof metal cartridges into the Spencer’s chamber underwater; ‘hence, all along the line you could see the men bring their guns up, let the water run from the muzzle a moment, then take quick aim, fire his piece and pop down again.’ The astonished rebels called to each other: ‘Look at them Yankee sons of bitches, loading their guns underwater! What sort of critters be they, anyhow?’ The pickets surrendered to this submarine assault; Sherman had part of his army across the river on Johnston’s flank by July 9. . . . Civilians scrambled for space on southbound trains. Newspapers in the city still uttered defiance, but they packed their presses for a quick departure.”


James M. McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom, pp. 751-52.

– Submitted by Vermont Humanities Council executive director Peter A. Gilbert

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Filed under Civil War Book of Days: 1864

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