Ten-Year Old Diarist Writes of Sherman’s Approach

August 29, 1864/2014

Volume 5, Issue 35 (203 Issues Since 15 October 2010)

McClellan Named Democratic Nominee, But He Distances Himself from the Party Platform

August 29, 1864. At their party convention, Democrats nominate former Union general-in-chief George B. McClellan for president to run against Republican incumbent Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln had relieved McClellan of command for his failure to prosecute the war aggressively.

The Democratic Party platform called the war a ‘failure’ and urged that hostilities be ended ‘at the earliest practicable moment.’ But McClellan distanced himself from that platform, stating that the restoration of the Union was the ‘indispensable condition’ of peace.” In short, it is clear to no one how forcefully President McClellan would prosecute the war, or how readily he would compromise in order to end it.

As Sherman Approached Atlanta, Diarist Mary Chesnut Knows Her Slaves Foresee Freedom

Mary Chestnut

Mary Chestnut

On August 29, 1864 she wrote in her diary, “. . . I have excellent servants [she means slaves], no matter for their shortcomings behind my back. They save me all thought as to household matters, and they are so kind and attentive and quiet. They must know what is at hand if Sherman is not hindered from coming here, “Freedom, my masters!” But these sphinxes give no sign, unless it be increased diligence, and absolute silence. They are as certain in their actions and as noiseless as a law of nature — when we are in the house!. . .”


Mary Boykin Chesnut, A Diary from Dixie, Ben Ames Williams, ed., p. 433.

Ten-Year Old Diarist Writes of Sherman’s Approach

September 1, 1864. From May to July Confederate forces sought to deny Sherman Atlanta, but Sherman won the battle of Atlanta on September 1. Confederate general John Bell Hood evacuated the city, and the mayor surrendered the city the next day.

Ten-year-old Atlanta resident Carrie Berry kept a diary during those days. She wrote:

Carrie Berry

Carrie Berry

Sept. 1. –” . . . Directly after dinner Cousin Emma came down and told us that Atlanta would be evacuated this evening and we might look for the federals in the morning. . . .”

Sept. 2. — “We all woke up this morning without sleeping much last night. The Confederates had four engenes [engines] and a long train of box cars filled with ammunition and set it on fire last night which caused a grate explosion which kept us all awake. It reminded us of the shells — of all the days of excitement we have had it today. Every one has been trying to get all they could before the Federals come in the morning. They have ben running with saques of meal, salt and tobacco. They did act rediculous breaking open stores and robbing them. About twelve o’clock there were a few federals came in. They were all frightened. We were afraid they were going to treat us badly. It was not long till the Infantry came in. They were orderely and behaved very well. I think I shall like the Yankees very well.”

Sept. 7. — “The times get a little worse every day. Mary went of [off] this evening and I don’t expect that she will come back any more but we can do very well without her. I will have to go to work to help Mama.”


A Confederate Girl, The Diary of Carrie Berry, 1864. Christy Steele, ed. p. 26.


Carrie Berry Diary, August 1, 1864-January 4, 1865, AmericanCivilWar.com

Sherman Takes Atlanta

“Atlanta is ours, and fairly won,” Sherman telegraphed Lincoln. The victory greatly helped President Lincoln’s bid for reelection, and it set the stage for Sherman’s famous march through Georgia.

On the same day diarist Mary Chesnut confided to her diary, “Atlanta is gone. Well that agony is over. Like David, when the child was dead, I will get up from my knees, will wash my face and comb my hair. There is no hope, but we will try to have no fear. . .”

Historian Stephen Davis writes, “From a population of about 22,000 in the spring of 1864, probably 3,000 civilians remained in the city when the Confederate army was forced out of Atlanta on September 1. Days later, Sherman ordered almost all noncombatants to leave town. With their exodus, Atlanta’s significance as a Confederate military and industrial hub dissolved.”


Mary Boykin Chesnut, A Diary from Dixie, Ben Ames Williams, ed., p. 434.

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

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


1 Comment

Filed under Civil War Book of Days: 1864

One response to “Ten-Year Old Diarist Writes of Sherman’s Approach

  1. Pingback: Sherman’s March, Modern Warfare, and Total War | Vermont Humanities

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