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(title page) G. W. Baker. Personal Correspondence.
George Washington Baker
Call number #4909 (Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
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Lt. George Washington Baker served with Company K, 123rd New York Volunteers, fighting throughout Virginia and participating in Sherman's infamous "march to the sea." Two of these three letters deal with Baker's observations of Atlanta during the Union invasion, as well as its social atmosphere after occupation. The final letter highlights events in Raleigh, North Carolina on the day the Confederate surrender was assured.
Camp 123rd NYSR
Atlanta Ga Sept 3rd 1864
My Dear Mother
"I believe I have written to them all but you and Father and have not succeeded in getting an answer as yet but presume there are some on the way but wish to give you all some information and that is if we wait to get an answer to letters before we write our correspondence will be [unclear] .
You will before this reaches you have heard all that is interesting in regard to Atlanta by abler pens than mine but on the supposition that it would be news while I am writing it (you not having heard the news through the papers as yet) concluded to give you a little history.
I did not accompany the expedition owing to cutting my knee which [unclear] me considerably but have heard a description from the rest.
Two Regiments from each Brigade were ordered out to make an advance on the Enemies lines to see if they were there in force. The Regt advanced to the old line we formerly held where the Rebs seemed to be in some force. Our skirmishers which were 1/2 mile ahead of the Regt advanced on them while the Regt halted and the next we heard was that our skirmishers were in the City and next Came General Slocum& Staff and General Williams& Staff with General Knife [?] close on their heels and more cumming, then the rest as he brought his Brigade Flag with him so our Brigade Flag was the first to be hoisted over the City.
The Regt passed through the City and advanced about 2 miles where we are at present while Sherman is after them with the rest of the Army.
Our boys saw and skirmished with their rear Guard and our Cars moved in nearly as quick as we did carrying rations to the Front so you see how expeditious we are in doing business. I passed over the road yesterday and was astonished to see the strength of their works and was convinced that we could never have taken them by storm first they had 3 row[s] of sharpened stakes then ditches and another row made by boring holes through a log so that they would turn when you tried to go over them.
I found that our shell[s] had torn the city to pieces considerable as on one side of the City most every house had a shell through it and some were completely riddled. A Great good many inofensive ones were killed as Hood never gave orders for the noncombattants to remove and they curse Hood beyond all account.
In one house there was a girl ironing when a shell burst in the room and 14 Bullets struck her tearing her all to pieces and in one Family of 7 they showed where 5 had been burried killed by one shell so you can judge how pleasent it is to have to run under ground every time you hear a Cannon fired and that fireing continual night and day.
Three 32 pounders that was near our line we used to call the Atlanta appeal which has been successful in the answer it was fun to us but death to them.
Atlanta has a great deal of ruined [unclear] around an in it as the Rebs were oblidged to destroy about 100 Cars filled with stores Muskets& Ammunition with a great many other things that we know nothing about.
We have found 7 Engines destroyed and there are more I presume that we have not found.
Atlanta is a very pretty place surrounded with Woods and a great many beautiful places in it and a great many northern people in it I should judge who hail the cessation of Shot and Shell with great joy. Perhaps some make it but the main body of the inhabitants are well pleased with our entry into their City and we were pleased to accommodate them in that respect as we shall be in any other nice places they have this way.
I think their army must begin to get discouraged soon and we stand ready to receive them and no doubtd we shall a great many for Sherman will give them no peace untill he has take or disbanded their Army."
Oct 19th 1864
"Your letter came to hand in the same mail of the rest and in fact it is all the mail we have had or likely to have soon unless Sherman Captures Hood for he seems to stick to the road as if it was his only chance.
We are having beautiful weather now.
I was interrupted in writing and have been very busy untill the present time and am now seated before a good fireplace smoking after having regaled myself on some sweet potatoes brought in by a foraging party.
The Potatoes here are different from any sweet ones I ever saw North and are as white as a Carten and as mealy and not so sweet.
We get a Fig here occasionally but I do not fancy them much as they are rather sickish.
Our living is rather poor as a general thing as we cannot [unclear] any flour or Pork so have to use Corn bread or hard tack entirely. have all fresh Beef we want especially if any horned cattle make their appearance which happens very often.
Our forces have just returned from a foraging expedition brought in 700 wagons loaded with Corn, Sorghum, Sweet Potatoes and driving in Cattle Mules& c. our Brigade intends to start in a day or so when we shall supply ourselves with Poultry Milch Cow and Potatoes and whatever will conduce to our comfort as we have no Concientious scruples in taking whatever we can lay our hands on.
In the last said our boys (Union Soldiers) went in to a barn yard to drive off a cow when the woman of the house Bawled out bring that Cow back Mr Hood said we might keep one Cow but the boys told her they did not train under Mr Hood and kept on[.] such is was in the enemies Country and such it should be.
In one nice place in the city there is a large [unclear] garden with all kinds of Fruit trees such as Pears Figs Peaches& c and one of our wagon trains have camped there and Quartered their mules and they have eat all the bark off from them. I tell you it looks wicked but serves them right."
Love to all from
Camp 123rd NYR
Raleigh NC April 17, 1865
My Dear Mother
"Events of great importance are constantly passing before us and our fighting days are probably ended, for last night about 12 M we were aroused by the report that General Johnson had surrendered his Army to Sherman and you can have no idea of the excitement that reigned around the city at the announcement as it is surrounded by our Army. Cheer upon Cheer was heard Guns fired Canteens loaded with powder were fired and every Band& drum Corps were doing their best to swell the din and we were about as happy as could be.
I have been all over the city and find a strong Union feeling here and it is rather laughable to see the Guards on the houses smoking with the Citizens and holding the Children. All seem to be at home and enjoying themselves and the Soldiers anxiously wishing for the order sending them to their homes. Rebellion has gone down very sudden and I think they are satisfied with what they have gone through at least I am and it seems wonderful that I have been spared through so many dangers for I have not spared myself any since my return to the Army.
I would like to be North and see what an excitement there will be there over peace and see the Copperheads who no doubt will say how we conquered them as for me I can take a Rebel that has fought me three years by the hand with a good stomach but I wish every Copperhead was hung.
I hardly know what they will do with us. I suppose part of the army will be kept in the field to support the laws and get things in running order but it does not seem as if they would want to keep us all at such an expense. We are to move somewhere for Camp until some cours[e] of action is formed but we may have to go to Georgia and drop all animosities.
We just heard of the death of Lincoln and it seems to cast a gloom over everything it seems as if it was the greatest calamity that could have befel us and is felt by all even his Enemies still it may be for the best as the South may be more willing to come in to the Union under some other man and what is one mans life to the good of the country.
I am one of the kind that think no great calamitys come upon us unless for some great good[.] still I feel as if we had lost some dear friend. Things seem to be undecided here as yet and we do not hear what success Sherman and Johnson have in negotiations but think every thing will be well[.] the trouble is Sherman claims the Cavalry and Johnson wants to save the horses to distribute among the inhabitants where we have passed through and makes it a pretext but if Johnson does not give up I pity him for we shall exterminate them in a short time."
Love to all from your Affectionate Son--