Burns, Robert – August 17, 1864

Michigan Civil War Collection Rare and Notable

Click here for this soldier’s biography:

Regiment: 4th Michigan Cavalry

Battles Mentioned:

Historical Figures: Andrew J. Smith, Edward M. McCook, George Stoneman, John B. Hood, William T. Sherman

Head-Quarters 1st Brigade, 2nd Cavalry Division,
Department of the Cumberland,
Peach Tree Creek, GA
August 17 1864.
My dear Davidson
Since mine to you of the 4th
inst until the 15th we were laying in the trenches
before Atlanta dismounted and expecting every twelve
hour to enter the city. We are not there yet
as you will probably be aware when you read the
telegrams of this late. I shall not foretell when we
shall enter the place as I don’t know, and have
too often burned a false prophet.            Our lines
nearly [ ? ] it, and are about eighteen miles
in length. Yesterday Capt Thompson + I rode the
extreme length of them from left to right and re-
turn. and saw the great army under Sherman
at some places we are close to the city. and
at others several miles distant. Our right is
stretching itself down the Macon R.R. and trying to

[see document for hand drawn map]

reach it and effectually cut Hood off. Hood very obstinately
stretches his line out too between us and R.R. He
now has nearly as many men as we and neither ride
particularly desires to attack the other, as the works of both
are exceedingly strong. Forts, earthworks and entrenchments
cover the whole distance. In some places the works of the
two armies approach each other so close that there are no
skirmishers out between them. The men [   ?   ] in their
holes like fixer and not a head can be shown that
is not shot at. We are now encamped at the place
marked 2 on the preceding scrawl: the day before yesterday
we moved June No 1 where we had been since Aug 1st.
We are now supposed to be on the “qui vive” to make a
dash at any raiders who attempt to turn our left.
Wheeler with several thousand rebel cavalry is reported to be
near Dalton and a part of our forces have gone after
lives. Rumor hath it this morning that he has been
whipped by several negro regiments from Chattanooga
Our cavalry is now pretty well used up that if Stone-
man and McCook having been hadly demoralized in
the recent raids. As for as we can make out
neither man of them is fit to command a platoon.
McCook allowed his men to get drunk in the wines +
they had captured from the rebel officers and a great

many were made prisoners. The raid of Stoneman,
on account of the inefficiency of himself and another
General I could name, was also a total failure.
You may see glowing accounts of the two raids in our
papers but we here consider them a disgrace and
an idle waste of men and horses. It takes more than
newspaper puffs to make Generals here.
We are now encamped on the battle field of
July 20th where the 20th Corps was attacked by the reb-
els and so bloodily repulsed them. The trees around
us are scarred by balls. In one I have counted 61
bullet holes, in another 47. in a third 23 and 2 can-
non balls. In the tree to which one tent fly is fastened
are ten holes within six feet of the ground. Union
and rebel graves are scattered all over the field but a
little distance from us. In one trench or grave are
burried 4 rebel officers and 49 soldiers. A week
ago men were found in all directions unburied but
they have all been covered since. I rode over the
whole field on the 7th and stumbled over several
dead “rebs”        I hope we shall not have to stay
here long as the stench is sometimes almost intol-
eralbe. Dead horses and mules still lie about
entirely too near.             The whole of this country

is one great Golgotha. Yesterday in our ride we were
not five minutes without the most intolerable smells com-
ing between the wind and our volulity.
Saturday night between 9 and 12 o’clock we were
obliged to sit and make ourselves easy under a bombardment.
The rebels shelled our camp for about three burn and
we were obliged to stay there. One poor fellow’s lef was blown off
just behind me.                I had written thus far when orders
came “to saddle up immediately and prepare to move at a moment’s
notice; the enemy were massing on our left and preparing for an
attack send a regiment to strengthen our pickets” We did and were
just ready when the “recall” was rounded. It was a false alarm
We dismounted + unsaddled when another order which is in force
was rec’d and now says that we will move to-night when the moon ris-
es to Sand Town away on the right of the army” to be prepared
to move to the rear of the enemy and force time to come out of his
works + fight. so I suppose we shall start to-night I can’t
say that I want to go much as I have been quite unwell for
several days with the common complaint “diarrhea” Every body
here has it semi-occassionally and it is not consistence a cause for going
on the sick list. It is disagreeable and weakening. I shall probably
be over it in a few days.
I have heard nothing from you since I wrote last.
I yet look for Willy. We have rumors every day that Genl Smith’s
command is on the way here. I do hope it will come.
Our regiment begins to talk about “neterauizing” it may be in
Michigan in a few months.           Have not heard lately
from Greens. Give my love to “Madge” Good bye
God bless you all.
Your affect brother
J.D. Burns            Please send for the “Cincinnatti Commercial” of
Kalamazoo          July 14th In it is a report which I sent them. I
Mich                      have heard it was in that number, but we can get
no copies here. Keep one copy for me and send me

[On Envelope:]

J. Davidson Burns Esq