History - Part VIII

PART VIII: June - August 1864

June 2, 1864 - Lieutenant Colonel Greene writes in his official report, "The conduct of all my officers and almost all my men has been admirable in battle, and on the weary march, since the 7th of May. Total loss, 15 killed, 86 wounded, 8 missing." During the time period of which he wrote, his men were variously engaged in operations in Georgia at "Pumpkin Vine Creek," Allatoona and Dallas, as well as at New Hope Church and Pickett’s Mill.

June 13 or 15, 1864 - Private Fred L. Sessions
(Co F) dies of his wounds while hospitalized at Marietta, Georgia (most likely received from the actions at Pickett’s Mill).

June 15, 1864
- Noonday Creek is the flashpoint of the day.

June 18-19, 1864
- During the night, General Joseph E. Johnston, fearing an envelopment, moves his army to a new position astride Kennesaw Mountain that he'd previously selected. The mountain provided him a natural opportunity to construct an entrenched arc-shaped line to the west of Marietta, Georgia, in order to protect his supply line: the Western & Atlantic Railroad. Encountering the entrenched Rebels on Kennesaw Mountain stretching southward, Sherman fixes them in front and extends his right wing to envelop their flank and menace the railroad.

June 22, 1864
- "Uncle Joe" Johnston counters Sherman’s tactics by moving John Bell Hood’s Corps, including the 37th Alabama from his left flank to his extended right. Arriving in his new position at Mt. Zion Church (also called "Kolb’s Farm"), Hood decides, on his own, to attack. Warned of Hood’s intentions, Union Generals John Schofield and Joseph Hooker dig in. Union artillery and the swampy terrain hinder Hood’s attack and force him to withdraw with many costly casualties. Although victorious, Sherman’s attempts at envelopment have momentarily failed.

The 37th Alabama is in the "Battle of Mt. Zion Church"
Army of Tennessee:
General Joseph E. Johnston, Commanding
2nd Corps:
Lieutenant General John Bell Hood
Stewart’s Division:
Major General Alexander Peter Stewart
Baker’s Brigade:
Brigadier General Alpheus Baker
37th Regiment of Alabama:
Lieutenant Colonel Alexander A. Greene

June 24, 1864 - Confederate Major General A. P. ("Old Straight") Stewart is promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General. He is given command of the corps formerly held by the late Bishop-General Polk, who was killed a few days earlier within sight of Johnston and Hood. Command of Stewart’s Division, which includes the men of the 37th Alabama passes to Brigadier General Henry DeLamar Clayton.

June 27, 1864
- Having defeated Hood’s troops at Mt. Zion Church, and inflicting heavy casualties, Sherman is sure that Joseph E. Johnston has stretched his line too thin and, therefore, decides on an attack of the Kennesaw Mountain position with diversions on the flanks.

In the morning, Sherman sends his troops forward after an artillery bombardment. At first, they make some headway overrunning Confederate pickets south of the Burnt Hickory Road, but attacking the mountain's heavy fortifications proves futile. The fighting ends by noon. It's Sherman's turn to suffer high casualties.

Sherman finally decides that Johnston is too strong to attack frontally. He adopts a plan to maneuver the Confederates out of their defenses. With crablike movement, Sherman continually extends his lines to his right and forces Johnston to withdraw.

The 37th Alabama is engaged at Kennesaw Mountain
Army of Tennessee:
General Joseph E. Johnston, Commanding
Hood’s (2nd) Corps:
Lieutenant General John Bell Hood
(Stewart's "Old")/(Now) Clayton’s Division:
Brigadier General Henry DeLamar Clayton
Baker’s Brigade:
Brigadier General Alpheus Baker
37th Regiment of Alabama:
Lieutenant Colonel Alexander A. Greene

In his post-war memoir, Private Benjamin F. McPherson (Co I) who had previously secured the services of a "substitute" to take his place until that moment wrote of the horrors of finally joining his regiment at Kennesaw Mountain, alongside his mess-mate Private Sam Bonner:
"... I will tell you about when we got to the Kenesaw [sic] Mountains ... The sight that I saw chilled my blood.

O God, a trainload of wounded men, all bloody, groaning and blood running out of the train, bullet holes through their clothing. O what a sight to behold. There had been a charge and a battle fought that night before and morning and they were going to the hospital at Atlanta, Ga
... [Sam Bonner and I went] zigzag along and shells flying through the trees thick and the minie balls singing close to my ears. I thought every moment I would be killed ... I will tell you it scared me nearly to death ... Our Command was out of the ditch and out under the hill, so we reported ... They soon gave me a musket and directly we both were called up to report at headquarters. We went, so we had to drag cannon on top of the mountain; so we went at it in a drizzle of rain. We got one up after midnight, but were not allowed to speak above a whisper when we got near the top of the mountain, so we went back after one more [artillery piece].

... [The cannon] were unlimbered, as they called it; that is, just the hind wheels with the cannon, it and the long coupling pole in place, but the front end lying on the ground. Two soldiers with a hand stick apeice to guide it backwards up the mountain. Well there was a cord as large as my leg fastened to the axle tree near the shoulder of the hubbow on each end of the axle tree and that cord may be one hundred yds. long, up the mountain, and men as thick as they could stand pulling on the ropes, so it was a slow go one ft. at a time, and to shun big rocks these men at the end of the coupling pole would shove. It went one way and then the other, so that is how they got the cannon up on top of the mountains. Our brigade got two up just as day began to dawn, so we went down, but not to sleep. The cannons I do not know how they got them up, but it was done for they contained the shells. That mountain was three miles west of Marietta, Georgia. I will tell you what I heard was said by our officers, that it was impossible for [U.S.A.] General [William T.] Sherman to elevate his cannon high enough to throw shells on top of the mountain... Well we made the mountain shake the next day, I think it was our men with them big guns poured it down on the Yanks ... Seems to me that it was not long after the 4th of July that we had to retreat for he [Sherman] would flank [C.S.A. Gen. Joseph E.] Johnston’s Army and then we had to retreat, for I reckon he [Sherman] had 4 or 5 men to us one ..."
July 2-3, 1864 - General Joseph E. Johnston abandons his fortifications and withdraws from the Marietta, Georgia, region. Johnston’s Army of Tennessee steadily moves southward throughout July. By July 20th, they'll take position south of Peachtree Creek, an east-to-west flowing stream, about three miles north of Atlanta.

July 5, 1864Sergeant Spencer Wright (Co H) is treated at the Academy General Hospital in nearby Marietta for a gun shot wound to his knee from which he had "... suffered for several days ..." according to the attending surgeon, L.L. Saunders, and for which Wright earned a well-deserved 30 day furlough home to recover.

July 7, 1864
- Brigadier General Henry D. Clayton, commanding Stewart’s old division, now called "Stewart’s-Clayton’s Division," (still containing the 37th Alabama inside Baker’s Brigade) is promoted to Major General of the Confederate Army.

July 14, 1864
- Pickets from Baker’s Brigade come under cannon fire and are hit by Union skirmishers. Private Francis A. Beatty (Co I) is killed at his post as a picket on the Chattahoochee River. First Lieutenant Robert L. Phipps (Co A) is also killed.

Two other members of the regiment are among the dead elsewhere.
Private Benjamin Frazer (Co E) dies of an unknown cause at Bragg Hospital on July 14, and Private Edwin Wyette (Co I) also dies from an unknown cause at Madison, Georgia.

July 20, 1864 - The 37th Alabama is engaged in the "Battle of Peachtree Creek"
Army of Tennessee:
General Joseph E. Johnston, Commanding
Hood’s (2nd) Corps:
Lieutenant General John Bell Hood
Clayton’s Division:
Major General Henry DeLamar Clayton
Baker’s Brigade:
Brigadier General Alpheus Baker
37th Regiment of Alabama:
Lieutenant Colonel Alexander A. Greene

Still pursuing Johnston, Sherman splits his army into three columns for an assault on the stronghold city of Atlanta itself with George H. Thomas’ Army of the Cumberland moving from the north.

Johnston decides to attack Thomas first, before he's in position, but Confederate President Jefferson Davis abruptly relieves Joseph E. Johnston of his command. Davis then promotes one-legged Lieutenant General John Bell Hood to full General to take his place. Sherman is apparently quite pleased upon hearing of the appointment of the reckless 33-year-old (who’d also lost the use of one arm) to command of the forces facing him. He is certain that Hood will make the mistakes that Johnston has thus far avoided. Sherman is quickly and painfully proven to be correct.

Hood impulsively attacks Thomas as soon as his army crosses Peachtree Creek. The determined assault threatens to overrun the Union troops at various locations. Ultimately, though, the Yankees hold, and the Confederates must fall back.

July 22, 1864
- Following the Battle of Peachtree Creek, Hood, who has grown weary of trench warfare, decides the time has come for him to deploy his signature tactic – a headlong, full-out attack – of Major General James B. McPherson’s Union Army of the Tennessee.

Hood withdraws his main army at night from Atlanta’s outer defensive ring to an interior line, enticing Sherman to follow. In the meantime, he sends equally reckless William J. Hardee (with his corps) on a 15-mile march to strike the unprotected Union left/rear, east of the city. Wheeler’s cavalry is dispatched to operate farther out on Sherman’s supply line, and General Frank Cheatham’s corps is to attack the Union front.

The 37TH ALABAMA is engaged in the "Battle of Atlanta"
Army of Tennessee:
General John Bell Hood, Commanding
Hood’s (2nd) Corps:
Lieutenant General Stephen Dill Lee
Clayton’s Division:
Major General Henry DeLamar Clayton
Baker’s Brigade:
Brigadier General Alpheus Baker
37th Regiment of Alabama:
Lieutenant Colonel Alexander A. Greene (Killed in Action)
- command of the Regiment passes to Captain T. J. Griffin

Having never commanded more than a Corps (and that for merely a few weeks), Hood gravely miscalculates the time necessary to make the 15-mile march, and Hardee is utterly unable to mount an attack until the afternoon. Although Hood's move has outmaneuvered Sherman for the moment, McPherson grows concerned about his own left flank and sends his reserves - an entire corps - to that location. Two of Hood’s divisions run into this unforeseen reserve force and, outnumbered, are easily repulsed.

The Rebel attack stalls on the Union rear but begins to roll up the left flank. Around the same time, a Confederate soldier shoots and kills Gen. McPherson as he rides out to observe the fighting. Determined attacks continue, but the Union forces hold. About 4:00 p.m., Cheatham’s Corps breaks through the Union front at the Hurt House, but Sherman masses 20 artillery pieces on a knoll near his headquarters to shell these Confederates and halts their drive. Major General John A. Logan’s (
U.S.) XV Corps leads a counterattack that restores the line.

The Union troops hold, and Hood suffers tremendous casualties. It is an foreboding precedent he will continue to follow.

When the smoke clears, the dead are everywhere, among them is the beloved
Lieutenant Colonel Alexander A. Greene - along with 39 other men from the 37th Alabama.

Just weeks earlier, on the 15th of May, a member of another regiment serving alongside the 37th Alabama was struck by Lt. Col. Greene’s public profession of faith following a speech by the Honorable J.L. Curry (member of Confederate Congress) who stated:

"... This is neither the time nor place for a political speech. I feel that this is a solemn occasion in which the destiny of human souls for eternity is at stake." [The soldier wrote in his diary] "Then he [Curry] gave a most stirring and earnest appeal for us all to become soldiers of the Cross, and closed by asking for volunteers to join the army of the Cross. About 100 came forward and gave their hands, among them was Col. Green of the 37 Ala. Reg. who was converted ..."

Captain T. J. Griffin (Co I) is left to assume command of the regiment, quite simply because the remainder of the cadre of officers: Captains James H. Johnson (Company B); Joel C. Kendrick (Co C - later promoted to Major); Joel G. Greene (Co E) and C. E. Evans (Co G) are all wounded in the fighting around Atlanta (Evans for the second time). Command of Evans’ Company G apparently falls to Burton Upchurch, a 2nd Lieutenant who transferred from the 42nd Alabama Infantry. Company B’s acting commander, 2nd Lieutenant John M. Trammell, who took over for the wounded Captain J.H. Johnson, is taken prisoner – leaving that company completely devoid of officers. Even the cream of the non-commissioned officers Sergeant-Major W.F. Dickenson (Co D) is wounded and is hospitalized by July 24 at Montgomery, Alabama.

Their brigade commander,
Brigadier General Alpheus Baker, files his official report of the battle. In it he writes:
"In this action the Thirty-Seventh Alabama Regiment lost 50 killed and wounded, among the latter their brave and skillful commander, Lt. Col. Greene. The conduct of officers and men in this trying ordeal, and officially of the Thirty-Seventh Alabama Regiment, who bore that so long is worthy of all honor and demonstrates how confidently they may be relied upon in any emergency."
This event is the single largest loss of life the 37th Alabama has ever endured in combat. The wounded are numerous and the wounds are ghastly, yet even under these circumstances, one act of heroism stands out. While still under fire, Private Benjamin A. Forrester (Co A) carries Private William E. Bradley (Co A) from the field at Atlanta after Bradley's leg was ripped from his body by a cannon ball during the fight. Forrester, better known as "Singing Ben" by his companions, is a walking contradiction as he is both a "sharpshooter" and a natural-born caregiver. He'd previously served as a nurse in the smallpox hospital having survived the disease and earning immunity from the dreaded camp disease the hard way.

July 24, 1864 – Sgt David M. Denney (Co B) writes "from the trenches" outside Atlanta to his wife. He provides no indication to her of the ordeal he's faced; rather he mostly gives her advice for taking care of their farm and livestock, perhaps because he secretly fears he won't ever be coming home to help her. He also includes the names of some of his comrades of Company B who've survived thus far at this side:

"... Mr. Carter [likely John C. Carter] is gone to the hospital. He was pretty sick when he left. I have not heard from him in some time. Billy Bishop has returned to the hospital. He has the mumps. Billy Smith has returned to the Command again. ... Archy is all right [most likely a reference to Archibald Jennings]. Edney Foster the same [possible reference to family member of John T. Foster]. John & Willy Culpeper, John Danielly, Orderley Stricklin ["Orderly Sgt" Thomas J. Strickland], Jas. Robertson and in fact all the boys are in pretty good health. J J Fuller is rather porly. .."

Known Regimental Dead from Actions at Atlanta on July 22:
- Lieutenant Colonel Alexander A. Greene - KIA
- Private John W. Carter (Co D) - KIA
- Private Richard J. Dennis (Co I) - KIA
- Private John R. Glover (Co H) - KIA
- Private Lindsey J. Morgan (Co I) - KIA
- Private William W. Redd (Co D) - KIA
- Private Warren J. Sharp (Co D) - KIA
- Private Carter Pinckard (Com K) - KIA
Although fewer of the reported 40 killed have been identified, many more than the 10 reported as wounded have surfaced, along with a great many POWs.
Known and Suspected Wounded WIA = Wounded in Action):
- Private R.T. Riviere (Co C) - possibly WIA - hospitalized at Marshall Hospital at Columbus GA 22 July
- Private Henry T. Bishop (Co B) - known WIA 22 July
- Private William E. Bradley (Co A) - known WIA 22 July - leg shot off by cannon fire
- Private James T. Brooks (Co I) - known WIA 22 July - gunshot to leg
- Private James D. Carroll (Co K) - known WIA 22 July
- Private Wiley J. Carter (Co F & G) - known WIA 22 July - leg partially amputated
- Private T.N. Curtis (Co K) - known WIA during “Atlanta Campaign”
- Sergeant-Major W.F. Dickenson (Co D) - possibly WIA - hospitalized 24 July at Montgomery AL
- Private D.J. Dorris (Co F) - known WIA 22 July - shot in elbow
- Captain C.E. Evans (Co G) - known WIA 22 July
- Private Matthew Garrett (Co G) - known WIA 22 July - foot
- Captain Joel G. Green (Co E) - known WIA 22 July
- Private John Griffin (Co A) - known WIA 22 July
- Private Ben H. Hammock (Co I) - known WIA 22 July
- Private Parker Hunt (Co D) - known WIA (date not known)
- Captain James H. Johnson (Co B) - known WIA 22 July
- Captain Joel Kendrick (Co C) - known WIA 22 July - leg
- Private William J. Miller (Co H & B) - possibly WIA - hospitalized 24 July - gunshot wound
- Private Bartholomew G. Moore (Co I) - known WIA (hand, lost finger)
- Private Andrew Elton Pope (Co E) - possibly WIA - hospitalized 22 July

Known Prisoners (POW) at Atlanta:
- Private W.M. Camp (Co H)
- Private Elijah Fortune (Co K)
- Private B.F. Granberry (Co G)
- Private Green Berry Johnson (Co A)
- Private William H. Key (Co H)
- Private William J. Logan (Co K)
- Private William T. McLane (Co H)
- Private Israel W. Prather (Co B & G)
- Private James L.H. Pridgeon (Co E)
- Private Larkin Hill Tedder (Co G)
- Second Lieutenant John M. Trammell (Commanding Co B)
- Private James Wilson (Co K)
- Private William T. Windham (Co K)

July 28, 1864 - Major General William T. Sherman’s Federal forces have previously approached Atlanta from the east and north. Hood has not defeated them, but he has kept them away from the city, and its supply lines. Sherman now decides to attack from the west.

Sherman orders his Federal Army of the Tennessee, commanded by Major General O. O. Howard, to move from the left wing to the right and cut Hood’s last railroad supply line between East Point and Atlanta.

Hood recognizes the maneuver and sends the two corps of Lieutenant General Stephen D. Lee and Lieutenant General Alexander P. Stewart to intercept the Union force. On the afternoon of July 28, the Rebels assault Howard at Ezra Church180 (also called "Ezra Chapel").

The 37th Alabama is engaged in the "Battle of Ezra Church"
Army of Tennessee:
General John Bell Hood, Commanding
Hood’s (2nd) Corps:
Lieutenant General Stephen Dill (S. D.) Lee (wounded)
Clayton’s Division:
Major General Henry DeLamar Clayton
Baker’s Brigade:
Brigadier General Alpheus Baker (wounded)
- command of the Brigade passes to Colonel J. H. Higley (42nd Alabama)
37th Regiment of Alabama:
Captain T. J. Griffin

Howard anticipated such a move and has entrenched one of his corps in the Confederate path, and repulses the attack, inflicting numerous casualties. The Confederate action is a success as the Federals fail to cut the vital railroad.

During the fight at Ezra Church, Lieutenant General Stephen D. Lee is wounded. Among the wounded is another officer who figures greatly in the future of the 37th Alabama, its brigade commander
Brigadier General Alpheus Baker.

August 5-7, 1864
- After failing to envelop Hood’s left at Ezra Church, Sherman still wants to extend his right flank to hit the railroad between East Point and Atlanta. He transfers John M. Schofield’s Army of the Ohio from his left to his right flank and sends him to the north bank of Utoy Creek. Although Schofield’s troops are at Utoy Creek on August 2, they, along with the XIV Corps, Army of the Cumberland, do not cross until the 4th.

The 37th Alabama is engaged in the "Battle of Utoy Creek"
Army of Tennessee:
General John Bell Hood, Commanding
Hood’s (2nd) Corps:
Lieutenant General Stephen Dill Lee
Clayton’s Division:
Major General Henry DeLamar Clayton
Baker’s Brigade:
Colonel John H. Higley
37th Regiment of Alabama:
presumed to be Captain T. J. Griffin

Schofield’s force begins its move the morning of August 5th, and is initially successful. Schofield then regroups his forces, which takes the rest of the day. The delay allows the Rebels to strengthen their defenses with abatis (sharpened sticks and poles driven into the ground facing the enemy), which slows the Union attack when it restarts on the morning of August 6th.

The Federals are repulsed with heavy losses by Bate’s Division, and fail in their attempt to break the railroad. On August 7th, the Union troops move toward the Confederate main line and entrench. Here they will remain until late August.

Known Regimental Dead from Actions at Utoy Creek - August 5-7, 1864:
- Private John Blakley (Co G) - WIA Aug 7, DOW (died of wounds) Aug 8
- Private David Clark (Co C) - KIA Aug 8
- Private Nathan M. Robertson (Co G) - KIA
- Private John C. Switzer (Co D) - DOW Aug 9

August 25, 1864 - The Union army begins pulling out of its entrenched positions to hit the Macon & Western Railroad running between Rough and Ready, and Jonesboro GA. The same day the 37th Alabama and the rest of Baker’s Brigade are ordered to leave Atlanta for Spanish Fort strategically overlooking Mobile Bay.

NEXT: History - Part IX


37th Alabama Regiment of Volunteer Infantry CSA
2300 Cottondale Lane Little Rock, AR 72202

© Copyright 2007 C.C. (Chip) Culpepper