The following letter was written by Joseph W. James, who enlisted as a private at the age of nineteen, but was quickly promoted up the ranks, to 1st Lieutenant in March, 1865 and Quartermaster in June 1865. At the time of writing he was a sergeant in E Company. Many thanks to Tony Cossean for contributing the letter to the site!
Chattahoochie River Ga.
July 7th A.D. 1864
My Dear Aunt ,
Once again I seat myself to visit you with pen and ink. I wrote you just one month and
one day ago today. I have waited patiently for an answer but none has come. I sometimes
almost come to the conclusion that you think that it is not worthy of your notice and it
may be because I did not pay you a longer visit while at home. I never was so uneasy in
my life as I was while at home. I was looking for an order every day to return to my regt.
If I was away from DeGraff one day (where my mail was all directed and where I was
ordered to Rendevous). I was uneasy for fear that an order would come and I would not be
there to recieve it and report at the proper time specified -- soldiering is quite different
from civil life. Soldiers have to obey orders or otherwise be censured and punished. In
civil life you can manage your own affairs.
Well I suppose you would like to hear what we have been doing and are doing at present.
Well the rebels have evacuated their fortifications at Kennessaw Mountain and around
Marrietta on the night of the 2nd of July. On the third we followed in hot pursuit
overtaking them about l P.M. and about 4 P.M. they were forced to make a stand. Not
much fighting that evening. On the morning of the fourth our Corps was sent out on the
enemy right to flank. them. The 35th Indiana was thrown out as skirmishers. Our regt.
was held to support them. The 33rd took the enemy's first line of works. As soon as they
were driven back they commenced throwing shot and shell. It was too hot for the 35th
and they commenced falling back and that in bad order. The left wing of our regiment
was ordered to reinforce them and we went on the double quick hollowing at the top of
our voices. As soon as the enemy saw that the 35th was falling back two lines of them
were formed to charge and take possession of their works again. We got there just in time
to save a portion of the 35th and handsomely repulsed the enemy with heavy loss. There
was a shell passed so close to me that day that I felt the wind as it whistled past my head!
That night (the 4th) they again evacuated their position and retreated toward the river.
Next morning (the 5th we followed again in hot pursuit. The second division of our corps
were in front. They followed them so close that they had no time to throw up works to
protect themselves. Driving them across the river on the double quick capturing one peice
of artillery and quite a number of prisoners.
Taking from them their pontoon bridge that they had thrown down across the river and
saving the R.R. bridge from being burned. They set the bridge on fire but our artillery and
musketry drove them away from it in time for our men to rush up in time to extinguish
the fire before any damage was done. We are now camped on the bank of the
Chattahoochie (or near there) where we expect to camp for several days. It is about 400
yards from here to the river on a high ridge close. Here we can see Atlanta and the rebels
moving around as busy as bees. It is believed here that they will not make much of a stand
their. It is about 1/4 mile to the railroad. Our cans came here with us. They are as busy
about the railroad as any depot in Cin. Out of 18 days that we were in front in succession
day and night 16 days we were under fire- My love and best wishes to all.
Yours affectionately Joe Warren James Co. E, 45th regt. O.V.I.
2nd Brigade lst Division 4th Army Corps
(On top of page two, written upside down)
Be sure and put the number of the Brig. Divis. and Corps on your letter when you direct
your letters to me for we have been transferred from the 23rd to the 4th Corps.-Joe
I was going to close but I have heard more good news.
On our extreme right (Gen. McPherson commands 3 Corps from his command) they were
hard fighting. Our loss was one regt. taken prisoner. I have not learned the number killed
and wounded. The rebels left on the field all their killed and wounded amounting to about
twelve thousand in our possession.
The rebels do not seem to care anything about their wounded - almost every time they
leave them in our hands. I have saw numbers of their men all flyblown and the flesh
almost rotten from the bones lying on the field that I know that they could have taken off
I thought that I had saw horrible sights before this campaign but words cannot express
what we have seen- we have lost quite a number in killed and wounded out of our regt.
Our co. has been very lucky. We have lost none killed, seven wounded is all, no
dangerous. Some were so seriously wounded that it will disable them from the service
altogether- I will look for an answer soon. Yours Joe
Tell uncle Warren that I would be glad to here or receive a letter from him if he is able to
write. I wrote three or four times, but recieved no answer and think it would be right for
him to write first.