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Atlanta after Sherman - 1864-65
Daily Intelligencer, December 22, 1864




This article appeared in the December 22, 1864, addition of the Daily Intelligencer, and gives an eye witness account of the destruction of Atlanta.


“Twenty-five years ago the present site of Atlanta was a forest, which but a few years previous to that time was the abode of the red man. Then a great system of railroads was developed, which brought the line from Savannah to Macon and from Macon in continuation to what is now the Gate City of the South.


“War came, and Atlanta was still a progressive city. Until the spring of the present year population and wealth literally poured into it. As a commercial depot it was in advance of any city in adjoining states. As a financial mart, it rivaled the most progressive cities of the South, and, as a military post, it became second to none save Richmond in importance.


“To the enemy it became a prize, coveted as much as Richmond. Almost superhuman efforts were made to capture and possess it . . . after which, amid the glare of its many burning buildings, the flames rising so as to light the surrounding country for miles and miles. . . . Sherman took up his march to the sea. So much for the past. We must next turn to the present.


“Today, as you approach Atlanta from either side, you 110 longer find it hidden from view by the dense forest of trees[a] which a few months ago ob-structed the eye of the traveler. For miles around scarcely a tree is standing, and within a few miles of the city, fire and the ax have destroyed habitations and laid waste fields.


“As you reach the city limits, you see the awful effects of one vast con-flagration. A city destroyed by fire! Two-thirds at least devoured by flames. Doomed to utter desolation, one-third of Atlanta still lives. This will be the nucleus, the cornerstone, the foundation upon which the city will again be restored. Of this, more anon.


“We will take, as our starting point, the place where the four principal streets converge, to-wit: Whitehall, Peachtree, Marietta and Decatur. That point is Hunnicutt´s Drug Store.


“We will first extend our walk out Peachtree. The first is the business house in which was the beautiful drug store mentioned. This is all a heap of ruins, which the torch of the evening has occasioned. Nearly opposite was the building for a long time occupied as a barracks, and latterly as an auction and commission house. This has shared the same fate. In a northerly direction, we find on our left a small wooden building in Judson´s marble yard that escaped the ravaging element. After this we see on this street nothing but the ruins of A. C. Wyly & Co.´s large commission house and the business houses on our right known as Cherokee Block, and Winship´s Buildings, which were among the largest edifices in the city. They were in number about twenty, three stories high, with cellars. A great deal of the business of Atlanta was done in these buildings.


“The second building standing is a small wooden one owned by Dr. Tucker, of Penfield, and, at the time of our giving up the city, occupied by Ralls as a family grocer. The mansions of Sasseen and Ezzard stand, though one of them bears the mark of shells. The Wesley Chapel remains, but horribly desecrated. It is left more in the condition of a hog pen than the house of God. After this, Peachtree has suffered but little until we reach the suburbs of the city, when occasionally we find a home torn down to build huts. We extended our walk on this street to Colonel R. A. Crawford´s, and were surprised that the vandals should even have spared the fences and shrubbery of this favored street. From Ralls´ store to the dwelling house of Mrs. Luckie all the dwellings remain except Mr. Ripley´s, Mr. Grubb´s, Rev. Mr. Pinkerton´s and a house built by J. R. Wallace.


“The street which we next notice as it stands, but in striking contrast, is Marietta. This street runs in a parallel direction with the W. & A. Railroad for the distance of a mile and a quarter. All the business houses on it are destroyed. After this no house on either side is completely destroyed for the space of a block and as far as the residence of Mr. Goode, which is standing.


“Destructive shells, however, have penetrated them all. The Presbyterian Church received half a dozen or more, which at one time, we learn, drove out a number of citizens that had sought it as a place of refuge and safety. We examined the house of Mr. Silvey, which stands on top of the first rise, and found it pierced through and through with shells, some of which exploded in the very midst of the building, causing great destruction. We counted as many as twenty shell marks on the premises of this single house.


“After passing Mr. Goode´s house, the torch has been applied to every building on this street, its entire length, with the exception of the residences of Dean, Mills, and Mrs. Sowers´ and a few insignificant structures immediately east of Marshall´s Sword Factory. The men assigned to the work of destroying Marietta Street did their duty recklessly. Nothing but charred ruins are left to mark the spots of business houses, private residences, the sword and button factories, and the grist mill.


“Whitehall Street is an entire ruin except the space extending from Roark´s corner to Captain Gaskill´s residence, which is left standing. Those acquainted with the city will know what amount of destruction this implies. Full one-half the business houses of Atlanta are included in this count.


“On this street was the residence of Colonel J. S. Thrasher, the superintendent of the Press Association, situated in a plot of ground of twenty acres. Nothing but a small outhouse is left. The tasteful and ornamental residences near the Macon and Western Railroad have ceased to be. Millions of dollars, even in peace times, would not suffice to restore this wreck of its former beauty. It is a matter of surprise that the block on Whitehall bounded on the north by Mitchell and on the south by Peters Street, should have been suffered to remain. An old gentleman of 73 winters, who resided in one of the buildings in this block, has given us the reason. He informs us that the order had been given to fire this portion of the city also, but on his reporting to the authorities that a man by the name of Baker, who lived near him, was at the time in the agonies of death, both blocks were spared.


“The next street that claims our attention is Decatur. On this were the two principal hotels, the Atlanta Hotel and the Trout House. Both of these have been burned, and also the Washington Hall, on the Georgia Railroad, another house of entertainment. The business houses on Decatur Street have all been consumed except the one under the Masonic Hall, which the square and compass, symbols of the mystic brotherhood, saved, and a few small wooden buildings. For the space of 300 yards on this street, beginning with the spot where stood the Christian Church, and ending where the government armory was located, the private dwellings have been left. After these, for the remainder of the street, some three miles in the direction of Decatur, all the dwellings on either side have been burned, with two or three trifling exceptions. In this burning, the fine mansion of General L. J. Gartrell who, we regret to say, was recently wounded, has yielded to the devouring element.


“Having disposed of these principal streets, let us pay our attention to others.


“On the street in the rear of the Trout House, every house was burned.


“On Butler Street every house is safe except Mr. Toon´s.


“On Calhoun Street every house stands except Joseph Barnes´ the brick house adjoining.


“On Ivy Street[b] the houses destroyed are those of A. M. Wallace and all on the same block, E. B. Walker´s, badly injured, Joseph Wyly´s, Cleveland´s, and the house on the corner of Ivy and Houston. John Glen´s was injured.


“On Walton Street nearly every house destroyed.


“On Pryor Street all standing from Alabama Street to Rawson´s house, except the Kilby boarding house and a house C. C. Hewly lived in, and the house opposite. From Rawson´s out all destroyed except the one Mr. Coleman built.


“On Washington Street the houses are all standing except that of W. P. Inman, the house adjoining and the two opposite.


“On Crew Street all houses are standing except that built by E. E. Rawson, the one occupied by F. M. Richardson, the one owned and occupied by T. S. Stoy, and the one owned by E. Buicc.


“On McDonough Street, from City Hall to Ball´s house, all the buildings stand except those of John M. Clarke, James Morris, Williams and B. T. Lamb. From Mr. Ball´s out all destroyed.


“On Hunter Street all houses stand except Reid´s, Browning´s and one old house occupied as a hospital. Every house between McDonough and Fair streets destroyed except L. P. Grant´s, Pettus, and one in the rear of Williams on Frazer Street.


“On Fair Street all stand except two owned by Marshal Jones, two belonging to Z. R. Jones, and the two opposite Dr. Harden´s, and Dr. Grant´s.


“If you run a line from Walton Spring, nearly south to the Mineral Spring, then southwest to Thomas Scrutchins´ on Mitchell Street, then southeast to the Protestant Church, then south to Colonel L. J. Glenn´s, nearly every house is destroyed.


“Lynch´s building, between the Western and Atlantic Railroad and Lambert´s garden is destroyed. All “Snake Nation” is destroyed. The block of business houses on Alabama Street, on which is the Gate City Hotel is left. Edwardy´s and Joiner´s magnificent mansions are destroyed.


“The railroads are destroyed in the completest manner by burning the crossties and bending and twisting the iron. As you stand on the crossing at Whitehall and look up the Western and Atlantic Railroad the piles of crossties are so numerous and spread out to such an extent as to remind one of the ocean when its waves are raised by a brisk wind. It is an ocean of ruins.


“The walls of the extensive and elegant car shed were battered down by battering rams. Two Baptist Churches, two Methodist, two Presbyterian, the Catholic and one Episcopal Church, St. Philip´s, are all the churches left.


“The fire is represented by those who beheld it to have been terrific. The city, from center to circumference, was enveloped in a sheet of flames, which, in the opinion of those who witnessed it, was to have consumed all, or nearly all, the buildings in the city. By the failure of the fire fiends to perform the task assigned to them of destroying private dwellings, nearly one out of three escaped, while of the whole real estate of the city fully five-sixths in values have been laid in ashes.


“The enemy burned Fire Engine Number Two and the material of ´Hook and Ladder Company´, shipped north Numbers One and Four, leaving Number Three in a badly damaged state.


“The stillness of the grave for weeks reigned over this once bustling, noisy city. No whistle from railroad engines, no crowing of cocks, no grunting of hogs, no braying of mules, no lowing of cows, no whirring of machinery, no sound of hammer and saw-nothing but the howling of dogs was heard in our midst.


“The human voice was hushed in our streets, no pedestrians on Whitehall, no children in the streets, no drays, no wagons, no glorious sound of the Gospel in the churches; the theater was hushed in the silence of death. Ruin, universal ruin, was the exclamation of all. It is true that the same sun shines over our heads, the same healthful breeze sweeps over our hills, the same refreshing draughts of water flow from under the ground, but all else has changed.


“We can only liken Atlanta to Moscow after her own citizens had fired it; but a merciful God has not suffered it to be like Babylon and Tyre, like Thebes or Palmyra. The energy for which her citizens have been distinguished has already begun to manifest itself. But so much for the past and present of Atlanta. Let us now look to its future!


“That which built Atlanta and made it a flourishing city will again restore it, purified, we trust, in many particulars by the fiery ordeal through which it has passed. Soon the whistles of the steam engines will again be heard in its limits and soon the cars from Macon and Montgomery and Augusta will bear their burdens into and through our city. Ere long, toe, we feel confident that the State Road will be in process of reconstruction, a portion at least of it being engaged in transporting to it the rich produce of Cherokee Georgia. Let no one despond as to the future of our city!


“The business portion of it, now in ruins, is in the main the property of individuals who have abundant means to clear away the ruins and rebuild. What Atlanta now first needs is energetic, good government. This, combined with devoted loyalty and enterprise on the part of her citizens, and she will soon rise from her ashes.


“Atlanta also needs such legislation, as under its peculiar condition, our city has a right to ask from congress, and the state legislature must be speedily invoked and we doubt not what is to be asked will be promptly granted.


“But her citizens must put their own shoulders to the wheel, and push hard themselves, to get her out of the slough into which she has been cast. Efforts like these will soon restore her to her former greatness.“ [1]



 


Notes:


  1. Most of the trees that were cut down were cut to “clear the line of fire”. The Confederates cut many of the trees when they build their extensive defensive works around Atlanta from August to December, 1863.
  2. Many of the street in Atlanta have been renamed, see: Wikipedia - List of former Atlanta street names

References

  1. Garrett, Franklin M.; Atlanta and Environs: A Chronicle of Its People and Events (Athens, GA, University of Georgia Press, © 1954) Vol. 1 p 655-659

Bibliography


    Books:
  1. Garrett, Franklin M.; Atlanta and Environs: A Chronicle of Its People and Events (Athens, GA, University of Georgia Press, © 1954) Vol. 1 p 655-659
  2. Davis, Stephen; What the Yankees Did to Us (Macon, GA, Mercer University Press; © 2012) pages 412-413