Time Life Books, Alexandria, Va., 1996. 10 1/4 x 10 1/4, hardcover with dust jacket, 168 pages, illustrated, index. New condition.
This book is by and of the soldiers and civilians who experienced the Atlanta campaign. Through their words and images you can relive the emotions, the terrifying rush of events, the horrors- and even the human comedy- of one of the Civil War's major campaigns. Thus, you hold in your hands an album of personal recollections from letters, diaries, photographs, sketches and artifacts.
To compile this special volume, we combed hundreds of sources, both published and unpublished. We were able to assemble a dramatic narrative told from many perspectives; manuscript letters and journals- some previously unpublished- regimental histories, privately printed memoirs, articles in little known historical society publications, and more. Then, we set about the painstaking task of locating photographs of the soldiers and townsfolk to accompany their personal accounts.
That so many firsthand accounts survived is due to a few accidents of history. Soldiers could mail a letter home for only three cents. And the mail system set up by the opposing armies were amazingly reliable. Mail packets were even exchanged across enemy lines. A surprising number of recruits could write, and write vividly. Sam Watkins of the 1st Tennessee Infantry described the beginning of the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, "It seemed that the arch-angel of Death stood and looked on with outstretched wings, while all the earth was silent, when all at once a hundred guns from the Federal line opened upon us, and for more than an hour they poured their solid shot, grape and shrapnel right upon this salient point, defended by our regiment alone..."
Field sketches abound, too. Before photoengraving was developed to reproduce photographs in newspapers and magazines, periodicals such as Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper and Harper's Weekly employed artists who traveled with the army to depict events for readers. These correspondents, or "specials," drew virtually everything of possible interest; pitched battles, lounging soldiers, the odd piece of military equipment. Sketches dashed off in a few moments during a battle- often at great personal peril- were taken by courier to the publication, where they were transformed into woodblock engravings suitable for printing.
Another element that adds to the unique texture of this album is the photographs. Technical innovations during the 1850's brought the fledgling craft into its own, and the Civil War was the first in history to be extensively recorded by the camera. In the blockaded South, photographers lacked supplies and equipment and rarely covered the action. The North's activities, by contrast, are extensively chronicled, thanks to the efforts of men who endured great hardship. Travel was tedious with cumbersome equipment and portable darkrooms mounted on wagon beds. But photographers like Mathew Brady and his assistants spent months following the army, etching with light the brave faces of the soldiers, as well as the bodies stiffened on the field. When Brady's stark photographs of the dead were first exhibited in New York City in 1862, the public thought, albeit briefly, that such horrific images could actually bring the war to an end.
So you hold in your hands living testimony from the battlefields that led to the fall of the South's Gate City. As you look into the eyes of these husbands and wives, sons and daughters, as you read the words of soldiers and civilians dazed by the violence around them or the grief that follows the fighting, perhaps it will be possible to perceive more clearly the shattering experience that was the Atlanta campaign.
Front cover illustration: A scene at the intersection of Peachtree Street and the Georgia Railroad tracks shows some of the damage that was wrought in Atlanta after Sherman's troops ravaged the business district in mid November 1864.