“They came burning Atlanta today”


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Carrie Berry was ten years old in 1864, when Union soldiers entered her hometown of Atlanta.  She kept a diary, and in Part I of this story we learned of her experiences during weeks of artillery shelling.  Union General Sherman now had an appalling plan for her city, which was about to unfold.

Sept. 2. Fri. We all woke up this morning without sleeping much last night. The Confederates had four engines and a long train of box cars filled with ammunition and set it on fire last night which caused a great explosion which kept us all awake. It reminded us of the shells – of all the days of excitement… Every one has been trying to get all they could before the Federals come in the morning. They have been running with saques (sacks) of meal, salt and tobacco. They did act ridiculous breaking open stores and robbing them. About twelve o’clock there were a few federals came in. They were all frightened. We were afraid they were going to treat us badly. It was not long till the Infantry came in. They were orderly and behaved very well. I think I shall like the Yankees very well.

Sept. 3. Sat. 1864. The soldiers have been coming in all day. I went up to Aunties this morning and she said that she had a yankee officer to spend the night with her. We have not seen much of them. Only two of them have been here to beg some thing to eat. We have had a rainy day and we all feel gloomy.

Sun. Sept 4. Another long and lonesome Sunday. How I wish we could have Church and Sunday School. We have been looking at the soldiers all day. They have come in by the thousand. They were playing bands and they seemed to be rejoiced. It has not seemed like Sunday.

Things remained calm for a few more days, then took a turn for the worst:

Thurs. Sept. 8. We all went to work in glad spirits this morning. Me and Tilo went to ironing. Mama was busy regulating things when Papa came and told us that Gen. Sherman had ordered us to move. It broke all into our rangements.

Fri. Sept. 9. We all commenced this morning to prepare for moving. We don’t know how long we will get to stay here. We are all in so much trouble.

Sat. Sept. 10. Every one I see seems sad. The citizens all think that it is the most cruel thing to drive us from our home… Mama seems so troubled and she can’t do any thing…

As discussed in Part I, the burning of Atlanta was part of Sherman’s strategy of wide destruction across Georgia.  But somehow Carrie’s family became one of the very few lucky ones that got to stay.  Her relatives were not so fortunate:

Mon. Sept. 19. I went over to Aunt Healy this morning. She is packing up to move and I feel sorry that she is going away. We will miss her so much.

Tues. Sept. 20. It has been raining nearly all day. I went up to Aunties this evening to see Willie. He is mighty cute and took three or four steps while I was there. Cousin Emma is packing up to leave

While Carrie and her family struggled to hold things together, the destruction of Atlanta began.

Fri. Sept. 30. I have been sewing some to day on my apron. There are so many soldiers pacing backward and forward.

Sun. Oct. 2. This has been a very pretty day. I went around to Mrs. Lesters. Ella and I took a walk to see how the soldiers had torn down the fine houses. It is a shame to see the fine houses torn down.

The things escalated, Sherman’s full plans being put into play:

Mon. Nov. 14. They came burning Atlanta to day. We all dread it because they say that they will burn the last house before they stop. We will dread it.

Tues. Nov. 15. This has been a dreadful day. Things have been burning all around us. We dread to night because we do not know what moment that they will set our house on fire. We have had a guard a little while after dinner and we feel a little more protected.

Wed. Nov. 16. Oh what a night we had. They came burning the store house and about night it looked like the whole town was on fire. We all set up all night. If we had not set up our house would have been burnt up for the fire was very near and the soldiers were going around setting houses on fire where they were not watched. They behaved very badly. They all left the town about one o’clock this evening and we were glad when they left for no body know what we have suffered since they came in.

Thurs. Nov. 17.  Everything was so quiet we were afraid that the yankees will come back and finish burning the houses but they did not. They have left. Some Confederates came in here to day and the town is full of country people seeing what they can find. We have been picking up some things.

Fri. Nov. 18. We children have been plundering about to day seeing what we could find. Mama has been trying to straiten up for the house was torn up so bad.

Sat. Nov. 19. Mama and me have been ironing all day. We have begun to feel at home but it does not look like Atlanta. The Citizens all met at the City Hall. There are eighty men in town.

The occupiers were gone, but winter was coming and there was not much time to prepare: “It is just a week to day since the federals were burning….  We have not got anything but our little house. It is still very cold.” 

Carrie wrote of spending days “picking up nails” and how she was tired and sore.  But repairs were made, and life continued.  Soon she was back in school, “…studying arithmetic, spelling, reading and geography. We are all trying to see which will learn the most.”

 

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