31st Illinois Regiment: Atlanta

An Illustration of the Battle of Atlanta. From the Library of Congress.  http://cdn.loc.gov/service/pnp/pga/01800/01842r.jpg

An Illustration of the Battle of Atlanta. From the Library of Congress.
http://cdn.loc.gov/service/pnp/pga/01800/01842r.jpg

In January of 1864 the men of the 31st Illinois were given furlough. On January 5th, “3/4th’s of the men fit for duty re-enlisted.” (Morris p.82) Upon returning from furlough the men of the 31st Illinois were called, “the best men in America” by General Sherman. (Morris p.85) Returning to action the 31st regiment rejoined the western theater campaign now under General William Tecumseh Sherman who was implementing his plan to cut off major Confederate supply routes. The boys of the 31st Illinois found themselves placed back into action outside of Atlanta. On July 21st, 1864, the regiment came marching from the woods 1 mile east of Atlanta, where they came under heavy rifle fire from entrenched pits. The rifle pits were across a cornfield, and consisted of dug in entrenchments filled with Confederate sharpshooters and cannons. Marching across the cornfield the 31st Illinois reached the rifle pits, and were able to capture them and reverse the guns on the Confederate retreat. After the fighting the men relaxed for a day and were out in the fields picking blackberries. While resting the men of the 31st came under ambush from Confederate sharpshooters were, “bullets fell like rain.” (Morris p.106) In the entrenchments they were met with Confederate numbers equal to their own and coming from the east, west, and south. Many of the 31st soldiers recall Confederates being so close they could hear them say, “Halt you d____d Yankee S____ of a B_____.” (Morris p. 106) After resisting the enemy attack the Confederate forces retreated.

Union troops outside of Atlanta. From the Library of Congress. http://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/cwpb.02235/

Union troops outside of Atlanta. From the Library of Congress.
http://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/cwpb.02235/

Following their victory, on the 31st of August the regiment went on to the railroad works outside of Atlanta, at Jonesboro. In Jonesboro they again repelled a Confederate attack, and tore up the railroad works. Meanwhile the main Confederate army was repelled by the core force of the Union, under General Sherman. The rebels were forced to abandon the city of Atlanta. Addressing the Atlanta victory President Lincoln said, “The marches, battles, sieges, and other military operations that have signalized the campaign must render it famous in the annals of war, and have entitled those who participated therein to the applause and thanks of the nation.” (Morris p.119)  On General Logan and the 31st Illinois, commanding General Sherman said, “I wish to express my high gratification with the conduct of the troops engaged. I never saw better conduct in battle. General Logan, though ill and much worn out, was indefatigable, and the success of the day is as much attributable to him as to any one man.” (Morris p. 117)

Click to zoom. Battle of Atlanta map.

Click to zoom. Battle of Atlanta map.