Lot Abraham’s 1865 Diary

Lot Abraham's 1865 Diary

Lot Abraham’s 1865 Diary

[Editor’s Note: This bound journal was most likely found and taken for his own use by Capt. Lot Abraham while in Macon, Georgia, on the weekend 27 & 28 May, 1865. Written on the inside cover of the journal is the name of “Cadet L. C. Tennent, Georgia Military Institute, Marietta, Georgia.” Beyond that there were only a few pages with entries — French lessons. Paper being scarce, and a bound journal even more rare, it is my opinion that Lot took the journal with him to Washington, Georgia, where he sat down and transcribed his notes from a pocket diary — capturing his activities from the beginning of the year through his participation on Wilson’s Raid until the (then) present date of 1 June 1865. From that date forward, the entries were probably real-time.

Cadet L. C. Tennent's signature

Cadet L. C. Tennent’s signature

As a matter of interest, Lewis Charles Tennent (1847-1928) was a native of Edgefield, South Carolina, but his parents, Gilbert Tennent (1806-1855) and Caroline Graves (1808-18xx), moved the family to Cobb County, Georgia while he was yet only a youth. We learn from this journal that young Tennent was a cadet at the Georgia Military Institute in Marietta which operated regularly until May 1864 when the cadets were formed into two companies and deployed at West Point, Georgia. Family oral history believes that Tennent enlisted in the Confederate army at the age of 16 which would have been 1863 or 1864. We know that he was taken prisoner to a camp in Pennsylvania. Otherwise, nothing more is known of his Confederate service.

After the war, Tennent attended the medical school at Atlanta, from which he graduated, coming immediately to Indian Territory, locating in Eufaula, Creek Nation, where he did a lucrative practice. He married Miss Emma Hicks McDuff, a native of the Choctaw tribe; immediately following their marriage they settled on the South Canadian River, on the Choctaw side where they put in quite a plantation. In 1882 the family moved to North McAlester, where they resided until the time of his death. From his advent in to the Territory, the Doctor had been active in the medical fraternity, both in Oklahoma and Indian Territory, and was chairman of the first board of medical examiners of the Choctaw Nation.”]

Louisville, Kentucky
Sunday, January 1st 1865
New Years Day

I have the Detachment of 4th Iowa Cavalry in camp on 7th Street in the suburbs of the beautiful city above mentioned. No tents for the men and very little to live on or shelter them from the howling storms of a severe winter. They are fixing up little huts & shelters with blankets, &c. and we hear very little grumbling. I walked down to the first Boarding House with other officers & took dinner. Feel very well contented and in readiness for any call that may come — bound to see the war go on until some kind of an end can be brought about. Believe this year will bring it.

Louisville, Kentucky
Monday, January 2nd 1865

Major Abiel R. Pierce, 4th Iowa Cavalry

Major Abial R. Pierce, 4th Iowa Cavalry

We are watching for the steamer Tycoon having heard of her on the way here with a portion of the regiment and the field transportation. Can only watch and wait. Late in the eve a messenger rode up saying she had arrived. I started with 27 wagons through a severe storm of snow to Portland 4 miles. Found them all right but wouldn’t move out off the boat in the night so I put up and stayed with them having a good time. Officers who have not been together for so long all joined in cards for awhile. Then I wrote a letter or two and got but little sleep. Majors [Abial R.] Pierce & [Edward W.] Dee are both along — Dee promoted since leaving me at St Louis, Mo.

Louisville, Kentucky
Tuesday, January 3rd 1865

Moved all to camp and the boys fixed up what tents was brought. Major Pierce took command of the regiment and that will give me some chance to rest a little. I rented a room at Mrs. Robinson’s near camp and get boarding there where I can live as well as anybody could wish and intend having a good time. Put up my desk ready for writing & have plenty of that to do. Returns &c. all far behind. But I shall take my time & do as near as I please as possible. Can go to the city and spend money as fast as I please. All right. All right.

Louisville, Kentucky
January 11th 1865

Time passes away rapidly and all goes well. Weather stormy all the time. Rain, snow & freezing alternately. I stay close in my room and keep Johnny busy with the pen. We get along fine. They put me on a board of inquiry to investigate claims. We put that through all right. I went to town but few times — generally to church or the theatre when I did go. My work nearly over and talk of leaving when I make up my mind to go to Cincinnati & visit my many old friends near there if possible. Think of many ways to get there & try for a pass but find it rather difficult getting one. All quiet & not much news from the armies.

January 12th 1865

A fine morning. I met with the board and finished up that business, arranged things in the regiment and company for a week, put on the appearance of a citizen as best I could, and got ready for the steamer Major Anderson to leave the wharf at 4 p.m. Rode down there just in time to see her back off & leave. Then waited for the night train which started from Indiana shore at 8 o’clock & carried me whirling through the heavy forests on a clear & lovely moonlight night — heavy snow on the ground making the scenery delightful. I enjoyed the ride so well. Fell in with [1st] Lieut. [George R.] Kennedy, [Co. C] 7th Indiana Cavalry. [Went] on quite a spree & we made it go fine, arriving in Cincinnati just daybreak.

On the 13th, I made my way to London to Uncle Lot Abraham’s & to Scipio to Uncle Griffs.

Visiting in Ohio
Saturday, January 14th 1865

A clear and cold day. I made my way to Uncle Patrick’s thinking of how I hated to leave there once upon a time — spring of 1860. Find them all well and surprised to see me, but all knew me at first sight and all look so natural that it seems but a short time since I left them. After dinner, we rig a sleigh and away we go to visit other friends. Find some changes but mostly among the oldest or younger ones married, homes, & at all look so natural. We come back late at night in the cold, myself driving, which seems like old times.

Sunday the 15th

Nearly all the friends came to see me & I talked for all I knew till late at night, then bothered Mary & Bean.

Cincinnati, Ohio &c.
Monday, January the 16th 1865

Col. Edward Francis Winslow, 4th Iowa Cavalry

Col. Edward Francis Winslow, 4th Iowa Cavalry

Up early. Weather very cold. Bid goodbye to all again & had a fast drive in sleigh to Venice with Tom & cousin Bob. B., then a ride in omnibus to Cincinnati where I arrived 10 o’clock a.m. Looked about some, then took the steamer Gen’l Lytle for Louisville. The confusion and noise of Cincinnati annoys me more than all the soldiers of all armies. Boat crowded & run fast, living splendid & nice. Arrived in Louisville 11 o’clock at night. In good humor, went to bed & took a nap. Then out to my room long before day on the 17th where I found some good letters to read & find that the regiment is all right. Col. [Edward Francis] Winslow has arrived & the other detachment will soon be here. Got in about noon — all looking fine. Talk of staying here awhile. I’m sorry I came home.

Louisville, Kentucky
January 1865

At home again. All quiet in my room but I find plenty of work to do and when not at that, I play chess & dominoes with Walter Brooks, Lieut. Ogg & Capt. H., go to the pond skating on moonlight nights, or play ball of a pleasant p. m. Have some drilling to do when weather is good enough, drive down to the city to theaters &c. &c. but with all such fine times when I think of home & hear from there, I can hardly rest ½ contented.

Some very cold disagreeable weather at intervals. News of a trial for Peace on the part of both [Jeff] Davis & U. S. authorities. Talk of our moving to Eastport, Mississippi. I tried for a leave of absence but can get no satisfaction & don’t know what I do want. Hear from home regular.

Louisville, Kentucky
Friday, January 27th 1865

10th [16th?] Missouri made a start for Eastport today. Have been detained on account of ice in the river. I give up the idea of going home and shall endeavor to be content until the war is over. Went to the city tonight to spend money, keep off the blues, &c. &c. Succeeded beautifully in both. Kept very late hours. Live well from day to day. Have plenty to do when I want to work and play whenever I feel like it. Study tactics some. Drill whenever weather will permit. Ice in the river keep us here while the Peace excitement prevails & the world moves on with all its bustle & confusion. I can hardly bear to pass through the crowded streets sometimes.

Louisville, Kentucky
Sunday, January 29th 1865

Weather pleasant. Thawing some. Inspected the company in the presence of Petors, Winslow, & others. All right. Living comfortable & so fine but can’t feel contents & the week passed away as usual — only a little more amusements than common. Many seem to have strong hope of Peace & it looks like twill work. All right if it does.

Week soon passed away in good living, pleasure & excitement & we see no hope of Peace. Saturday night. Must fix for war to the knife &c. So we’ll make good use of time in the city. May not see one soon again & I won’t care I’m sure. Maj. Pierce, Lieut’s Peckel & Hodge, myself & others went to theater without proper passes but did not care for that.

Louisville, Kentucky
Sunday, February 5th 1865

Weather clear and cold & all quiet. I rode into the city early to fix up our last night’s account with the Provo. Marshal. Mad that all right, then went to church, then run over town awhile to keep from thinking or getting the blues. Come home for dinner, then wrote some letters and went with Walter [Brooks] in the carriage to church at night. Feel rather lonely and disappointed but do my best to not care &c.

Monday the 6th

Went to the pond & skated until noon, fixed up for leaving, & made a visit to Mr. Laval’s at night. Music & cards &c until midnight. Pickel with me & enjoyed it so fine. All quiet. All right.


Louisville, Kentucky
Tuesday, February 7th 1865

Snowing &c. We packed up our war traps and broke camp for the fields of war again. I hated to leave my good home. Bid them all goodbye & moved [Companies] K, B. & D to the landing. Put K on the Nashville & the others on the Rebecca — a fine Cincinnati & Wheeling Packet — taking that myself. Got a good room. All loaded before night & then with Hort [Detrick], Enoch & others, spent the eve till late in the city. The crowded city bustle & confusion will soon be forgotten to us in the forsaken land known as Sunny South.

January [February] the 8th 1865

Shoved out from the foot of 4th Street at daybreak & had a quiet ride down the Ohio. Weather cold & snowing but don’t hurt us playing chess &c in the cabin & living fine.

January [February] the 10th 1865

Arrived at Paducah about 10 o’clock a. m. & crowded in among the throng of puffing & screaming steamers. All A. J. Smith’s Infantry here from Eastport going down & our command going up the Tennessee [River]. I find river full as far as eye can see. Moved off [with] boats lashed together [  ] at 3 o’clock p.m. & enjoyed the ride fine. Playing games & watching the wild scenery on the shores.

Sunday the 12th 1865

We passed the Shiloh battleground & looked with considerable interest for a sight there. Halted at Eastport before night but can’t find the town. Moved up 3 miles to the landing on the Alabama side and remained on board wondering — Oh what will a poor fellow live on in this wilderness. Starvation stares us in the face. Easy. Remained on board the boat that night — calling that rest & our breakfast our last.

Gravelly Springs, Alabama
Monday, February 13th 1865

Gen. James H. Wilson

Gen. James Harrison (“Harry”) Wilson

Left the steamboat early & rode over bad roads [through] rough, desolate country 13 miles and found a lot of soldiers’ cabins erected & partly finished on Capt. Boggs’ [Wildwood] Plantation near Gen’l [James H.] Wilson’s Headquarters  & began living again but it went rough and does seem so lonely. Hardly anything to eat. But time passes on & we live. Every day learns us something about soldiering for we have nothing else to study & Gen. Wilson compels us to use the old U. S. Dragoon tactics prepared by Scott. Double rank formation &c. We hated to come to it but no help — it must be done.

[Editor’s note: Capt. John Bennington Boggs, a native of Pennsylvania, was married to Ann Houston who inherited the plantation of her father called Wildwood. Before the war, Boggs was a steamboat captain on the Tennessee River.]

We get no reliable news here and I’m almost down with the blues half the time. Nothing right with me now.

Gravelly Springs, Alabama
Sunday, February 19th 1865

Weather clear and pleasant and the strict discipline begins to tell on appearances. All around us this camp & surroundings look like military life. Everybody takes interest in what we are doing & having nothing else to do or think of, we can afford to take some interest — but there’s no contentment for me. We have our regular drills & dress parades every evening when our old band comes out in glory. Does better than could be expected for a new one &c. I can’t help taking great interest in this soldiering though I think of going home & everything else & I try to dislike it but it won’t do to grumble while doing well. We get some news from our armies & some mail. Write many letters.

Gravelly Springs, Alabama
March 1865

On the 1st I was ordered to report to Gen’l [James H.] Wilson’s headquarters for instructions and found Major [Eugene Beauharnais] Beaumont, the A. A. G. — quite a gentleman. He told me how to proceed for 2 days when he expected to join me. I rode 10 miles that night with 200 men over bad roads & through the dark woods. Could hardly find the road. Camped at Rawhide in the rain. I went to the nearest house. Took Capt. [James W.] Kirkendall & orderly. We stayed with Dr. Cox. Found them [to be] bad Rebels & nothing to live on.

Next day we moved out early and rode through rain and dark roads arresting all men found. I rode farthest of any with 80 men 35 miles and rode into Florence on the Tennessee River just dark in a heavy rain. Corralled prisoners, then stopped for the night at a fine house [belonging to] Mr. [Charles A.] Tenge. Found Miss M. M. then had a lively time until midnight.

[Editor’s Note: According to his July 22, 1869 Florence Journal obituary, Capt. Charles A. Tenge (c. 1809-1869), was a native of Hanover, Germany, who settled in Tuscumbia, AL, in 1832, where he resided until 1851, at which time he moved to Florence. He worked as a carriage upholsterer and harness maker, owning his own shops in Tuscumbia and Florence. After the Civil War Capt. Tenge was appointed agent of the Freedmen’s Bureau in Lauderdale County. His wife’s name was Eliza. After his death, she remarried and continued his carriage upholstery and harness-making business.]

Florence, Alabama
March 1865

Nothing in way of excitement &c. could interest me more than my surroundings this morning. Everybody begging me for something. Many crying. Soldiers begging to stay in town a day or 2. I got all ready slowly & left expecting to be back soon for of course we found the waters too high for crossing in anyway. I sent all back to town & tried to cross a courier over but failed in that. Then began to be somewhat uneasy. Rode to town with an idea. Went to work & just at dark bad the pleasure of seeing an old flatboat float off lively down the booming Tennessee [river] with a courier & my dispatches. Raining hard at the time and I rode to town & enjoyed another good time at same place tonight.

Florence, Alabama
Saturday, March 4th 1865

Weather cleared off pleasant. All quiet in our town & no news. Had to prepare some corn &c. This evening, took excellent supper with a Mr. [W. J.] Tapp. Then went to a dance at Mr. [Andrew] Blair’s [– a brickmaker from Ireland]. Maggie wouldn’t dance but we had a jolly time for Dixie and quit at late midnight.

Early on Sunday morning a steamer hove in sight with my supplies but brought no particular orders so I released some of my prisoners & contented myself. Enjoyed the day. The company all splendid. So did all the officers and soldiers.

[Editor’s Note: The reception the 4th Iowa Cavalry by the citizens of Florence was generally positive. Capt. Lot Abraham had been dispatched there at the special request of the citizens of Florence to round up renegade outlaws who had been committing theft and other crimes led by Tom Clark and Elias Thrasher.] 

Monday, March 6th 1865

Prepared to move and left the town with a show of reluctance among all parties unless twas the prisoners. Soldiers all begged to stay longer but we couldn’t see it. The ride was a pleasant one except swimming the creek. Got to camp 2 p.m. & reported. Found some mail but no news or talk of moving soon. Tis the same old dreary looking place with no variation in that round of camp duty and bugle calls & nothing to eat that will save a man. Gen’l Wilson reviewed our Division — the 4th Division, C. C. M. D. M on the 7th, making a fine display. Our Brigade (the 1st) ahead. We have a show of pride for our military.


The Historical Marker at Gravelly Springs

[Editors Note: A historical marker at the intersection of County Road 14 and County Route 2, Waterloo, Alabama in Lauderdale County reads: At this site from mid-January to mid-March 1865, Maj. Gen. James Harrison Wilson, U.S. Army, assembled the largest cavalry force ever massed in the western hemisphere. Five divisions totaling 22,000 camped from Gravelly Springs westward to Waterloo. Wilson made headquarters a mile east of the springs at Wildwood plantation, the boyhood home of Alabama senator and governor, George Houston. After intensive training Wilson’s Cavalry crossed the Tennessee to invade South Alabama and Georgia, a campaign which included burning the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa and the capture of Pres. Jefferson Davis at Irwinville, Georgia, in May 1865, after Lee’s surrender.]

[Editor’s Note: Lot Abraham wrote a letter to Sarah Cornelia Alden on 8 March 1865 which gives another description of the excursion to Florence Alabama.]

Gravelly Springs, Alabama

Life without regularity would be or might be suitable for a portion of humanity but most certainly not that portion known as soldiers. The living & dying creatures who are fed by Uncle Sam on hard tack and that other particular eatable very essential as an accompaniment. And day after day we move on in the same channel unless the weather prevents a drill or dress parade in the eve — a special parade for tramping purposes considered a big thing [with] music by the band. Presentation of our flag — the one sent to 4th Iowa Cavalry by ladies of Iowa was a grand affair for the eve of March 10th. Major Pierce speaker, joined by others. Mail occasionally & letters to write but more blues than news.

Gravelly Springs, Alabama
Sunday, March the 12th 1865

A lovely spring day and the monthly inspection continues. Horses all paraded for close examination. Some of the Florence ladies give me a call looking very pleasing. We get no news from the North and I have the blues at times terrible but when I have work I can get along. A Board of Survey occasionally gives me relief as it requires close investigations & study with others to assist, then riding about from place to place.

A big mail on the eve of 13th was a grand relief and fully appreciated. The work of preparation goes bravely on though attended by confusion more or less all the time & some rainy disagreeable weather. Lot Abraham.

Beginning of Campaign [known as Wilson’s Raid]

Daylight on the 16th March found us all ready to leave our beautiful encampment on Capt. Boggs’ plantation near Gravelly Springs, Alabama. All saddled and in line but delay on some account — change some orders — feed a lot. Followed the 3rd [Iowa Cavalry] out about 2 hours after day. I had been really sick for 3 or 4 days and the cold chilly rain went tough but we had to tough it out & suffer some. Found roads in a miserable condition. Arriving at Waterloo Landing on the Tennessee River 1 o’clock p.m. Waited until after dark. Crossed on steamers. Made a distance of 2 miles through darkness, brush, & mud & camps of the army bivouacked in the brush about the hour of midnight near 3rd Iowa but troops kept coming in & squalling about so I got no sleep. No sign of move next day and we arranged camp & fixed up.

Camp Chickasaw Landing, Alabama
Saturday, March 18th 1865

Major Walker, Lieut. Dill & I went to the river on another Board of Survey and put in the day easy. River full of boats. Looks stirring but I can’t see what they do hardly or why we should delay here at this time. I’m on the mend decidedly.

Sunday the 19th

We finished our Survey and Report. Tis a fine day and all quiet through-out the camp of our little army which don’t look so little to view — the hills dotted o’er for miles with men, horses, mules, wagons, artillery, &c. I try in vain to figure out our destination. Will be south or east; it looks a little favorable for the latter. I notice heavy pontoon trains in readiness. Received orders to move tomorrow morning but they were countermanded in the night.

Marching through Dixie

It was on the p.m. of the 21st that we broke camp and moved all in good order, well fitted out, & never was an army in better spirits. Taking 3 roads — one for every division. Some moved out on the 20th. Our division on the left started east on the Tuscumbia Road making slow time. Artillery sticking in mud part of the time.

On the 22nd our course gradually became south and we made a good march so all could see the barren wastes of North Alabama before us but fine living for the present. Good weather & roads better every mile — more solid but gradually becoming rougher — and settlements growing beautifully less each day. Inhabitants beginning to show that wild, despairing look so common to certain chivalry.

Twas on the p.m. of the 24th March [when] all sign of settlement disappeared and the Great Pine Wilderness began to open before us. But in the evening we come to a stream called the Sipsey — a small but lovely stream with scenery that pen could not describe. All the lovely pictures I have ever seen are nothing compared to it. The noise of falls will ever ring in my ears as it completely drowned the hum of the old mill that seems to have been standing far down under those delightful pine-covered cliffs clattering away for many centuries. Tis known as Hubbard’s Mill and some rather intimated that they are distant relations of the same —- Old mistress Hubbard, Who went to the Cupboard, &c.  We camped within 2 miles but I couldn’t go back.

[Editor’s Note: This old-growth pine forest is known as the Sipsey Wilderness today. A small cave hidden by a waterfall in this wilderness was such an important resource for saltpeter (used for making gunpowder) during the Civil War, that a small skirmish was fought at the nearby Hubbard Mill.]

Nothing could be better for restoring my health than a campaign like this. The smokey, dark pine woods and the color it adds with the splendid exercise of riding 30 miles or more a day will give health when all else fails. I am perfectly contented for the time and enjoy it fine.

On the 20th we arrived at the Black Warrior River and had to march downstream several miles, marching late in the night, fording a rough tributary in the night, then camped on the bank of the river in a thick pine grove where we lay most of the next day watching the cavalry & train cross the deep, rough water. Many a poor lad went under & got well ducked if nothing more. One drowned that I know of. Twas here on the river and all through these mountains the human specie in shape of white men styling themselves Lay-outs made their appearance in large numbers. The ladies swarmed in from hill & dale & stared in amazement, It took all day to cross and we in rear of 4th Division had night for it. Dark, muddy & rainy — it made some of the braves tremble in their boots. The other divisions arrived & went into camp where we left. We got fairly to bed about 11 o’clock at night and still it rained when Boots & Saddles rang out throughout our division and we was soon riding along at rapid rate through mud & rain, cross & mad. Halted just before day on the banks of the Little Warrior River, took a short nap while the train & troops ahead were fording, it hurrying for forage &c. We got over about 11 o’clock & made a big march, camped after night on Good Picking.

We struck a big thing last night in way of living on an old Rebel’s plantation. No sign of starting this morning & the soldiers are busy picking up & feasting.

We move at 11 a.m., passed through the Village of Elyton and the big Iron Works of Red Mountain. Heard our first guns while passing through the gap of the mountain but there was only a few shots fired across the Cahaba River. Our band scared them away by playing Yankee Doodle. We camped on a ridge near the river during heavy rain. First thing was to get our shelter up; then a big fire for twas cold & chilly.

[Editor’s Note: The Red Mountain was a source of iron ore for the Confederacy. Several iron ore furnaces — including the Red Mountain Iron Works — were destroyed by the Union raiding force when the main body of troopers led by Major-General Upton passed through the area. The village of Elyton was burned by the Union army on 22 March 1865.]

On Thursday the 30th of March

We worked on a bridge covering the Railroad Bridge till near noon, then crossed over & marched lively — our regiment in front. Co. F vanguard skirmished all the way to Montevallo [under the command of Major William W. Woods]. Camped at dark — cold & chilly. Found plenty of everything & feasted until late.

Friday, March 31st 1865

The sun shone out very clear making the little villa & its surroundings look perfectly delightful. Army all quiet. Very few citizens to be seen except the ladies who look on with a show of interest. After breakfast, I went with Lieut. Vanorsol to see some acquaintance he made last night — two Miss Baileys (Rebels) and a lady who claimed to be our friend. I didn’t learn her name. She gave me some news & many items of particular interest. Could not talk in hearing of the other ladies but while they played the piano, she talked & we had some good music. She wrote a note to Gen’l [Emory] Upton and said she would write one for Gen’l Wilson for me to call in the p.m. and get. I went to Gen’l [Edward F.] Winslow’s Headquarters from there & the scouts that went out in the morning returned reporting all quiet.

But about noon while we were lying on the floor talking and looking at a map & plan of the defenses at Selma, the guard rushed in saying, “General, there’s fighting going on out here.” We bounded and from the piazza could see the whole affair. The whole hillside covered with stragglers (Negroes & soldiers) running for camp wildly, the Rebels fast forming into line and steadily driving in our pickets. We hurried out & went home but we got no orders to saddle or move for a long time. The 2nd Brigade advanced, driving Rebels back lively. Then we followed, the other column coming up in the meantime. We soon began passing over dead horses & men (scenes of horror). Destruction & devastation of war looks natural as ever though we’ve been without the sight for sometime. For 6 miles the 2nd Brigade led, driving the Johnnies [members of an Alabama brigade], then the 1st (ours) passed up to the front, but the 3rd [Iowa] and 10th [Missouri] being in front done the fighting and kept it up so well that for awhile I thought we would get none.

[Editor’s Note: “Brevet Major Emory Upton’s 4th Division included two brigades: the 1st led by Brevet Brigadier General  Edward F. Winslow with the 3rd Iowa, 4th Iowa, and 10th Missouri; and Brevet Brigadier General Andrew J. Alexander’s 2nd Brigade. The latter included the 5th Iowa, 1st Ohio, and 7th Ohio. The artillery unit attached to this brigade was Lieut. George B. Rodney’s Battery “I” of the 4th United States Artillery.”]

7 companies of our regiment supporting Battery I and near 2 miles behind when the Rebels opened on the Battery from the right flank and with showers of bullets and wild yells, here they come throwing the Artillery into the worst confusion. In an instant we lit out of saddles and without waiting for formation, forward we went with yells, giving them Spencer with a vengeance. I didn’t stop to dismount & was glad of it afterwards for we run over a mile. The 1st Lieut. caught prisoners that said Old Forrest was on hand.

[Editor’s note: The rebels attacking the rear of the column escorting Battery I where Lot Abraham and his men were positioned were “speedily driven off by Lieut.-Colonel Peters with a portion of the 4th Iowa Cavalry.”]

After defeating them, we mounted and closed up passing over where the 3rd [Iowa] and 10th [Missouri] had been victorious in a mounted charge. Twas late when we camped among the pines on right of road to rest & prepare for the morrow.

Saturday, April 1st [1865]

We moved forward at dawn of day — a clear still morning. 2nd Brigade in front, 4th [Iowa] in center of our brigade, my battalion in front of regiment. At Randolph they told us Forrest had just taken breakfast. I was sent to the right 2 miles on the Centerville Road to guard until our column and train should all pass. Had a quiet hour or so. Once some Rebs come up to the vidette but a shot drove them back. When Gen’l Wilson come up, he told me to close up, taking the left, while the other column went on. I overtook the command feeding at noon and took my place.

We marched steady and lazily until 3 p.m. when the ball opened on both roads. We could only hear the wild yells & roar of the artillery — both columns charged and it seemed like a race for Forrest’s army.

While it yet raged, our regiment was sent for and went forward with a rush. The excitement, occasioned by victory, was great. Both columns come together. 3 field guns, many prisoners & the ground covered with spoils of war. We passed to the front on a fast gallop but the Rebs were fast disappearing & had only a little skirmish from there — Ebenezer Church — to the villa of Planterville [a distance of five miles]. Railroad depot & lots of government stores. There I took the vanguard to make the highest bluffs that the army might camp in the valley. The Rebs were undoubtedly fleeing in earnest. I made my point and leaving [Company] “D” on picket, put the others in camp and rode back to the depot to hear the news & talk. Tis interesting to an army so far from home, but the morrow is looked to with a deal of interest.

Gen. Forrest attempts to turn back the Union Cavalry at Boglers Creek on 1 April 1865

Gen. Forrest attempts to turn back the Union Cavalry at Bogler’s Creek on 1 April 1865

[Editor’s Note: Most Union accounts of the Battle of Ebenezer Church indicate that the Federal commanders were stunned when they realized the Confederates had turned and were making a stand. For days Southern cavalry had been skirmishing and falling back ahead of the Union columns and the Northern officers seem to have expected more of the same when they suddenly plowed into Forrest’s line of battle. The fight was extremely fierce. At one point, four companies from the 17th Indiana Infantry (Mounted) charged the Confederate lines. It was a mistake, as the 17th was supposed to support a planned charge by the 72nd Indiana, but instead moved out too soon. Even so, the four companies of Hoosiers broke thundered across the Confederate breastworks. Forrest counter-attacked with his escort company and other reserves and drove back the Federals in a desperate hand to hand encounter. It was during this fight that he shot and killed Captain James D.M. Taylor of the 17th Indiana after the captain had struck the general with his saber. The weight of numbers, however, finally made the difference for General Wilson. Only a portion of the reinforcements that Forrest hoped to receive from Chalmers arrived in time and the brigade under General William H. Jackson was prevented from crossing the Cahaba River and was unable to strike the rear of the Union army as planned.

A Union charge finally broke the Alabama troops on the right of the Confederate line
and the battle degenerated into a desperate fight to reach the crossing of Bogler Creek,
which ran along the rear of the Southern position. Withdrawing from the battlefield along the railroad and main road leading to Selma, Forrest kept his army intact. He knew, however, that the Battle of Selma coming the next day would almost certainly result in the loss of the important industrial center. There was no way he could hope to properly man the city’s extensive fortifications with his available force. The battle for Selma had been fought – and lost – at Ebenezer Church.”]

Storming Selma

Sunday, April 2nd 1865

Another night passed away in perfect quiet and at dawn of day, the solid column of horsemen began to move on — all well closed up and 4 abreast. Long’s Division, artillery & all, passed down before we moved & it was well toward the middle of day before we got into our saddles. The road seemed to lead through a valley for awhile but open country all the way, and every trooper kept his place, his arms in proper condition, & with every banner floating in the breeze. The column moved on with a heavy tread and a seeming determination that I think I never noticed before in warlike movements. I could only look up and down that broad road as far as eye would reach and gaze with wonder and admiration on the grandeur of the scene. However, not without some feelings of solemnity and dread thinking that without doubt before the day closed, many of our brave band must fall. That go we would & maybe the foe were well prepared without the city to meet us. As we had no fighting, it was evident they had fallen back to the city [of Selma]. How strong they are we know not — only they have made 2 attempts to check us & gloriously failed. That we will probably go into the fight with seven thousand — maybe not so many & certainly not more — 20 miles we had to ride and at such a gait it would soon be made. With all these thoughts mingling together in my mind, I rode along at the head of my battalion (“D” Company in front) in rear of the regiment. Probably stiller than usual. More thought.

It was past the middle of the p.m. before we heard the first gun. The column had divided, Long going over to the right. A small field piece opened on us 94th Div) from the outer works [of Selma defenses]. We could plainly see that & get glimpses of the city in the distance. Closed up in regimental line in a grove (2nd Battalion, 4th Iowa Cavalry skirmishing dismounted) rested. There near 2 hours. Then prepared to fight on foot. Fixed for wading a swamp. The idea was to get at a weak point on the [Rebel] works. But before we moved, Long opened out on them and such terrific volleys — such wild yells — must mean something. Very little artillery. We could not see a move from our position but soon ‘To Horse‘ sounded. What could that mean? But we hadn’t time to think & way went. Twas a mounted charge.

Before we had gone many jumps, word passed along the line that Long was inside the works. Yelling & shooting, our horses down to about their best, running over bad roads, swamp & dangerous, Lieut. Ogg’s steed went down & rolled over him. I just happened to get a glimpse of it. Supposed he was gone up. Sent Jim to him. But they soon overtook us. The works in our front were gained easy & we rode in in columns of 2’s, closed up, and went for the flying Rebels, by this time all in confusion, and routed but they run well. It was dark when when we gained the city & the column was broken up so that I was foremost when General’s Winslow & Upton told me to take 2 companies & go for ’em as no one could tell what direction they were making off in.

If there is an interesting period in man’s life, ’tis at such a time when excitement is at the highest pitch and we see victory on every hand. We have the power to say what shall be done & ’tis so friend or foe. I led off to the left through the city, wild with confusion — non-combatants scared to death & running in every direction, but we looked for armed foe only. Struck the river near the Great Machine Shop, big fires of burning stores only blinded & missed me. Soon some Negroes got me on the right track and the balls began to whistle again though very dark. We hurried them on no matter where many plunged into the river & swamp & many were drowned. We picked up prisoners — officers & men. Caught long strings of cavalry horses, all as left when prepared to fight on foot.

Next thing we took a Battery and all its outfit except the men. Most of them got away in the darkness & confusion. There I was with less than 100 men (Company’s D & K) over a mile from any other troops, hands full of prisoners, to say nothing of led horses yet what could they be doing was the question with me. Twice I sent couriers to tell of my whereabouts & success and asking for help. To advance farther was out of the question. The Rebel Gen. Rhoddy [Brig. Gen. Phillip Dale Roddey] sent an officer to see who we was & what doing there & Col. [John H.] Peters arrived. He almost jerked my arm off with shaking. We rigged up our artillery & horses & with the whole started to hunt a camp or see what was to be did.

[Editor’s Note: “In his report, Lt. Col John H. Peters, 4th Iowa Cavalry, writes: ‘Charged through the works and into the city. Upon passing the inner fortifications I found the enemy flying in every direction and firing occasional shots at our column. On reaching the first street running at right angles with the one on which I was moving, I saw a large body of the enemy in the greatest confusion moving off to the right. I directed one squadron to charge into them, and with the remaining force moved rapidly forward. . . I can gain from company and battalion commanders we took 1,495, including 3 colonels and 76 other commissioned officers. We captured besides 9 pieces of artillery, 8 caissons, 3 battle-flags, 1,100 stands of small-arms, 663 horses, 102 mules, 30 wagons with teams attached, and 3 ambulances. The flags were captured one each by Private Nicholas Fanning, Company B; Private Charles A. Swan, Company K, and Private James P. Miller, Company D.’]

We moved into the city but such a time I never did see. We could tell nothing about it. So I selected a spot for camp for my cavalcade and got all quiet by midnight. But twas no so in the city. Soldiers everywhere [were] gathering up the spoils of war all night. The Rebels had never thought of letting us in there to get their best and to destroy the Great Confederate States Arsenal &c. Oh! I never felt so good in my life as at the thought.

Lieut. Ogg, Sgt. Detrich, & Serson & I went to one of the finest dwellings and found it deserted. We took peaceable possession. Went all through — found some of the best of old wine & went in — took — found good beds. Very late and was soon lost [in sleep].

Monday morning, April 3d 1865

It was certainly late when we went to bed last night — then being very tired & maybe hungry or the elegant bed caused me to sleep so soundly that I had no idea that my hat had been stolen in the night or that it was daylight until Hort [Detrick] called me after daylight & I bounced out to find my hat (a good one) gone and an old Gov 2 story — worn out & greasy — left for me. I saddled up the best looking horse of the lot, putting on the best saddle, & with 3 men dashed off. First tried the speed of Old Bob. Went over the ground of last night’s operations in the dark, found the stream & went to a plantation. Took a lot of prisoners, a lot of mules &c, and returned. Found orders to march & turned over our spoils. Preparatory. All this time since yesterday noon I ate nothing & hunger began to tell.

We found Richard and the pack-mule, got a bit of breakfast, and was ready for the advance at 10 a.m. Gen. Upton went out with us — the 3rd [Iowa], 2 Bats. of 4th [Iowa] & a portion of 10th Mo. under Col. John Noble started westward & made a steady march, first over the ground where the hardest fighting was done yesterday evening. I counted 29 boys in blue resting their last — all in one place. Most of the Rebel dead had been removed by their friends. Many were lying there yet, all exposed to that broiling hot sun & some sickening sights too.

We found it dusty riding & a hilly country. 9 miles brought us to Summerfield — a lovely little villa with its splendid [Centenary] Female College & 150 beautiful ladies in attendance. They looked charmingly delightful & all must have a look at the Yankees. We marched 9 miles farther & camped near Johnson’s Ferry on the Catawba River. Richard got up a good supper. Then for rest.

Tuesday, April 4th 1865

I enjoyed my rest so well last night, then had a good soldier-fare breakfast before starting for a long march. I was sent back to the Ferry after going 3 miles to hold that with [Companies] D & K until further orders. We barricaded with rails & got up a little fight across the river. I got an order in about 3 hours to join the command by marching steady &c. I made a common march to Perryville where I struck their trail, then found I was losing time. They were going rapidly but the trail was plain & by rapid marches over hilly & thinly settled country — rather N or NE course, I overtook them before dar, camping on a small stream in the wilderness. A scare up at the time I prepared to charge when someone discovered the supposed enemy was Negroes. Tired this time again.

April the 5th, 1865

Started early in a N. E. direction. I got the advance & moved off slowly through dark pine groves & over hills with no sign of habitation. I learned the object of the expedition was to hear of our train that in the chase was left far behind. Heard about noon that it was coming up all right & safe. We turned our course for Selma, passed over the battleground of Ebenezer Church in the eve. Nothing pleasing there now. Camped at Planterville again where we first heard peanuts called goobers. Heard of Forrest again.


Ruins of Naval Foundry at Selma

On the 6th, we moved in via Summerfield to keep out if the train’s way, arriving late in the eve and during a heavy rain was ordered 4 miles out on the P. V. road to camp. Made it by inches in that heavy rain & darkness. The Great Works of Selma going up in the meantime made light for us.

April the 7th 1865

Such a horrid night as last will make any soldier growl. It was near midnight when we got into a rough miry field to camp, all that time on 4 miles of a march, the heavy explosions & flashing of the burning arsenal keep us in a little better humor, but I heard many a solid oath and could not help it any as I didn’t know & couldn’t tell what was wanted — was in the rear too. We remained in camp all day drying off & fixing up some. Heard the particulars of the route generally. Had all our captured flags on exhibition.

Saturday the 8th

I was detailed on a court martial & put in the day very well contented but tried some hard cases. Ordered to move after dark and marched to Selma & lay down by the roadside.

Selma, Alabama
Sunday, April 9th 1865

They are working on a [pontoon] bridge that broke down last night while we remain in an open field, but fortunately ’tis a cloudy day. I rode all over the city [of Selma] looking at the sights. The heavy artillery, ruins of all manner of war material &c.  ‘Tis a nice town but badly demoralized now and society all out of joint. We commenced crossing [the Alabama River] at noon when the [pontoon] bridge broke again near me. There was scrambling on both ends but all saved & went to work again. We crossed after night late and camped on this shore in the brush & on the 10th [of April] started for [Montgomery –] the Capitol of C. S. A. Weather cloudy & pleasant & we made good time, the advance fighting all the way & often we see upturned Johnnies. Passed through Benton, but most of our routes was rough, wild country.

Most of the 11th — a fine day — was spent fixing a swamp — crossed by moonlight — made a short march — passed through such a delightful villa called Lowndesburg [Lawnsboro] camping near on a hill about midnight. Marched early on the 12th over fine country to the Great City to find it evacuated and all quiet. In a solid column of 4th & in good order with the star spangled banner floating so proudly, we moved through the city. Passed the fine State House & made 4 miles for camp where there’s no chance for soldiers to misbehave. Rumors have it that Lee has given up the Rebel Capitol at last and ’tis generally believed here by citizens. The strong Rebels look mighty blue over it too. Remained in camp all day the 13th while the columns are closing up ready for the moves that are ahead.

The Alabama State House where Jeff Davis had been inaugurated President of the CSA

The Alabama State House where Jeff Davis had been inaugurated President of the CSA

Of course the first thing for me after learning that we would remain was to go to a stream of water for a bath, then a rest, and in the cool of evening a ride to the city. Going to the State House first, we viewed the splendor of its chambers & halls, taking a glance of the city from the great observatory. Leaving there, we took our course through the finest streets at a time when the ragged column of Rebel prisoners was passing through, hoofing along in column of 4 as far up and down the streets as we can see, all covered with dust & sweat, foot sore & weary. They jog along guarded by a file of well-mounted troopers in blue on each flank and from the magnificent and peaceful, pleasant-looking residences on each side, the well-dressed ladies who kept doors shut & windows blinded while our gay columns passed, would sally forth — all affection, kerchief in hand and wipe away the falling tear while they stood gazing on the poor, helpless wretches — offering nothing but public tears (so common). (I ventured a guess that the Reb would rather see a common Yank coming to divide his last [hard] tack & scrap of meat with him.)

I could see nothing to cheer the poor creatures in that kindness. We found the city as quiet any place could be — property protected everywhere went to the devil.

Got a regular hotel supper in Dixie — rye, coffee &c. — all the style of other and better days could be seen. Bill ten dollars apiece. All right. Cheap. So we thought. And it was at a late hour we rode back to our camp. Met one regiment going out on scout. Others still coming in & camping — tired & hungry of course. I can tell how they feel, think I.

Friday, April 14th 1865

Reveille long before daylight and well we know the meaning. Sure enough, daylight finds us in the saddle moving for where? Ah, anyone can see & tell that the arsenal and great public works at Columbus must suffer. McCook takes the advance and fights all the way as we see by the well known signs we pass. Some lovely country — good crops all along. Pass through the villas of Mt. Meigs, Lapas, & Cross Keys. All very small places. Crossed some nice small streams but didn’t try to learn their names. Camped after dark.

The 15th we passed through Tuskeegee, the prettiest & gayest town & ditto girls — so many of them too. Found some Union girls in the eve while it was raining. Know they was.


Sunday, April 16th 1865

Enjoyed rest last night after 30 miles ride partly through rain & camping after night but our big fires of rails warm supper, then good rest on the soft ground with plenty good, hot coffee and and early start this morning. We feel like going through anywhere. Passed through Crawford about 10 a.m. without stopping. The jail was burning and a lady who had been released said she had been in that old cage 2 years for loving the Union & assisting some poor Union folks. Said she would leave them now.

After passing there, we found the country rough & thinly settled and our steady march kept bringing us nearer (we knew not what). McCook left our road going in direction of West Point, the 2nd Brigade in advance & very little fighting. Our regiment right in front & in center of our brigade. We could only guess & imagine what was to come. Citizens & Negroes began to say the Rebs would fight us & on this side of the [Chattahoochie] River too which surprised me at first as have seen no plot or map of the place.

I had no idea of fighting the Rebs while strung out as we must be after such marching. The day was a hot one & the column moved on in more than usual silence until the booming cannon broke the stillness with all its usual enlivening spirit, echoing far over the hills, straightening every trooper in his saddle, and driving away the cares of thought. But we have 4 miles to ride yet & on we go — no change of gait, unless ’tis the horses stepping more lively at the sound of the well known music. How sudden the change in my own mind. We’ll fight now sure. Can see it in everything plain.

The artillery keep up its roar and we arrive on the hill overlooking the city. The [Chattahoochie] River. Ah! the Rebs burn a bridge but the other stands. Behold the forts & well-filled ditches, waving banners & the many wide-mouthed cannon. Our boys fall back out of their range. The 2nd Brigade is fast forming line on foot & just out of the Rebel range. We ride up steadily & must prepare to fight on foot which takes but little time. Hundred rounds to the man. All’s ready, but we delay. Why is it? Uneasiness begins to work on me but soon we see the General leading the head of the column. 1st Brigade only, by countermarch, mounted. How anxiously every move is watched & soon I make up my mind that the plan is changed. Rebels position looks too strong in front. We wind along over the hills (no roads) but we must go as still as possible & keep on the opposite side of the hill, hid from Rebel view & there seems to be no hurry. It takes a circuit of several miles to reach the vicinity of the upper extremity of Rebel works. We halt, dismount, & many go to sleep — which I do very easy — but prevent it by walking about & watching for items. ‘Tis evident we wait for night. It approaches.

We mount & the column moves on winding about among hills & woods. Silently. ‘Tis dark. We halt in column, remaining mounted, wait & wait. An orderly rides along about every minute with some kind of instruction. Keep quiet. Whenever the buglers (who have been scattered purposely) sound the charge, we must yell, but the first thing to break the stillness is a deafening volley of musketry & so very close that the flash lights up the woods all around us. It’s a stumper & bullets rattle all through the woods. But after time enough to draw one long breath, bugles open & then the yell. ‘Tis wild — shows the Rebs where every Yankee is & their artillery opens on us & just to the place. The shot & shell come screaming through the tree tops. All shows like that much fire in the darkness — it looks wild & scary while we stand still. The 3rd [Iowa] are down & fighting. The whole thing looks like a fire at times.

Capt. Lot Abraham led the 4th Iowa Cavalry against the Rebels Works at Columbus, Ga.

Capt. Lot Abraham led the 4th Iowa Cavalry against the Rebels Works at Columbus, Ga.

We move forward 50 yards or more, get orders to dismount 6 companies which takes my Battalion of course & I hurry without changing from column. We are ready. Column of 4’s in the road. Oh what a place. I move on to where the Generals are. 2nd Battalion follows me. We wait for Col. [John H.] Peters. Where is he? Nobody can tell. General Upton asks, “Who is the next in rank?” — “I am [says I.] —  “You’ll do!” [says he.] Then followed my instructions mingled with the wildest oaths man could utter. Why Generals, are you crazy or drunk? But I can’t help knowing they are neither & that they only try to encourage me & my followers. But I have seen too much to believe that the 3rd Iowa hold any of the Rebel works. They are scattered all through the woods. I take my course 1st over swampy ground, brush cut down, &c. We hear them talk. They mistake us at first & who are you? Who are you? We’re 3d Georgia, we’re confident. Answer if I took you. Go for ’em. We’re over their works, pull down their flag, hear the groans, the pleading for their dear lives (unnecessarily) for we stop not for prisoners — leave them – – ditches full. What guides me, I know not. Don’t stop to think — that towering fort, those groaning brazen-throated guns just ahead. Oh, then I think, we’ll take them. We must. They boom away. We can see everything by the blaze & flash of guns.

The fort is gained. Big battery taken & still the work is not done. No, that oft repeated go for the bridge is still uppermost in my mind. Where is the bridge? Ah! ’tis easy told. We only follow. The bridge is gained. ‘Tis covered with Rebs but all running in confusion. We crowd in. Push hammer & pound. ‘Tis saved & I post a strong guard to prevent fire. Oh, on what a slender thread hangs our fate here. We have passed the bulk of the Rebels. They have one fort booming away yet, and all those passed have arms in their hands. We didn’t stop to take them. I haven’t over 2 hundred men — maybe not near that. Can’t tell anything about it. Only I started in with 2 Battalions — 7 companies. Some wounded, I know. One killed on the bridge, I know. I know I have the bridge & it shall be saved. Gen’l Upton arrives. “Who’s this?” he asks. “Is it you, Capt. Aham? All right.” And golly, what a shaking he gave me. The other Brigade come up.

I had sent for my horses. The troops here passing over. We rested. Learned that not many were hurt & can hear of but one killed [Nathan Beezley]. Hort Detrick wounded severe in shoulder. Jehoa [Jehoiada] Wurth in wrist. Jim Ogg in leg (slightly). Several others Co. D slightly. We have 4 flags & now pick up the prisoners fast. Mounted & I left [Company] D with prisoners. Passed over the river through the city & out on the principal (Macon) Road before the plundering had fairly begun in the city. But I soon learned I had only 2 companies with me — A & C. The others had been lost in the confusion and winding through the city I put A in camp & C on picket. Then took a small party & went away out on the main road patrolling but find they have fled far out of reach. Got some prisoners and horses. Come back and then had a big supper prepared for us at a fine house. Plenty of eggs for Easter but ’twas most too late to eat them on Easter, the night being far spent.

[Editor’s Note: An excellent description of the Battle of Columbus is contained in Brown’s Guide to Georgia, by Jim Miles. I’ve quoted major portions of it here — “Little alarm was raised in Columbus until the fall of Selma, and even than reaction was muted until word arrived of Montgomery’s capture. By then it was obvious that Columbus was the next target. Non-combatants were encouraged to leave the city while able bodied men were urged to rally with their personal weapons. Newspapers claimed that ‘a resolute defense would be made,’ and ‘Columbus will be defended until the last,’ and announced that men should ‘delay no longer’ to ‘organize and protect your homes…never let it be said Columbus fell without a struggle.” 

Governor Joseph E. Brown called out the state militia, but that came too late to be effective. Assembled at Columbus were 2,000-3,000 men, few of them trained and battle tested. There were two regiments of the Georgia State Line, but they had no experience. Present also were county reserves factory workers, those too old or young for regular service, and disabled veterans.

Columbus’s first defenses were raised in 1862, primarily across the Chattahoochee in Girard, Alabama, and along the river south of the city. In 1864 danger from a Union raid and the threat of action by William Sherman from Atlanta produced fortifications to the east.

The terrain surrounding Columbus made it difficult to protect with the number of troops available. The primary Confederate defense was centered on Girard, protecting the Fourteenth Street footbridge and railroad bridge. That line started on the left, or south, where Hubbard Creek joined the Chattahoochee, ran west through Girard, then north across Summerville Road and turned northeast to a hill above the Chattahoochee. Further west was a light line of rifle pits fronted by abatis.

Two forts with 12 cannon defended the Fourteenth Street Bridge, with five pieces aimed at approaching roads. Those works were fronted by ditches six feet deep and eight feet wide. Work on the fortifications continued feverishly until Wilson’s advance arrived at two p.m. on April 16, 1865.

Two other bridges could not be defended; to the north a span near Columbus Factory was rendered useless, and to the south planks were removed from the Dillingham Street Bridge.

By 1865 General Howell Cobb commanded Georgia troops throughout the state; he was present for Wilson’s attack but the defense was conducted by Colonel Leon von Zinker.
Eminent combat would be signaled by the firing of six cannon at headquarters on Broad Street, where men were to rally with a day’s ration. Wilson initially hoped to cross the Chattahoochee with little resistance. The First Ohio brushed aside pickets and reached the partially destroyed Dillingham Street Bridge. Observing from a hill to the south, Federal general Emory Upton declared, ‘Columbus is ours without firing a shot!’ As the troopers discussed repairing the span, Confederates in Columbus fired the span while others opened fire, forcing the Union troops to withdraw. Two hundred Federals who ride north to the Columbus Factory bridge found it unusable.

Meanwhile, Upton and Wilson personally scouted the largely concealed Confederate fortifications. They decided to send the three regiments of Upton’s First Brigade quickly down the Summerville Road to Girard. Confusion delayed the planned action until dusk, which induced Wilson to make a rare night assault. That tactic certainly would be a surprise to the inexperienced defenders. The attack was scheduled for eight p.m. and during the lull a local resident arrived and made a detailed sketch of the Confederate defenses. Federals took advantage of the lull to sleep, brew coffee, and cook supper.

At eight p.m. part of the Third Iowa, 300 men of six companies, dismounted and followed the Summerville Road through the darkness. Two mounted regiments waited to exploit any breakthrough. The Confederates responded immediately with a brisk fire from rifles and artillery, but they were shooting high. The Federals overran the advanced rifle pits and Upton, believing it was the primary line, ordered the Tenth Missouri to ride in four columns for the bridges. Two Union companies quickly sliced through the Girard defenses.

One Federal participant described the advance as initially quiet-the attackers had been ordered to discard any objects that could cause noise. It was ‘as dark as pitch,’ then a single shot fired, ‘and in a second 10,000 more’ he wrote. ‘The whole country seemed to be alive with demons,’ but the deadly projectiles passed harmlessly overhead. The trooper was blinded by ‘the shells exploding all around.’

Apparently the rushing Federals were mistaken for retreating Confederates, for they were not fired upon-some passed within ten yards of General Cobb. The Missourians briefly seized the footbridge, but a counterattack from Columbus drove them back.

The attack

The attack by Winslow’s Brigade after nightfall on 16 April 1865

By observing the Confederate defensive fire, Wilson and Upton were able to locate the Confederate fortifications and ordered the Tenth Missouri, Fourth Iowa, and the remainder of the Third Iowa in that direction, the men shouting ‘Selma! Selma!’ for their recent victory in Alabama, and ‘Go for the Bridge!’ The Federals blundered into and through a ravine and quickly overrun the defenders, many of them under fire for the first time. Southern fire slackened, then ceased as each Confederate chose to escape.

Troops of both armies started at full speed for the bridges, with ‘horsemen and footmen, artillery, wagons, and ambulances…crowded and jammed together in the narrow avenue which was ‘dark as Egypt,’ one participant recalled.

In a covered portion of the footbridge some Federals unknowingly passed retreating Confederates. The attackers smelled turpentine and realized the bridge was prepared for burning, but the Southerners hesitated for fear of killing their own men. The lone Confederate who lit a match was struck down by Federals. Across the bridge the attackers made a ‘sharp fight’ for a battery, securing it and the bridge. The battle for Columbus was over.

When Wilson crossed the bridge at 11 p.m. ‘all firing had ceased,’ he recorded. His final notation for April 16 read, ‘Magnificent achievement.’

Columbus was in turmoil. Confederate troops fled in all directions, the crowd thick with terrified civilians. It was ‘a perfect panic,’ one man wrote, ‘running through the city like people deranged, and men, with mules and wagons, driving in every direction.’ Up to 1,500 Confederates were captured, and 600 escaped. Prisoners were marched to Macon and paroled. General Cobb escaped to Macon, but staff member Colonel C. A. L. Lamar was killed, along with von Zinker’s aide, Captain S. Isidore Guiller, and J.J. Jones, editor of the Columbus Enquirer.

Wilson, who considered Columbus the last important storehouse of the Confederacy, placed General Edward F. Winslow in charge of the city and directed him ‘to destroy everything within reach that could be made useful for further continuation of the Rebellion.’”

Columbus, Georgia
Monday, April the 17th 1865

I took a nap on the ground & without any blankets. Awoke cold & chilly at daylight. Waited on a neighbor with Lieut. Dillon for breakfast. Had 3 or 4 polite invitations too. Went into the city. ‘Tis all quiet. Troops coming in all day. The citizens and Negroes make a break on all the valuables and plundering rages. We get all the stores, Rebel supplies, we want for any use & plenty of Reb clothing. I find Co. D guarding 707 Rebels. Turn them over. Keep Capt. Hooper with us. Go with him to a friends for dinner. Enjoy myself fine.

The big fires commence after dinner and the deafening roar of barrels bursting, magazines & powder works exploding — crashing & roaring of such tremendous fires — makes a day of this long to be remembered.

Tuesday, April 18th 1865

Again ’tis my birthday and the brightest one of 5 decidedly so, for I believe this great rebellion is nearly done — forever — and that my next one will come in peace. We leave the city, the burning, smoking ruins of wasting rebellion. We leave Hort [Detrick] in their hands — no help for it. Our division is in rear now for the other never halted for this little job. Macon must be taken. ‘Tis a very hot day and we march 20 miles through heat & dust, cross Reynolds Creek, & camp in a grove by the roadside left of the road. Capt. Hooper with us. He & I went down to Winslow’s camp, took supper. Got him paroled. On the 19th, he went back.

We marched 30 miles and camped 2 hours before dark off in the brush left of road. Sent ___ for corn. Feel mighty tired too.

Marching through Georgia

Thursday, April 20, 1865

A very hot day. Marched in column until about 10 o’clock at Thomaston. Our regiment is detailed to go to Barnesville and tear up the railroad down to Macon. Well pleased with the idea, we strike off alone. I find a rumor — & ’tis believed too by the citizens — that Lee has surrendered his army. 12 miles to Barnesville & there we found McCook’s column passing through doing our work, but worst of it have the advance. We halt for rest, then move on lively. Make a big march for one day (30 miles or more), camp right of road about a deserted house. Make details to destroy railroad and I worked with them until midnight. Have plenty to eat.

Friday, April 21st 1865

Heard in Forsyth of an armistice which we take for granted means peace. ‘Tis so beyond a doubt. Make 15 miles, camp in bush back of an old [word missing?] long before night. All manner of talk in camp. Don’t know what to do.

Macon, Georgia
Saturday, April 22, 1865

Arrived in the city before noon and find all right, sure enough. How strange it seems. We cross the [Ocmulgee] River, go into camp, fix up a half decent camp in the sand in a pine grove, get a good mattress to lounge on, & days pass with no excitement except in the mind. News comes so slow too. We read and sleep & lounge & talk. ‘Tis the greatest time that our country has ever known, but we can’t see it. Don’t know what to believe, but finally have to believe that the Great Chief of Nation is dead. Murdered! That at a time for great rejoicing. We must mourn.

We do mourn the loss of a Great & Noble man. He will live forever in the hearts of U. S. soldiers or citizens. The month passes. We write home that friends may know we are safe through the war.

Thursday the 4th May, 1865

1st chance for a change offered its opening to me today. Gen’l Upton telegraphed for 500 men immediately to be sent on the railroad to Augusta. I was not detailed but put in for it and of course my request was granted. Col. Jones got the command & Dee got that of our regiment. But all I want is the change, the ride, the excitement — if there should be any. We come over to the depot, have to wait until tomorrow. It comes. Also a telegraph to send an officer & 50 men to Washington [Georgia] to parole some of Wheeler’s Cavalry. I got that without asking. Written instructions with a post script to look out for a certain J. D. [Jeff Davis] — supposed to be loose someplace. Enjoyed a fine ride to Atlanta, though slow. Had to wait over 4 hours there by moonlight in the ruins of a city once so lovely.

Washington, Georgia
Saturday the 6th, 1865

Running over the Georgia Railroad slowly but in a nice car with Upton’s staff. I enjoy it fine. ‘Tis not so good with the boys in a hog car. Change at Barnett & with 50 men I take a Branch Road — open cars to meet Rebels — not in battle, though all armed & equipped for it. How strange. Will it be as friends? Hardly.

3 p.m. We’re there. A lovely town. Plenty of Rebels. They crowd the Depot to see me. I go to work giving paroles. They call them Payrolls. Gen’l Lewis comes in. I see him and tell him what to do and late in the evening I ride out to his camp [in Mr. Wiley’s Grove] and receive the surrender of a brigade of Rebels — arms all stacked. I got to work paroling in a nice grove under big tree. Table spread & there I write, talk, & swear ’em by companies until midnight. Only 3 of my boys with me.

Washington, Georgia
Sunday, May 7th 1865

Out to work early this morning & finished Gen. Lewis’ Brigade of big Kentuckians. Rough set, I know, but they treated me very well. After they left, I fixed up my office in town after going out east & paroling Capt. Foster & his men, went to work in the office and kept it up until late at night, hardly stopping to eat. Enjoy it fine. Love to talk to them. Find Old Jeff was here on the 3rd and dissolved the Confederacy here. His wife had been here waiting for him several days. Find the citizens belonging to the self-styled Southern Chivalry — high falutine.

Gold has been very plenty in this vicinity and I think some may be found yet. They paid the Rebels $2.35 apiece last night. Small pay for so much service.

Eliza Francis Andrews (1865)

Eliza Frances Andrews (1865)

[Editor’s Note: Eliza Frances Andrews (1840-1931), the second daughter of Annulet Ball and Garnett Andrews of Washington, Georgia, kept a journal and wrote, “…the greater part of the cavalry that came to town on Saturday have passed on, and the garrison, or provost guard, or whatever the odious thing is called, are probably afraid to be too obstreperous while so many Confederate troops are about. They have taken up their quarters in the courthouse now, but have not yet raised their old flaring rag on the spot where our own brave boys placed the first rebel flag, that my own hands helped to make. I wish our troops would get into a fracas with them and thrash them out of town.” — The War-Time Journal of a Georgia Girl, p. 226]

Monday, May 8th 1865

I must work without ceasing for here they come in squads and straggling, wanting their “Payrolls.” Citizens flock in to ask questions & tell what they have suffered &c but the Negro occupies the biggest corner of their hearts & generally comes out first. “Are you going to let them free?” (“Oh yes, they’re freed long ago.”) “But what will become of them? They’ll all die — starve to death or steal all we have — or kill us!”  I have no idea what kind of a being the African is now sure — they make him everything else but human or good in any respect.

About 3 p.m. General’s [John Crawford] Vaughn & [George Gibbs] Debrill arrived with about 2400 men. I set them to work making arrangements. Received an order from Gen’l Upton to take their horses. They are well mounted, armed & I have 50 men. That sets me to thinking how will I do this? I put them off till morning. I wanted longer to study & arrange for such a job.

[Editor’s Note: Generals Vaughn and Debrill were two of five Confederate brigade commanders who accompanied President Jefferson Davis to Washington, Georgia, after the collapse of Richmond. They agreed to escort Davis as far as Washington but refused to go farther, electing instead to “make terms” and surrender their brigades.]


“Vaughn was the senior of five brigade commanders who escorted Jefferson Davis to Washington, Georgia. Davis continued south with a small troop until captured at Irwinville. Vaughn became the last Confederate general in the eastern theater to surrender.”  Map from “The Last Confederate General” by Larry Gordon

Robert Toomb's Home in Washington, Ga.

Robert Toomb’s Home in Washington, Ga. — Capt. Lot Abraham went to Toomb’s house to recover over $5,000 in silver specie left there by CSA Brig. Gen John C. Breckinridge.

Old Toombs made his appearance in my office. I talked with him awhile, then went down to his house. Took Lieut. & 2 men and counted $5,180 in specie that he says [Brig. Gen. John C.] Breckinridge threw down in front of his gate (had more than they could carry — mostly silver — and it took some time to count it). Then I gave the old fellow a receipt for it and took a drink with him — the very best. How fast he talked & what is the reason they give me no orders to arrest him? I think it ought to be done, but General [Upton] ought to have said so. [He] certainly knew he was here. I put the coin up in my room in the Court House. Town full of mounted & armed Reb soldiers but they seem to be backward about beginning any fuss. I try to prevent them getting whiskey. They get off and fire a few shots late at night. I keep on the lookout & think what I’ll do.

Robert Toombs of Washington, Georgia.

“Old Toombs” Robert Augustus Toombs of Washington, Georgia. He served as a US Senator prior to the Civil War; as the first CSA Secretary of State; and then as a Brigadier General, CSA.

Washington, Georgia
Tuesday, May 9th 1865

All quiet this morning & I take 3 wagons, 30 men, and go out to the Rebel camp [where] I call the Generals together & tell them what I am ordered to do. They refuse to surrender to me. Won’t stack arms. I haven’t the men to compel them to do it.

CSA General John Crawford Vaughn accompanied Capt. Lot Abraham to Augusta, Ga. to work out terms of surrender.

CSA General John Crawford Vaughn accompanied Capt. Lot Abraham to Augusta, Ga. to work out terms of surrender.

I get Gen’l Vaughn to consent to go to Augusta with me. He takes part of his staff. I take an orderly. We take the 9 o’clock train & run down. Have a pleasant ride. Meet Gen’l Upton at the hotel at 6 o’clock p.m. I lay the case before him & introduce Gen’l Vaughn. A telegraph is sent to Gen’l Wilson & we wait.

[Editor’s Note: The telegraph that was sent reads as follows — “General Vaughn…is here to consult in regard to terms of surrender. He assures me on his honor that he has been informed by reliable officers in their army that all the cavalry which surrendered in North Carolina were permitted to retain their horses, and requests the same privilege. His command is all from Kentucky and Tennessee, and he proposes, after being paroled, to march directly to East Tennessee and there disband. General Vaughn received positive orders to escort Jeff Davis and his cabinet across the Mississippi, but upon learning of the convention [i.e., therms of Johnston’s surrender to Sherman] positively refused to go farther, and marched to Washington to be paroled. He only objects to turning over his horses.”]

I take a stroll over the chivalrous city. Find it tolerable. Go over into South Carolina by moonlight (Just for the name). Back at ten & find the answer. Such of Gen’l Vaughn’s men as cannot go home by rail may keep their horses. All right says Gen’l Vaughn. You know what to do & he left for Atlanta. We wait for morning train.

[Editor’s Note: A war-time journal kept by Eliza Frances Andrews contains the following entry for 9 May 1865 — “Ladies are beginning to visit a little, though the streets are as crowded and dusty as ever. Johnston’s men are coming through in full tide, and there is constant danger of a collision between them and the Yankees. There are four brigades of cavalry camped on the outskirts of town waiting to be paroled. Contrary to their agreement with Lee and Johnston, the Yankees now want to deprive these men of their horses and side arms, and refuse to parole them until they are dismounted and disarmed. Our men refuse to submit to such an indignity and vow they will kill ever ‘d____d Yankee” in Washington rather than suffer such a perfidious breach of faith. Lot Abraham, or ‘Marse Lot,’ as we call him, seems to be a fairly good sort of a man for a Yankee, and disposed to behave as well as the powers will let him. He has gone to Augusta with Gen. Vaughn, who is in command of one of the refractory brigades, to try to have the unjust order repealed. If he does not succeed, we may look out for hot times. The Yankees have only a provost guard here at present, and one brigade of our men could chop them to mince meat. I almost wish there would be a fight. It would do my heart good to see those ruffians who insulted Aunty thrashed out, though I know it would be worse for us in the end.”  The War-Time Journal of a Georgia Girl, p. 234]

Wednesday, May 10th 1865

I enjoy the ride first rate, arriving in Washington 2 p.m. Find the Rebels gone. Have moved camp westwards. All else right. Get ready to follow & on a mule with 8 men in a wagon, we go 9 miles and get to work at dark in an old cabin in the woods. Parole Vaughn’s Brigade by 11 o’clock at night, load up their arms, & go on 5 miles by moonlight to Gen. Debrill’s camp at old man Arnold’s Plantation. Talk to Gen’l Debrill awhile, then sleep till morn.

[Editor’s Note: “Old man Arnold’s Plantation” may have been the Callaway Plantation which is 9 miles west of Washington, Georgia. John Callaway was married to Bethany Arnold.]

CSA General George Gibbs Debrill

CSA General George Gibbs Debrill

Then to work at daylight on the 11th, receiving arms & payroling by companies & battalions. Enjoy it fine but stop for nothing. Brig. General Brown, U. S. Vols. come along at noon with 2 regiments. I talked with him awhile but ’tis all right — though he has been chasing those fellows a long ways. I am done at 5 p.m. and a big rain sets in. They all leave. I have all arms &c gathered up, go into the house, meet with a warm reception [and] have a good time.

Friday, May 12th, 1865

I took a good rest last night & the sun up before me this morning. we get ready & move for camp. Every fellow has a team and load of arms & we move slowly. Have a good time. Arrive at noon. Find all right. Only Capt. Saint come up drunk to arrest Toombs & let him escape.

[Editor’s Note: In her journal, Miss Eliza Frances Andrews wrote that Toombs make his escape out the back door while Capt. Saint and his troopers came through the front gate. They then proceeded to ransack the house, insult the womenfolk, and threatened to burn it down if Toombs wasn’t turned over to them. The following day, 12 May 1865, she wrote that “Capt. Abraham returned…today…and immediately apologized to Mrs. Toombs for the insults to which she had been subjected, and said that orders for the raid upon her were given over his head and without his knowledge. He [Lot] really seems to have the instincts of a gentleman, and I am afraid I shall be obliged to respect him a little, in spite of his uniform.” — (The War-Time Journal of a Georgia Girl, p. 244)]

Yesterday I take the office again. Parole, listen & talk. Have the boys gathering up the government property, find plenty of it too. Negroes & poor folks will tell where it is and the citizens begin to act a little better towards me. Attended church Sunday, 14th, and how sulky some of them looked. The Rebel preacher (Adams) couldn’t look at me and couldn’t say what he wanted to. I went in the ‘eve again & feel first rate. Enjoy it fine. Have Lieut. Vance & Sheafer with 60 more men. Commencement with Upton at Atlanta. Daily send property & arms  to Augusta.

Wednesday, May 17th 1865

Plenty to do and enjoy it fine. Got a very polite invitation to dinner today. Accepted of course. Went away down to the south part of town to the residence &c of M. Marcus — a jolly old Jew. Got a good dinner & stayed with him 2 hours. Then left with an invitation to call often — come and live there if I wanted to. Got back and found the office & street crowded waiting on my return. Also the first mail. Good. In the long time and excitement, home & loved ones was badly neglected in my thoughts &c but those dear letters stir up old hopes and I write some letters. Days pass away. Still busy as ever.

Saturday the 20th

I receive orders to bring with me all to Atlanta. Hate that, but go to work. Col. John Weems, late commander of post, sent for us to see a Negro May Party. ‘Twas well worth looking at too.

[Editor’s note: Lot Abraham does not write in his journal of attending church on Sunday, 21 May 1865, but Miss Eliza Frances Andrews did. She wrote — “I went to church with Mary Day. Lot Abraham and some of his men were there. I couldn’t help thinking what an accession Lot would have been if he had brought his wife and come among us in the day of the Confederacy, when salt was at such a premium. He is a big, tall fellow from Iowa — not a spindling little down-Easter. Two of the Yankees seated themselves in a pew with Charley Irwin, who instantly rose and changed his seat. The others had sense enough to take the hint and confine themselves to vacant pews. Mr. Adams preached, as usual. He prayed for all prisoners and fugitives, and against injustice and oppression, though in guarded language…”  (The War-time Journal of a Georgia Girl, p. 264-5)]

Monday, May 22nd

We are loading up & making ready as possible. Still parole & answer questions. Took supper with Mr. Marcus again & had a good time with Sallie. Then Mr. Franklin, Lieut. Scheaffer, & I come up to town and looked on at a Negro Dance where they are dressed in style & dance like as though they got paid for it. I have most too much curiosity at such times.

[Editor’s Note: In her war-time journal, Eliza Frances Andrews, wrote that she was told by her mammy, “who hears all the negro news” that “he (Lot) went to their balls and danced with the black wenches!”]

May 24th, on the morning of Wednesday

We have all on the 9 a.m. train & bid adieu to Washington rather reluctantly. We are whirling  away to Atlanta, arriving there to find all in camp so lazily & life so dull. Oh, twill kill me if I have to stay here. We can’t get out of service but I’m to go to Macon. Have some work to do first — all right. Work hard (Johnnie does). Gen’l Upton is leaving for Chattanooga.

Saturday, May 27th 1865

Took the Macon train at 5½ o’clock a.m. Major Woods for company to Griffin. Had such a good time. Arrived in Macon at 2 p.m. & went directly to Gen’l Wilson’s. Never got better satisfaction anywhere in my life. Gen’l asked me many questions & to take dinner with them. We had a dinner good enough for an wedding. All right. I must go back to Washington and tsay until the 10th of June. See the Provo. Marshal for instructions. All right. Then I hunted & found Hort [Detrick] looking like death. Oh, he’ll die sure. Talked with him awhile. Then come down to the Ockmulgee Hospital on the river bank. Found Dr. Cummings & stayed all night with him.

All day Sunday in town & enjoy it splendidly. Talked to Hort. Wrote some for him at night. One letter to his dear Jennie. Another home. And Macon is a delightful place for some.

[Editor’s Note: Horton Miller Detrick (1835-1925) did not die in Macon, Georgia. He lived to be almost 90 years old. After he was mustered out of the service in 1865, he return to Iowa to marry “his dear Jennie” — Caroline Virginia Andrews (1841-1915). They remained in Henry County, Iowa until the mid 1870s and then moved to a farm in Nebraska.]

In his own handwriting, Lot recorded on page 3 the date that he found the journal in Macon.

In his own handwriting, Lot recorded on page 3 the date that he found the journal in Macon.

[Editor’s Note: Lot Abraham did not make an entry on Sunday, 28 May 1865, but we know from an entry he made on page 3 of this journal that it was the day he obtained the journal used to capture his 1865 daily activities.]

Monday morning. May 29th

Now for another pleasant ride to Atlanta. Plenty ladies in the car — all strangers — but can talk. It rains. Don’t want to stay in Atlanta & hurry. Have to get printing done. Some nice blank rolls to work my papers over. Atlanta begins to stir up a little. With Lieut. Mann & 12 men I take the night train & arrive in Washington at 2 p.m. May last. Find an infantry captain here on duty. Get me a room & fix up for business. Visited my friends at night and I don’t find so much to do here & let Capt. Schaeffer do the p.m. duties but the citizens have many questions to ask & complaints to make against the poor Nigs though their work goes on well enough so far as I can see. I don’t see much friendship among the citizens here yet. Foolish people.

Washington, Georgia
Sunday the 4th June, 1865

After hearing so much of the Great Robbery of Gold & Silver communicating with Gen’l Winslow & investigating it, I have suspicions of a great wrong somewhere. I take possession of $106,280 in gold & silver in the bank. Make ready for a trip and start 10 o’clock at night, first pressing in stock to ride on and go all night. Surrounded Mr. Chenault’s house just daylight Monday and catch the band of robbers. They surrender very reluctantly. I take their arms, leave them under guard, & go on hunting &c & return at noon to find the worst ones gone. Good guard that! in broad daylight to let such men escape.

We return to Washington out of humor, tired & hungry to find everything out of shape. I sent the whole party to Atlanta on the 6th and glad to get rid of them. Feel relieved.

Thursday, June 8th 1865

All goes on swimmingly but the bankers & robbers all come back this eve released by Gen’l Winslow and I give up the money. No help. Lieut. & I take horseback rides very often on our fine Blacks that we took from the robbers. Enjoy it fine. Continue searching for property every day but its ugly business. I went out 14 miles on the 10th thinking I might get on a good track but it did not pay. Rained hard & we stopped at Mr. Pooles till all over. Got to town at dark discouraged prospecting and content myself much better now taking things coolly.

On the 13th, we left the city for good, taking the train at 9 a.m. and had a good time to Atlanta, bringing our horses &c. Read old letters & talk to discouraged officers & men about disappointments.

Thursday, June the 15th 1865

Capt. Alfred Cooley, 156th New York Vols.

Capt. Alfred Cooley, 156th New York Vols.

General Winslow gave me an order to go back to Washington with my company & stay there. All right, for there’s nothing here I want & on the 16th, I start the company through, mounted & with a few men & the C. C. & G &c. I take the night train again arriving in Washington Saturday eve 17th, 2 p.m. Found a new officer — Capt. Alfred Cooley — 50 men 156th New York there to relieve Capt. Sheafer &c. but I’ll take command & done so too. All right. All’s well. Got a room at Dr. Heard’s — good room, and attended church over Sunday. The same big meeting is continuing & there I can see the pretty ladies. Selected a camp near Dr. Heard’s in the grove & monday eve the company got in just after a big shower & put up their tents. Horses looking well. They have had a pleasant trip too.

Tuesday, June 20th 1865

Rainy & hot. I commenced business & with Lieut. Ogg, Sam Callaway, & Dr. Heard, went 3 miles to visit Capt. Pettis & have a feast & frolic. It rained one of the hardest showers — 2 of them Golly. Tis all right though & we don’t care. Time passes fast. I send all over Wilkes County. Stir them up to duty & enjoy it too much. Hunt for Toombs some but no luck. Sent Ogg off to South Carolina. Have a good boarding place at Mr. Herns. The country people are getting very clever & the boys have good times. All goes well until Monday 26th.

We get orders to return to Atlanta & let the infantry have this place. Mighty tough, but I can’t help it & will delay awhile. Had an interesting time trying to get some Rebel Ladies to make me a U. S. Flag. The Misses Norman was first to refuse, then her friends, then others., and Mrs. Heard had to make it. She was willing.

Tuesday, June 27th 1865

The Old Flag went up high on the court house but I couldn’t bother to see it. Was hunting Old Toombs — pretending everything else — rode 15 miles in the night & searched Chenault’s house at daylight again. Then off into the swamps but soon found our little guide. Wilkes knew but very little about the country or anything else. Made a big ride & returned to town before night. Tired, mad &c. &c. Firmly resolved to bother myself no more in the country on such business and I made myself contented in the city sending out each day, more or less. Make but few acquaintances & don’t care but little for those I have.

Lieut. [Ogg] got in late on the night of 29th all right but we was not ready for marching on 30th & in no hurry.

Saturday, July 1st 1865

Lieut. [Ogg] left with the company early & I followed after dinner & calling on all my friends. Had 4 men with me & took a hard rain to start on but had a nice ride & enjoyed it, overtaking the company at dark. Here we are camped once more. How strange in times of peace, but Lieut. & I go to the nearest house for a good bed to rest on.

Make a big march on Sunday 2nd, expecting a good time at High Shoals Factory on the Apalacha River where there are about a hundred girls. We arrived there about 5 in the evening & camped but I don’t believe anybody enjoyed it. I know I didn’t for I had expected too much & found it uphill business.

Monday the 3rd.

We are off early and make a good march. I feel bad about forage for awhile but soon begin to get over that & get plenty. Then enjoyed the ride hugely till night & we had a big march done at Rockbridge.

America’s Birthday

We hail at early dawn with pride and if we cannot be with those we love, our thoughts may go there for the time. We were camped on low ground among good grass and twas damp sleeping for my first night out since the war, but we are in our saddles early & on the move. Enjoying the ride so well. Our flag is all we have that looks like 4th of July & that looks good enough for anything.

We pass Stone Mountain & talk of going up but the sun threatens & the distance before us looks so great. We move on through heat & dust. The pleasure of our rides fades with the morning. Within 4 miles of Atlanta, we hear cannon. Then open with our revolvers and have a few volleys all to ourselves for celebration sake. At 12 o’clock midnight on this great day, our little column & wagon train of 3 wagons comes winding into the city.

Wednesday, July 5th 1865

Our camp all cleaned off looks fine & comfortable. Now Lieut. [Ogg] & I must have some place to board & after considerable hunting about in the vicinity of camp, we got to board with a Mr. Hoyt — big brick house on the hill across the roads.

Judge Samuel Beecher Hoyt

Judge Samuel Beecher Hoyt

[Editor’s Note: Capt. Lot Abraham boarded with the Samuel Beecher Hoyt (1828-1894) family in Atlanta. Hoyt’s wife was Elizabeth McReynolds Russell (1835-1910) whom he married 1859. He served as a Justice of the Peace from 1853 to 1855 and was afterwards elected Judge of the City Court. During the Civil War, he was Commissioner of the Confederate States and a part-time staffer of Gov. Joseph E. Brown. From 1866 to 1867, he was the City Attorney of Atlanta. Living in the same household was Mrs. Hoyt’s mother, Jane (Alexander) Russell — the widow of George Bell Russell (1810-1847) — and three of her other children; William A. Russell (1837-1899), Mary V. Russell (1845-1924), and Georgia Russell (1848-1886). Mary later married John Joseph Eagan (b. 1842), and Georgia does not appear to have ever married.]

On the 6th, I get an invitation to a barbecue at the machine shop close by. On going, I find that I am acquainted with Col. Lee. Find a jolly crowd, plenty to eat & drink, and the citizens so very clever to U.S. Officers. There was Capts. Fitch, Clark, Saint, Seaton, & myself present with the throng of citizens and had a merry time of it too.

The weather is very hot. We sleep in our tent & come over here to meals. Here’s a large library and the folks (Hoyt & wife, old Mrs. [Jane] Russell, [her] son & 2 daughters — all Rebs) become more sociable every day and we enjoy ourselves very well.

Atlanta, Georgia
July 1865

We get no starting news and have but little hope of getting out of service and the boys generally take it hard and I feel it much more than I’m willing to show by words or actions for what’s the use.

Monday the 10th

We hear that Gen’l Steedman will take command of this state & send all the cavalry to the south part of it. 4 regiments of infantry arrived here to relieve us. I think they are Dutch & 1 year men. Now we have something to grumble for. Go in boys who care.

Tuesday the 11th

Young Billy Russell left for Southwest Georgia & we got his room & a good bed. Golly, now we can be lazy for certain. ‘Tis upstairs and we just lounge, read, & have a general cozy time. I ride occasionally but not far nor fast. The girls begin to favor us with some music and good music too. Mary plays so delightful. Georgia sings tolerable well & Mr. Hoyt can tell all kind of stories, being a lawyer.

[Judge Hoyt was an acquaintance with Jefferson Davis and Alexander Stevens. He often shared stories about a conversation he had with Davis who “lamented the fate which deprived the confederate states of recognition by European powers” and of Stevens’ agony and frustration in his pursuit of a peace agreement with the Lincoln administration due to Davis’ stubbornness and failure to accept the reality of the South’s defeat. In the meeting between Stephens and Lincoln at Hampton Roads, Hoyt said that Stephens told him Lincoln was so anxious for peace that he told Stephens he would write but one word on a piece of paper, “while I leave to your own judgement every other condition and requirement” for peace. Stephens told Hoyt that his heart “sunk within me” when I saw that the word was “Union” and realized that by “simply accepting the Union, we could dictate our own terms of peace, preserve our state autonomies, maintain our fortunes, gain recompense for our slave property, and all the consequences of our defeat be avoided.” But Davis “insisted on complete annihilation.” — (Times-Picayune 21 January 1894)]

Atlanta, Georgia
July 1865

We are all uneasy. Some are badly discouraged & a few swear they will never go to Southwest Georgia. Hort [Detrick] arrived from Macon looking well but don’t have much to say. Co. G reported to me, Lieut. [Peter R.] Keck (son) commanding. I put them in camp near by on the 14th.

We get papers in 3 & 4 days from the North & the Atlanta papers daily but the news seems like nothing and hardly worth reading.

On the 20th there were all at the breakfast table before I could get ready. When I went down, Lieut. Ogg had a letter for me from Neal. Gave it to me & asked who from. I told & they made other inquiries. Then got up a big laugh. Got the start of me. After dinner, Lieut’s Keck, Ogg & I rode out through the country 4½ miles, found but few peaches & no girls but enjoyed the ride fine. In the eve after supper, Lieut’s come over to hear some music & Mary was playing for me at the time but on hearing their approach, both girls left the parlor with a rush. Mary came back afterwards an played a little (Nobody cared for it) after the way she had acted.

Sunday the 29th

The hottest day of the season so far. After inspection I intended to go to church but Oh, ’tis too hot. Have just taken a nap. After dinner, I read Harpers Magazine. Kept thinking of writing a letter till now ’tis too late to do that & go riding. Anyhow, I don’t know what to write but begin to be well contented. Satisfied that we’ll go home soon that there is an order to muster us out of service. Fine thing. All right.

Atlanta, Georgia
July 1865

Monday & Tuesday — On a Board of Survey for the regiment investigating loss of arms &c. to decide who shall be the loser. The soldier, the Captain, or poor old Uncle Sam & when decision is made, it often rests on the old gent who seems to be willing and not disposed to grumble. The order for mustering us out has actually come & is a fact beyond doubt. Now, no one seems to care so much & some say they would rather stay with Uncle until next spring.

I have an idea that the sure income of greenbacks will be slim with many a fellow who has had the sure thing on it for the last 4 years. Weather very hot, dry & dusty.

Wednesday the 26th July 1865

Got relieved this morning & finished up my reports, then eat peaches & watched the women crowd in the hall for tickets to get rations. 200 or more, just jamming & pushing & tis only shelled corn when they get it.

We are waiting for blank muster out rolls now & can only wait till they come which is tedious business. Capt. Rodgers got back from home and loaned Lieut. Ogg & I $20 apiece tonight. How very fortunate.

Thursday the 27th

Weather very hot, dry & dusty. We received the orders to muster out. Sell the soldiers their arms if they choose to take them at low prices. Carbine $10, revolver $8, Sabre $3. In the p.m., Lieuts Kecks, Ogg & I rode to the Medical College & got Dr. Delvaney to show us his collection of curiosities again. ‘Tis interesting though a little unpleasant.

Friday the 28th July 1865

Weather  hot and dry. I have nothing much to do than can be done now and we can only wait for blanks &c. I enjoy it fine and have a pleasant time generally.

Saturday the 29th

We signed the Pay Rolls and expect to get some money at last & then be mustered out of the service. The boys don’t have much to say about either one lately. I feel so restless & discontented that I can’t do anything but run about from place to place and join in the fun here occasionally. But today they have it all at my expense, ‘twould seem. Come upstairs in a hurry to put on linen coat & prepare for dinner. Coat won’t near go on. No holes for the arms. No pockets & I leave it till after dinner, then make the girls take their stitching out.

Road through the city awhile this eve, got ale &c. Had a pleasant time in the eve. But I learn the joke about my precious picture is about to prove too serious to be good. We was up till late & had good visit.

Atlanta, Georgia
Sunday, July 30th 1865

Very pleasant day. I had mounted inspection at 9 a.m. Went to church at 10 a.m. and had the pleasure of looking at some of the fairest of all the land. Beauties. At dinner we learned that Lt. Ogg knew of the plot to get his coat last night & that he had put it under his head & hung a sheet on the post instead of a coat so I might throw that down to the girls, but unfortunately I went to sleep too soon and the laugh is all on my side again.

I got Home Journal of 21st inst. & hear of the wet season. Harvest destroyed &c and feel sadly blue & disappointed over it.

Monday, July 31st 1865

We got the blanks & instructions for making out our final papers, looked about for a good horse to purchase from the U.S. The order for appraisal has come. Weather very pleasant.

Tuesday, August 1st [1865]

Everything moves on seemingly very pleasant. I rode over to Co. C and traded for (Old Buck) a favorite horse in the regiment. Then went to A and got little Jack to take home where all his troubles will be over. Had them appraised in the evening. Buck at $40 & Jack at $30.

Major Pierce issued a strict order in regard to abuse of horses this eve. Soldiers have been running them on race track & riding fast where they pleased.

Atlanta, Georgia
Wednesday, August 2, 1865

Cloudy and drizzly. I ordered a detail to build a rail fence around the horses and soon Sergt. Andrews come over saying the detail refused to work. On investigation I find a very bad feeling among the men in the company & never was more surprised either. But they are cross & want to go home & mad because the officers could buy horses and they couldn’t &c. I sent the Sergt. with my orders & warning to them & soon they were at work. We got paid off too — for 4 months to February 28th. The last payday for us while soldiers for this war. Money’s plenty now and the citizen appears already. How very anxious the soldiers seem to quit.

Thursday, August 3d 1865

A clear, pleasant day. Lieut. Keck & I stayed with Col. Peters last night again and got an order to put a flag on Judge Clayton’s house today as they have been insulting to our officers and soldiers long enough. At 9 o’clock, we took the Glorious Old Star Spangled Banner & with a corporal’s guard, marched to his residence. I spoke to him, told my name, introduced Lieut. Keck, & told him I had order to decorate his place with that glorious old flag & up it went midst the curses of ladies &c which he took very patiently. Left a guard & come away to our duties.

Pleasant this eve. John is up here at work on the rolls. Ogg on duty in town and I have been playing cards with the girls & listening to music &c. Had a pleasant time.

Atlanta, Georgia
August 4th 1865

Weather clear and warm. I went to work settling up ordinance accounts. Worked till noon. Played all afternoon and didn’t go to town all day. Find that we are to be hurried up on our muster out which no one objects to. I got a letter from Neal this morn and conclude to write no more until I get to Iowa.

Saturday the 5th

Clear and hot. All busy at work on the final documents. Received the order for turning over immediately (at noon). Was up to town twice in the p.m. Feel uneasy to get this property off my hands. Lost another mule last night after all the shooting. I think it was taken by one of the company. We had a very pleasant time tonight. Then I got a good letter from Neal. ‘Tis late at night. Upstairs.

Sunday, August 6th, 1865 Atlanta, Ga.

Commenced work at daylight and received all the Company Property from the boys. Then turned it over to other officers which kept me busy all day working & sweating in the hot sun. Parted with all the horses but Jack & Buck and shall buy them, if possible. Too tired, sleepy & busy to enjoy life anymore now until all this soldiering is over.

I am coming out well on property accounts. Work nearly all night every night. The 3rd Iowa Cavalry was mustered out on the 9th & left for home. We bought our horses from the Post Quartermaster here and have them all right for Iowa.

I have worked so much of nights, lost sleep, bothered over returns till I’m nearly sick. Up until after midnight tonight again.

Thursday, August 10th, 1865

Finished up all my papers early this a.m. Rode to the city & back with all the news & latest orders to muster out. ‘Tis hot & dusty & Oh! how lonesome & tedious. We expect to get off tomorrow at noon. What a long time to wait, but as it will be our last in Atlanta & last soldiering, we ought to be contented. But the nearer the end, the more anxious & less I seem to care for or notice the rush of business on the streets or the hundreds of busy, anxious-looking faces I pass constantly. No doubt everyone have their own cares, thoughts &c. My own are tending homeward faster everyday. I shall be glad when the poor, starved creatures riding in their carts drawn by a poor mule, ox-cow, or heifer are out of sight, but don’t suppose they will ever be forgotten.

Atlanta, Georgia
Friday, August 11, 1865

The morning was a fine one but we had no time to spare in admiring its beauties or listening to good music &c in the parlor though the girls would have been willing to play for us all day. They began to dread the parting several days ago and wonder what they will do. I rode to the city & made all necessary arrangements. Then back & took dinner early & bidding our friends a long goodbye, left immediately. Near two hours was spent in loading the 2 long trains waiting to bear the 4th Iowa Cavalry away and about 2 o’clock p.m., they rolled away rapidly leaving a scene that no modest pen could describe.

Judging from appearances, the 4th Iowa will not be forgotten soon in Atlanta. I took my place beside some sick boys in a box car, door open where I could look on the war’s desolation and the romantic scenery along our route. The road is rough and jolts something like a heavy wagon over a stony road.

Night coming on, I visited the horses and found them suffering with heat but otherwise doing well and I went into the Officer’s car of our train (a dirty hog car), spread my blankets for a sleep and was soon in the land of dreams, jolting away through the pitch darkness.

Saturday, August 12th, 1865

This morning early I looked out to find that we have passed through Chattanooga & are running at good rates through the mountains of Tennessee. ‘Tis a wild-looking place — high mountains, deep streams of dear water over which we pass on slender war bridges that tremble with the weight of our heavy trains. I have no one to point out the particular places or give any of their history but can guess at some & look on with considerable interest. Murfreesboro I knew from the many descriptions we received and a beautiful monument marks the Battle of Stones River so I could not be mistaken in that. The morning was cloudy but cleared off lovely.

Nashville, Tennessee
Sunday, August 13th 1865

I was sleeping on top of the horse car when we arrived about midnight last & only changed to my usual sleeping place and slept till morn. Ogg attended to the horses as I had charge of the advance train & our baggage. I went up into the city & got breakfast, then waited at the depot all day for orders which come from all directions, thick & fast, and all conflicting. We went to Transfer Barracks and right back again, then to the Louisville Depot to wait for morning again. Horses cost $3 apiece and ourselves in proportion. I didn’t get to see much of the town though it looks well what I did see. Ogg & I slept on top of the cars after loading late at night.

Enroute Home

Monday, August 14, 1865

Moved off early but had to wait a long time in Edgefield — without breakfast too & hungry. Ran steady all day after starting. We had a good coach & enjoyed the ride fine. Looking over the hills & valleys of Kentucky. Some good farms & appearance of civilization on our route. All very interesting to me but nothing particular attracted my attention. Horses doing well and cars rattling away steady. The 2 trains keeping in sight all the time. We passed through 2 long dark tunnels near Mammoth Cave.

Louisville, Kentucky

Daylight the 15th of August 1865 found us at the place above named at the depot and after the usual amount of fussing about, we got off & crossed over [the Ohio River] to New Albany [Indiana] where there was some delay in loading & the soldiers got drunk, got up a fight among themselves, & made a noise. I took hold of the horses & Major sent Ogg to the company which suited me first rate. We got off about noon & found a rough road & slow time, drunken soldiers &c. I feel surprised to find crops looking so slim in Indiana — poor indeed — but the citizens are loyal judging from the waving of handkerchiefs &c.

Wednesday, August 16th 1865

I got a resting place in the railroad men’s car last night & got sleep but had to change once & lost my coat. Arrived in Lafayette in time for breakfast. Stopped for 2 hours, then run both trains into one making a big one & made slow time but got to see many pretty girls — Hoosiers.

Burtis House, Davenport, Iowa
Sunday, August 20, 1865

The Burtis House stood at the southeast corner of 5th & Iowa Streets in Davenport, IA

The Burtis House stood at the southeast corner of 5th & Iowa Streets in Davenport, IA

A lovely day and we attended church — more to see the beauties of Iowa than anything else & must say, they look well but not so nice as the Southern females. The Presbyterian Church in the a.m. Took a walk out on the hill to look at the living part of the city which is really fine. Elegant. Then to the Baptist Church at night where we had better preaching, better music, & much prettier girls than in the morning. Well be with the dear ones in a week. Next Sunday. Oh how can I wait now. Hours seem like days.

Davenport, Iowa
Monday, August 21, 1865

I can’t see the get-up early of mornings here but at 8 o’clock I went down & after an hours waiting at the table, bill of fare in hand, I got a breakfast. Then looked over my papers & books a little but really doing nothing all day. The paymasters are on our rolls today & we may get the money Wednesday. Home this week anyhow, no doubt. Oh, how the days lengthen.

The Burtis House crowded all the time. Town full of soldiers & money plenty. I do feel so idle & lost to all business that I wonder what will become of me. Can I ever be contented again? Can I work? Ah! how doubtful. ‘Tis raining tonight.

Davenport, Iowa
Tuesday, August 22, 1865

In the 1860s, the German Theater of Davenport was held in Lahrmann's Germania Hall.

In the 1860s, the German Theater of Davenport was held in Lahrmann’s Germania Hall.

A good rain last night and pleasant weather today. In the p.m., Capt. H., Lieut. P. O. & S & I went to a picnic out on the bluff where Irishmen assembled to dance with the fair ones & pay their money for the benefit of the old country (set her free). We looked on until tired, then joined the throng at the hotel and in the eve all went to the German Theatre where not a word could we understand. The dancing was good. Up late.


2 thoughts on “Lot Abraham’s 1865 Diary

  1. My house is Dr. Heard’s house, where Lot stayed on June 15th in Washington, GA. Thank you for putting this diary online. It’s nice to have confirmation that he was here.

    • Very cool. Glad to hear from you. It would be great to have a picture of the house — vintage or modern to include on this blogsite. — Griff

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