150 years ago, a little boy was enjoying a spring morning when soon his brother came riding to the family home, exclaiming that the Yankees were just over the hill and headed toward the family farm, which lay along the road running from the little community of Villanow, Georgia, to Snake Creek Gap. This was the experience of my great grandfather on the morning of May 8, 1864.
With most of his brothers serving in the Confederate Army, he and one older brother now felt the rush of panic as over 23,000 Union soldiers approached their home.
My great-grandfather, William Caiphus White, later told his son of hearing the Battle of Chickamauga raging in September of 1863 and about the day in May of 1864 when the Yankees came—and that son would later tell me those stories. My family now had the war come to their front doorstep as James McPherson’s Army of the Tennessee made its way toward Snake Creek Gap and the unprotected rear of Joe Johnston’s Army of Tennessee’s position at Dalton, Georgia—one of the most controversial episodes of the war in the West. The veterans of Shiloh and Vicksburg passed the White house, getting water from the stream that ran by the family home and flirting with my great great aunts. But the soldiers didn’t linger: the war called them toward the battlefield at Resaca.
I can imagine what it had to have been like for William that day, watching the endless line of men making their way along that dusty road, seeing boys not much older than him—boys that had fought against his brothers—going past his home.