Things I learned on the way to Atlanta

One of the things you quickly learn about the Federals during the Atlanta Campaign is that they all had opinions about Sherman. Mostly positive, sometimes doubtful, but usually strongly expressed. Memoirs are full of Sherman stories, and many of the men involved had “personal encounter” anecdotes.

Here is one such:

While observing the skirmishing, Sgt. Edwin Payne of Company A, the 34th Illinois, chanced to meet Sherman. Writing home on May 11, he informed his wife that “I was sitting behind a tree . . . when I heard somebody behind me talking. I looked around and there was Gens Sherman & Thomas. They consulted a few minutes then Sherman wrote an order for the movement of some troops and gave it to our Sergt Major [Lyman Widney] who was with me to carry to Gen Whipple. Then,” continued Payne, “he walked down to where I was and asked me a few questions about my gun which I answered as the dutchman said, ‘mit tremly voice.’ [I] then took the liberty to point out a small fort which he hadn’t seen. He made me point straight to it then looked across my arm and got the range[,] then examined it with his glass but didn’t make any remarks. Thus ended my interview with the commander. He is nothing but a man,” opined Payne, “but a sharp old fellow.”[1]

[1] “My Darling Wife,” May 11, 1864, Edwin W. Payne Letters, ALPL. Whipple was George Thomas’s chief of Staff. Lyman Widney, who later recorded his wartime experiences in a lengthy series of columns for the National Tribune, does not mention this incident. See Robert I. Gerardi, The Civil War Memoirs of Lyman S. Widney 34th Illinois Volunteer Infantry (Victoria, Canada: 2008), 223.

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