Things I learned on the way to Atlanta – Devastation at Resaca

A battlefield is never a pleasant place, even after the shooting stops. The sleepy depot of Resaca, perched on the north bank of the Oostenaula River between Dalton and Calhoun Georgia, was sleepy no more. Now, on the morning of May 16th, 1864, it had the appearance of a charnel house.

Resaca looking south towards the bridges across the Oostanaula River

Burying the dead was no easy task. Many of the fallen presented a grisly scene. “Curious to know how much we had injured the enemy,” wrote a soldier-correspondent in the 125th Ohio, while “riding over the battlefield I crossed a dense thicket where our men had charged a rebel battery. Such a sight . . . I hope never again to witness. . . . [T]he woods had been set on fire, and the dead and those too badly wounded to get away were literally charred. The clothes of many had been almost literally consumed and their distorted countenances, and crisped and bloated forms expressed a hideousness altogether inhuman.”

Fannie Jackson, the young mother whose house in Snake Creek Gap had been commandeered for a Union hospital, was roused at 1:00 a.m. She had lain down on the kitchen floor to the sounds of battle, sure she would not sleep, but awoke with a guilty start. “Chaplain Grant . . . told me that Resaca was taken. We could plainly see the light of the burning bridge that spanned the Oostanaula River. I had slept soundly while a fierce battle was raging so near us that I felt I had done wrong.” In the coming days, with her farm despoiled—“I counted fifty dead horses within one hundred yards of the house”—and lacking any way to support her family, she would place her children with relatives and become a Federal nurse, employed at the XVI Corps hospital. Upon visiting the village for the first time after the battle, she described what she saw: “By the wayside and over the hills, as far as the eye could see, there were little mounds w[h]ere somebody’s darling lay unmarked and unknown. . . . The way was marked by breastworks, one row after another, nearly all the timber in the land had been used for fortifications. As we neared Resaca, what houses were left were literally torn in shreds by shot and shell.”

3 Responses to Things I learned on the way to Atlanta – Devastation at Resaca

  1. “…little mounds where somebody’s darling lay unmarked and unknown…” — the most horrifying Victorian nightmare realized.

  2. Hard to say. The Federals had a lot more dead, and at the time these accounts were recorded (mere hours after the retreat, in the first case) those dead were virtually all Union, especially the charred ones. Federal burial details began work on May 16.

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