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Will County Historical Museum and Research Center It's your heritage.

September, 1864 – Atlanta at Last

As the cooler winds of September 1864 blew across the nation, Will County could feel the draft. Not the one in the air, but the one that took place at the Provost Marshal’s office in the building known as Young’s block in Joliet. The quota for soldiers had not been met and the draft drawings started on September 27th, 1864.

LaSalle County went first, but soon it was Will County’s turn. Ninety-four names were drawn, and of those the first 47 were required to fill the quota. One of the names drawn was Alfred Rowley, Supervisor of Homer Township. But many of these never served, instead opting to pay a substitute to go instead of them. The price for substitutes immediately rose from $400 (about $5,900 today) to $1,500 ($22,000 today) a man.

With elections drawing nearer, the Democrats nominated George McClelland to run against Lincoln. They also started advocating a policy of compromise with the South. But those who had lost loved ones in the war saw that as a slap in the face.

Meanwhile in Georgia the 100th Voluntary Infantry was headed for Atlanta. In George Woodruff’s book Fifteen Years Ago, Will County in the Civil War he gives a firsthand account of their movements. “September 1st we moved on to the Flint river. On the 2nd, we struck the railroad about two miles below Rough and Ready, ‘and commenced tearing it up. This was hard work, but being a new experience the men went at it with a will.”

“The corps would march its length along side of track, stack arms and unsling knapsacks, and with rails from the neighboring fences, pry up the track, ties and all, throw it bottomside up, knock off the ties and make a bonfire of them, and then lay the rails across, so that when heated, they would bend with their own weight, or could be bent against a tree, and thus be rendered useless until re-rolled.” “While engaged at this the 14th corps and the Army of the Tennessee were fighting near Jonesboro. About 6 p. m. our corps went to their left, formed a line and advanced, and drove the rebs from their works, capturing ten guns and from three to five hundred prisoners, but it was dark before they could do much. Three of the regiment were wounded, but only one severe enough to be sent to the hospital.”

“Next day we marched on through Jonesboro and skirmished all the afternoon. We heard a mighty thundering in the direction of Atlanta, which we afterwards learned was caused by the explosion of eighty car loads of ammunition and the rebel magazines.”

“On the next day Gen. Sherman issued a congratulatory order officially announcing that his “flanking machine” was again successful, and that Atlanta, the goal of the campaign was won, and occupied by the 20th corps, on the day previous, and that the present task was done and well done.”

“We remained here until the 5th, most of the time exchanging fire with the enemy. It was an exposed position. Charlie Styles, who it will be remembered, was married at Athens just before starting out on the campaign, was hit and killed while playing his fife in his tent door. Surgeon Woodruff had his horse shot while here.”

“This was the most southern point to which the 100th went. About 8 p.m. we started back. The night was dark, the roads muddy, and the pioneers had hard work to make some places passable for the artillery. We entered Atlanta on the 8th day of September, and went into camp about three miles east of the city.”

“We fixed up a very comfortable camp, and all were enjoying a rest, and hoping that it might last for some time. Some officers and men had visited this city about a year previous as prisoners of war, and were pleased to make its acquaintance again under so different circumstances. It was a great treat, after a four month’s campaign, three at least of which had been under fire, losing many of our comrades, and kept upon a constant strain, encountering rocks, underbrush, dust, mud and rain, ragged and powder stained, dirty and barefooted, it was a treat which can only be appreciated by those who have been through a similar experience, to be allowed once more to clean up, wear clean clothes, and move about without being on the “qui vive” against rebel bullets and shells.”

“Sunday morning, Sept. 25th, we were enjoying a most delightful day, emphatically a day of rest listening to the music of the bands, and congratulating ourselves that the campaign was over; when we were astonished by the reception of orders for our brigade to prepare to move immediately.”

“Long ere this we had learned that there is no use in a soldier’s grumbling or asking for the why and wherefore; all we have to do is to obey orders. So we go into town, load into a train, and start for Chattanooga.”