Statement of A. B. Thornton, scout.
OFFICE OF THE PROVOST-MARSHAL-GENERAL, Morris’ Hill Church, June 8, 1864
I left headquarters Department of the Cumberland on Thursday, 2nd instant, while the army was before the intrenchments near Dallas. I was instructed to go to Marietta, and, if possible, to Atlanta, and get all information of the movements and position of the rebel army and nature and strength of fortifications. I left headquarters on morning of 2nd instant; went from there to Kingston; staid that night six miles east of Cassville, on the road leading to Canton. Next morning took the road to within eight miles of Canton; there took to the right, crossing Steele’s Bridge, over Etowah River; kept on that road to within two miles and a half of Acworth; there took to the left and took neighborhood roads to Big Shanty, reaching there Friday evening; there first met rebel pickets; there was taken prisoner and was taken to General Williams’ headquarters, and from there to General Wheeler’s headquarters, three miles to the right of Lost Mountain, on road leading from Burnt Hickory to Lost Mountain.
Staid there all night; next morning went with an orderly to Colonel Hill, provost-marshal-general, half a mile from General Johnston’s headquarters; staid there till about 10 o’clock that day; then went to Walker’s division, or near Wheeler’s headquarters, in a gap on road from Burnt Hickory to Lost Mountain; went back that night to Colonel Hill’s, and staid that night at a house of a citizen near there. Sunday morning went to Colonel Hill’s quarters, two miles and a half, east course, from Lost Mountain on Marietta road. Colonel Hill was asleep, and had given instructions not to be awakened; did not wait on him, but took the road to Marietta; arrived there about 11 a.m.; staid about dark; stopped at Washington Hall (a hotel) that night. Remained there till about 10 a.m. Monday when I left taking the Peach Tree road, northeast course, for six miles; from there took the Powell Ferry road, crossing the Chattahoochee River at Powell’s Ferry, thirteen miles from Atlanta and eight miles from Marietta; kept on that road for three miles; there turned to the right on the Canton road; traveled that road one mile and a quarter, then turned to the right, taking neighborhood roads. Staid that night at a house six miles from Marietta. Next morning kept through country until I struck Hickory Flat road, one mile and a half from Steele’s Bridge; kept on to the bridge, crossed it and came back same road, via Kingston, to headquarters, arriving this evening.
Until I reached rebel pickets nothing occurred worthy of mentioning. The First Alabama Cavalry was doing picket duty at Big Shanty. General Williams’ headquarters were two miles southwest of there. General Williams asked but few questions; they were of a general character; General Wheeler asked me no questions; his adjutant asked to see my pass, and then said he could send me as I desired to General Johnston’s headquarters. While there I learned that General Martin’s cavalry division had been sent to the left to occupy the intrenchments while the infantry moved away. Colonel Hill asked me where I had been so long. I told him I had been acting as guide for the Yankees; had gone with them for the reason that I could not avoid it; said it was all right; wished to know if all supplies were shipped from Chattanooga by railroad, if we did not have wagon trains going back there; particularly in regard to strength and disposition of troops guarding railroad; strength of army, if many troops were going home, their time having expired. Inquired if any re-enforcements had arrived; said he had learned we had re-enforcements coming. Gave me the following instructions: Particularly the number of troops at different points guarding the railroad; wanted particularly the number at each point; did not mention any one; if any re-enforcements came or was expected; the number and whose troops they were; wanted to know what roads the wagon trains went, coming from Kingston to the army.
When I went to Walker’s division they were busy putting up breast-works of logs two and a half or three miles west of Lost Mountain on Burnt Hickory road, to guard approaches from the direction of Burnt Hickory. Another division was engaged in building breast-works south of that. Sunday morning Hardee’s corps was moving from there in the direction of Big Shanty. From what information I could get their whole army was drifting in direction of Big Shanty, and appearing as if they were forming a line from there to Lost Mountain. Do not know of any range of hills between Big Shanty and Lost Mountain, but the country is very rough, and hilly, but little, cleared land. From the mountain to Marietta did not notice any fortifications until within two and a half or three miles of that place; the defenses there were on the two knobs northwest of Marietta; the knobs are not distant from each other, high, hilly ground connecting them; would judge the whole distance from one end of the mountain to the other was near two miles; the country west of these knobs was rough and hilly, east toward the railroad know nothing about. Do not know enough of the country directly north and toward the knob northeast of Marietta to give any information, but think it is a rough country.
The defenses spoken of consist of rifle-pits and works for artillery; noticed the rifle-pits as I approached from the west; after that could not see them, as I went on the road leading south of the mountain. The rifle-pits extended round to the west and southwest sides of the knob. Did not get any important information in Marietta; all but a small amount of commissary stores had been removed; the citizens seemed considerably exacted and numbers were leaving for farther south.
On riding from Marietta to Atlanta (west side of railroad) did not notice anything until I arrived at Chattahoochee River. There I noticed fortifications on both sides of the river and both sides of the railroad. West of railroad on the north side of the river they were not very extensive; consisted of rifle-pits. On the range commencing half a mile northwest of railroad bridge rifle-pits were made on the approaches from the northwest. On the tops were works for the artillery, but not amounting to much; cannot say how far the rifle-pits extended down the river. On the north side a range of hills extends as far as you can see from the bridge. East of the railroad on north side of the river there appears to be nothing but rifle-pits. In addition to railroad bridge there is one trestle bridge, built on abutments of old railroad bridge, 250 yards above railroad bridge; 200 yards above that is a pontoon bridge 600 yards above that, apparently at Howell’s Ferry, is another pontoon bridge; know of no others. The Second Georgia State Troops were doing guard duty at the bridges.
I was compelled to show my pass. Did not see any work going on on fortifications. They appear the same to me that they did two months ago. The fortifications on south side of the river were more extensive and better built than those on the north side. There were more embrasures for artillery. From what I could observe from bridge, they appeared to run down along the river about half a mile from the bridge, and up the river a quarter of a mile. Did not stop at the river. No timber had been cut down for obstructions any place. Until arriving near Atlanta did not notice any defenses. First came to their fortifications near Atlanta, two or two miles and a half, near the railroad. All was in same condition as I described them in former reports, excepting they have about five guns mounted on each side of railroad.
In Atlanta I ascertained that pretty much all the supplies for the army had been removed to Augusta, also that Governor Brown has organized about 20,000 militia between the ages of seventeen and eighteen and forty-five and fifty years. All civil officers have been compelled to join this force. They are camped in and around Atlanta and Roswell Factory, twelve miles east of Marietta, on north side of Chattahoochee River. Could not ascertain what proportion was armed; could not ascertain that Johnston had received any re-enforcements or that any was expected. Nearly all of Johnston’s trains are parked on south side of Chattahoochee River, extending from the bridge thirteen miles up the river. Most of the prominent citizens in Atlanta have moved away and other were awaiting transportation.
On my way back, noticed a great many refugees on their way south; men taking their families, negroes, stock, and what household furniture they could convey; did not notice any soldiers. On my route back, refugee on same road told me there was none in that direction. One of the refugees, a member of the State militia, whom I met six miles and a half east of Marietta, who had been up near Acworth getting his negroes and stock, informed me that Johnston’s wagons had been ordered to the front. He did not tell me how he got the information. Some spurs of the range of hills on north side of Chattahoochee River extend down to the river, but generally there is a strip of bottom land between the hills and the river, varying from 300 to 400 yards in width. The distance from north to south side of the hills is about half a mile. The slope on north side is very gradual, but on side next the river is very bluff, probably 100 feet above water. On the top it is generally timbered. The approaches to this range of hills from a northern direction is on rolling ground; no high points; mostly timbered land. Artillery planted on this range of hills commands the country in all directions. Possession of the range on north side would place contending forces on equal footing, as the hills are of about equal height.
The country between Chattahoochee River and Atlanta is mostly level, similar in appearance to that between Marietta and Chattahoochee River. I forgot to make any inquiry about the removal of the machinery of the different manufactories in Atlanta and know nothing about that.