As Union troops threatened Atlanta in the early summer of 1864, judicious people evacuated the town. Mary Sharpe Jones Mallard, wife of the Central Presbyterian Church’s minister, began sending her valuables to relatives outside of town in May.
“A number of persons have left here, though I do not think there has been anything like a panic," she assured her mother. "We have sent away all of our winter clothing, comforts, carpets, my sewing machine and most of Mr. Mallard’s books to Augusta.”
Road transportation near the Car Shed, the Railroad Station, 1864About a month later the Mallards followed their possessions to Augusta. “We had hoped to have remained longer in Atlanta, but when the order came to remove all hospitals…we thought we had better move our furniture while we could get [railroad] transportation.”
On their way to the train depot their horse started, tossing the cart and all of them. Mary dislocated her collarbone and had to keep her arm in a sling for months. Soon after their departure her mother showed up in Atlanta to find their house deserted.
Throughout the summer people abandoned Atlanta, first on the trains until the tracks were destroyed. Humorist "Bill Arp" described the train cars with trunks, bundles and bedsteads tied on top.
"All day and all night the iron horses were snorting to the echoing breeze. Train after train of goods and chattels moved down the road, leaving hundreds of anxious faces waiting their return. There was no method in this madness. All kinds of plunder was tumbled in promiscuously. A huge parlor mirror, some six feet by eight, all bound in elegant gold, with a brass buzzard spreading his wings on top, was set up at the end of the car and reflected a beautiful assortment of parlor furniture to match, such as pots, kettles, baskets, bags, barrels, kegs, bacon and bedsteads piled up together. Government officials had the preference and government officials all have friends."
Sam Richards on July 10, the day Atlanta hospitals were ordered to evacuate:
"The city has been in a complete swarm....citizens are alarmed and many have left."
Sarah Huff was just about the same age as Carrie Berry, near 10 when the siege began. The family had lived on a hill overlooking Atlanta, where she remembered the parties before her father joined the Confederacy and went north to fight. "During the years of father's war service his annual corn shuckings and mother's all-day quiltings were suspended." The house was struck by lightning in 1864 but survived the war.
"My eyes have watched the path of a shell as it stretched like a shining thread across the war clouds.... Fireworks of later years have in exposition displays reminded me of the dramatic night scenes of my war-time childhood. Rockets seem to curve in their course, while a shell moves on...evenly...Having one's house hit by a bomb is not very different from having it struck by lightning. Our house of refuge was partly torn to pieces one night." Sarah Huff
Sarah A.C. Huff (1854-1943)Sarah's mother decided it was time to leave Atlanta but it was too late. Trains could not move and on the country lanes out of Atlanta: "The enemy was in possession." Remarkably, Sarah's father managed to obtain a 24-day furlough, sneak into the city and escort them to Conyers, about 25 miles east before he returned to his unit in Virginia.
"All the sympathizers who affiliated with U.S. troops have taken flight northward---Dunning, Scofield, Markham...mongrel curs.... The curse of their traitorous presence will not longer disgrace Atlanta." Atlanta Daily Intelligencer, November 17, 1864
Atlanta's "streets are empty. Beautiful roses bloom in the gardens of the houses, but a terrible stillness and solitude cover all, depressing the hearts even of those who are glad to destroy it." Union Major George W. Nichols