This is the third in a series of articles about Wesley Chapel and the role of the church and its members in the Battle of Atlanta in 1864.
It is interesting that one of the accounts of the shelling and occupation of Atlanta that is most often quoted was written by a ten year old girl. Carrie Berry’s Diary shows war from the perspective of a child who saw and experienced many things that would have been frightening even to an adult. Yet Carrie shows remarkable courage and humor in spite of the war going on around her.
“Sun. Sept. 4-Another long and lonesome Sunday. How I wish we could have Church and Sunday School…” (Steel, 14).
Carrie Mabry Berry was born August 3, 1854. She was the oldest of five children born to Maxwell Rufus Berry and Harriet Key Berry. Maxwell was a well-respected contractor and the Berry’s lived in a comfortable large house near Peachtree Street. By the time war reached Atlanta, Carrie’s younger sister Zulette, or Zuie, had been born and Harriet was expecting her third child. Carrie and Harriet are both listed as members of Wesley Chapel on the 1865 membership list.
“Tues. Aug. 9-We have had to stay in the cellar all day the shells have ben falling so thick around the house. Two have fallen in the garden, but none of us were hurt” (Steel, 9).
The Union Army’s shelling of the city of Atlanta had begun on July 20, 1864 and the citizens soon realized that the only safe place to stay was in the cellars of their houses. Carrie and her family spent most of the next month in their cellar or that of Carrie’s Aunt Healy. Her aunt’s cellar was larger than that of the Berry’s, and Carrie and Zuie could run around and play. Carrie’s dairy records many long, boring days in these cellars where she spent time knitting stockings and playing with Zuie. It may have been boring, but it was safer underground as Carrie found out.
“Aug. 15. Mon.-We had no shells this morning when we got up and we thought that we would not have any to day (but, my, when will they stop) but soon after breakfast Zuie and I were standing on the platform between the house and the dining room. It made a very large hole in the garden and threw the dirt all over the yard. I never was so frightened in my life. Zuie was as pale as a corpse and I expect I was too. It did not take us long to fly to the cellar…”(Steel, 9).
The shelling stopped on September 1, 1864 as the Confederate Army began retreating from Atlanta. That night the fleeing Confederates blew up four locomotives and box cars filled with ammunition. Carrie records that no one in their house or in the city got any sleep that night because of the continuous explosions. On September 2, the Union army began entering the city.
“Sept. 2. Fri.…About twelve o’clock there were a few federals came in. They were all frightened. We were afraid they were going to treat us badly. It was not long till the Infantry came in. They were orderely and behaved very well. I think I shall like the Yankees very well” (Steel, 13).
Carrie soon changed her opinion of the “federals”. General William Sherman ordered all of the remaining citizens left in the city to leave. Carrie and her family began packing and arranging to move out of the city. However, in the end they were allowed to stay. Maxwell Berry was a secret Union supporter and managed to go into business supplying the Union Army with supplies and the Berrys were remained in their home. The family was relieved at this, but was sad to see what was happening around them.
“Sun. Oct. 2-This has been a very pretty day. I went around to Mrs. Lesters. Ella and I took a walk to see how the soldiers had torn down the fine houses. It is a shame to see the fine houses torn down” (Steel, 18)
Finding food also became a problem in the city. The Berry’s had chickens and pigs that they had lived on during the shelling and occupation. These items soon disappeared as the Union soldiers and other began looking for food.
“Tues. Nov. 8-…We lost our last hog this morning early. Soldiers took him out of the pen…We will have to live on bread” (Steel, 19).
On November 11, the last train left Atlanta. Afterwards the situation began to deteriorate even more and on November 12, Carrie records that the soldiers began to set fire to houses. Soon most of the city was on fire and the Berry’s spent several sleepless nights fearing that their house would be torched.
“Wed. Nov. 16-Oh what a night we had. They came burning the store house and about night it looked like the whole town was on fire. We all set up all night. If we had not set up our house would have ben burnt up for the fire was very near and the soldiers were going around setting houses on fire where they were not watched. They behaved very badly. They all left town about one o’clock this evening and we were glad when they left for no body know what we have suffered since they came in” (Steel, 23).
On Wednesday, December 7, Harriet gave birth to her third daughter, Fanny. Carrie wrote that her new sister was very pretty. Carrie also wrote that she had to cook all of the meals that day. She and her friend Ella spent several days decorating a tree for Christmas. They also made cakes and had music to celebrate Christmas Eve.
Even though the Union Army had left, things were not completely back to normal for the Berry’s. When the Confederate Army returned to the city, Carrie’s father was arrested and sent to Macon, Georgia on December 26, 1864 to be tried for assisting the north. Maxwell was soon released.
Carrie’s diary ends with the end of 1864. After the war ended, she attended the North Georgia Female Academy. On February 25, 1875, Carrie married fellow church member William Mason Crumley. William had moved to Atlanta in 1867 and owned a hardware store. At the time of their marriage, Carrie’s father gave the young couple a home. The Crumleys had four children, three sons and one daughter. Their daughter was named after Carrie’s sister Zuie.
Maxwell Berry continued to prosper in the construction business. Among other buildings, his company built the Kimball House Hotel, Trinity
Methodist Church, and the Church of the Immaculate Conception. Maxwell is listed as a member of the church in the 1875 church directory and served on the building committee for our 1903 Sanctuary. Maxwell died in 1909 at the age of 86. There are no records of Harriet after Carrie’s diary ends. Our beautiful stained glass window, “Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane” is in her memory.
Zuie and Fanny continued to attend our church as well. Both are listed as Sunday School teachers in records in our Church Archives from the mid 1880’s. The last record of either is in a Messenger dated November 23, 1952. It states that Fannie Berry Wright celebrated her 94th birthday on November 11, 1952.
Carrie Berry Crumley died on May 22, 1921 at the age of 66. William died two weeks later. In the “Memorium” written by the Board of Stewards in his honor, it states “Only two week before Brother Crumley was called to the higher and better life, his dear wife, one of the most beloved and useful members of our church, fell on sleep and woke in the likeness of her Lord. This separation no doubt hastened the end of our dear brother” (Palmer).
Carrie was one of a few members that worshiped in all three of our sanctuaries. The next time you sit in our present beautiful sanctuary, think of the little girl who attended Wesley Chapel and longed for church and Sunday school as a war raged around her. Think of the young woman who married her sweetheart in the 1870 church. And think of the much loved church member who worshiped God in the same sanctuary that we worship in today.
“Jesus in The Garden of Gethsemane,”
dedicated to Carrie’s mother, Harriet.