Report of Brig. Gen. Jefferson C. Davis, U.S. Army, commanding First Division.
December 26, 1862-January 5, 1863.--The Stone's River or Murfreesborough, Tenn., Campaign.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XX/1 [S# 29]
HDQRS. 1ST DIVISION, RIGHT WING, 14TH ARMY CORPS,
January --, 1863.
Maj. JOHN A. CAMPBELL,
Asst. Adjt. Gen., Right Wing, Fourteenth Army Corps.
MAJOR: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by the division under my command in the recent operations against the enemy's forces in the vicinity of Triune and Murfreesborough:
On the morning of the 26th ultimo, in compliance with instructions received from the general commanding the right wing, I broke up camp at Saint James' Chapel, on Mill Creek, and advanced upon Nolensville, via the Edmondson pike, as far as Prim's blacksmith shop; from thence my advance was over a rugged country road, rendered almost impassable by the incessant rain, which had been falling in torrents during the entire morning.
The enemy's pickets were discovered by my cavalry escort, composed of Company B, Thirty-sixth Illinois Volunteers, under command of Captain Sherer, within a few miles of our camp. This small force of cavalry being the only mounted force under my command, I ordered them to the front, with instructions to drive in the enemy's pickets, and to attack him on his flanks at every opportunity. So effectually was this done, that the infantry and artillery were enabled to move with little interruption to within a mile of Nolensville. By this time I had learned, from reliable information, through citizens as well as cavalry scouts, that the enemy occupied the town in some force, both of cavalry and artillery.
The First Brigade, consisting of the Twenty-second Indiana, Seventy-fourth, Seventy-fifth, and Fifty-ninth Illinois Regiments, and the Fifth Wisconsin Battery, commanded by Col. P. Sidney Post, was immediately deployed for an advance upon the town. Pinney's (Fifth Wisconsin) battery was posted so as to command the town and all approaches from the southwest. The enemy's cavalry was seen by this time taking position on a range of hills southwest of the town, and was evidently attempting to flank our position. A few shells from Pinney's battery soon caused them to fall back. A battery, which by this time they had succeeded in getting into position, opened fire, but was, after a few rounds, silenced by Pinney's guns.
The Second Brigade, consisting of the Twenty-first and Thirty-eighth Illinois, Fifteenth Wisconsin, and One hundred and first Ohio Regiments, and the Second Minnesota Battery, commanded by Colonel Carlin, had by this time formed a line of battle on Post's right, and, moving rapidly forward, soon engaged the enemy's dismounted cavalry in a sharp skirmish.
The Third Brigade, consisting of the Twenty-fifth and Thirty-fifth Illinois, Eighty-first Indiana Regiments, and the Eighth Wisconsin Battery, commanded by Colonel Woodruff, was deployed on the right, so as to check any effort which might be made to attack my flank from this direction. Carlin advanced in excellent order, driving everything before him, until ordered to halt, having dislodged the enemy from his position entirely.
By this time I ascertained that the enemy would probably make another effort to resist our advance about 2 miles farther on; and, notwithstanding it was late in the afternoon, and the men were much fatigued from a hard day's march through rain and mud, I could not forego the opportunity thus offered in giving them another chance to signalize their courage and endurance. Ascertaining the enemy's exact position as well as I could, I ordered the advance.
Their lines were soon discovered, occupying a range of high, rocky hills, through which the Nolensville and Triune pike passes, known as Knob Gap. This was a favorable position to the enemy, and well guarded by artillery, which opened fire at long range upon Carlin's lines. Hotchkiss' and Pinney's batteries were rapidly brought into action and opened fire, while Carlin's brigade charged the battery, carried the heights in his front, and captured two guns. Post's brigade carried the heights on the left of the road with but little resistance, while Woodruff's brigade drove in the enemy's skirmishers on the extreme right.
The day had now closed, and I ordered the troops to bivouac, in accordance with instructions from the general commanding, who arrived at this time upon the ground, followed by Generals Sheridan's and Johnson's divisions.
The steady courage and soldierly zeal displayed on this occasion by both officers and men gave ample assurances of what could be expected of them in the coming struggle at Murfreesborough.
On the 27th, in accordance with the general's instructions, the division took position at the junction of the Bole Jack road with the Nolensville pike, 1 mile from Triune, where it remained in bivouac until the morning of the 29th, at which time the advance was resumed. In compliance with instructions, I moved forward on the Bole Jack road as far as Stewart's Creek, a few miles beyond which it was reported by our cavalry the enemy had shown himself in considerable force. The general commanding arriving at this time in person at the head of the column, ordered a halt until the divisions in rear could be brought up.
Brigadier-General Stanley, commanding the cavalry in advance, soon reported the road clear, and the march was resumed without obstruction until the entire command reached the Wilkinson pike, 6 miles from Murfreesborough. The division bivouacked during the night at Overall's Creek, 3 miles from Murfreesborough, the left brigade resting on the Wilkinson pike.
On the morning of the 30th the division moved forward and took position on General Sheridan's right, about 300 yards south of and parallel to the Wilkinson pike, in which position it remained until 2 p.m. A few companies of skirmishers thrown to the front in a skirt of timbered land soon found those of the enemy, and for several hours a brisk skirmish was kept up with varying results. About 2 p.m. the general commanding ordered a general advance of the whole line. This the enemy seemed at first disposed to resist only with his skirmishers; gradually, however, as both parties strengthened their lines of skirmishers, the contest became more animated. Our main lines steadily advanced, occupying and holding the ground gained by the skirmishers until about half an hour before sunset, when the enemy's position was plainly discerned, running diagonally across the old Murfreesborough and Franklin road.
The enemy's batteries now announced our close proximity to their lines. Carpenter's and Hotchkiss' batteries were soon brought into position and opened fire. Woodruff's and Carlin's brigades by this time felt the fire of the enemy's main lines, and responded in the most gallant manner. Post's brigade, moving steadily forward on the right, after a most obstinate resistance on the part of the enemy, succeeded in driving his skirmishers from a strong position in our front, forcing them to retire upon his main lines. Night soon brought a close to the contest.
Receiving directions at this time from General McCook to desist from any further offensive demonstration further than what might be necessary to hold my position, I ordered the troops to rest for the night on their arms. Two brigades of General Johnson's division, heretofore held in reserve, arrived and took position on my right, about sunset, thus extending our line of battle beyond the old Franklin and Murfreesborough road. These brigades were commanded by Generals Will-ich and Kirk.
The night passed off quietly until about daylight, when the enemy's forces were observed by our pickets to be in motion. Their object could not, however, with certainty, be determined until near sunrise, when a vigorous attack was made upon Willich's and Kirk's brigades. These troops seemed not to have been fully prepared for the assault, and, with little or no resistance, retreated from their position, leaving their artillery in the hands of the enemy. This left my right brigade exposed to a flank movement, which the enemy was now rapidly executing, and compelled me to order Post's brigade to fall back and partially change its front. Simultaneous with this movement the enemy commenced a heavy and very determined attack on both Carlin's and Woodruff's brigades. These brigades were fully prepared for the attack, and received it with veteran courage. The conflict was fierce in the extreme on both sides. Our loss was heavy and that of the enemy no less. It was, according to my observations, the best contested point of the day, and would have been held, but for the overwhelming force moving so persistently against my right. Carlin, finding his right flank being so severely pressed, and threatened with being turned, ordered his troops to retire.
Woodruff's brigade succeeded in repulsing the enemy and holding its position until the withdrawal of the troops on both its flanks compelled it to retire. Pinney's battery, which I had posted in an open field upon my extreme right, and ordered to be supported by a part of Post's brigade, now opened a destructive fire upon the enemy's advancing lines. This gallant and distinguished battery, supported by the Twenty-second Indiana and Fifty-ninth Illinois Regiments, together with a brigade of General Johnson's division, commanded by Colonel Baldwin, Sixth Indiana Volunteers, for a short time brought the enemy to a check on our right. Hotchkiss' battery had also by this time taken an excellent position near the Wilkinson pike, so as to command the enemy's approach across a large cotton-field in his front, over which he was now advancing. The infantry, however, contrary to expectations, failed to support this battery, and, after firing a few rounds, was forced to retire.
In accordance with instructions received during the night, announcing the plan of operations for the day, I desisted from any further attempts to engage the enemy, except by skirmishers thrown to the rear for that purpose, until my lines had reached within a few hundred yards of the Nashville and Murfreesborough pike, when I again determined to form my lines and resist his further advance. To this order but few of the regiments responded, their ranks being much thinned by killed and wounded; and not a few had availed themselves of the favorable opportunity offered by the dense woods, through which we were compelled to pass, to skulk like cowards from the ranks. The reserve forces here moved to the front, and relieved my command from any further participation in the engagement until late in the afternoon, when, in compliance with instructions, I took position on the right. My skirmishers were immediately thrown out, and soon engaged the enemy's, until night brought a close to hostilities for the day.
During the 1st and 2d of January the division occupied this position in skirmishing with the enemy's pickets, until late in the afternoon of the 2d, when I received orders from General Rosecrans to hasten to the support of a part of General Crittenden's command, who had been for some time hotly engaged with the enemy across the river, on our extreme left.
Moving as rapidly as possible across the river to the field of battle, I found our gallant troops forcing the enemy back on his reserves. The brigade of Colonel Woodruff, being in the advance, only arrived in time to participate in the general engagement.
After relieving the troops of General Palmer and Colonel Beatty, and particularly the brigade of Colonel Hazen, which had so nobly vindicated their courage in the then closing conflict, I ordered a heavy line of skirmishers to be thrown out. The enemy's lines were soon encountered, and a renewal of the engagement seemed imminent. A few rounds of grape and canister from one of our batteries, however, caused them to withdraw, and night again brought a cessation of hostilities.
During the night I disposed of my troops in such manner as would best enable me to repel an attack, and, in compliance with instructions, I directed rifle-pits and breastworks to be thrown up. This was done, and morning found us well prepared for any emergency, either offensive or defensive.
The following day (January 3) considerable skirmishing was kept up, without abatement, from early in the morning until dark.
During the night I received orders from General Crittenden to withdraw my command from the east bank of the river, and to report with it to General McCook. This movement was executed between the hours of 1 and 4 o'clock in the morning, during which time the rain fell incessantly.
The pickets about this time reported the enemy as having been very active in their movements during the latter part of the night, and their convictions that he was evacuating his position. Further observations, made after daylight, found this to be the case.
The following list of casualties shows a loss in the division during the several engagements above described as follows:
Commissioned Officers Killed 16 Wounded 34 Missing 2 Enlisted Men Killed 176 Wounded 784 Missing 399 Total Killed, Wounded , and Missing 1,411
The division lost three pieces of artillery and captured two. In the list of officers killed are the names of Colonel Stem, One hundred and first Ohio; Colonel Williams, Twenty-fifth Illinois; Lieutenant-Colonel Wooster, One hundred and first Ohio; Lieutenant-Colonel McKee, Fifteenth Wisconsin; Captain Carpenter, Eighth Wisconsin Battery, and Captain McCulloch, Second Kentucky Cavalry, of my staff, whose noble deeds of valor on the field had already placed their names on the list of brave men. The history of the war will record no brighter names, and the country will mourn the loss of no more devoted patriots, than these.
Among the wounded are Colonel Alexander, Twenty-first Illinois; Lieutenant-Colonel Tanner, Twenty-second Indiana; Captain Pinney, Fifth Wisconsin Battery, and Captain Austin, acting assistant adjutant-general, on the staff of Colonel Woodruff, whose names it affords me special gratification to mention.
From December 26 until the close of the engagement, on the 4th of January, at Murfreesborough, no entire day elapsed that the division, or some part of it, did not engage the enemy. During a great part of the time the weather was excessively inclement, and the troops suffered much from exposure. A heavy list of casualties and much suffering were unavoidable, under the circumstances.
It affords me pleasure, however, to be able to report the cheerful and soldierlike manner in which these hardships and privations were endured by the troops throughout. History will record and the country reward their deeds.
My staff, consisting of Lieut. T. W. Morrison, acting assistant adju-tant-general; Capt. H. Pease, inspector-general; Captain McCulloch, aide-de-camp (killed); Lieut. Francis E. Reynolds, aide-de-camp; Lieut. Thomas H. Dailey, aide-de-camp; Surg. J. L. Teed, medical director; Captain Shriver, ordnance officer; Lieut. R. Plunket, provost-marshal, and Private Frank Clark, clerk to the assistant adjutant-general and acting aide-de-camp, deported themselves throughout the entire campaign, as well as on the battle-field, with distinguished zeal and conspicuous gallantry.
While expressing my high regard and appreciation of the general commanding, I desire also to tender my thanks to yourself, major, and to Colonel Langdon, Major Bates, Captains Thruston, Williams, and Fisher, of his staff, for the prompt and efficient manner in which the field duties were performed by them.
During the several engagements in which the division participated the conduct of many subaltern officers attracted my admiration by their conspicuous gallantry, and whose names, I regret, cannot be mentioned in this report. They will be remembered in future recommendations for promotion.
I am, major, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
JEF. C. DAVIS,
Brigadier-General, Commanding Division.
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