Report of Brig. Gen. Daniel S. Donelson, C. S. Army commanding First Brigade.
December 26, 1862-January 5, 1863.--The Stone's River or Murfreesborough, Tenn., Campaign.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XX/1 [S# 29]
HEADQUARTERS FIRST BRIGADE, FIRST DIVISION,
POLK'S CORPS, ARMY OF TENNESSEE,
Shelbyville, Tenn., January 20, 1863.
Maj. JOHN INGRAM,
I have the honor to submit a report of the part taken by the First Brigade in the late engagement with the enemy before Murfreesborough.
The brigade was composed of the following regiments and battery, viz: The Sixteenth Regiment Tennessee Volunteers, Col. John H. Say-age; the Thirty-eighth Regiment Tennessee Volunteers, Col. John C. Carter; the Fifty-first Regiment Tennessee Volunteers, Col. John Chester; the Eighth Regiment Tennessee Volunteers, Col. W. L. Moore; Eighty-fourth Regiment Tennessee Volunteers, Col. S.S. Stanton, and Captain Carnes' battery. The Eighty-fourth Regiment, being a new and very small regiment, was assigned to my command on the morning of December 29, 1862, only two days before the battle.
In obedience to orders, the tents were struck and the wagons packed and sent to the rear Sunday night, 27th ultimo.
At daylight Monday morning the brigade was moved to and assumed its line of battle, which was second and supporting to the first line of battle, two companies of Colonel Savage's, the right regiment, extending across the railroad, and Colonel Carter's, the left regiment, across the Wilkinson pike, its left resting on the right of General Stewart's brigade. This line of battle, with General Chalmers' brigade in front, which mine was to support, was formed on the brow of the hill, about 300 yards in a southeast direction from the white house, known as Mrs. James'. That position was retained under an occasional shelling, with but few casualties, until dark Tuesday evening, when, in obedience to orders from Lieutenant-General Polk, the brigade was moved forward to the front line, to relieve General Chalmers' brigade, which had already held that position three days and nights. Before day the brigade returned to its proper position, and General Chalmers' brigade resumed its place on the front line.
During the night a general order from General Bragg was received directing a vigorous and persistent attack at daylight by our left wing on the right of the enemy, the whole of both lines conforming to the movements of the left wing, gradually wheeling and attacking the enemy as soon as the advance of the left wing should justify it. Orders were received from Lieutenant-General Polk directing me to conform the movements of my brigade to those of General Chalmers' brigade, always keeping in close supporting distance- about 2,000 feet in rear--and to support it promptly when ordered. Orders also came from Major-Gen-eral Cheatham directing me to obey any orders which I might receive from Major-General Withers, who gave me orders similar to those received from Lieutenant-General Polk.
In obedience to the foregoing orders, I moved my brigade, except Stanton's regiment, forward at 10 o'clock Wednesday morning, December 31 (the right being the directing regiment and the railroad the line of direction), until it reached the front line, from which General Chalmers' brigade had started, where it was halted until orders should be received to advance to the support of General Chalmers. From the moment 1 moved from my first position in the morning until dark that night my brigade was constantly under the fire of shot and shell from the enemy's batteries, and it sustained more or less loss in killed and wounded on every part of the field to which it was assigned for duty. This accounts to some extent for the heavy loss it sustained.
Colonel Stanton's regiment, being a new and small one, and having received its arms only the day before, I deemed it best to leave it in the rear, in support of Captain Carnes' battery, and I consequently gave the requisite orders for that purpose.
The brigade had occupied its position along the front line (behind Chalmers' breastworks) only a few minutes, when, General Chalmers having received a severe wound, his brigade was broken and the greater part of it fell back in disorder and confusion. Under orders from Lieutenant-General Polk, I immediately advanced my brigade to its support, and, indeed, its relief, under a shower of shot and shell of almost every description. During this advance my horse was shot under me, from which, and another wound received at the Cowan house, he died during the day. In advancing upon and attacking the enemy under such a fire, my brigade found it impossible to preserve its alignment, because of the walls of the burnt house known as Cowan's and the yard and garden fence and picketing left standing around and about it; in consequence of which, Savage's regiment, with three companies of Chester's regiment, went to the right of the Cowan house, and advanced upon the enemy until they were checked by three batteries of the enemy, with a heavy infantry support, on the hill to the right of the railroad, while the other two regiments (Carter's and Moore's), with seven companies of Chester's' regiment, went to the left of that house through a most destructive cross-fire, both of artillery and small-arms, driving the enemy and sweeping everything before them until they arrived at the open field beyond the cedar brake, in a northwest direction from the Cowan house, when, having exhausted their ammunition, they retired to the Wilkinson pike in order to reform their regiments and replenish their cartridge-boxes. The two regiments and seven companies that went to the left of the Cowan house charged, drove, and pursued the enemy very rapidly, loading and firing as they advanced, and did great execution.
In the charge immediately upon entering the woods after leaving the Cowan house, we had to deplore the loss of Col. W. L. Moore, of the Eighth Regiment Tennessee Volunteers, when the command of the regiment devolved upon the gallant Lieut. Col. John H. Anderson, who proved himself fully equal to the responsible post he had been so suddenly called upon to assume. Colonel Moore's horse was killed under and fell upon him. Disengaging himself as soon as possible, he advanced on foot with his regiment only a short distance when he was shot through the heart and instantly killed. His fate was that which, if he must fall, he himself would have chosen--dying-upon the field of his glory, his regiment fighting most gallantly around him, and he himself in the full and energetic discharge of his whole duty, without a pang and without a struggle. In the death of Colonel Moore the service has lost one of its most valuable officers, the country a devoted patriot, and the community in which he lived an excellent and most estimable citizen.
In the charge through the cedar woods to the left of the Cowan house, Colonel Carter's report shows that his regiment captured seven pieces of artillery and about 500 prisoners; Colonel Chester's, that his regiment captured three pieces of artillery and several hundred prisoners, and Lieutenant-Colonel Anderson's, that his regiment captured six pieces of artillery and about 400 prisoners. It is possible that these gentlemen, with the most honest intentions and in perfect good faith, may have counted some of the same guns as being captured by their respective regiments, but I am satisfied, upon a full conversation with them all and a knowledge of the ground over which they passed, and the position and movements of the other troops upon the same field, that the brigade captured at least eleven pieces of artillery and over 1,000 prisoners.
Colonel Savage's regiment, with three companies of Colonel Chester's, held, in my judgment, the critical position of that part of the field. Unable to advance, and determined not to retire, having received a message from Lieutenant-General Polk that I should in a short time be re-enforced and properly supported, I ordered Colonel Savage to hold his position at all hazards, and I felt it to be my duty to remain with that part of the brigade, holding so important and hazardous a position as that occupied by him. Colonel Savage, finding the line he had to defend entirely too long for the number of men under his command, and that there was danger of his being flanked, either to the right or left, as the one or the other wing presented the weaker front, finally threw out the greater part of his command as skirmishers, as well to deceive the enemy as to our strength in his rear as to protect his long line, and held his position, with characteristic and most commendable tenacity, for over three hours. At the expiration of that time Jackson's brigade came up to my support, but instead of going to the right of the Cowan house and to the support of Colonel Savage, it went to the left of the house and over the ground which the two left regiments and seven companies of my brigade had already gone over. After Jackson's, General Adams' brigade came up to the support of Colonel Savage, when, the latter withdrawing his regiment to make way for it, it attacked the enemy with spirit for a short time, but it was soon driven back in disorder and confusion, Colonel Savage's regiment retiring with it. Subsequently, Preston's brigade came up to the same position, one regiment, and perhaps more, going to the right of the Cowan house, and were repulsed, while the remainder of the brigade went to the left of the house and over the same ground which a part of my brigade and all of Jackson's had already traversed.
About this time 1 rejoined the two left regiments and seven companies of my brigade drawn up in line of battle on the right of Stewart's brigade at the edge of the open field, after passing through the cedar woods to the right of the Wilkinson pike. Here we remained under a very heavy fire from the enemy's artillery, both of shell and shot, until dark, when I withdrew my brigade about 200 yards, for the night, throwing out a strong picket for its protection. During the night I ordered Colonel Savage's command to rejoin the brigade, and collected all that I could of my stragglers, and had them brought to their respective commands. On Thursday and Friday but little was done, save to keep my men (under an occasional shelling) in line of battle and on the alert, either for any demonstration on the part of the enemy or any movement that might be in the contemplation of my commanding officers During this interval my dead were buried, and my wounded, which had not already been cared for, properly attended to.
Friday afternoon, under orders from Major-General Cheatham, I moved my brigade forward, parallel with the Wilkinson pike, about half a mile, in order to relieve Maney's brigade on the front line. There we remained, with a strong picket thrown out in front, and skirmishing with the enemy's pickets nearly all the while, until 1 o'clock Sunday morning, January 4, when, in obedience to orders from Major-General Cheatham, we took up the line of March to Shelbyville.
The field officers---Colonels Savage, Carter', Chester, Anderson, and Major [H W.] Cotter--all distinguished themselves by the coolness and courage they displayed upon the field, and greatly contributed to the successes achieved by their respective commands by the skill and resolution with which they managed and maneuvered them. Colonel Stanton's regiment was not seriously engaged, though I do not doubt, if an opportunity had presented itself, that both he and his men would have fought most gallantly. Captain Carnes' battery was separated from my brigade in consequence of the impossibility of its obtaining a suitable position in that part of the field from which to operate, and, therefore, it acted under other orders than my own. A report from Lieutenant [L. G.] Marshall, herewith transmitted, will show its operations.
We have to mourn the loss of many gallant officers and brave men, who fell in the faithful discharge of their duty on the field of battle. Capt. L. N. Savage, acting lieutenant-colonel, and Captain [J. J] Womack, acting major of the Sixteenth Regiment, most efficient officers, were severely, if not mortally, wounded, and Captain [D. C.] Spurlock, of the same regiment, an excellent officer and most estimable gentleman, was killed. Capt. B. H. Holland, of the Thirty-eighth Regiment, was killed while gallantly bearing the colors of his regiment, and Acting Lieut. Col. R. A. Burford, of the Fifty-first, was wounded. These are but a part of those who were either killed or wounded, but I must refer for further details to the regimental reports, which I herewith transmit and beg to make a part of my own. The Eighth Regiment lost most heavily both in officers and men. In Company D, the gallant Captain [M. C.] Shook was killed, and the lists show that out of 12 commissioned and noncommissioned officers and 62 men who went into the fight only 1 corporal and 20 men escaped. Other companies suffered almost as heavily.
Of the general conduct of the officers and men of the brigade, I find it difficult to employ terms of too high commendation. Cool, brave, and prompt in obeying every command upon the battle-field, they exhibited, during the week of hardships they were called upon to endure before Murfreesborough, a patience, fortitude, and cheerfulness worthy of the highest praise. The long list of killed and wounded, herewith transmitted, is a sad but a glorious testimony not only to their gallantry and courage, but also to their patriotic devotion to their country and its righteous cause. Entering the field with only about 1,400 men, I have to deplore a loss of 691 in killed, wounded, and missing, with only 19 missing, and a majority, if not all, of those prisoners of war.
I cannot conclude this report without expressing my appreciation of the services of my staff. I was attended on the battle-field by the following staff officers: Capt. John Bradford, my brigade inspector, acting as assistant adjutant-general; James H. Wilkes, my clerk, acting as aide-de-camp, my assistant adjutant-general, Maj. James G. Martin, and Lieut. Samuel Donelson, my aide-de-camp, being absent on leave. My volunteer aides-de-camp were Capt. J. L. Rice, formerly of Colonel Battle's [Twentieth Tennessee] regiment; Col. Granville Lewis, of Texas, and Henry Lindsley, of Lebanon, Tenn. I feel that I am doing but sheer justice to express my entire satisfaction with the conduct of every member of my staff, for they rendered efficient services in carrying orders with promptness in the hottest of the conflict, particularly to that part of the field, on the right of my brigade, which the enemy was attempting to turn during the entire day, but where he was gallantly repulsed by the determined bravery of my troops. Mr. Lindsley had his horse killed by a cannon ball early in the action, and was so severely wounded himself that he had to retire from the field during the remainder of the battle. My clerk (Wilkes) had his horse killed late in the afternoon near the Cowan house. It is but right that 1 should say that Colonel Lewis the previous day had obtained a musket, and was fully equipped to take the field in the ranks of Captain [W. G.] Burford's company of Eighth [Tennessee] Regiment, when, being informed of this fact, I invited him to take a position with me as volunteer aide, which he readily assented to do, and conducted himself with great coolness and determined bravery. I have referred to Captain Rice as a relieved officer. I feel, from his efficient services rendered in this battle, and my knowledge of him as a man and an officer, that I am doing but simple justice to him, and a benefit to the cause and service, in recommending that Captain Rice be given a command at the earliest practicable period, knowing him to be qualified in an eminent degree to fill a high position.
Accompanying this you will find an accurate list of both officers and men killed, wounded, and missing in my command.
All of which is respectfully submitted.
D. S. DONELSON,
Brigadier-General, Comdg. First Brigade, Cheatham's Division.
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