Reports of Maj. Gen. Alexander McD. McCook, U. S. Army, Commanding Right Wing.
December 26, 1862-January 5, 1863.--The Stone's River or Murfreesborough, Tenn., Campaign.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XX/1 [S# 29]
HEADQUARTERS RIGHT WING,
One mile in advance of Nolensville, December 27, 1862.
COLONEL: I am here with my wing in camp. There is very strong ground in front of my main camp. I have all the crests heavily defended. The enemy resisted my advance all day with cavalry and artillery. My casualties are very few. The One hundred and first Ohio charged one battery, and captured one gun and caisson, with teams. The men in glorious spirits, and only want a chance. Negley is here with his division. General Thomas sent a courier here; states that he is somewhere on the Wilson pike. Hardee had a dance given him at Triune last night.
A. McD. McCOOK,
HEADQUARTERS RIGHT WING, December 27, 1862.
COLONEL: The fog is so thick in these hills that I cannot see 300 yards in my front. I have ordered a halt until the fog rises. The enemy have resisted our advance for 3 miles this morning, and have a battery posted on the hill in front to enfilade the road. One brigade of the enemy in Triune; the other troops scattered on the Shelbyville road.
A. McD. McCOOK,
P. S.--The firing you hear is the enemy's battery. I will apprise you when I move forward. Can do nothing intelligently now.
Near Triune, December 27, 1862--3 p.m.
GENERAL: The enemy, under Hardee, escaped me this morning in the fog; at times I could not see more than 50 yards. I had reliable information that Hardee was here in person, and that his army lay in line of battle last night. I have yet to pursue them 6 miles before I can well determine whether they have retreated toward Murfreesborough or Shelbyville. Every prisoner I have taken has contradictory statements as to their destination. I will know to-night.
A. McD. McCOOK,
HDQRS. RIGHT WING, FOURTEENTH ARMY CORPS,
Triune, December 27, 1862--3 p.m.
Colonel GARESCH…, Chief of Staff.
COLONEL: Hardee escaped me during the fog to-day. Some reports say he left last night; others, to-day. Our prisoners tell contradictory stories about them. They had two divisions here. I am pursuing with one division, and Stanley has started with his cavalry in pursuit. I will know and promptly inform you what road they have taken. It will be necessary for me to pursue 6 miles on the Shelbyville road to determine upon what road they have marched. From College Grove there is a dirt road running 4 miles and intersecting the Salem pike. My cavalry are all raw, but have done well to-day.
General Rousseau's division did not get up until 12 m. to-day. The weather horrid. Captain Long will explain.the country to you.
A. McD. McCOOK,
HDQRS. RIGHT WING, FOURTEENTH ARMY CORPS,
In Camp, Two and a half miles south of Murfreesborough, Tenn.,
January 8, 1863.
Maj. C. GODDARD,
Chief of Staff, Fourteenth Army Corps.
MAJOR: In compliance with telegraphic orders from the general commanding, received at my camp, on Mill Creek, 5 miles south of Nashville, at 4.30 a.m., on the morning of December 26, 1862, I put the right wing of the Fourteenth Army Corps in motion toward Nolensville, Tenn. The First Division, Brig. Gen. Jefferson C. Davis commanding, marched at 6 a.m. upon the Edmondson pike, with orders to move upon that road to Prim's blacksmith-shop, from whence it was to march direct by a country road to Nolensville.
The Third division, Brig. Gen. Philip H. Sheridan commanding, also marched at 6 a.m., and upon the direct road to Nolensville. The Second Division, Brig. Gen. R. W. Johnson commanding (the reserve of the right wing), followed the Third Division upon the direct road.
The advance guards of Generals Davis' and Sheridan's columns encountered the enemy's cavalry about 2 miles beyond our picket line. There was continuous skirmishing with the enemy until the heads of these columns reached Nolensville.
About 1 mile beyond the town the enemy made a determined stand, in a defile and upon a range of hills that cross the turnpike at this point, lining the slopes with skirmishers and placing a six-gun battery on a commanding position, endeavoring to repel our advance. He was attacked in front and his position handsomely turned by General Carlin's brigade, of Davis' division, capturing one piece of his artillery and several prisoners. After taking possession of the defile and hills, the command was encamped.
On the night of this day, I was visited by the general commanding, who gave me verbal orders to move forward in the morning to Triune, 7 miles distant, and attack Hardee's corps, supposed to be quartered at that place. At this camp I was joined by Brig. Gen. D. S. Stanley, chief of cavalry, with the First and Second Tennessee Regiments, and the Fifteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry.
Preparations were made to move forward at daylight, the cavalry under General Stanley in the advance, followed by the Second Division, under General Johnson. It having rained all the day previous and the entire night, there was a dense fog, which prevented us from seeing 150 yards in any direction. The column having moved about 2 miles to the front, they again encountered the enemy, consisting of cavalry, infantry, and artillery. The fog at this time being so thick that friend could not be distinguished from foe, and our cavalry having been fired upon by our infantry skirmishers, on the flanks, the enemy being conversant with the ground, my troops strangers to it, and from prisoners captured having learned that Hardee's corps had been in line of battle since the night before, I did not deem it prudent to advance until the fog lifted, and I ordered the command to halt until the work could be done understandingly.
The fog having lifted at 1 p.m., an advance was immediately ordered, driving the enemy's cavalry before us.
On nearing Triune, we found that the main portion of their forces had retired, leaving a battery of six pieces, supported by cavalry, to contest the crossing of Nelson's Creek, which has steep and bluff banks. The enemy having destroyed the bridge, it was with difficulty that artillery could be crossed. On the approach of our skirmishers, the battery, with the cavalry, took flight down the Eagleville road. It now being nearly dark, and a severe and driving rain-storm blowing, they were pursued no farther.
Johnson's division crossed and encamped beyond Nelson's Creek, repairing the destroyed bridge.
On the morning of the 28th instant I ordered out a strong reconnaissance, under Brigadier-General Willich, to learn whether the enemy had retired to Shelbyville or Murfreesborough. Pursuing 7 miles down the Shelbyville road, it was found that the enemy had turned to the left, having taken a dirt road which led into the Salem pike, thence to Murfreesborough.
Leaving the Third Brigade of Johnson's division at Triune, I marched, on the 29th, with my command on the Bole Jack road toward Murfrees-borough. The road being a very bad one, the command did not reach Wilkinson's Cross-Roads (5 miles from Murfreesborough) until late in the evening.
My command was encamped in line of battle; Sheridan's division on the left of Wilkinson's pike; Davis' division on right of same road; Woodruff's brigade guarding the bridge over Overall's Creek; the two brigades of Johnson's division watching the right.
On that evening, believing that the enemy intended giving our army battle at or near Murfreesborough, I ordered the brigade left at Triune to join the command without delay, which it did on the 30th.
At 1 o'clock on the morning of the 30th I received an order from General Rosecrans to report in person at his headquarters, on the Murfreesborough pike, and arrived there at 3.30 a.m. I received my instructions, which were that the left of my line should rest on the right of General Negley's division, and my right was to be thrown forward until it became parallel, or nearly so, with Stone's River, the extreme right to rest on or near the Franklin road.
My entire command advanced at 9.30 a.m., Sheridan's division moving down the Wilkinson turnpike until its advance encountered the enemy's pickets. The line of battle was then formed, the left of Sheridan's division resting upon the Wilkinson pike and immediately upon General Negley's right; the remainder of Sheridan's division was deployed to the right, the line running in a southeasterly direction. Davis' division, which had already been deployed, moved up, his left resting upon Sheridan's right, Johnson's division being held in reserve. Our front was covered with a strong line of skirmishers, who soon became sharply engaged with the enemy's sharpshooters and skirmishers. The line moved forward but slowly, as the enemy contested stubbornly every inch of ground gained by us. The ground was very favorable to them; they were under cover of a heavy wood and cedar thicket.
At 12 m. on the 30th the house of a Mr. Harding came within our lines. From that point I ascertained where the enemy's line of battle was, our skirmishers being then about 500 yards from it. The right, under General Davis, moved handsomely, but slowly, into position, as the ground over which he had to march was hotly contested by the enemy's skirmishers.
At 1 p.m. word was sent to General D. S. Stanley, chief of cavalry, that Colonel Zahm, commanding three regiments of cavalry on my right flank, was hard pressed by a superior force. I ordered one brigade of my reserve division to report to General Stanley, who conducted it to the Franklin road. On his approach the enemy, pressing Colonel Zahm, retired, and the brigade was ordered back to its former position.
At 2 p.m. a citizen living on the Franklin road, and about one-half mile in front of the enemy's line of battle, was sent me under guard by General Stanley. He reported as follows:
I was up to the enemy's line of battle twice yesterday and once this morning, to get some stock, taken from me. The enemy's troops are posted in the following manner: The right of Cheatham's division rests on the Wilkinson pike; Withers is on Cheatham's left, with his left resting on the Franklin road; Hardee's corps is entirely beyond that road, and his left extending toward the Salem pike.
This man was sent immediately to the general commanding, and subsequently returned to me, with the report that his information had been received. I also sent a report to the general commanding by my aide-de-camp, Capt. Horace N. Fisher, that the right of my line rested directly in front of the enemy's center. This made me anxious for my right. All my division commanders were immediately informed of this fact, and two brigades of the reserve division, commanded, respectively, by Generals Willich and Kirk, two of the best and most experienced brigadiers in the army, were ordered to the right of my line, to protect the right flank and guard against surprise there. At 6 p.m. I received an order from the general commanding to have large and extended camp-fires made on my right, to deceive the enemy, making them believe that we were massing troops there. This order was communicated to General Stanley, commanding cavalry, and carried into execution by Maj. R. H. Nodine, Twenty-fifth Illinois, engineer officer of my staff.
On the evening of the 30th, the order of battle was nearly parallel with that of the enemy, my right slightly refused, and my line of battle in two lines. Two brigades of the reserve re-enforced the right of the line, and the Third Brigade, of the reserve, was posted in column about 800 yards in rear of the right.
On the evening of the 30th, Sheridan's left rested on the Wilkinson road, on the right of Negley's division, and the line then ran in a southeasterly direction through an open wood; thence in front of and partly through a cedar thicket, until General Davis' right rested near the Franklin road. Kirk's brigade was on Davis' right, Willich's brigade placed on a line nearly perpendicular to the main line, forming a crotchet to the rear, to avoid the possibility of my right being turned by anything like an equal force. My line was a strong one, open ground in front for a short distance.
My instructions for the following day were received at about 6.30 p.m. on the 30th, which were as follows:
Take a strong position; if the enemy attacks you, fall back slowly, refusing your right, contesting the ground inch by inch. If the enemy does not attack you, will attack him, not vigorously, but warmly; the time of attack by you (General McCook) to be designated by the general commanding.
I was also informed that Crittenden's corps would move simultaneously with my attack into Murfreesborough. Written instructions were sent by me to each division commander on the night of the 30th, explaining to each what would be required of them on the 31st.
At about 6.30 a.m., on the 31st, a determined and heavy attack was made upon Kirk's and Willich's brigades, on the extreme right. They were attacked by such an overwhelming force that they were compelled to fall back. General Kirk being seriously wounded at the first fire upon his main line, General Willich having his horse killed early in the action, and he falling into the hands of the enemy, the two brigades were deprived of their immediate commanders, and gave way in confusion. Colonel Post's brigade, on the right of Davis' division, and, in fact, my entire line to Sheridan's left, was almost simultaneously attacked by a heavy force of the enemy. The attack in front of Davis and Sheridan was repulsed several times, and had not the heavy turning columns of the enemy on my right succeeded so well, my line could have been maintained, and the enemy driven back to his barricades, which extended from the Wilkinson pike, with but a short interval, three-fourths of a mile beyond the Franklin road. General Sheridan's division was ably maneuvered by him, under my own eye. As soon as it became evident that my lines would be compelled to give way, orders were given to reform my line in the first skirt of timber in rear of my first position. The enemy advancing so rapidly upon my right, I found this impossible, and changed the point of reforming my line to the high ground in rear of the Wilkinson pike. Moving to the left of my line, and in rear of Sheridan's division, I here met General Rousseau in a cedar wood, posting his division to repel the attack. I then ordered my line to fall still farther back, and form on the right of Rousseau. I gave General Johnson orders, in person, to form his division in rear of Rousseau. Rousseau's division having been withdrawn to the open ground in rear of the cedar woods, the last position became untenable, and my troops were retired to the Nashville pike, where my wing, except Schaefer's brigade, of Sheridan's division, was reassembled and replenished with ammunition. On arrival at the pike, I found Colonel Harker's brigade, of Wood's division, retiring before a heavy force of the enemy. I immediately ordered Roberts' brigade, of Sheridan's division, to advance into a cedar wood, and charge the enemy and drive him back. Although this brigade was much reduced in numbers, and having but two rounds of cartridges, it advanced to the charge, under the gallant Colonel Bradley, driving the enemy back with the bayonet, capturing two guns and 40 prisoners, and securing our communication on the Murfreesborough pike at this point. This brigade is composed of the Twenty-second, Twenty-seventh, Forty-second, and Fifty-first Illinois Volunteers. The Twenty-seventh particularly distinguished itself.
About 11 a.m., Col. Moses B. Walker's brigade arrived upon the field, and reported to me for duty. They were assigned to General Sheridan's command, to whose report I refer for the good conduct of his brigade.
On the afternoon of the 31st, the right wing assumed a strong position, its left, composed of Walker's brigade, resting near a commanding knoll, its line running nearly northwest along the slope of a ridge, covered with cedar growth, the right resting upon the Murfreesborough pike. On the slope strong barricades were erected, which could well have been defended by single lines. The second line and Gibson's brigade date Willich's) was used as a reserve. The right wing, excepting Davis' division and Gibson's brigade, did not participate in any general engagement after the 31st.
There was constant skirmishing in my front until the night of the 3d. On the 4th, the enemy left his position in front of the right, and evacuated Murfreesborough on the night of the same day.
On the 6th, the right wing marched to its present camp, 2 miles south of Murfreesborough, on the Shelbyville pike.
The reports of Generals Johnson, Davis, and Sheridan, division commanders, are herewith inclosed.
Accompanying General Johnson's report you will find the reports of the brigade, regimental, and battery commanders, carefully prepared.
I have been thus particular, on account of the commanding general's dispatch to the General-in-Chief, and also from erroneous reports sent to the public by newspaper correspondents.
The attention of the general commanding is particularly called to Colonels Gibson and Dodge; also to Lieutenant-Colonel Jones' report, who commanded the pickets in front of Willich's brigade.
Captain Edgarton, commanding battery of Kirk's brigade, certainly was guilty of a grave error in taking even a part of his horses to water at such an hour. He is in the hands of the enemy; therefore no report can be had from him at present.
In strict compliance with my orders, and the knowledge I possessed of the position of the enemy, which was communicated to my superior, also to the generals under my command, I could not have made a better disposition of my troops.
On subsequent examination of the field, I found the statements of the citizen, referred to in my report, correct, as the barricades extended fully three-fourths of a mile beyond the Franklin road.
I am well satisfied that Hardee's corps, supported by McCown's division (late of Kirby Smith's corps), attacked Kirk's and Willich's brigades. About the same time Withers' division attacked Davis, and Cheat-ham's division attacked Sheridan. Cheatham's and Withers' divisions composed General Polk's corps. I was in the rear of the center of my line when this attack commenced; therefore I did not see all the column that attacked and turned my right; but it can be safely estimated that the rebel force outnumbered ours three to one. After leaving my line of battle, the ground in rear was, first, open fields; second, woods; then a dense cedar thicket; and over such ground it was almost impossible for troops to retire in good order, particularly when assailed by superior numbers.
My ammunition train, under the charge of my efficient ordnance officer, Capt. Gates P. Thruston, First Ohio Volunteers, was at an early hour ordered to take a position in rear of the center of my line. It was there attacked by the enemy's cavalry, which was handsomely repulsed by a detachment of cavalry, under the direction of Capt. H. Pease, of General Davis' staff, and Capt. G. P. Thruston, ordnance officer. The train was conducted safely to the Nashville pike, Captain Thruston cutting a road through the cedar wood for the passage of the train.
To Brig. Gens. R. W. Johnson, Philip H. Sheridan, and Jefferson C. Davis I return my thanks for their gallant conduct upon the days of the battles, and for their prompt support and conscientious attention to duty during their service in the right wing. I commend them to my superiors and my country.
To Brig. Gen. D. S. Stanley, chief of cavalry, my thanks are particularly due. He commanded my advance from Nolensville and directed the cavalry on my right flank. A report of the valuable services of our cavalry will be furnished by General Stanley. I commend him to my superiors and my country.
For the particular instances of good conduct of individuals, I refer you to the reports of division commanders.
I cannot refrain from again calling the attention of my superiors to the conspicuous gallantry and untiring zeal of Col. W. H. Gibson, of the Forty-ninth Ohio Volunteers. He succeeded to the command of Willich's brigade, and was ever prompt to dash upon the enemy with his gallant brigade when opportunity permitted. I have repeatedly recommended him for promotion. He has again won additional claims to his reward.
Colonel Harker, commanding a brigade of Wood's division, performed gallant service, under my supervision, as also did Colonel Fyffe, of the Fifty-ninth Ohio. They are commended to my superiors.
To my staff, Lieut. Col. E. Bassett Langdon, inspector-general; Maj. R. H. Nodine, engineer officer; Maj. J. A. Campbell, assistant adjutant-general; Capt. Gates P. Thruston, ordnance officer; Capt. B. D. Williams, aide-de-camp; Capt. J. F. Boyd, assistant quartermaster; Capt. Orris Blake, provost-marshal; Maj. Caleb Bates, volunteer aide-de-camp, and Capt. Horace N. Fisher, volunteer aide-de-camp and topographical engineer, my thanks are due for their conspicuous gallantry and intelligence on the field. My escort, under command of Lieutenant Thickstun, Second Kentucky Cavalry, and my orderlies behaved gallantly. When my horse was shot, Orderly Cook, of the Second Indiana, promptly replaced him with his own. The officers of the Signal Corps were ever ready to perform any service in their line or as aides.
The report of Surg. C. McDermont, the medical director of the right wing, is also submitted. Surgeon McDermont's gallantry on the field, and his great care for the wounded, is worthy of great praise.
My entire medical corps behaved nobly, except Asst. Surg. W. S. Fish, of the Third Indiana Cavalry, who fled to Nashville. He is recommended for dismissal.
The casualties of my wing are 542 killed and 2,334 wounded.
The nation is again called to mourn the loss of gallant spirits who fell upon this sanguinary field. First of these, Brig. Gen. J. W. Sill, commanding First Brigade, Third Division. He was noble, conscientious in the discharge of every duty, and brave to a fault. He had no ambition save to serve his country. He died a Christian soldier, in the act of repulsing the enemy.
Such names as Roberts, Schaefer, Harrington, Stem, Williams, Read, Housum, Drake, Wooster, and McKee, all field officers, and many other commissioned officers of the right wing, who fell vindicating their flag, will never be forgotten by a grateful country.
Complete lists of the killed and wounded will be furnished from each regiment. There will be a map of the field sent forward to-morrow.
All of which is respectfully submitted.
A. McD. McCOOK,
Major-General of Volunteers, Commanding Right Wing.
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