Report of Col. P. Sidney Post, Fifty-ninth Illinois Infantry, 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,
RIGHT WING, FOURTEENTH ARMY CORPS,
In Camp, south of Murfreesborough, January 9, 1863.
Lieut. T. W. MORRISON,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General, First Division.
LIEUTENANT: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by the First Brigade in the late engagements, resulting in the taking of Murfreesborough:
In compliance with the order of Brigadier-General Davis, commanding division, we left camp, at Saint James' Chapel, at daylight December 26, 1862, and marched in the direction of Nolensville, this brigade being in advance. We soon came upon the enemy's cavalry. Company B, Thirty-sixth Illinois Cavalry, under direction of Captain Pease, of Brigadier-General Davis' staff, occupied the road, and the Fifty-ninth Illinois Infantry was thrown out as skirmishers on each side of it. A lively skirmish was kept Up until we reached Nolensville, when the enemy appeared in force and opened upon the brigade with artillery.
The left of our line of battle rested upon the pike, the right occupying a hill commanding the town. Captain Pinney's (Fifth Wisconsin) battery opened upon the enemy and drove them from the town.
A large force of cavalry was seen moving to the right and dismounting, with the evident intention of attacking our right and rear and dislodging us from the hill. The Twenty-second Regiment Indiana Infantry was moved to the right to repel this attack, and Colonels Carlin's and Woodruff's brigades deployed, by order of Brigadier-General Davis, upon our right, soon came up, and the enemy were driven from their position and forced to withdraw their artillery.
This brigade, on the left of the line of battle, moved forward up the pike leading to Triune, Pinney's battery being on the pike, the Twenty-second Indiana and the Seventy-fourth Illinois on its right, and the Seventy-fifth and Fifty-ninth Illinois on its left. The enemy were posted in a position of great natural strength, about 2 miles from Nolensville, on the right and left of the pike, with one section of artillery on and the remainder near the road. Pinney's battery, from a knoll to the left of the pike, opened at short range with all his guns, and this brigade, on the left of Colonel Carlin's, marched steadily forward, driving the enemy from the hill, where they were compelled to abandon one piece of artillery. This march had been made in a drenching rain, and the men, exhausted by their exertions upon the muddy road and the excitements of the day, bivouacked on the field, for the possession of which they had fought. The following day this brigade marched in rear of Colonel Carlin's nearly to Triune, it raining constantly and being very cold.
December 29, we marched in rear of Colonel Woodruff's brigade, on the Bole Jack road, toward Murfreesborough. About 2 miles from Overall's Creek, by order of Brigadier-General Davis, I deployed the brigade on the right of the road, and moved forward nearly to the creek, where we bivouacked in the rain, without fires.
On the morning of December 30, we marched across the fields on the right of the Wilkinson pike, the Seventy-fourth and Seventy-fifth Regiments Illinois Infantry deployed on the right of Colonel Carlin's brigade, and being the right of the entire army, the Fifty-ninth Regiment Illinois Infantry in reserve to support the battery, and the Twenty-second Regiment Indiana Infantry in a position to protect the right flank from the enemy's cavalry, which were continually hovering about and engaging the skirmishers. I directed Captain Sherer, who, by order of Brigadier-General Davis, reported to me with Company B, Thirty-sixth Illinois Cavalry, to throw out skirmishers and march upon our right flank, where he repeatedly engaged and drove back the cavalry threatening our line. The skirmishing in front grew more brisk, and late in the afternoon the enemy were found in force, strongly posted, and opened upon us, with artillery from our front and right, killing 1 and wounding several men. Captain Hale, acting as major of the Seventy-fifth Illinois, and Lieutenant Hall, of my staff, each had a horse killed under him.
General Kirk's brigade at this time moved into position upon our right. Captain Pinney's battery drove back the enemy from our front, and, under cover of his fire, our skirmishers were advanced to the open field, when night closed the contest. The men lay down without fires or shelter, and in the morning were awakened and standing in order of battle one hour before the first dawn of light. The battery horses stood at their pieces during the night, ready for any emergency.
As soon as it became light, the enemy were discovered moving in great numbers toward our right, and nearly parallel with our line, with the evident design of turning the right wing of the army. I immediately dispatched Lieutenant Jones, of my staff, to inform Brigadier-General Davis.
The right of the brigade extended into a dense and almost impenetrable thicket of cedars, connecting there with the left of General Kirk's brigade, and in that direction nothing could be seen on account of the thicket. For more than half an hour the enemy's dark columns flowed toward our right, where the volleys of musketry and their advancing cheers from that direction assured me that they had driven the brigades on our right from their position, and were already in our rear, and I accordingly changed front nearly perpendicularly to the rear to meet them.
The Seventy-fourth Illinois, Col. Jason Marsh, and the Seventy-fifth Illinois, commanded by Lieut. Col. J. E. Bennett, were stationed behind a fence in the edge of the timber. By order of Brigadier-General Davis, several companies were added to our force of skirmishers, and, under his direction, Pinney's battery took position in a corn-field, with the Fifty-ninth Illinois Infantry, commanded by Capt. H. E. Paine, supporting it on the left. Perceiving that the enemy were still far beyond our right, I deployed my reserve regiment, the Twenty-second Indiana, Colonel Gooding commanding, on the right of the battery. The Sixth Regiment Indiana Infantry, having been separated from its brigade, was placed about 400 paces in rear as a reserve.
Captain Pinney opened upon the advancing line with all his guns, and when they came within range of his canister and the fire of the supporting regiment, the execution was so great that the entire line recoiled before it, but, after temporary confusion, they were rallied and lay down. The enemy opened a battery upon the hill and advanced a second line.
Captain Pinney's guns were splendidly handled, and great credit is due to Lieutenants Humphrey, Gardner, and McKnight, and to the men of the company, for their promptness and skill. No shots were wasted over the heads of the enemy. For about thirty minutes this fierce contest continued, while the enemy on our right had advanced, so as to again endanger our rear.
As those in front rallied and charged upon the battery on the double-quick, the Fifty-ninth Illinois Regiment fixed bayonets to receive them, but, with the large force unopposed upon our right, the position was already untenable, even though that in front was repulsed, and I ordered the battery withdrawn.
Captain Pinney was dangerously, if not mortally, wounded. He fell, and was left on the spot where he executed his most gallant deeds. Lieutenant-Colonel Tanner, of the Twenty-second Indiana, and many others seriously wounded, were left upon the field.
Eighteen of the battery horses were disabled, and one gun, in consequence, could not be brought off. One Parrott gun had but two wounded horses before it. I ordered the Fifty-ninth Regiment to drag the guns to the rear. As the battery reached the Nashville pike, it was charged upon by cavalry, and partially captured, but they were quickly driven away by the Fourth Regiment Regular Cavalry, and, crossing Overall's Creek, it took a position, under the direction of Lieutenant Hall, on a hill to the right of the Nashville pike, from which it repeatedly shelled and drove back the enemy's cavalry, endeavoring to take possession of the road.
The Seventy-fourth and Seventy-fifth Illinois Regiments fell back across the cotton-field, and, under the direction of Lieutenant Jones, who also rallied a number of detachments from other regiments, made a determined resistance, again checking the foe. The fresh troops from the reserves here relieved the brigade, and I proceeded to the pike, reformed my shattered battalions, and supplied them with ammunition.
I was soon ordered by Brigadier-General Davis to move up the pike and take position on the right of the line, and here, exhausted, the men lay down for the night.
The next morning I was ordered to occupy the open field to the left of the pike, where I caused a breastwork to be thrown up, the battery being in position to enfilade the enemy's lines attempting an attack. A strong force of skirmishers was thrown out, covering our front and right. The enemy opened a battery upon us, but, after a few well-directed shells from Pinney's Parrott guns, they ceased firing.
During the following day the constant skirmishing was kept up on our front, and a number of prisoners were taken. Late in the afternoon we were ordered to cross Stone's River. The stream was swollen from the heavy rains, but the entire brigade, hearing the volleys of musketry on the other side, plunged into it with cheers and debouched upon the field, which was still being contended for, and, rapidly forming, hurried to the front. All that stormy night, the men who had been previously soaked in fording the river, stood by their arms without fires, the Twenty-second Indiana and Seventy-fifth Illinois busily engaged in constructing a breastwork. During the night our pickets, under charge of Major Dutcher, of the Seventy-fourth Illinois, contested for the possession of the fields and woods in our front, and advanced a considerable distance.
Substantial breastworks were completed during January 3, under a constant fire of sharpshooters, and at night, in a pouring rain, the men again lay upon their arms.
At 2 o'clock the next morning the battery was ordered to recross the river, and at 4 o'clock, in a torrent of rain, the brigade forded the swollen stream and took its former position on the right, where it remained until January 6, when, passing through Murfreesborough, we encamped at this place.
During the long contest, and notwithstanding the extreme inclemency of the weather and the scarcity of provisions, no word of complaint was heard. Officers and men seemed alike anxious to do their full duty as patriot soldiers. In our advance they pushed forward boldly, and when greatly superior numbers were hurled against them they awaited the onset with the utmost coolness and determination. The temporary confusion which occurred when they fell back was caused, to a considerable extent, by the large force of skirmishers thrown out to check the enemy, having been driven toward the left, instead of directly upon their own regiments. The deliberation and order with which the Seventy-fourth Illinois retired is especially commended.
During the series of engagements the several regimental commanders displayed great persistence and resolution, and everywhere encouraged their men.
Too much praise cannot be awarded to the dauntless and skillful Captain Pinney, whose characteristic conduct elicited compliment even from his foes.
I herewith transmit the reports of the regimental and battery commanders, together with a full list of casualties.
The gallant bearing of Captain Hale, of the Seventy-fifth Illinois, who had chief command of the skirmishers; of Captain Litson, of the Twenty-second Indiana, and of Sergt. P.S. Ferguson, of Company G, Fifty-ninth Illinois, one of the skirmishers, is deserving of mention. Assistant Surgeon Corbus, of the Seventy-fifth Illinois, and Assistant Surgeon Bunce, of the Fifty-ninth Illinois, remained with and took care of our wounded while the fight was raging around them.
The zeal and decision shown by Lieutenants Jones, Hall, Hatch, and Baker, members of my staff, and the intrepidity of my faithful orderly, George Fogle, demand my highest commendation.
The names of the self-constituted messengers, who carried to Nashville, with such unparalleled celerity, the tidings of the battle of December 31, have already been forwarded. In the hour of trial, showing themselves false as the news they manufactured and disseminated, their infamy only makes more bright by contrast the imperishable record of those who nobly struggled or bravely fell in that unequal contest.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
P. SIDNEY POST,
Colonel, Commanding First Brigade.
RETURN TO BATTLE OF STONE'S RIVER OFFICIAL RECORDS PAGE