Report of Maj. Gen. James B. Steedman, U.S. Army,
Commanding Provisional Detachment (District of the Etowah),
The Battle of Nashville
HEADQUARTERS DISTRICT OF THE ETOWAH,
Chattanooga, January 27, 1865.
Brig. Gen. W. D. WHIPPLE,
Chief of Staff.
GENERAL: I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of my command during the recent campaign which resulted in the defeat of the enemy before Nashville and his retreat to Alabama: In obedience to the orders of Major-General Thomas, my command--consisting of the Eighteenth Regiment Ohio Volunteers, Sixty-eighth Regiment Indiana Volunteers, Sixth Indiana (dismounted)Cavalry; Fourteenth, Sixteenth, and Forty-fourth U.S. Colored Troops; detachments of the Fourteenth, Twentieth, and Seventeenth Army Corps, organized into a provisional division and commanded by Brig. Gen. Charles Cruft; and the Eighteenth Ohio and Twentieth Indiana Batteries; amounting in the aggregate to about 5,200 men--moved from Chattanooga, by railroad, on the 29th day of November, and proceeded to Cowan, Tenn., where I took my command from the cars the next morning at 8 o'clock and placed it in position. At 6 p.m. of the same day I received an order, by telegraph, from the major-general commanding to proceed as rapidly as possible with my command and report to him at Nashville, arriving at that place at 5 p.m. on the 1st day of December. By an accident to one of the trains the command of Colonel Johnson, of the Forty-fourth U.S. Colored Troops, was detained until the morning of the 2d of December, when the train conveying his troops was attacked by the cavalry of the enemy five miles south of Nashville. I herewith submit Colonel Johnson's report of his encounter with the enemy.
On the 2d day of December I moved my command, by order of the major-general commanding, into position, and occupied and fortified the ridge between the Murfreesborough and Nolensville pikes, and crossing the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad on Rains' farm.
December 3, by order of Major-General Thomas, I withdrew my command from the position occupied the day previous and placed it on a line indicated near the city of Nashville, on the north side of Brown's Creek, extending from the Nolensville pike across the Murfreesborough pike, the left resting near the house of Major Lewis, a short distance from the Lebanon pike. This position was strongly fortified by my troops, and held until they were withdrawn to participate in the action on the 15th of December.
December 5 and 7, by order of Major-General Thomas, I directed a small brigade of colored troops, under the command of Col. T. J. Morgan, of the Fourteenth U.S. Colored Troops, and the Sixty-eighth Indiana Volunteers and Sixth Indiana (dismounted) Cavalry, under the command of Colonel Biddle, to reconnoiter the position of the enemy in my front. This force on both days drove the enemy from the left of the works constructed by my command on Rains' farm, which he had taken possession of after my troops abandoned them. These reconnaissances were conducted by the officers in Command with prudence, energy, and ability, and were successful in developing the enemy s position. A detailed account of the result will be found in the report of Colonel Morgan, herewith forwarded.
December 11, in compliance with the order of Major-General Thomas, I directed Brigadier-General Cruft to reconnoiter the enemy's position. This reconnaissance, made by a brigade under the command of Col. J. G. Mitchell, owing to the whole surface of the country being covered with ice, rendering it almost impossible for men or animals to move over uneven ground, and on account of the steep slopes to be ascended in approaching the position of the enemy, was a difficult duty, but it was accomplished and the position of the enemy developed.
December 13, in obedience to the orders of Major-General Thomas, a brigade of General Cruft's troops, under the command of Col. A. G. Malloy, reconnoitered in front of my position, and felt the enemy's right. The ground being still covered with smooth ice rendered the movement tedious and hazardous, but under all the disadvantages was skillfully executed, the enemy forced into his works, and the object of the reconnaissance accomplished. The movement was made under the immediate direction of General Cruft.
December 15, the weather having moderated, and the ground thawed sufficiently to enable men and animals to stand up, in obedience to the orders of Major-General Thomas, the Provisional Division of troops, under the command of Brigadier-General Cruft, moved at 4 a.m., and relieved the troops of the Fourth and Twenty-third Army Corps, occupying their exterior line of works and picketing the front of this line from the Acklen place to Fort Negley, and commanding the approaches to the' city by the Granny White, Franklin, and Nolensville turnpikes. Brig. Gen. J. F. Miller reported his command to me at 4 a.m., and occupied the works from Fort Negley to the Lebanon pike, commanding the approaches to the city by the Murfreesborough, Chicken, and Lebanon turnpikes. Brig. Gen. J. L. Donaldson reported his command at 6 o'clock, and occupied the works from the right of General Cruft's command to the Tennessee River, commanding the approach to the city by the Hardin and Hillsborough turnpikes. Having thus disposed the troops as directed for the protection of the city--fully commanding all its approaches--and rendering the public property and supplies secure against sudden attack from either flank I moved out at 6.30 a.m., in obedience to the orders of Major-General Thomas--with the Twelfth, Thirteenth, and One hundredth Regiments of Colored Troops, under the command of Colonel Thompson, of the Twelfth Colored; the Fourteenth, Seventeenth, Forty-fourth, and a detachment of the Eighteenth Regiment Colored Troops, under command of Col. T. J. Morgan, of the Fourteenth Colored; the Sixty-eighth Indiana Volunteers, Eighteenth Ohio Volunteers, and the Second Battalion, Fourteenth Army Corps, under command of Lieut. Col. C. H. Grosvenor; and the Twentieth Indiana and Eighteenth Ohio Batteries--to attack the enemy's right, employ his forces at that point, and as far as possible by my movements to mislead him as to the real point of attack. The fog was very dense, and delayed somewhat movements on the entire line. A few minutes before 8, when the fog had partially cleared away and all my dispositions had been made for attack, Brig. Gen. W. D. Whipple, chief of staff' of the Department of the Cumberland, instructed me, by order of Major-General Thomas, as to the time of attack. At 8 o'clock, the time designated, the attack was made by the troops of Colonel Morgan and Lieutenant-Colonel Grosvenor, Colonel Morgan commanding, advancing from the Murfreesborough turnpike toward Riddle's Hill, rapidly driving in the pickets of the enemy and assaulting his line of works between the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad and the Murfreesborough turnpike. In this assault the troops behaved well, carrying a portion of the enemy's works, but as they were exposed to a destructive fire, the enemy rapidly re-enforcing that part of his line, and as my object was to deceive the enemy as to the purposes of the major-general commanding, I withdrew this force, and immediately reformed it for an attack on a force occupying an earth-work east of and within short musket range of the Rains house. This attack was made at 11 a.m., and resulted in my troops getting possession of the Rains house, and other adjacent brick outbuildings, which were loopholed and held until the next morning. While these attacks were being made by the troops under Colonel Morgan, Colonel Thompson's command moved across Brown's Creek, between the Nolensville and Murfreesborough turnpikes, and attacked and carried the left of the front line of works of the enemy resting on the Nolensville pike. This portion of the enemy's line was held by Colonel Thompson's command until the morn-in, of the 16th.
During the operations of my command against the enemy's right, General Cruft, holding the exterior line protecting the city, and watching vigilantly all the movements, saw an opportunity to use his artillery on a flying column of the enemy's troops, and promptly ordered the Twenty-fourth [Twenty-fifth?] Indiana Battery, Captain Sturm, to open, which he did with effect, scattering and demoralizing the force.
Darkness closed the operations of the day; all the orders I received from Major-General Thomas had been executed--his plans successful, and victory crowned our efforts. Throughout the day, and until the action closed at dark, my command behaved nobly, making the several assaults ordered with cool, steady bravery, retiring only when ordered to do so. A portion of the command suffered severely; but no troops, behaving as gallantly as they did in assaulting fortified positions, could have suffered less, or borne their losses more heroically.
December 16, at 6 a.m., in obedience to the orders of Major-General Thomas, my command moved on the enemy's works, and found that he had evacuated the right of his line in my front during the night. Rushing out my troops on the Nolensville pike, rapidly driving his cavalry, I took up a position between the Nolensville pike and the left of the Fourth Corps, commanded by Brig. Gen. T. J. Wood, my right resting on the railroad, my left refused near the Nolensville pike, and covering the entire left of our line, engaging and putting to flight a portion of the enemy's cavalry. General Cruft, as I advanced with the troops under my immediate command, uncovering the approaches to the city by way of the Murfreesborough and Nolensville turnpikes, promptly pushed forward a brigade of his troops, under the command of Col. John G. Mitchell, and occupied Riddle Hill, protecting our rear against any attempt of the enemy to use his cavalry to annoy us or interfere with our ammunition or ambulance train. At 1 p.m., in obedience to an order from Major-General Thomas, my command formed a junction with the command of General Wood, and my troops united with General Wood's in assaulting the enemy, who was strongly posted and fortified on Overton's Hill. In this assault, although unsuccessful, the troops engaged--two brigades of General Wood's, and Colonel Thompson's brigade of colored troops, and Lieutenant-Colonel Grosvenor's brigade from my command-- exhibited courage and steadiness that challenged the admiration of all who witnessed the charge. The concentrated fire of musketry and canister from the enemy's works forced them back, with severe loss They were immediately reformed to renew the assault, which would have been promptly made, but a division of General Wood's troops, as I was informed, on the right of the Franklin pike, taking advantage of the withdrawal by the enemy of a portion of his troops in their front to re-enforce Over-ton Hill, made a charge, which caused the entire line of the enemy to give way and retreat rapidly and in disorder. My troops, in conjunction with General Wood's, immediately pursued, rapidly, taking a number of prisoners. The pursuit was continued until after dark, when our exhausted troops bivouacked for the night near Brentwood.
December 17, my command, in obedience to orders, continued the pursuit, covering and protecting the left of our line, moving from Brentwood, on the Wilson pike, to a point four miles south of Brentwood, and crossing from that point by a southwest road to Franklin, where it bivouacked for the night, not being able to cross the Harpeth River, which was much swollen by the heavy rain of the night and day previous, and the bridges destroyed by the enemy.
December 18, my command moved across the river and proceeded about three miles beyond Franklin, on the road to Spring Hill, when, in obedience to orders, I returned with my troops to Franklin and marched to Murfreesborough, to proceed by rail to Decatur. Moving General Cruft's troops from Nashville by the Murfreesborough pike, the whole command was concentrated at Murfreesborough on the evening of the 20th. At Murfreesborough I received dispatches from Col. A. J. Mackay, chief quartermaster of the department, informing me that the transportation necessary to move my command by rail to Decatur was on the way from Chattanooga, and transports conveying supplies would meet me at such point as I might designate. These orders and dispositions of Colonel Mackay were all perfect, but the severe cold weather, the injuries to the road, and the criminal negligence, incompetency, and indifference of a portion of the railroad employés, occasioned serious delays.
On the morning of the 22d of December my command moved from Murfreesborough, reaching the mouth of Limestone River on the evening of the 26th, where I found Brig. Gen. R. S. Granger, with his command, with four gun-boats, one armed transport (the Stone River), and five transports, with rations and forage forwarded from Chattanooga for my command.
December 27, having constructed the trestles and secured the plank necessary to bridge a lagoon, on the south side of the Tennessee River, the night previous, I moved a portion of my command, with the transports, convoyed by the gun-boats, down the river to a point three miles above Decatur, where a landing was effected, the lagoon rapidly bridged, the troops crossed, and pushed out in the direction of Decatur. The enemy attempted to check the crossing of the troops with artillery, which he posted within half a mile of where we were crossing the lagoon, but my advance having crossed before this artillery opened was rapidly pushed out and drove it off. At 3 p.m. the whole of my infantry had crossed, and at 7 p.m. was in possession of Decatur.
December 28, my artillery and cavalry was crossed; the command rationed and moved out three miles on the road to Courtland. The cavalry--the Fifteenth Pennsylvania, Colonel Palmer, and detachments of the Second Tennessee, Tenth, Twelfth, and Thirteenth Indiana, under command of Lieutenant-Colonel Prosser, amounting in the aggregate to about 650 effective men, Col. William J. Palmer, of the Fifteenth Pennsylvania, commanding--moved from Decatur at 8 p.m., and pushed rapidly forward, encountering the enemy six miles from the river, on the Courtland road, and at once attacked and routed him, capturing his artillery--a section of six-pounder brass guns.
December 29, my command moved at daylight, the cavalry in advance, and went into camp at 5 o'clock within four miles of Court-land. The infantry met no opposition. The cavalry skirmished most of the day in advance of the infantry, driving the enemy rapidly toward Courtland. At Pond Spring, three miles northeast of Courtland, he made a stand, but was immediately charged and routed by my cavalry. The report of Colonel Palmer, commanding the cavalry, herewith forwarded, gives a full account of this affair.
December 30, my infantry moved to Courtland, and went into camp on the south side of the town on Big Nance Creek, the cavalry pushing on as far as Leighton, thirteen miles west of Courtland. At 5 p.m.I received a dispatch from Colonel Palmer, written at Leighton, asking my permission to pursue, capture, and destroy Hood's pontoon train. I immediately gave him permission to exercise his own judgment in the matter. He decided to pursue, and in the most splendid manner not only accomplished all he proposed--the destruction of the pontoon train--but pursued, captured, and destroyed a supply train of 110 wagons. Colonel Palmer's command, in this enterprising and daring expedition, captured and destroyed upward of 300 wagons, nearly 1,000 stand of arms, a large number of mules and oxen, and captured and turned over 2 pieces of artillery, 200 prisoners, including 13 commissioned officers, and 170 serviceable mules. To support the movement of Colonel Palmer I advanced two brigades of infantry, under command of Colonel Thompson, to Town Creek, seven miles west of Courtland, and one brigade, under command of Colonel Salm, to Leighton. General Cruft's division, with the artillery, remained at Courtland.
January 3, having learned that Colonel Palmer had been successful, and receiving an order from Major-general Thomas to return with my command to Chattanooga, I moved with my infantry and artillery for Decatur, reaching that place on the evening of the 5th of January.
January 4, at 1 a.m., I moved with the artillery and sick of the command on board the transports for Chattanooga, leaving Brig. Gen. Cruft to return with the infantry by rail. General Cruft was delayed several days on his return by an order from Major-General Thomas directing him to pursue the rebel General Lyon. This portion of the campaign, owing to the heavy rains swelling all the streams out of their banks and rendering the roads almost wholly impassable, was very arduous, but was skillfully and satisfactorily conducted by General Cruft, resulting in the capture of a part of Lyon's men, and driving all who escaped out of the country utterly demoralized. The report of General Cruft, herewith forwarded, gives a detailed history of his operations in pursuit of General Lyon. January 13 General Cruft returned to Chattanooga with his command.
The following table will show the casualties of my command during the entire campaign:
O = Officers. M = Men.
Command Organized as the First Colored Brigade,
Col. T.J. Morgan commanding.
14th U.S. Colored Infantry --- 4 --- 41 --- 20 --- 65 44th U.S. Colored Infantry 1 2 --- 27 2 49 3 78 16th U.S. Colored Infantry --- 1 --- 2 --- --- --- 3 18th U.S. Colored Infantry --- 1 --- 5 --- 3 --- 9 17th U.S. Colored Infantry 2 14 4 64 --- --- 6 78 Organized as the Second Colored Brigade, Col. C.R. Thompson commanding 12th U.S. Colored Infantry 3 10 3 99 --- --- 6 109 13th U.S. Colored Infantry 4 51 4 161 --- 1 8 213 100th U.S. Colored Infantry --- 12 5 116 --- --- 5 128 Included in the Provisional Division, Armyof the Cumberland, Brigadier-General Cruft commanding. 18th Ohio Infantry 2 9 2 38 --- 9 4 56 68th Indiana Infantry --- 1 --- 7 --- --- --- 8 Provisional Division, Army
of the Cumberland
1 19 3 74 --- 33 4 126 20th Indiana Battery --- --- 2 6 --- --- 2 6 Captain Osborne Total 13 124 23 640 2 115 38 879
The larger portion of these losses, amounting in the aggregate to fully 25 per cent. of the men under my command who were taken into action, it will be observed fell upon the colored troops. The severe loss of this part of my troops was in their brilliant charge on the enemy's works on Overton Hill on Friday afternoon. I was unable to discover that color made any difference in the fighting of my troops. All, white and black, nobly did their duty as soldiers, and evinced cheerfulness and resolution such as I have never seen excelled in any campaign of the war in which I have borne a part.
In closing this brief report of the operations of my command during the campaign, I feel that justice compels me to mention several officers who distinguished themselves by their energy, courage, and unremitting efforts to secure success.
Brig. Gen. Charles Cruft performed herculean labor in organizing, arming, and equipping the detachments of recruits, drafted men, and furloughed soldiers of the Army of the Tennessee to the number of 14,000--10,000 of whom took part in the campaign, in the battles before Nashville and in guarding the railroad defenses south of the Tennessee River. Six thousand of these men were commanded by the general in person in the field from the commencement until the close of the campaign. The general deserves the thanks of the country for the able and efficient manner in which he has performed this duty.
Brig. Gen. John F. Miller, commanding post of Nashville, displayed energy, efficiency, and promptness in placing his troops in position to hold a portion of the exterior line protecting the city of Nashville.
I am much indebted to Brigadier-General Donaldson, chief quartermaster of the department, for his efficient and energetic efforts to fit out my command on its arrival at Nashville, and for the assistance he rendered with the armed men of his department in protecting the city of Nashville pending the engagement. My thanks are due Col. A. J. Mackay, chief quartermaster Army of the Cumberland, for his promptness in furnishing transportation to convey my command from Murfreesborough to Decatur, and forwarding supplies for my troops, by transports, to the mouth of Limestone River.
Col. Felix Prince Salm, Sixty-eighth New York Veteran Volunteers, commanded a provisional brigade of my troops, and exhibited high qualities as a soldier. I respectfully recommend him for promotion.
Col. T. J. Morgan, Fourteenth U.S. Colored Troops, behaved gallantly. I respectfully recommend him for promotion.
Lieut. Col. C. H. Grosvenor, Eighteenth Ohio Volunteers, behaved nobly in leading a charge on the rebel works, on the Rains place.
The following officers of my staff accompanied me on the campaign and discharged all the duties that devolved upon them in a most satisfactory manner: Col. C. S. Cotter, First Ohio Light Artillery, chief of artillery; Maj. S. B. Moe, assistant adjutant-general; Capt. A. Mills, Eighteenth U.S. Infantry, inspector; Capt. M. Davis, Fourteenth Ohio Volunteers, aide-de-camp; Capt. W. B. Steedman, Fourteenth Ohio Volunteers, aide-de-camp; Lieut. J. G. McAdams, Sixth Kentucky Cavalry, acting commissary of subsistence. Col. H. B. Banning, One hundred and twenty-first Ohio Volunteers, served me ably as provost-marshal; Capt. A. R. Keller, assistant quartermaster, reported to me, and rendered me efficient service as quartermaster for my command.
I am deeply indebted to Maj. S. B. Moe, my assistant adjutant-gen-eral, for his efficient and gallant services on the field, as well as for the valuable aid which his large experience as a railroad man enabled him to render me in pushing through the trains conveying my troops from Chattanooga to Nashville, and from Murfreesborough to Decatur.
Captain Osborne, Twentieth Indiana Battery, and Captain Aleshire, Eighteenth Ohio Battery, deserve praise for the effective and gallant manner in which they handled their respective batteries.
I am pleased to mention Mr. Stevens, superintendent of the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad, Mr. Talmadge, master of transportation at Chattanooga, and Mr. Bryant, assistant superintendent Nashville and Chattanooga road, as most honorable exceptions among the railroad men who have been censured by me for neglect of duty. These gentlemen did everything in their power to aid me in getting over the railroad with my command. I respectfully commend them for their efforts.
I respectfully recommend Col. William J. Palmer, Fifteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry, for promotion for distinguished, gallant, and successful services in pursuing, capturing, and destroying the pontoon and supply train of the enemy.
I fully concur in all that General Cruft has said in his report in commendation of the officers of his command.
Mr. James R. Hood, of Chattanooga, accompanied me throughout the campaign, and rendered me efficient and valuable services as a volunteer aide.
JAMES B. STEEDMAN,
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