much more nearly south, with Johnson's division in reserve; but that this matter must be confided to him, who knew the ground over which he had fought. At nine P. M. the corps commanders met at the headquarters of the General Commanding, who explained to them the following plan of the battle : McCook was to occupy the most advantageous position, refusing his right as much as practicable and necessary to secure it, to receive the attack of the enemy; or if that did not come, to attack himself sufficient to hold all the force on his front. Thomas and Palmer to open with skirmishing, and gain the enemy's centre and left, as far as the river. Crittenden to cross Van Cleve's division at the lower ford, covered and supported by the sappers and miners, and to advance on Breckinridge. Wood's division to follow by brigades, crossing at the upper ford and moving on Van Cleve's right, to carry every thing before them into Murfreesboro. This would have given us two divisions against one; and as soon as Breckinridge had been dislodged from his position, the batteries of Wood's division, taking position on the heights east of Stone River, in advance, would see the enemy's work in reverse, would dislodge them, and enable Palmer's division to press them back, and drive them westward across the river or through the woods; while Thomas, sustaining the movement on the centre, would advance on the right of Palmer, crushing their right; and Crittenden's corps advancing, would take Murfreesboro; and then moving westward on the Franklin road, get in their flank and rear, and drive them into the country toward Salem, with the prospect of cutting off their retreat, and probably destroying their army. It was explained to them that this combination, insuring us a vast superiority on our left, required for its success that General McCook should be able to hold his position for three hours; that if necessary to recede at all, he should recede as he had advanced on the preceding day, slowly and steadily, refusing his right, thereby rendering our success certain. Having thus explained the plan, the General Commanding addressed General McCook as follows: “You know the ground; you have fought over its difficulties. Can you hold your present position for three hours?” To which General McCook replied: “Yes, I think I can.” The General Commanding then said, “I don't like the facing so much to the east, but must confide that to you, who know the ground. If you don't think your present the best position, change it;” and the officers then retired to their commands. At daylight on the morning of the thirty-first, the troops breakfasted and stood to their arms, and by seven o'clock were preparing for the battle. The movement began on the left by Gen. Van Cleve, who crossed at the lower fords; Wood prepared to sustain and follow him. The enemy meanwhile had prepared to attack Gen. McCook, and by half-past 6 o'clock advanced in heavy columns — regimental front — his left attacking Willich's and Kirk's brigades of Johnson's division, which, being disposed as shown in the map, thin and light, without support, were, after a sharp but fruitless contest, crumbled to pieces, and driven back, leaving Edgarton and part of Goodspeed's battery in the hands of the enemy. The enemy following up, attacked Davis's division, and speedily dislodged Post's brigade ; Carlin's brigade was compelled to follow, as Woodruff's brigade, from the weight of testimony, had previously left its position on his left. Johnson's brigade, on retiring, inclined too far to the west, and were too much scattered to make a combined resistance, though they fought bravely at one or two points before reaching Wilkinson's pike. The reserve brigade of Johnson's division, advancing from its bivouac near Wilkinson's pike, toward the right, took a good position, and made a gallant but ineffectual stand, as the whole rebel left was moving up on the ground abandoned by our troops. Within an hour from the time of the opening of the battle, a staff-officer from General McCook arrived, announcing to me that the right wing was heavily pressed, and needed assistance ; but I was not advised of the rout of Willich's and Kirby's brigades, nor of the rapid withdrawal of Davis's division, necessitated thereby — moreover having supposed his wing posted more compactly and his right more refused than it really was, the direction of the noise of battle did not indicate to me the true state of affairs. I consequently directed him to return, and direct General McCook to dispose his troops to the best advantage, and to hold his ground obstinately. Soon after a second officer from General McCook arrived, and stated that the right wing was being driven — a fact that was but too manifest, by the rapid movement of the noise of battle toward the north. General Thomas was immediately despatched to order Rousseau — there in reserve — into the cedar brakes to the right and rear of Sheridan. General Crittenden was ordered to suspend Van Cleve's movement across the river, on the left, and to cover the crossing with one brigade, and move the other two brigades westward across the fields toward the railroad, for a reserve. Wood was also directed to suspend his preparations for crossing, and to hold Hascall in reserve. At this moment fugitives and stragglers from McCook's corps began to make their appearance through the cedar brakes, in such numbers that I became satisfied that McCook's corps was routed. I therefore directed General Crittenden to send Van Cleve into the right of Rousseau. Wood to send Colonel Harker's brigade further down the Murfreesboro pike, to go in and attack the enemy on the right of Van Cleve, the Pioneer brigade meanwhile occupying the knoll of ground west of Murfreesboro pike, and about four or five hundred yards in rear of Palmer's centre, supporting Stokes's battery. (See accompanying drawing.) Sheridan, after sustaining four successive attacks, gradually swung his right from a south-easterly
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Rebel reports and Narratives.
Doc . 91 .- General Sherman 's expedition.
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