previous next

[154] strong, drawn up before Murfreeboro, facing the rebels in heavy force. The ground was favorable for manoeuver — large open fields, densely wooded tracts of cedar, and thinner ones of oak; the gentle swells of the land scarcely increased by the banks of Stone River, which ran through the lines of both armies, and was practicable for all arms at numerous places. The Federal force included the splendid army organized and led for nearly a year by Major-Gen. Buell, with their first glorious prestige of Shiloh yet undimmed by a reverse, some small force from the old army of the Mississippi, and the reenforcements received at Louisville in September, new troops in their first campaign. The general organization was by wings; the right, three divisions, under Major-general McCook; the left, three divisions, under Major-Gen. Crittenden; and centre, two divisions present, under Major-General Thomas. Divisions, three brigades, brigades, (not uniform,) four or five regiments.

In the line of battle a division had a front of two brigades, (each in two deployed lines,) and one brigade in reserve, a great change from the strong, mobile, easily controlled line of Buell, in which a brigade had two regiments deployed in the first line, one deployed in the second, (brigade reserve,) and one in double column in the third line, the three latter forming the division reserve. To the left of the Nashville and Murfreesboro pike, one brigade of Wood's division formed the left of the Federal line; Palmer's division was deployed to the right of the pike, leaving two brigades of Wood's and the whole of Van Cleve's division as the reserve of the left wing. Then the centre, with Negley's division deployed and Rousseau's in reserve, but so located as to be available at the extreme left as well as the centre.

The three divisions of the right wing were deployed, extending the line beyond the Nolinsville pike a considerable distance. The cavalry, two brigades, were equally divided upon the flanks.

This disposition was made for an attack, and the concentration of troops at the left indicated that the design was upon the enemy's right. The left was certainly strong enough to justify the most sanguine hopes of success, but the undue weakness of the long line of the right wing, which also lost something in advantage of position by being too far advanced, made it liable to overthrow by a sudden concentration of the enemy upon its flank. The enemy resisted with some pertinacity the centre and right in taking position, while upon the left comparatively little demonstration was made.

At daylight of the thirty-first, Gen. Rosecrans's order announcing the intended attack, was communicated to the troops of the left and centre, who had moved out from their bivouacs, in readiness to advance. At about the same time, however, the enemy, who had thrown heavy forces to his left, attacked with great vigor the extreme right of McCook. Pressing rapidly forward, the enemy, though losing heavily at every step, succeeded in forcing back the two right divisions of General McCook. The attack, indeed, was a surprise to at least a portion of Johnson's division. One battery, with horses unhitched, had barely time to put them in harness to be shot down, and fell into the enemy's hands after firing a dozen shots. McCook's left division (Sheridan's) sustained the assault with success, but the line on its right having given way, it was exposed in front, flank, and rear. Twice this heroic division changed front and hurled back the overwhelming mass of foes, and when outflanked and nearly encircled, with every brigade commander killed or wounded, was retired in good order. The centre division (Negley's) was also unable to hold its position, and fell back.

The events narrated above occupied scarcely two hours, so energetic and persistent was the assault, and so rapid the pursuit of the enemy. A forward movement of Palmer's division to occupy a favorable crest, preliminary to the grand assault by the left wing, was already in progress when it was prevented by intelligence of the disaster to the right. While Negley's division was engaged, the reserve of the centre (lying behind the right brigade of the left wing) was ordered forward to his support. Had this force (Rousseau's) gone forward in time to support the brave division of Sheridan in its desperate attempts to check the enemy, the three divisions which would then have occupied the centre of the original line (Negley's, Sheridan's, and Rousseau's) would probably have held the ground, the left wing would still have been strong enough to attack with good prospect of success, and the original order of battle would not have been lost, while the enemy's position would have been more favorable to assault in this direction than could have been reasonably calculated upon had the battle opened with our left. Why this reserve did not go at the time mentioned, is unknown to the writer. Possibly Gen. Rosecrans, confident of the ability of McCook to recover himself, and unaware of the disaster, was willing he should yield some ground to the enemy. The formation of the right wing was far too weak, however, its line much too extended to render such a course safe, and from the moment it gave ground, it was in disaster. Finally Rousseau's reserve moved into the dense cedars in rear of Negley, and its deployment was commenced. It was discovered at this critical moment that it was difficult, if not impossible to move the artillery from the narrow roads which had been cut through the thicket, into positions where it could be used to advantage.

The deployment of the infantry was effected, but without engaging, (saving a battalion on the right, which was suddenly assailed in flank by the enemy, and partially confused,) the entire division was moved a considerable distance to the rear, and finally formed upon favorable ground directly in rear of the right of Crittenden's wing. Negley, of course, could do nothing less than fall back then; his line had in fact already yielded for want of support. Sheridan's glorious resistance and the firmness of Negley's men had, however, covered the perambulations of the reserve, and that force was in readiness to receive the

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Stone River (Tennessee, United States) (1)
Shiloh, Tenn. (Tennessee, United States) (1)
Louisville (Kentucky, United States) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
September (1)
31st (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: