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[157] Thomas's entire corps from the extreme right of the army on the Franklin road, to the Murfreesboro road. Crittenden's corps, constituting the left wing of the army, had moved down the Murfreesboro road from Nashville, and we came upon it at Stewart's Creek. Gen. McCook's corps, constituting the right wing of the army, had, as already stated, moved down the Nolinsville pike. So that, on the morning of the twenty-ninth, the left and centre were united at Stewart's Creek, while the right was moving cautiously down a converging road to meet the left and centre at Stone River. Such were the movements by which Gen. Rosecrans concentrated his army, scattered on the various roads leading into Nashville, into a solid mass in front of Murfreesboro. On the twenty-ninth, the enemy, in considerable force, disputed the ground with the head of our column. There was artillery skirmishing in the morning and throughout the day, but the advance of the column was not seriously obstructed. General Rousseau's division remained at Stewart's throughout the twenty-ninth, and that night of his brigades, with Stone's battery and two companies of the Second Kentucky cavalry, was detached to the left to guard a bridge on the Jefferson road, where they subsequently had a smart engagement with the enemy. On the morning of the thirtieth the remaining three brigades moved forward seven miles, to this ground, destined soon to be baptized historical in their blood and that of their brave comrades. We bivouacked on the night of the thirtieth in the woods on both sides of the road, on the crest of a hill, just three miles and a half from Murfreesboro.

An account of what followed, in order to be intelligible, must be preceded by a description of the field.

As the road from Nashville to Murfreesboro approaches the latter place, it suddenly finds itself parallel with Stone River. The stream flowing east crosses the road a mile this side of Murfreesboro. Abruptly changing its course, it flows north along the road, and not more than four hundred yards distant, for more than two miles. It is a considerable stream, but fordable in many places at low water. The narrow tongue of land between the turnpike road and the river is divided by the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad, which, running down the centre of the wedge-like tract, bisects the turnpike half a mile this side of where the latter crosses the river. Just in rear of the spot where the third mile-stone from Murfreesboro stands, the turnpike and railroad, at that point about fifty yards apart, run through a slight cut, and this a few rods further on is succeeded by a slight fill. The result is to convert both railroad and turnpike, for a distance of two or three hundred yards, into a natural rifle-pit. The account to which the genius of Rousseau turned this will be seen after a while. On each side of the road at this point there are open fields. That on the left extends to the curtain of timber which fringes the river, and also half a mile to the front along the road, when it gives place to an oak woods of no great density or extent. To the left. and front, however, it opens out into a large open plain, which flanks the woods just mentioned, and extends on up the river in the direction of Murfreesboro for a mile or so. In the field on the left of the railroad there is a rise or hill of no great height, sloping down to the railroad and commanding all the ground to the front and right. It was here that Guenther's and Loomis's batteries were posted in the terrible conflict of Wednesday. The open field on the right of the turnpike road is perhaps three hundred yards wide, and is bounded on the west by an almost impenetrable cedar forest. It extends indefinitely to the front, and beyond the extreme southern line of the cedars, which is half a mile to the point, sweeps away into broad, open fields, constituting a large plantation. Just in rear of the cedar forest, and marking its extreme northern limit, is a long, narrow opening, containing about ten acres. There is a swell in the field on the right of the road, corresponding with the one on the left, but it is a Creek hundred yards further to the rear, and slopes to one the front instead of to the right. The crest of this hill on the right is curiously concave. Taking its origin precisely at the point where the oblong opening marks the northern limit of the cedar forest, it bends around towards the enemy and gradually slopes down to the front until it loses itself in the level ground just where the slight fill in the turnpike and railroad mentioned above begins. From its beginning point at the corner of the cedars, the northern end of the crest curves back upon itself and around the eastern mouth of the oblong opening heretofore described, so that after fortifying the front of the position, it returns upon itself in such a manner as to render the right flank well-nigh impregnable. In what manner Rousseau, by one of those sudden inspirations which come only to the greatest minds, availed himself of the advantages of this position to save the centre and turn the tide of battle, we shall presently see.

On the morning of the thirty-first, Rousseau's division, being a portion of the reserve of the army, was formed in line in the field on the right of the turnpike, with its left resting on the road and its right on the cedar forest. Eight o'clock came, and the battle had not yet begun on the left and in the centre, but the note of conflict came booming ominously from the right and growing rapidly nearer and nearer. Presently an aid to General Thomas came dashing up in hot haste with orders for Rousseau to move his division quietly into the cedar forest and form in Gen. Negley's rear. The necessary orders were quickly given. Two narrow roads were found leading into the cedars, and the heads of the columns were conducted along those as rapidly as possible. We made our way half a mile through the forest to the crest of a slope, whence we looked out across a depression through some new corn-fields in which dead trees were still standing thick. The brigades were filed to the right through the dense cedar growth and formed in line of battle as far as possible. The right succeeded getting into line in pretty good order,

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