previous next

[170] placed at his disposal, and instructed, with them, to drive the enemy back, crown the hill, intrench his artillery, and hold the position.

To distract their attention from our real object, a heavy artillery-fire was ordered to be opened from Polk's front, at the exact hour at which the movement was to begin; at other points throughout both lines, all was quiet. Gen. Breckinridge, at half-past 3 P. M., reported he would advance at four. Polk's batteries promptly opened fire, and were soon answered by the enemy. A heavy cannonade of some fifteen minutes was succeeded by the musketry, which soon became general. The contest was short and severe; the enemy was driven back and the eminence gained; but the movement as a whole was a failure, and the position was again yielded. Our forces were moved, unfortunately, so far to the left as to throw a portion of them into and over Stone River, where they encountered heavy masses of the enemy, whilst those against whom they were intended to operate on our side of the river, had a destructive enfilade on our whole line. Our second line was so close to the first as to receive the enemy's fire, and returning it took their friends in the rear. The cavalry force was left entirely out of the action. Learning from my own staff-officers, sent to the scene, of the disorderly retreat being made by Gen. Breckinridge's division, Brig.-General Patton Anderson's fine brigade of Mississippians, the nearest body of troops, was promptly ordered to his relief. On reaching the field and moving forward, Anderson found himself in front of Breckinridge's infantry, and soon encountered the enemy's light troops, close upon either side our artillery, which had been left without support. This noble brigade, under its cool and gallant chief, drove the enemy back and saved all the guns not captured before its arrival. Capt. F. H. Robertson, after the disabling wound received by Major Graves, chief of artillery, took the entire charge of the artillery of the division, in addition to his own. To his gallantry, energy, and fear of lessness, is due the smallness of our loss sustained before the arrival of support, only three guns. His report herewith, marked “Four,” will show the important part he played in this attack and repulse. Before the end of the whole movement it was quite dark. Anderson's command held a position next the enemy, corresponding nearly with our original line, whilst Breckinridge's brigade commanders collected their scattered men as far as practicable in the darkness, and took irregular positions on Anderson's left and rear. At daylight in the morning, they were moved forward to the front, and the whole line was established without opposition. During the night Gen. Cleburn's division was re-transferred to its original position on the right, and Lieut.-Gen. Hardee directed to resume command there and restore our line.

On Saturday morning, the third, our forces had been in line of battle five days and nights, with but little rest, having no reserves; their baggage and tents had been loaded and the wagons were four miles off; their provisions, if cooked at all, were most imperfectly prepared with scanty means; the weather had been severe from cold and almost constant rain, and we had no change of clothing, and in many places could not have fire.

The necessary consequence was the great exhaustion of both officers and men, any having to be sent to the hospitals in the rear, the more still were beginning to straggle from their commands, an evil from which we had so far suffered but little. During the whole of the day the rain continued to fall with little intermission, and the rapid rise in Stone River indicated that it would soon be unfordable. Late on Friday night I had received the captured papers of Major-General McCook, commanding one corps d'armee of the enemy, showing their effective strength to have been very nearly if not quite seventy thousand men. Before noon reports from Brig.-General Wheeler satisfied me that the enemy, instead of retiring, was receiving reenforcments.

Common prudence and the safety of my army, upon which even the safety of our cause depended, left no doubt in my mind as to the necessity for my withdrawal from so unequal a contest. My orders were accordingly given about noon for the movement of the train and for the necessary preparations of troops.

Under the efficient management of the different staff departments every thing had been secured and transferred to the rear, including prisoners captured, artillery and small arms, subsistence, means of transportation, and nearly all of our wounded able to bear moving. No movement of any kind was made by the troops during this most inclement day, until just at night, when a sharp skirmish occurred between Polk's right and the enemy's left flank, resulting in nothing decisive. The only question with me was, whether the movements should be made at once or delayed twenty-four hours to save a few of our wounded. As it was possible that we should lose by exhaustion as many as we should remove the wounded, my inclination to remain was yielded. The whole force, except the cavalry, was put in motion at eleven o'clock P. M., and the army returned in perfect order to its present position beyond Duck River, without receiving a single shot. Our cavalry held the position before Murfreesboro until Monday morning, the fifth, when it quietly retired, as ordered, to cover our front.

We left one thousand two hundred badly wounded, one half of whom we have since heard have died from the severity of their wounds; about three hundred sick, too feeble to bear transportation, and about two hundred well men and officers as medical attendants. In addition to this, the enemy had captured about eight hundred prisoners from us. As the one thousand two hundred wounded are counted once under that head among our losses, they should be expunged from the general total. As our offset to this loss, we had received, as will appear from the report of my Inspector-General herewith marked “5,” considerably over six thousand prisoners, had captured over thirty pieces of cannon, six thousand stand


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) (2)
Murfreesboro (Tennessee, United States) (1)
Duck River (Tennessee, 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.
5th (1)
3rd (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: