previous next

Doc. 17. the battle of Nashville.

General J. T. Wood's report.

headquarters Fourth Army corps, Huntsville, Ala., Jan. 5, 1865.
General: The Fourth army corps arrived in the vicinity of Nashville, on the retreat from Pulaski, on the first December ultimo. Major-General D. S. Stanley, having been wounded in the [108] conflict at Franklin, on the thirtieth November, and having received a leave of absence on account of his wound, relinquished, and I assumed, command of the corps on the second of December.

So soon as I had assumed command of the corps, I placed it in position as follows, in conformity with orders received from the commanding General of the forces in the field in person: The left of the corps rested on the Casino, and, extending westward across the Granny White and Hilsboro pike, the right rested on the left of the detachment of the Army of the Tennessee (Major-General A. S. Smith's command), midway between the Hilsboro and Harding pikes. As the condition of the forces was not such as to warrant the commencement of offensive operations immediately, the first duty to be provided for was the safety of Nashville against assault. For this purpose a line of strong intrenchments, strengthened with an abatis, slashes of timber, and pointed stakes planted firmly in the ground, was constructed along the entire front of the corps. The entire development of this work was something over two miles. It was completed by the morning of the fifth of December. But while the safety of Nashville was being provided for, preparations were also being made for offensive operations. The troops were rapidly re-equipped in every particular, the trains repaired and loaded with supplies, etc. As early as the seventh of December, the commanding General of the forces had begun to communicate to the corps commanders his plan of attack, and had intimated that the morning of the tenth would witness the inauguration of offensive operations. But the morning of the ninth dawned upon us, bringing. a heavy sleet-storm, which soon covered the whole face of the earth with a perfect mer de glace, and rendered all movement of troops, so long as it remained, impossible. The weather and condition of the ground were not sufficiently ameliorated before midday of the fourteenth of December to permit the commencement of operations with any hope of success. The commanding General summoned a meeting of corps commanders at his headquarters at three P. M., on the fourteenth, and delivered to them written orders, from which the following are extracts:

As soon as the weather will admit of offensive operations, the troops will move against the enemy's position in the following order:

* * * * * *

III. Brigadier-General T. J. Wood, commanding the Fourth corps, after leaving a strong skirmish line in his works from Lauren's Hill to his extreme right, will form the remainder of the Fourth corps on the Hilsboro pike to support General Smith's left, and operate on the left and rear of the enemy's advanced position on Montgomery's Hill.

* * * * * *

“Should the weather permit, the troops will be formed in time to commence operations at six o'clock A. M., or as soon thereafter as practicable.”

To carry out these brief but sententious and pointed instructions of the commanding General, I directed, so soon as I had returned to my headquarters, the division commanders to assemble there at seven P. M., and, after explaining to them fully the intended movements, delivered to them the following written orders:

headquarters Fourth Army corps, near Nashville, Tenn., December 14, 1864.
Orders of the day for the Fourth Army Corps, for to-morrow, December 15, 1864.
II. Reveille will be sounded at four A. M.; the troops will get their breakfast, break up their camp, pack up everything, and be prepared to move at six A. M.

II. Brigadier-General Elliott, commanding Second division, will move out by his right, taking the small road that passes by the right of his present position, form in echelon with General A. J. Smith's left, slightly refusing his own left, and, maintaining this relative position to General Smith's troops, will advance with them. When he moves out he will leave a strong line of skirmishers in his solid works.

III. Brigadier-General Kimball, commanding First division, on being relieved by General Steedman, will move his division to the Hilsboro pike inside of our lines, and by it through the lines, and form in echelon to General Elliott's left, slightly refusing his own left. He will maintain this position, and advance with General Elliott.

IV. As soon as General Kimball's division has passed out of the works by Hilsboro pike, General Beatty, commanding Third division, will take up the movement, drawing out by the left, and will form in echelon to General Kimball's left. He will maintain this position, and advance with General Kimball. He will also leave a strong line of skirmishers behind the solid works along his present position.

V. The pickets on post, being strengthened when in the judgment of division commanders it becomes necessary, will advance as a line of skirmishers to cover the movement.

The formations of the troops will be in two lines, the first line deployed, the second line in close column, by division, massed opposite the interval in the front line. Each division commander will, so far as possible hold one brigade in reserve. Five wagon loads of ammunition, ten ambulances, and the wagons loaded with intrenching tools, will, as nearly as possible, follow after each division. The remaining ammunition wagons, ambulances, and all other wagons, will remain inside of our present lines until further orders. One rifle battery will accompany the Second division, and one battery of light twelve-pounders will accompany each of the remaining divisions. The rest of the artillery of the corps will maintain its present position in the lines.

By order of Brigadier-General T. J. Wood.

J. S. Fullerton, Lieut.-Col. and A. A. G.


The morning of the fifteenth was dark and sombre. A heavy pall of fog and smoke rested on the face of the earth, and enveloped every object in thick darkness. At six A. M. the movement of the troops was entirely impracticable, but between seven and eight A. M. the fog began to rise, and the troops silently and rapidly commenced to move into the positions assigned to them. This preliminary work being completed, nothing further remained for the Fourth corps to do. until the cavalry and General Smith had made the long swing from our right which Was necessary to bring them on the rear and left of the enemy's position. At 12:30 P. M., General Smith having swung up his right so that his command prolonged the front of the Fourth corps, the serried ranks of the corps began to advance towards the enemy's intrenched position. I should have remarked previously, that as soon as the troops began to debouch from our intrenched line, the skirmishers were pushed forward to cover the movement, and soon became sharply engaged with the enemy's skirmishers and readily drove them back.

During all the preliminary movements an occasional shot from the enemy's batteries showed he was keenly watching our movements. As the shells hurtled through the air, and burst over the troops, they added interest to the scene. When the splendid array of the troops began to move forward in unison the pageant was magnificently grand and imposing. Far as the eye could reach the lines and masses of blue, over which the nation's emblem flaunted proudly, moved forward in such perfect order that the heart of the patriot might easily draw from it the happy presage of the coming glorious victory. A few minutes after 12:30 P. M., I deemed the movement favorable to the attack on the left and rear of Montgomery's Hill. Montgomery's Hill is an irregular cone-shaped eminence, which rises four hundred and fifty feet above the general level of the surrounding country. The ascent to its summit, throughout most of its circumference, is quite abrupt, and its sides are covered with forest trees. The enemy had encircled the hill, just below its crest, with a strong line of intrenchments, and embarrassed the approach of an assaulting force with an abatis and rows of sharpened stakes firmly planted in the ground. This hill was the enemy's most advanced position, and was not more than eight hundred yards from our lines.

The ascent on the left and rear of the hill, taken in reference to the enemy's occupation, is more gradual than the portion which directly confronted our intrenchments. As our troops advanced and swung to the left, the left of the hill was brought directly in front of the third division of the corps. This disposition was favorable to the intended assault. I ordered Brigadier-General Beatty, commanding the Third division, to detail a brigade to make the attack. The Second brigade of the Third division, commanded by Colonel P. Sidney Post, Fifty-ninth Illinois veteran volunteers, was selected for the work. The necessary arrangements having been made at one P. M., I gave the order for the assault. At the command, as sweeps the stiff gale over the ocean, driving every object before it, so swept the brigade up the wooden slope, over the enemy's intrenchments, and the hill was won. The Second brigade was nobly supported in the assault by the First brigade (Colonel Streight's) of the Third division. Quite a number of prisoners and small arms were captured in the assault. Previous to the assault I had caused the enemy to be well pounded by the artillery from our lines. This was the first success of the day, and it greatly exalted the enthusiasm of the troops. Our casualties were small, compared with the success.

Up to this time, the Twenty-third corps, Major-General Schofield, commanding, had been held in reserve in rear of the Fourth corps and Major-General A. J. Smith's command; but shortly after the assault on Montgomery's Hill, I received a message from the commanding General of the forces, to the effect that he had ordered General Schofield to move his command to the right, to prolong General Smith's front, and directing me to move my reserves as much to the right as could be done compatibly with the safety of my own front. The order was at once obeyed by shifting the reserve brigade of each division to the right. The entire line of the corps was steadily pressed forward, and the enemy engaged throughout its whole front. The battery accompanying each division was brought to the front, and being placed in short and effective range of the enemy's main line, allowed him to rest. As the troops advanced, the skirmishers were constantly engaged, at times so sharply that the fusilade nearly equalled in fierceness the engagement of solid lines of battle. I pressed the corps as near the enemy's main line as possible, without making a direct assault on it; in doing so, at the same time swinging to the left, the right of the corps which had, during the previous part of the day, been in rear of General Smith's left to support it, passed in front of it. This movement brought the centre of the corps, General Kimball's division, directly opposite to a very strongly fortified hill near the centre of the enemy's main line. Impressed with the importance of carrying this hill, as the enemy's centre would be broken thereby, I ordered up two batteries, and had them so placed as to bring a converging fire on the crest of the hill.

I will here remark, that the enemy's artillery on this hill had been annoying us seriously all the day. After the two batteries had played on the enemy's line, for half an hour, during which time the practice had been most accurate, I ordered General Kimball to assault the hill with his entire division. Most nobly did the division respond to the order. With the most exalted enthusiasm, and with loud cheers, it rushed forward, up the steep ascent, and over the intrenchments. The solid fruits of this [110] magnificent assault were several pieces of artillery and stands of colors, many stands of small arms, and numerous prisoners. The Second division of the corps, General Elliott's, followed the movement of General Kimball's division, and entered the enemy's works further to the right, shortly after the main assault had been successful. The division, in this movement, captured three pieces of artillery. Further to the left, the Third division, General Beatty commanding, had attacked and carried the enemy's intrenchments and captured several pieces of artillery and caissons, and a considerable number of prisoners.

Fortunately, this brilliant success along the entire front of the corps was achieved with comparatively slight loss. The onset was so fierce, the movement of the troops so rapid, that a very brief interval elapsed between the first shout of the advancing lines and the planting of our colors on the enemy's works. But this rapid movement had somewhat disordered the ranks, as well as blown the men, and it was hence necessary to halt the corps a brief space to re-form and prepare for a further advance. The enemy, on being driven from his works, had retired in the direction (eastward) of the Franklin pike. His works, extending across this pike, were still.

While the troops were being re-formed I received an order from the commanding General to move towards the Franklin pike, some two and a half miles distant; to reach it, if possible, before dark, drive the enemy, and form the corps across it, facing southward. This order was received about five P. M., almost sunset. The re-formation of the troops was quickly completed, and the whole corps, formed in two lines and covered by a cloud of skirmishers, was pushed rapidly towards the Franklin pike. Soon our skirmishers became engaged with the enemy's, but only to drive them. But the rapidly approaching darkness too soon brought a period to this glorious work. After crossing the Granny White pike and arriving within about three-fourths of a mile of the Franklin pike, the darkness became so thick that it was necessary, in order to avoid confusion and to prevent our troops from firing into each other, to halt the corps for the night. The corps was formed parallel to the Granny White pike, its right resting on General Smith's left, and its left on the most northern line (then abandoned) of the enemy's works. In this position, at about seven P. M., of a bleak December night, the troops bivouacked after their arduous, but fortunately glorious, labors of the day. The result of the day's operations for the corps was the capture of ten pieces of artillery, five caissons, several stands of colors, a considerable number of small arms, and some five hundred prisoners. The enemy's intrenched lines had been broken in two places by direct assault, and he driven more than two miles. Of his loss of killed and wounded I could form no estimate, but it must have been heavy.

Fortunately, casualties were unusually light, compared with success achieved, not more than three hundred and fifty killed and wounded in the corps. After having provided for the safety of the corps for the night, I repaired to the quarters of the commanding General to receive his orders for the operations of the morrow. These orders were to advance at daylight the following morning, the sixteenth, and if the enemy was still in front, to attack him, but if he had retreated, to pass to the eastward of the Franklin pike, to face southward, and to pursue him till found. At 11:30 P. M., of the fifteenth, instructions were distributed to the division commanders to advance at daylight, and attack the enemy if found in front of their commands, but if he should not be found, to cross to the eastward of Franklin pike and move southward, parallel to it-Elliott's division leading, followed by Kimball's, then Beatty's.

At six A. M., on the sixteenth instant, the corps commenced to move towards the Franklin pike. The movement at once developed the enemy in our front, and sharp skirmishing commenced immediately. The enemy was steadily driven back, and at eight A. M. we gained possession of the Franklin pike. The enemy's skirmishers, after being driven eastward of the pike, retreated southward. Elliott's division was deployed across the road, facing southward. Beatty's division was formed on the left of Elliott's, and Kimball's division massed near the pike, in rear of Elliott's. In this order the corps advanced nearly three-fourths of a mile, when it encountered a heavy skirmish line, stoutly barricaded. Some half mile in the rear of the enemy's skirmish line, his main line, strongly intrenched, could be seen. An effort was at once made to connect General Elliott's right with General Smith's left. The interval being too great to accomplish this, I ordered General Kimball to bring up his division and occupy the space between. Generals Smith and Elliott's commands. This was promptly done, the troops moving handsomely into position under a sharp fire of musketry and artillery. Thus formed, the entire corps advanced in magnificent array, under a galling fire of small arms and artillery, and drove the enemy's skirmishers into his main line. Further advance was impossible without making a direct assault on the enemy's intrenched line, and the happy moment for this grand effort had not yet arrived. I hence ordered the division commanders to press their skirmishers as near to the enemy's intrenchments as possible, and to harass him with a constant fire. In a conflict of this nature I knew we would have greatly the advantage of him, as our supply of ammunition was inexhaustible, and his limited. All the batteries of the corps on the field were brought to the front, placed in eligible positions in short range of the enemy's works, and ordered to keep up a measured but steady fire on his artillery. The practice of the batteries was uncommonly fine. The ranges were accurately obtained, the elevations [111] correctly given, and the ammunition being unusually good, the fire was consequently most effective. It was really entertaining to witness it. The enemy replied spiritedly with musketry and artillery, and his practice with both was good. In the progress of the duel he disabled two gunsin Ziegler's battery. After the disposition above recounted had been made, the commanding General joined me near our most advanced position, on the Franklin pike, examined the posting of the troops, approved the same, and ordered that the enemy should be vigorously pressed and unceasingly harassed by our fire. He further directed that I should be constantly on the alert for any opening for a more decisive effort, but, for the time, to abide events. The general plan of the battle for the preceding day, namely, to outflank and turn the enemy's left, was still to be acted on. Before leaving me the commanding General desired me to confer with Major-General Steedman, whose command had moved out that morning from Nashville by the Nolensville pike, and arrange a military connection between his right and my left. The enemy had made some display of force between the Franklin and Nolensville pikes, but its extent could not be fixed, and it was hence necessary to take precaution in reference to it. Near twelve M. I rode towards the left and met Major-General Steedman; communicated to him the views of the commanding General, and submitted him some suggestions with regard to the disposition of his command to meet those views. General Steedman coincided in opinion with me, and promptly and handsomely, though exposed to a sharp fire from one of the enemy's batteries, placed his command, both infantry and artillery, in a position which effectually secured my left from being turned. I will here remark that General Steedman's command most gallantly and effectively co-operated with my command during the remainder of the day. For a proper understanding of the last, great, and decisive struggle in the battle of Nashville, a brief description of the scene of its occurrence, and of the topograhy of the adjacent country, is requisite. The basin in which the city of Nashville stands is enclosed on the south-west, south, and south-east, by the Brentwood Hills.

The Franklin pike runs nearly due south from Nashville. The Brentwood Hills consist of two ranges or branches; the branch to the west of the Franklin pike runs from north-west to southeast, the branch to the east of the Franklin pike runs from north-east to south-west. The two branches unite in a depression or gap, about nine miles from Nashville. The Franklin pike passes through the gap, and in it is situated the little hamlet of Brentwood. The most northern point of each branch of hills is about five miles from Nashville. From this description it will be perceived that the general configuration of the Brentwood Hills is that of a rudely shaped V. Nashville is north of, and about opposite, the centre of the space included between the two branches. Brentwood is at the apex. The valley inclosed between the two branches is nearly bisected by the Franklin pike. The average elevation of the Brentwood Hills above the general level of the surrounding country, is about three hundred and fifty feet. The surface of the Nashville basin is broken by detached hills, some of which rise to an elevation of a hundred and fifty feet, with abrupt sides, densely wooded. About five miles from Nashville the Franklin pike passes along the base of one of those isolated heights, which is known as Overton Hill. When the heavy stress which had been put on the enemy during the forenoon of the sixteenth had forced him into his works, he was found to occupy a strongly intrenched line, running for some distance along the base of the western branch of the Brentwood Hills; thence across the valley, eastward, to and across the Franklin pike, around the northern slope of Overton Hill, about midway between its summit and base, with a retired flank running nearly southward, prolonged around its eastern slope. This line of intrenchments was strengthened with an abatis and other embarrassments to an assault.

The right of the enemy's main line rested on Overton Hill. A close examination of the position satisfied me that if Overton Hill could be carried, the enemy's right would be turned, his line from the Franklin pike, westward, would be taken in reverse, and his line of retreat along the pike and the valley leading to Brentwood, commanded effectually. The capture of half of the rebel army would almost certainly have been the guerdon of success. It was evident that the assault would be very difficult, and even if successful, would probably be attended with heavy loss; but the prize at stake was worth the hazard. Early in the afternoon I began to make preparations for assaulting the hill. Owing to the openness of the country, the preparatory movements could not be concealed from the enemy; in truth, from our extreme proximity to his intrenchments, they were necessarily made under the fire of his artillery. Knowing that the safety of his army depended on holding Overton Hill to the last moment, he reinforced the position heavily with troops drawn from his left and left-centre. I directed Colonel Post to reconnoitre the position closely, with the view of determining-first, the feasibility of an assault; and secondly, to determine the most practicable point on which to direct it. After a thorough and close reconnoisance, in which perhaps three-fourths of an hour were spent, Colonel Post reported that the position was truly formidable, that it would be very difficult to carry, but that he thought he could do it with his brigade. He further reported that an assault, in his opinion, on the northern slope of the hill, held out the greatest promise of success. I ordered him to prepare his brigade for the assault immediately, and to inform me when he was ready to move. I directed General Beatty, commanding Third division, to have the First brigade (Colonel Streight's) formed [112] to support Colonel Post's. I further ordered Major Goodspeed, Chief of Artillery of the corps, to open a concentrated fire on the hill, for the purpose of silencing the enemy's batteries and demolishing his defences, and to continue the fire as long as it could be done with safety to our advancing troops. The order was effectively obeyed. I also conferred with Major-General Steedman, and explained to him what I intended to do. He promptly agreed to move his command forward with the assaulting brigade, to cover its left; also to participate in the assault with a view to carrying whatever might be in his front. Everything being prepared for the attack, near three P. M., I gave the order for the assaulting brigade to advance. This it did steadily, followed by its support. Major-General Steedman's command moved simultaneously. I will here remark, that General Steedman's artillery had kept up an effective fire on the enemy's works during the interval in which the preparations for the assault were being made.

The front of the assaulting force was covered with a cloud of skirmishers, who had been ordered to advance rapidly, for the purpose of drawing the enemy's fire as far as possible, and to annoy his artillerists, and to prevent, as far as possible, the working of his guns. The assaulting force was instructed to move steadily forward to within a short distance of the enemy's works, and then, by a “bold burst,” ascend the steep ascent, cross the abatis, dash over the rude but strong parapet, and secure the coveted goal. The troops were full of enthusiasm, and the splendid array in which the advance was made gave hopeful promise of success. Near the foot of the ascent the assaulting party dashed forward for the last great effort; it was welcomed with a most terrific fire of grape and canister and musketry. But its course was onward. When near, however, the enemy's works (a few of our men, stouter of limb and speedier of movement, had already entered his line), his reserves on the slope of the hill rose and poured in a fire before which no troops could live. Unfortunately, the casualties had been particularly heavy among the officers; and more unfortunate still, when he had arrived almost at the abatis, while gallantly leading his brigade, the chivalric Post was struck down by a grape shot, and his horse killed under him. The brigade, its battalions bleeding, torn, and broken, first halted, and then began to retire; but there was little disorder, and nothing of panic. The troops promptly halted and were readily re-formed by their officers. But for the unfortunate fall of Colonel Post, the commander of the assaulting brigade, I think the assault would have succeeded. I had watched the assault with a keen and anxious gaze. It was made by troops whom I had long commanded, and whom I had learned to love and admire for their noble deeds on many a hard-fought field. I had observed, with pride and exultation, the evident steady resolve with which they had prepared for the assault, the cheerfulness with which they had received the announcement that they were les enfans perdu.

So soon as I perceived the troops begin to retire, apprehending that the enemy might attempt an offensive return, I despatched an order to all the batteries bearing on the hill to open the heaviest possible fire so soon as their fronts were sufficiently cleared by the retiring troops to permit it. I also ordered Colonel Kuefter, commanding Third brigade, Third division, to hold his command well in hand, ready to charge the enemy, should he presume to follow our troops. Both orders were promptly obeyed, and if the enemy ever had the temerity to contemplate an offensive return, he never attempted to carry it into effect. Not a prisoner was captured from us — a fact almost unparalleled in an assault so fierce, so near to success, but unsuccessful. And no foot of ground previously won was lost. After the repulse, our soldiers, white and colored, lay indiscriminately near the enemy's works, at the outer edge of the abatis But while the assault was not immediately successful, it paved the way for the grand and final success of the day. The reinforcements for Overton Hill, which the enemy had drawn from his left and left-centre, had so much weakened that part of his line as to insure the success of General Smith's attack.

After withdrawing and re-posting the troops that had been engaged in the assault, I rode to-wards the right to look to the condition of the First and Second divisions. Shortly after reaching the First division, which was on the right of the corps, an electric shout, which announced that a grand advance was being made by our right and right centre, was borne from the right towards the left. I at once ordered the whole corps to advance and assault the enemy's works. But the order was scarcely necessary: all had caught the inspiration, and officers of all grades, and the men, each and every one, seemed to vie with each other in a generous rivalry, and in the dash with which they assaulted the enemy's intrenched lines. So general and so combined an attack on all parts of the enemy's line, was resistless. It rushed forward like a mighty wave, driving everything before it. The sharp fire of musketry and artillery did not cause an instant's pause. I advanced with the First division, and witnessed, with the highest satisfaction, the gallant style in which it assaulted and carried the enemy's works. The division carried every point of the works in its front, and captured five pieces of artillery, several hundred prisoners, and many hundred stands of small arms.

The Second division gallantly carried the works in its front and captured many prisoners and small arms. The Third division re-assaulted Overton Hill, carried it, and captured four pieces of artillery, a large number of prisoners and small arms, and two stands of colors. The enemy fled in the utmost confusion. The entire corps pushed rapidly forward, pressed the pursuit, and continued it several miles, and till [113] the fast approaching darkness made it necessary to halt for the night. In the pursuit the Third division captured five pieces of artillery. The batteries of the corps advanced with the infantry in the pursuit, and by timely discharges increased the confusion and hastened the flight of the enemy. The corps bivouacked eight miles from Nashville, and within a mile of. the Brentwood Pass, which was under our guns. By the day's operations the enemy had been driven from a strongly intrenched position by assault, and forced into an indiscriminate rout. In his flight he had strewn the ground with small arms — bayonets, cartridge-boxes, blankets, and other material, all attesting the completeness of the disorder to which he had abandoned himself. The captures of the day were fourteen pieces of artillery, nine hundred and eighty prisoners, two stands of colors, and thousands of small arms. It may be truthfully remarked that military history scarcely affords a parallel of a more complete victory.

At 12:30 A. M., of the seventeenth, instructions were received from the commanding General of the forces to move the Fourth corps as early as practicable down the Franklin pike in pursuit of the enemy. At six A. M., of the seventeenth, I directed division commanders to advance as early as practicable, move rapidly, and if the enemy should be overtaken, to press him vigorously. The night had been rainy and the morning was dark and gloomy. It was hence nearly eight A. M. before the column was well in motion, but it then advanced rapidly. The instructions of the commanding General, received during the night, informed me that the cavalry would move on my left during the day; it did not, however, get to the left before I moved, and at ten A. M. I was detained a short time in permitting a portion of the cavalry to get to the front, which was necessary in order that it might reach the position assigned to it in the order of march. After this brief delay I pushed rapidly forward, and, although the road was very heavy, reached Franklin at 1:20 P. M. The whole line of march of the day bore unmistakable evidence of the signalness of the victory our arms had achieved and the completeness of the rout. The road was strewn with small arms, accoutrements, and blankets. The enemy had destroyed all the bridges over the Big Harpeth at Franklin, and as the rain of the previous night and that morning had swollen the stream so as to make it impassable by infantry without a bridge, it was necessary to halt to build one, the pontoon train not having come up. Colonel Suman, Ninth Indiana, nobly volunteered to build the bridge, and, thanks to his energy and ingenuity, and the industry of his gallant regiment, it was ready (though he had few conveniences in the way of tools, the scantiest materials, and the stream was rising rapidly) for the corps at daylight, the morning of the eighteenth. This service was the more useful, as well as the more gratifying, as our cavalry (which, from reaching the Harpeth earlier on the seventeenth, had been able to ford it) was sharply engaged with the enemy's rearguard, several miles in front, and the whole corps was burning with impatience to get forward to join in the conflict. The corps was pushed rapidly across the Harpeth, pressed forward, and marched eighteen miles that day, though the road was very heavy and many crossings had to be made over the streams. Near nightfall it passed in front of the cavalry and encamped a mile in advance of it. The weather was very inclement. During the night of the eighteenth the rain poured down in torrents, and the morning brought no improvement to the weather of the night. During the night I received instructions from the commanding General of the forces, informing me--first, that the cavalry then encamped in my rear would move at six A. M., pass to the front; and, secondly, that I should move at eight A. M. The cavalry had not all passed at eight A. M., but at the appointed hour the corps was in motion. The rain still fell in torrents, flooding the earth with water, and rendering all movements off the pike impossible. The head of the column advanced three and a half miles and arrived at Rutherford Creek. This is a bold and rapid stream, usually fordable, but subject to rapid freshets; and the heavy rains of the preceding twenty-four hours had swollen it beyond the possibility of being crossed without bridges. To construct these it was necessary we should first occupy the opposite bank of the stream. As the head of the column approached the creek the hostile fire from the southern bank was opened with artillery and musketry. To clear the enemy from the opposite bank at the turnpike crossing where the bridge for the passage of the artillery and trains had to be constructed, it was necessary to pass troops over either above or below; and as the pontoon train was not yet up, every expedient that ingenuity could devise was resorted to to effect the desired object. Rafts were constructed and launched, but the current was so rapid that they were unmanageable. Huge forest trees, growing near the margin of the stream, were felled athwart the stream, with the hope of spanning it in this way and getting some riflemen over; but the creek was so rapid and the flood so deep that these huge trees of the forest were swept away by the resistless torrent. In these efforts was passed one of the most dreary, uncomfortable, and inclement days I remember to have passed in the course of nineteen years and a half of active field service. Late in the afternoon, some dismounted cavalry succeeded in crossing the creek on the ruins of the railroad bridge, and drove off the enemy from its southern bank. During the night and the early forenoon of the following day (the twentieth) two bridges for infantry were constructed across the stream, one at the turnpike crossing, by Colonel Opdycke's brigade of the Second division, and the other by General Grose's, of the First division. So soon as these were completed the infantry of [114] the corps were passed over, marched three miles, and encamped for the night on the northern bank of Duck River.

During the night of the twentieth the weather became bitterly cold. Wednesday, the twenty-first, operations were suspended, and the corps remained quietly in camp, as the pontoon train, detained by the swollen streams, the inclement weather, and the miserable condition of the roads, had not been able to get to the front. The day was bitterly cold, and the rest which the command gained by lying in camp was much needed after their arduous and laborious service of the many preceding days. During the night of the twenty-first, between midnight and daylight, the pontoon train came up and reported. I had, as early as the evening of the twentieth, encamped a brigade (the First brigade of the Third division Colonel Streight, commanding) on the margin of the river, ready to lay down the bridge the very earliest moment that it could be done. So soon as it was light enough to work, the morning of the twenty-second, a sufficient number of pontoons (they were canvas) were put together to throw across the river a detachment of the Fifty-first Indiana to clear the opposite bank of the enemy. The service was handsomely performed by the detachment, and quite a number of prisoners was the result of the operations. So soon as the opposite bank was cleared of the enemy, Colonel Streight commenced to lay down the bridge, and completed the work with celerity; though, owing to the inexperience of the troops in such service, and the extreme coldness of the weather, more time was consumed in doing it than could have been desired. So soon as the bridge was completed, passed over the infantry of the corps; and during the time which intervened before the hour designated by the commanding General for the cavalry to commence crossing, succeeded in getting over most of the artillery, and a sufficiency of the ammunition and baggage trains, to permit the corps to continue the pursuit. After crossing the river I moved the corps a mile out of the town of Columbia, which stands on the southern bank of the river, and encamped it for the remainder of the night. During the evening of the twenty-second, the commanding General informed me that he wished the pursuit continued by the Fourth corps and the cavalry conjointly, so soon as the cavalry had crossed the river; that he wished the Fourth corps to press down the turnpike road, and the cavalry to move through the country on either side the corps. Friday, the twenty-third, I rested near Columbia, waiting for the cavalry to complete its passage of Duck River, till midday, when, the cavalry not being yet over, I informed the commanding General I would move the corps a few miles to the front that afternoon, encamp for the night, and wait the following morning for the cavalry to move out, with which, as already stated, I had been instructed to co-operate. While at Duck River we learned that the enemy had thrown several pieces of artillery into the river, being unable to get them across. We also learned that his rear guard was composed of all the organized infantry that could be drawn from his army, which was placed under the command of General Walthall, and his cavalry, commanded by General Forrest.

After advancing some five miles south of Columbia, the afternoon of the twenty-third, the head of the corps came on a party of the enemy posted advantageously in a gap, through which the highway passed, with enclosing heights on either side. I ordered Brigadier-General Kimball, commanding the leading division, to deploy two regiments as skirmishers, to bring up a section of artillery, and with this force to advance and dislodge the enemy from the pass. The service was handsomely and quickly performed. One captain of cavalry and one private certainly killed, and four privates captured, were among the known casualties to the enemy. It being now nearly nightfall, the corps was halted to await the completion of the crossing of the cavalry. On the following morning, the twenty-fourth, I was detained till twelve M. waiting for the cavalry to come up and move out. Shortly after the cavalry had passed out through my camp, Brevet Major-General Wilson sent me a message to the effect that he had found the ground so soft that he could not operate off the turnpike, and. begging that I would not become impatient at the delay he was causing in the movement of my command. At twelve M. the road was free of the cavalry, when the corps was put in motion, and marched sixteen miles that afternoon, and encamped two miles south of Linnville.

During all this period of the pursuit, and indeed to the end of it, the rear guard of the enemy offered slight resistence, and generally fled at the mere presence of our troops.

Sunday morning, the twenty-fifth, the corps followed closely on the heels of the cavalry, passed through Pulaski, from which the cavalry had rapidly driven the enemy's rear guard, and encamped for the night six miles from the turn in the Lamb's Ferry road. The corps marched sixteen miles on the twenty-fifth, the last six miles on a road next to impracticable, from the depth of the mud. As we could not have the use of the turnpike further south than Pulaski, I ordered all the artillery of the corps, but four batteries, to be left at Pulaski, using the horses of the batteries left to increase the horses of the pieces taken with the command to eight, and of the caissons to ten horses each. I also ordered that only a limited number of ammunition wagons, carrying but ten boxes each, should accompany the command. These arrangements were necessary, on account of the condition of the road on which the enemy had retreated.

Without extra teams to the artillery carriages, and lightening the usual load of an ammunition wagon, it would have been impracticable to get the vehicles along; a vigorous pursuit [115] would have been impossible. These dispositions were reported to the commanding General. He directed me to follow the cavalry and support it. The pursuit was continued, with all possible celerity, to Lexington, Alabama, thirty miles south of Pulaski. Six miles south of Lexington, Brevet Major-General Wilson learned certainly, on the twenty-eighth, that the rear of the enemy had crossed the river on the twenty-seventh, and that his bridge was taken up on the morning of the twenty-eighth. These facts were reported to the commanding General, who ordered that the pursuit be discontinued. To continue it further at that time, besides being useless, even if possible, was really impossible. Of the pursuit it may be truly remarked that it is without a parallel in this war. It was continued for more than a hundred miles, at the most inclement season of the year, over a road the whole of which was bad, and thirty miles of which were wretched almost beyond description. It were scarcely an hyperbole to say that the road from Pulaski to Lexington was bottomless when we passed over it. It was strewn with the wrecks of wagons, artillery carriages, and other material, abandoned by the enemy in his flight.

The corps remained two days at Lexington, awaiting orders. On the thirtieth December, instructions were received to take post at this place. On the thirty-first, the corps marched to Elk River, a distance of fifteen miles. The river being too swollen to ford, two days were spent in bridging it. Colonel Suman, Ninth Indiana, and Major Watson, Seventy-fifth Illinois, using the pioneers of the corps as laborers and mechanics, built a substantial trestle-bridge three hundred and nine feet long, over which the corps, with its artillery and wagons, safely passed. Elk River was crossed on the third of January, and on the fifth the corps encamped in the vicinity of this place.

Thus was closed, for the Fourth corps, one of the most remarkable campaigns of the war. The enemy, superior in numbers, had been driven by assault, in utter rout and demoralization, from strongly-intrenched positions, pursued more than a hundred miles, and forced to recross the Tennessee River. By actual capture on the field of battle, and by abandonment in his flight, the enemy lost three fourths of his artillery; in prisoners taken from him, by desertion, and in killed and wounded, his force was certainly diminished fifteen thousand; and his loss in small arms, ammunition, and other material of war, was enormous. From an organized army, beleaguering the capital of Tennessee, the foe had been beaten into a disorganized mass — a mere rabble. The Fourth corps captured twenty-five pieces of artillery, four stands of colors, and of small arms a large number, of which, however, no accurate account could be taken, as the pursuit was commenced early the morning of the seventeenth. Of the artillery captured, nineteen pieces were taken by assault in the enemy's works. The corps captured one hundred and eleven commissioned officers and eighteen hundred and fifty-seven non-commissioned officers and privates. The casualties of the corps amounted to — officers killed, nineteen; officers wounded, fifty-five; non-commissioned officers and privates killed, one hundred and fourteen; non-commissioned officers and privates wounded, seven hundred and fifty-nine.

For the more minute details of the movements of the troops on the field of battle and in the pursuit, I most respectfully refer the commanding General to the reports of division, brigade, and regimental commanders. And for the special mention of numerous acts of gallantry and good conduct, I must also refer him to their reports. I desire to commend to the consideration of the commanding General the skill and intelligence evinced by the division commanders, Brigadier-Generals Kimball, Elliott and Beatty, in the handling of their commands, and for the personal gallantry displayed by them on the field of battle. Their services entitle them to the gratitude of the nation, and to the most kindly consideration of the government. The division commanders mention the services of the brigade commanders, and of the brigade staff officers. From the very best opportunity of observing, I can truly bear testimony, and I do it with the highest satisfaction, to the soldierly — in truth, splendid conduct of the whole corps in all the conflicts of the fifteenth and sixteenth; have never seen troops behave better on any battle-field. To the members of my staff, Lieutenant-Colonel Fullerton, Assistant Adjutant-General and Chief of Staff; Lieutenant-Colonel Greenwood. Assistant Inspector-General: Major Sinclair, Assistant Adjutant-General; Major Dawson, Fifteenth Ohio volunteers, Chief of Outposts and Pickets; First Lieutenant George Shaffer, Ninety-third Ohio volunteers, and First Lieutenant C. D. Hammer, One Hundred and Twenty-fourth Ohio volunteers; Aides-de-Camp Captain Stansbury, Nineteenth regulars, Commissary of Musters; Captain Kaldenbaugh, Provost Marshal; and Lieutenant Kennedy, Acting Assistant Inspector, I owe many thanks for the zealous, intelligent and gallant manner in which they performed their duties, both on the field of battle and in the long and arduous pursuit.

I commend them to the favorable consideration of my seniors in rank, and to the government. Major Goodspeed, Chief of Artillery, rendered the most valuable service on both the fifteenth and sixteenth. A battery was never required in any position that it was not promptly put there. The officers of all the batteries engaged behaved with great gallantry, as did their men. The artillery practice on both those days was splendid. Surgeon Heard, Medical Director; Surgeon Bromley, Medical Inspector; and Captain Towsley, Chief of Ambulances, performed their duties most satisfactorily. Ample preparations had been made in advance for the wounded, and humane and efficient care was promptly rendered them. Lieutenant-Colonel Hayes Chief Quartermaster, and Captain [116] Hodgdon, Chief Commissary, performed the duties of their respective departments in a satisfactory manner. To the officers of every grade, and to the brave, but nameless men in the ranks, my grateful thanks for the cheerful, gallant, and effective manner in which every duty was performed, are due, and are hereby officially rendered.

I am, General,

Very respectfully

Your obedient servant,

T. J. Wood, Brigadier-General Volunteers, commanding.

Brigadier-General Grose's report.

headquarters Third brigade, First division, Fourth corps, Huntsville, Ala., January 6, 1865.
sir: I have the honor to report the part taken by my command in the battles at Nashville, Tennessee, on the fifteenth and sixteenth of December, 1864. Pursuant to orders from division commander, I moved my brigade from its position in front of Nashville, near the Franklin pike, to the right of the Hilsboro pike. Six regiments marched with me at daylight on the morning of the fifteenth. The Seventy-seventh Pennsylvania, being on picket, followed as soon as relieved. My effective force was two thousand one hundred and ninety. The order of battle was to be by divisions in echelon, forward on the right. My brigade was formed on the right of the Hilsboro pike, and in front of our fortifications surrounding the city; the Second division of the Fourth corps on my right, the First brigade of our division on my left. Of my command, the Eighty-fourth Illinois, the Eightieth Illinois, and Ninth Indiana, were in the front line, from right to left, in the order named; the Seventy-fifth Illinois, Thirtieth, and Eighty-fourth Indiana, in the second line. The Seventy-seventh Pennsylvania, when relieved from picket, came up in reserve. The lines of the enemy ran at right angles with the Franklin and Granny White pikes, and continued in the same direction on to a hill near to the left of the Hilsboro pike, where it made an angle obliquely to the rear, fronting the Hilsboro pike, and covering well his left flank of his main line. My position was immediately in front of the angle, as above described, of the enemy's lines. The Sixteenth corps, on the right of our corps, which was to move forward in echelon to us, had much further to move and skirmish over more ground than we, before reaching the enemy's main line; hence the forenoon was used, in the Sixteenth corps swinging around and driving in the outer lines of the enemy so as to meet his main lines at the same time our corps would, in a general advance. Upon an intervening ridge, half way distant from where my lines were formed and the enemy's main lines, were his lines of outposts, and about six hundred yards from where we formed. At about noon our corps lines moved forward and drove in the enemy's outposts; my front line capturing several prisoners and sustaining some loss, mostly from artillery. We occupied the ridge that had been in possession of the enemy, with our skirmishers well advanced down the further slope. While in this position I suggested to the corps commander that if another intervening eminence to the left of my command, and in front of Colonel Kerby's brigade, was carried, and the enemy's outposts driven therefrom, I thought I could then advance over the valley in my front and ascend the hill, and carry the enemy's main line and his artillery, that had been dealing roughly with us. The corps commander said it should be done. In a few minutes thereafter I received directions from the division commander to advance, in conjunction with Colonel Kerby's brigade, on my left, which was then commencing to move. I sounded the forward, and advanced my front line down the slope, over hedges and stone fences, across a narrow valley, and to a large stone fence at the base of the enemy's hill, about four hundred yards from his main works and battery in the angle, as I have above described. Colonel Kerby's brigade advanced equally as far. The division on my right did not come up until some time after. Some time was consumed in this position in preparing for the assault, our skirmishers gradually crawling up the hill. In-this position my two left regiments in the front line had crossed and lay to the left of the Hilsboro pike. At about four o'clock the corps and division commanders, I think, were on the lines to the left. I discovered preparations for the advance in that direction, and the lines began to move. I ordered the forward, and the whole lines from right to left, as far as I could see, advanced rapidly. The Eightieth Illinois, my centre regiment, struck the enemy's works at the angle, the Eighty-fourth Illinois to the right, and the Ninth Indiana to the left. The struggle was soon over, the enemy routed, leaving four pieces of artillery and some prisoners in this part of their works. My two left regiments, without further orders, and without stopping to count their trophies or captures, pursued the fleeing enemy beyond his works about six hundred yards, and was anxious for further pursuit. It was now nightfall; wa formed and readjusted our lines, and attempted pursuit; succeeded in crossing the Granny White pike, moving along the enemy's works to the left and east, when the darkness prevented farther movements, and we threw up some works at our front lines and rested for the night. At daylight, on the morning of the sixteenth, I was permitted and moved my command to the front, crossed a creek, and occupied the abandoned works of the enemy to the right of the Franklin pike. Skirmishing was now going on in front. We soon advanced to another abandoned line of works; and after considerable moving about near the pike, and the position of the enemy being ascertained, I was directed, and near noon formed in line on the right of the Second division of our corps, and soma distance [117] to the right of the pike, and on the left of the Second brigade of our division; the Seventy-fifth Illinois, Eighty-fourth Indiana, and Seventy-seventh Pennsylvania in the front line, from right to left, in the order named; the Eighty-fourth Illinois and Ninth Indiana in the second line; the Eightieth Illinois and Thirtieth Indiana in the third line. The enemy's lines were now in plain view, and skirmishing and artillery firing were briskly going on. The ground to my front was open; mostly a farm, with a ravine running obliquely across my front to the left, and which I had to cross before reaching the enemy's lines. A little after noon the advance was ordered, and the whole line moved as far as I could see either way. We soon drove in the enemy's skirmishers to their outposts, or first works, and assaulted and carried them. On gaining these works I discovered the Second division to my left, moving beyond towards the main line of the enemy's works, which was about four hundred yards to my front. I also ordered the forward, but as I was starting I discovered the line to my right was not moving, and I halted my two right regiments, seeing they could not advance alone without a severe flank fire upon them. The left regiment, Seventy-seventh Pennsylvania, Colonel Rose, moved forward on the right of the Second division to within a few paces of the enemy's main works. The Second division being repulsed, Colonel Rose's regiment also fell back to the first line gained, which we strengthened and maintained under a severe fire from the enemy's main line. We were now safely in this position and ready for another move. Near four o'clock the fighting was very severe far to our right, and it was discovered that our forces had turned the rebel left, and was “rolling” them. The assault was taken up from right to left all along our lines. My front moved in conjunction with the lines on my right. The engagement now became general. The enemy's lines were soon carried, with many prisoners, and all his artillery that were in his works. The scene was magnificent — the grandest I have beheld during the war. Most of the enemy in my front were captured, with three pieces of artillery. The enemy's trenches were strewn with arms, accoutrements, and camp equipage. The officers of the three front regiments, with many private soldiers, led the van, cheering onward, as did those who followed in the rear lines.

Lamented Adjutant Gregory, Eighty-fourth Indiana, fell when within about one hundred yards of the enemy's works, from an artillery ball or shell, while pressing forward and encouraging his regiment. May kind remembrances follow him.

My brigade moved forward of all other troops on the right of the Franklin pike, so that my skirmishers covered the mountain pass at Brentwood at nightfall, where we rested for the night. Early next morning the pursuit was continued — my brigade in front. Our forces continued to press the enemy until his remainder, not killed, wounded, or captured, had crossed the Tennessee River, about one hundred and ten miles from Nashville. We pursued under bad weather, over bad roads, and with great fatigue and hard labor to the command, to Lexington, Alabama; from thence to this place (Huntsville).

The regimental commanders, Colonel Bennett, Colonel Rose, Colonel Suman, Lieutenant-Colonel Morton, Major Taylor, Captain Lawton, and Captain Cunningham, with their officers and men, have my grateful thanks for their willing obedience to orders, their brave and efficient execution of every duty upon the battle-field and during the campaign.

My command routed the enemy from his lines and positions, containing seven pieces of artillery: four on the first and three on the second days; capturing a large number of small arms, with twelve captains, twenty-three lieutenants, and six hundred and six enlisted men prisoners, as shown by copies of vouchers hereto attached. It is hoped that credit will not be given or claimed for prisoners, without vouchers. The trophies captured are shown by separate special reports from regiments, and have been forwarded.

I am indebted to my staff officers, and noncommissioned staff for their interest manifested in the action and welfare of the command, and their prompt and efficient service on the battlefield and during the march.

The following table shows the casualties in the command, viz.:

commands. officers. men. Totals.
Killed. Wounded. Missing. Killed. Wounded. Missing.
Seventy-fifth Illinois   2   2 2   6
Eightieth Illinois       2 5   7
Eighty-fourth Illinois   1     7 1 9
Ninth Indiana   1     17   18
Thirtieth Indiana         6   6
Eighty-fourth Indiana 1       19   20
Seventy-seventh Pennsylvania 1       15   16
Total 2 4   4 71 1 82


I miss the gallant young officer, Lieutenant Parrott, Seventy-fifth Illinois, one of my Aides, who fell in the second day's battle, badly wounded in the thigh.

Whilst I rejoice that the number of casualties is not large, yet I deeply regret the loss of such excellent and brave soldiers. Lieutenant Baldwin, Seventy-seventh Pennsylvania, an excellent and brave young officer, fell in the second day's battle, at his post, and died as heroes die.

For further particulars of the part taken by each regiment respectively, reference is made to reports of regimental commanders herewith forwarded.

I have the honor to be, Captain,

Your obedient servant,

W. Grose, Brigadier-General, commanding. Frank Bingham, Captain, and A. A. A. Gen.

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 Dates (automatically extracted)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: