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January, 1863.

January, 1

At dawn we are all in line, expecting every moment the re-commencement of the fearful struggle. Occasionally a battery engages a battery opposite, and the skirmishers keep up a continual roar of small arms; but until nearly night there is no heavy fighting. Both armies want rest; both have suffered terribly. Here and there little parties are engaged burying the dead, which lie thick around us. Now the mangled remains of a poor boy of the Third is being deposited in a shallow grave. A whole charge of canister seems to have gone through him. Generals Rosecrans and Thomas are riding over the field, now halting to speak words of encouragement to the troops, then going on to inspect portions of the line. I have been supplied with a new horse, but one far inferior to the dead stallion. A little before sundown all hell seems to break loose again, and for about an hour the thunder of the artillery and volleys of musketry are deafening; but it is simply the evening salutation of the combatants. The darkness deepens; the weather is raw and disagreeable. Fifty thousand hungry men are stretched beside their guns again on the field. Fortunately I have a piece of raw pork [206] and a few crackers in my pocket. No food ever tasted sweeter. The night is gloomy enough; but our spirits are rising. We all glory in the obstinacy with which Rosecrans has clung to his position. I draw closer to the camp-fire, and, pushing the brands together, take out my little Bible, and as I open it my eyes fall on the XCI Psalm:

I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress, my God; in Him will I trust. Surely He shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence. He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings shall be thy trust. His truth shall be thy shield and buckler. Thou shalt not be, afraid for the terror by night, nor for the arrow that flieth by day; nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness, nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday. A thousand shall fall by thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.

Camp-fires innumerable are glimmering in the darkness. Now and then a few mounted men gallop by. Scattering shots are heard along the picket line. The gloom has lifted, and I wrap myself in my blanket and lie down contentedly for the night.

January, 2

At sunrise we have a shower of solid shot and shell. The Chicago Board of Trade battery is silenced. The shot roll up the Murfreesboro pike like balls on a bowling alley. Many horses are killed. A soldier near me, while walking deliberately to the rear, to seek a place of greater safety, is struck between the shoulders by a ricochetting ball, and instantly [207] killed. We are ordered to be in readiness to repel an attack, and form line of battle amid this fearful storm of iron. Gaunther and Loomis get their batteries in position, and, after twenty or thirty minutes active work, silence the enemy and compel him to withdraw. Then we have a lull until one or two o'clock, when Van Cleve's division on the left is attacked. As the volume of musketry increases, and the sound grows nearer, we understand that our troops are being driven back, and brigade after brigade double quicks from the right and center, across the open field, to render aid. Battery after battery goes in the same direction on the run, the drivers lashing the horses to their utmost speed. The thunder of the guns becomes more violent; the volleys of musketry grow into one prolonged and unceasing roll. Now we hear the yell which betokens encouraged hearts; but whose yell? Thank God, it is ours! The conflict is working southward; the enemy has been checked, repulsed, and is now in retreat. So ends another day.

The hungry soldiers cut steaks from the slain horses, and, with the scanty supplies which have come forward, gather around the fires to prepare supper, and talk over the incidents of the day. The prospect seems brighter. We have held the ground, and in this last encounter have whipped the enemy. There is more cheerfully conversation among the men They discuss the battle, the officers, and each other, and give us now and then a snatch of song. Officers come over from adjoining brigades, hoping to find a [208] little whisky, but learn, with apparent resignation and well-feigned composure, that the canteens have been long empty; that even the private flasks, which officers carry with the photographs of their sweethearts, in a side pocket next to their hearts, are destitute of even the flavor of this article of prime necessity. My much-esteemed colleague of the courtmartial, Colonel Hobart, stumbles up in the thick darkness to pay his respects. The sentinel, mistaking him for a private, tells him, with an oath, that this is neither the time nor place for stragglers, and orders him back to his regiment; and so the night wears on, and fifty thousand men lay upon their guns again.

January, 3

Colonel Shanklin, with a strong detachment from my brigade, was captured last night while on picket. Rifle pits are being dug, and I am ordered to protect the workmen. The rebels hold a strip of woods in our immediate front, and we get up a lively skirmish with them. Our men, however, appear loth to advance far enough to afford the necessary protection to the workers. Vexed at their unwillingness to venture out, I ride forward and start over a line to which I desire the skirmishers to advance, and discover, before I have gone twenty yards, that I have done a foolish thing. A hundred muskets open on me from the woods; but the eyes of my own brigade and of other troops are on me, and I can not back out. I quicken tile pace of my horse somewhat, and continue my perilous course. The bullets whistle like bees about my head, but I ride the whole length of the proposed skirmish line, and get back to the [209] brigade in safety. Colonel Humphrey, of the Eightyeighth Indiana, comes up to me, and with a tremor in his voice, which indicates much feeling, says: “My God, Colonel, never do that again!” The caution is unnecessary. I had already made up my mind never to do it again. We keep up a vigorous skirmish with the enemy for hours, losing now and then a man; but later in the day we are relieved from this duty, and retire to a quieter place.

About nightfall General Rousseau desires me to get two regiments in readiness, and, as soon as it becomes quite dark, charge upon and clean out the woods in our front. I select the Third Ohio and Eighty-eighth Indiana for this duty, and at the appointed time we form line in the open field in front of Gaunther's battery, and as we start, the battery commences to shell the woods. As we get nearer the objective point, I put the men on the double quick. The rebels, discovering our approach, open a heavy fire, but in the darkness shoot too high. The blaze of their guns reveals their exact position to us. We reach the rude log breastworks behind which they are standing and grapple with them. Colonel Humphrey receives a severe thrust from a bayonet; others are wounded, and some killed. It is pitch dark under the trees. Some of Gaunther's shells fall short, and alarm the men. Unable to find either staff officer or orderly, I ride back and request him to elevate his guns. Returning, I find my troops blazing away with great energy; but, so far as I can discover, [210] their fire is not returned. It is difficult, however, in the noise, confusion, and darkness, to direct their movements, and impossible to stop the firing. In the meantime a new danger threatens. Spear's Tennesseeans have been sent to support us, probably without any definite instructions. They are, most of them, raw troops, and, becoming either excited or alarmed at the terrible racket in the woods, deliver scattering shots in our rear. I ride back and urge them either to cease firing or move to the left, go forward and look after our flank. One regiment does move as directed; but the others are immovable, and it is with great difficulty that I succeed in making them understand that in firing they are more likely to injure friends than foes. Fortunately, soon after this, the ammunition of the Third and Eighty-eighth becoming exhausted, the firing in the woods ceases, and. as the enemy has already abandoned the field, the affair ends. I try to find General Rousseau to report results, but can not; and so, worn out with fatigue and excitement, lie down for another night.

January, 4

Every thing quiet in our front. It is reported that the enemy has disappeared. Investigation confirms the report, and the cavalry push into Murfreesboro and beyond.

During the forenoon the army crosses Stone River, and with music, banners, and rejoicings, takes possession of the old camps of the enemy. So the long and doubtful struggle ends.

January, 5

I ride over the battle-field. In one place a caisson and five horses are lying, the latter killed in [211] harness, and all fallen together. Nationals and Confederates, young, middle-aged, and old, are scattered over the woods and fields for miles. Poor Wright, of my old company, lay at the barricade in the woods which we stormed on the night of the last day. Many others lay about him. Further on we find men with their legs shot off; one with brains scooped out with a cannon ball; another with half a face gone; another with entrails protruding; young Winnegard, of the Third, has one foot off and both legs pierced by grape at the thighs; another boy lies with his hands clasped above his head, indicating that his last words were a prayer. Many Confederate sharpshooters lay behind stumps, rails, and logs, shot in the head. A young boy, dressed in the Confederate uniform, lies with his face turned to the sky, and looks as if he might be sleeping. Poor boy! what thoughts of home, mother, death, and eternity, commingled in his brain as the life-blood ebbed away! Many wounded horses are limping over the field. One mule, I heard of, had a leg blown off on the first day's battle; next morning it was on the spot where first wounded; at night it was still standing there, not having moved an inch all day, patiently suffering, it knew not why nor for what. How many poor men moaned through the cold nights in the thick woods, where the first day's battle occurred, calling in vain to man for help, and finally making their last solemn petition to God!

In the evening I met Rousseau, McCook, and Crittenden. They had been imbibing freely. Rousseau [212] insisted upon my turning back and going with them to; his quarters. Crittenden was the merriest of the party. On the way he sang, in a voice far from melodious, a pastorial ditty with which childhood is familiar:

Mary had a little lamb,
His fleece was white as snow,
And every — where that Mary went
The lamb was sure to go.

Evidently the lion had left the chieftain's heart, and the lamb had entered and taken possession.

McCook complimented me by saying that my brigade fought well. He should know, for he sat behind it at the commencement of the second assault of the enemy in the cedars, on the first day; but very soon thereafter disappeared. Just when he left, and why he did so, I do not know.

At Rousseau's we found a large number of staff and line officers. The demijohn was introduced, and all paid their respects to it. The ludicrous incidents, of which there are more or less even in battles, of the last five days, were referred to, and much merriment prevailed.

January, 6

The army is being reorganized, and we are busily engaged repairing the damages sustained in the battle.

Visited the hospitals, and, so far as possible, looked after the wounded of my brigade. To-morrow the chaplains will endeavor to hunt them all up, and report their whereabouts and condition.


January, 7

I was called upon late in the evening to make a report of the operations of my brigade immediately, as General Rousseau intends to leave for Louisville in the morning. It is impossible to collect the information necessary in the short time allowed me. One of my regimental commanders, Colonel Foreman, was killed; another, Colonel Humphrey, was wounded, and is in hospital; another, Lieutenant-Colonel Shanklin, was captured, and is absent; but I gathered up hastily what facts I could obtain as to the casualties in the several regiments, and wrote my report in the few minutes which remained for me to do so, and sent it in. I have not had an opportunity to do justice either to my brigade or myself.

January, 13

Move in the direction of Columbia, on a reconnoitering expedition. My brigade stops at Salem, and the cavalry pushes on.

January, 14

Have been exposed to a drenching rain for thirty hours. The men are cold, hungry, and mutinous.

January, 15

Ordered back to Murfreesboro, and march thither in a storm of snow and sleet. It is decidedly the coldest day we have experienced since last winter.

I find two numbers of Harper's Weekly on my return. They abound in war stories. The two heroes, of whom I read to-night, received saber cuts on the face and head, obtained leave of absence, returned home, and married forthwith. Saber cuts are very rare in the Army of the Cumberland, and if young officers were compelled to defer entering into wedlock until they got wounds of this kind, there would be [214] precious few soldiers married. Bullet wounds are common enough; but the hand-to-hand encounters, knightly contests of swords, the cleaving of headpieces and shattering of spears, are not incidents of modern warfare.

The long rain has completely saturated the ground. The floor of my tent is muddy; but my bed will be dry, and as I have not had my clothes off for three days, I look forward to a comfortable night's rest.

The picture in Harper, of “Christmas eve,” will bring tears to the eyes of many a poor fellow shivering over the camp-fire in this winter season. The children in the crib, the stockings in which Santa Claus deposits his treasures, recall the pleasantest night of the year.

Speaking of Christmas reminds me of the mistletoe bough. Mistletoe abounds here. Old, leafless trees are covered and green with it. It was in blossom a week or two ago, if we may call its white wax-like berries blossoms. They are known as Christmas blossoms. The vine takes root in the bark — in any crack, hole, or crevice of the tree-and continues green all winter. The berries grow in clusters.

January, 16

I have as guests Mr. and Mrs. Johnson House, my old neighbors. They have come from their quiet home in Ohio to look over a battle-field, and I take pleasure in showing them the points of interest. Mr. House, with great frankness, tells me, in the presence of my staff, that he had been afraid I was not qualified for the high position I hold, and that I was getting along too fast; but he now feels [215] satisfied that I am capable and worthy, and would be well pleased to see me again promoted. I introduced my friends to Lieutenant Van Pelt, of Loomis' battery, and Mr. House asked: “Lieutenant, will these guns shoot with any kind of decision?” “Precision,” I suggested. “Yes,” Van Pelt replied, “they will throw a ball pretty close to the mark.”

January, 17

Dr. Peck tells me that the wounded of the Third are doing well, and all comfortably quartered. He is an excellent physician and surgeon, and the boys are well pleased with him. [216]

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