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Battle of Murfreesboro.

We purpose publishing during this year a number of reports and other papers concerning the operations of our western armies; and we feel sure that our readers will thank us for presenting the following reports of the battle of Murfreesboroa by the lamented Breckinridge and the gallant General Gibson:

Report of General J. C. Breckinridge.

headquarters Breckinridge's division, January--, 1863.
Major T. B. Roy, A. A. Gen.:
sir: I have the honor to report the operations of this division of Lieutenant-General Hardee's corps in the recent battles of Stone River in front of Murfreesboroa.

The character and course of Stone river and the nature of the ground in front of the town are well known, and as the report of the General Commanding will no doubt be accompanied by a sketch, it is not necessary to describe them here.

On the morning of Sunday the 28th of December, the brigades moved from their encampments and took up line of battle about one and a half miles from Murfreesboroa in the following order: Adams' brigade on the right, with its right resting on the Lebanon road and its left extending towards the ford over Stone river a short distance below the destroyed bridge on the Nashville turnpike; Preston on the left of Adams; Palmer on the left of Preston, and Hanson forming the left of the line, with his left resting on the right bank of the river near the ford. The right of Major-General Withers of Lieutenant-General Polk's corps, rested near the left bank of the river and slightly in advance of Hanson's left.

Brigadier-General Jackson having reported to me with his command, was placed, by the direction of the Lieutenant-General Commanding, upon the east side of the Lebanon road, on commanding ground, a little in advance of the right of Brigadier-General Adams. [210]

My division formed the front line of the right wing of the army. Major-General Cleburne's division, drawn up some six hundred yardsin rear, formed the second line of the same wing, while the division of Major-General Mc-Cown, under the immediate direction of the General Commanding, composed the reserve. My line extended from left to right along the edge of a forest, save an open space of four hundred yards, which was occupied by Wright's battery of Preston's brigade, with the Twentieth Tennessee in reserve to support it. An open field eight hundred yards in width extended along nearly the whole front of the line, and was bounded on the opposite side by a line of forest similar to that occupied by us. In the opinion of the Lieutenant-General Commanding (who had twice ridden carefully over the ground with me) and the General commanding, who had personally inspected the lines, it was the strongest position the nature of the ground would allow.

About six hundred yards in front of Hanson's center was an eminence which it was deemed important to hold. It commanded the ground sloping towards the river in its front and on its left, and also the plain on the west bank occupied by the right of Withers' line. Colonel Hunt with the Fortyfirst Alabama, the Sixth and Ninth Kentucky, and Cobb's battery, all of Hanson's brigade, was ordered to take and hold this hill, which he did, repulsing several brisk attacks of the enemy, and losing some excellent officers and men. A few hundred yards to the left and rear of this position a small earthwork, thrown up under the direction of Major Graves, my Chief of Artillery, was held during a part of the operations by Semple's battery of Napoleon guns.

In the afternoon of Tuesday, the 30th, I received intelligence from Lieutenant-General Hardee that the divisions of Cleburne and McCown were to be transferred to the extreme left, and soon after an order came to me from the General Commanding to hold the hill at all hazards. I immediately moved the remainder of Hanson's Brigade to the hill and strengthened Cobb's battery with a section from Lumsden's battery and a section from Slocomb's Washington Artillery. At the same time Adams' brigade was moved from the right and formed on the ground originally occupied by Hanson's brigade. Jackson was moved to the west side of the Lebanon road to connect with the general line of battle.

All the ground east of Stone river was now to be held by one division, which in a single line did not extend from the ford to the Lebanon road. I did not change my general line, since a position in advance, besides being less favorable in other respects, would have widened considerably the interval between my right and the Lebanon road. The enemy did not again attack the hill with infantry, but our troops there continued to suffer during all the operations from heavy shelling. Our artillery at that position often did good service in diverting the enemy's fire from our attacking lines of infantry, and especially, on Wednesday the 31st, succeeded in breaking several of their for mations on the west bank of the river. [211]

On the morning of Wednesday the 31st, the battle opened on our left. From my front information came to me from Pegram's cavalry force in advance that the enemy, having crossed at the fords below, were moving on my position in line of battle. This proved to be incorrect. ...

About 10 1/2 o'clock A. M. I received through Colonel J. Stoddard Johnston a suggestion from the General Commanding to move against the enemy, instead of awaiting his attack. (I find that Colonel Johnston regarded it as an order, but as I moved at once it is not material.) I preferred to fight on the ground 1 then occupied, but supposing that the object of the General was to create a diversion in favor of our left, my line, except Hanson's brigade, was put in motion in the direction from which-the enemy was supposed to be advancing. We had marched about half a mile when I received through Colonel Johnston an order from the General Commanding to send at least one brigade to the support of Lieutenant-General Polk, who was hard pressed, and as I recollect, two, if I could spare them. I immediately sent Adams and Jackson, and at the same time suspended my movement, and sent forward Captain Blackburne with several of my escort, and Captain Coleman and Lieutenant Darragh of my staff, with orders to find and report with certainty the position and movements of the enemy. Soon after an order came from the General Commanding to continue the movement. The line again advanced, but had not proceeded far when I received an order from the General Commanding through Colonel Johnston, repeated by Colonel Greenfell, to leave Hanson in position on the hill, and with the remainder of my command to report at once to Lieutenant-General Polk. The brigades of Preston and Palmer were immediately moved by the flank towards the ford before referred to, and the order of the General executed with great rapidity. In the meantime, riding forward to the position occupied by the General Commanding and Lieutenant-General Polk, near the west bank of the river and a little below the ford, I arrived in time to see at a distance the brigades of Jackson and Adams recoiling from a very hot fire of the enemy. I was directed by Lieutenant-General Polk to form my line with its right resting on the river and its left extending across the open field, crossing the Nashville turnpike almost at a right angle. While my troops were crossing the river and getting into line, I rode forward with a portion of my staff, assisted by gentlemen of the staffs of Generals Bragg and Polk, to rally and form Adams' brigade, which was falling back chiefly between the turnpike and the river. Jackson, much cut up, had retired farther towards our left.

The brigade of Brigadier-General Adams was rallied and placed in line across the field behind a low and very imperfect breastwork of earth and rails. These brigades did not again enter the action that day (which, indeed, closed soon after with the charge of Preston and Palmer). They had suffered severely in an attack upon superior numbers, very strongly posted and sustained by numerous and powerful batteries, which had repulsed all preceding assaults. The list of casualties shows the courage and determination of these troops. [212]

General Adams having received a wound while gallantly leading his brigade, the command devolved upon Colonel R. L. Gibson, who discharged its duties throughout with marked courage and skill.

Preston and Palmer being now in line — Preston on the right--Lieutenant-General Polk directed me to advance across the plain until I encountered the enemy. The right of my line rested on the river (and from the course of the stream would in advancing rest on or very near it), while the left touched a skirt of woods from which the enemy had been driven during the day. At the opposite extremity of the plain a cedar brake extended in front of Palmer's whole line and two-thirds of Preston's line, the remaining space to the river being comparatively open, with commanding swells, and through this ran the railroad and turnpike nearly side by side. It was supposed that the enemy's line was parallel to ours, but the result showed that in advancing our right and his left the point of contact would form an acute angle.

These two brigades, passing over the troops lying behind the rails. moved across the plain in very fine order under the fire of the enemy's artillery. We had advanced but a short distance when Colonel O'Hara (my acting Adjutant-General) called my attention to a new battery in the act of taking position in front of our right between the turnpike and the river. I immediately sent him back to find some artillery to engage the enemy's battery. He found and placed in position the Washington Artillery. About the same time Captain E. P. Byrne reported his battery to me, and received an order to take the best position he could find and engage the enemy. He succeeded in opening on them after our line had passed forward.

A number of officers and men were killed along the whole line; but in this charge the chief loss fell upon Preston's right and center. His casualties amounted to one hundred and fifty-five. The Twentieth Tennessee, after driving the enemy on the right of the turnpike and taking twenty-five prisoners, was compelled to fall back before a very heavy artillery and musketry fire, Colonel Smith, commanding, being severely wounded; but it kept the prisoners and soon rejoined the command. The Fourth Florida and Sixtieth North Carolina encountered serious difficulty at a burnt house (Cowan's) on the left of the turnpike from fences and other obstacles, and was for a little while thrown into some confusion. Here for several minutes they were exposed to a destructive and partially enfilading fire at short range of artillery and infantry. But they were soon rallied by their gallant brigade commander, and rushing with cheers across the intervening space, entered the cedar glade. The enemy had retired from the cedars and was in position in a field to the front and right.

By changing the front of the command slightly forward to the right my line was brought parallel to that of the enemy and was formed near the edge of the cedars. About this time, meeting Lieutenant-General Hardee, we went together to the edge of the field to examine the position of the enemy, and found him strongly posted in two lines of battle supported by numerous batteries. One of his lines had the protection of the railroad cut, forming an [213] excellent breastwork. We had no artillery, the nature of the ground forbidding its use.

It was deemed reckless to attack with the force present. Night was now approaching. Presently the remainder of Lieutenant-General Hardee's corps came up on the left, and with McCown's command and a part of Cheatham's prolonged the line of battle in that direction. Adam's brigade also appeared and formed on the right of Preston. The troops bivouaced in position.

The Commanding-General expecting an attack upon his right the next morning, ordered me during the night, to recross the river with Palmer's brigade. Before daylight Thursday morning Palmer was in position on the right of Hanson. No general engagement occurred on this day, the troops generally being employed in replenishing the ammunition, cooking rations, and obtaining some repose.

On Friday, the 2d of January, being desirious to ascertain if the enemy was establishing himself on the east bank of the river, Lieutenant-Colonel Buckner and Major Graves, with Captain Byrne's battery and a portion of the Washington Artillery, under Lieutenant D. C. Vaught, went forward to our line of skirmishers toward the right and engaged those of the enemy, who had advanced perhaps a thousand yards from the east bank of the river. They soon revealed a strong line of skirmishers, which was driven back a considerable distance by our sharpshooters and artillery — the latter firing several houses in the fields in which the enemy had taken shelter. At the same time, accompanied by Major Pickett, of Lieutenant-General Hardee's staff, and Major Wilson, Colonel O'Hara, and Lieutenant Breckinridge of my own, I proceeded towards the left of our line of skirmishers, which passed through a thick wood about 500 yards in front of Hanson's position and extended to the river. Directing Captain Bosche, of the Ninth, and Captain Steele, of the Fourth Kentucky, to drive back the enemy's skirmishers, we were enabled to see that he was occupying with infantry and artillery the crest of a gentle slope on the east bank of the river. The course of the crest formed A little less than a right angle with Hanson's line, from which the center of the position, I was afterwards ordered to attack, was distant about 1,600 yards. It extended along ground part open and part woodland.

While we were endeayoring to ascertain the force of the enemy, and the relation of the ground on the east bank to that on the west bank of the river, I received an order from the Commanding-General to report to him in person. I found him or, the west bank near the ford below the bridge, and received from him an order to form my division in two lines and take the crest I have just described with the infantry. After doing this I was to bring up the artillery and establish it on the crest, so as at once to hold it and enfilade the enemy's lines on the other side of the river. Pegram and Wharton, who, with some cavalry and a battery, were beyond the point where my right would rest when the new line of battle should be formed, were directed, as the General informed me, to protect my right and co-operate in the attack. Captain [214] Robertson was ordered to report to me with his own and Semple's batteries of Napoleon guns. Captain Wright, who,with his battery, had been detached some days before, was ordered to join his brigade (Preston's). The brigades of Adams and Preston, which were left on the west side of the river Wednesday night, had been ordered to rejoin me. At the moment of my advance our artillery in the center and on the left was to open on the enemy. One gun from our center was the signal for the attack. The Commanding-General desired that the movement should be made with the least possible delay.

It was now 2½ o'clock P. M. Two of the brigades had to march about two miles, the other two about one mile. Brigadier-General Pillow, having reported for duty, was assigned by the Commanding-General to Palmer's brigade, and that fine officer resumed command of his regiment, and was three times wounded in the ensuing engagement. The Ninth Kentucky and Cobbs' battery, under the command of Colonel Hunt, were left to hold the hill so often referred to.

The division, after deducting the losses of Wednesday, the troops left on the hill and companies on special service, consisted of some 4,500 men. It was drawn up in two lines, the first in a narrow skirt of woods, the second two hundred yards in rear. Pillow and Hanson formed the first line, Pillow on the right. Preston supported Pillow, and Adams' brigade (commanded by Colonel Gibson) supported Hanson. The artillery was placed in rear of the second line under orders to move with it and occupy the summit of the slope as soon as the infantry should rout the enemy. Feeling anxious about my right, I sent two staff officers in succession to communicate with Pegram and Wharton, but received no intelligence up to the moment of assault. The interval between my left and the troops on the hill was already too great, but I had a battery to watch it with a small infantry support.

There was nothing to prevent the enemy from observing nearly all our movements and preparations. To reach him it was necessary to cross an open space six or seven hundred yards in width with a gentle ascent. The river was several hundred yards in rear of his position, but departed from it considerably as it flowed towards his left.

I had informed the Commanding-General that we would be ready to advance at 4 o'clock, and precisely at that hour the signal gun was heard from our center. Instantly the troops moved forward at a quickstep and in admirable order. The front line had bayonets fixed, with orders to deliver one volley and then use the bayonet.

The fire of the enemy's artillery on both sides of the river commenced as soon as the troops entered the open ground. When less than half the distance across the field, the quick eye of Colonel O'Hara discovered a force extending considerably beyond our right. I immediately directed Major Graves to move a battery to our right and open on them. He at once advanced Wright's battery and effectually checked their movements.

Before our line reached the enemy's position his artillery fire had become heavy, accurate, and destructive. Many officers and men fell before we closed [215] with their infantry; yet our brave fellows rushed forward with the utmost determination, and after a brief but bloody conflict routed both the opposing lines, took four hundred prisoners and several flags, and drove their artillery and the great body of their infantry across the river. Many were killed at the water's edge. Their artillery took time by the forelock in crossing the stream. A few of our men, in their ardor, actually crossed over before they could be prevented, most of whom subsequently moving up under the west bank recrossed at a ford three quarters of a mile above.

The second line had halted when the first engaged the enemy's infantry and laid down under orders; but very soon the casualties in the first line, the fact that the artillery on the opposite bank was more fatal to the second line than the first, and the eagerness of the troops, impelled them forward, and at the decisive moment, when the opposing infantry was routed, the two lines had mingled into one--the only practical inconvenience of which was that at several points the ranks were deeper than is allowed by a proper military formation.

A strong force of the enemy beyond our extreme right yet remained on the east side of the river. Presently a new line of battle appeared on the west bank directly opposite our troops and opened fire, while at the same time large masses crossed in front of our right and advanced to the attack. We were compelled to fall back.

As soon as our infantry had won the ridge Major Graves advanced the artillery of the division and opened fire. At the same time Captain Robertson threw forward Semple's battery towards our right, which did excellent service. He did not advance his own battery (which was to have taken position on the left), supposing that that part of the field had not been cleared of the enemy's infantry. Although mistaken in this, since the enemy had been driven across the river, yet I regard it as fortunate that the battery was not brought forward. It would have been a vain contest.

It now appeared that the ground we had won was commanded by the enemy's batteries within easy rang3 on better ground upon the other side of the river. I know not how many guns he had. He had enough to sweep the whole position from the front, the left, and the right, and to render it wholly untenable by our force present of artillery and infantry. The infantry, after passing the crest and descending the slope towards the river, were in some measure protected, and suffered less at this period of the action than the artillery. We lost three guns, nearly all the horses being killed, and not having the time or men to draw them off by hand. One was lost because there was but one boy left (Private Wright, of Wright's battery,) to limber the piece, and his strength was unequal to it.

The command fell back in some disorder, but without the slightest appearance of panic, and reformed behind Robertson's battery, in the narrow skirt of timber from which we emerged to the assault. The enemy did not advance beyond the position in which he received — our attack. My skirmishers continued to occupy a part of the field over which we advanced until the army [216] retired from Murfreesboroa. The action lasted about one hour and twenty minutes. As our lines advanced to the attack several rounds of artillery were heard from our center, apparently directed against the enemy on the west bank of the river.

About twilight Brigadier-General Aiiderson reported to me with his brigade, and remained in position with me until the army retired. I took up line of battle for the night a little in rear of the field over which we advanced to the assault, and Captain Robertson at my request disposed the artillery in the positions indicated for it.

Many of the reports do not discriminate between the losses of Wednesday and Friday. The total loss in my division, exclusive of Jackson's command, is 2,140, of which, I think, 1,700 occurred on Friday. The loss of the enemy on this day was, I think, greater than our own, since he suffered immense slaughter between the ridge and the river.

I cannot forbear to express my admiration for the courage and constancy of the troops, exhibited even after it became apparent that the main object could not be accomplished. Beyond the general good conduct, a number of enlisted men displayed at different periods of the action the most heroic bravery. I respectfully suggest that authority be given to select a certain number of the most distinguished in each brigade to be recommended to the President for promotion.

I cannot enumerate all the brave officers who fell, nor the living who nobly did their duty; yet I may be permitted to lament, in common with the army, the premature death of Brigadier-General Hanson, who received a mortal wound at the moment the enemy began to give way. Endeared to his friends by his private virtues, and to his command by the vigilance with which he guarded its interest and honor, he was, by the universal testimony of his military associates, one of the finest officers that adorned the service of the Confederate States. Upon his fall the command devolved on Colonel Trabue, who in another organization had long and ably commanded most of the regiments composing the brigade.

I cannot close without expressing my obligations to the gentlemen of my staff. This is no formal acknowledgement. I can never forget that during all the operations they were ever prompt and cheerful by night and day in conveying orders, conducting to their positions regiments and brigades, rallying troops on the field, and, indeed, in the discharge of every duty.

It gives me pleasure to name Lieutenant-Colonel Buckner, A. A. G., who was absent on leave, but returned upon the first rumor of battle; Colonel O'Hara, Acting Adjutant-General; Lieutenant Breckinridge, Aide-de-Camp; Major Graves, Chief of Artillery (twice wounded, and his horse shot under him); Major Wilson, Assistant Inspector-General (horse shot); Captain Semple, ordnance officer; Lieutenant Darragh, severely wounded. Captains Martin and Coleman, of my volunteer staff, were active and efficient. The former had his horse killed under him. [217] 217

Drs. Heustis and Pendleton, Chief Surgeon and Medical Inspector, were unremitting in attention to the wounded. Dr. Stanhope Breckinridge, Assistant Surgeon, accompanied my headquarters, and pursued his duties through the fire of Wednesday. Mr. Buckner and Mr. Zantzinger, of Kentucky, attached themselves to me for the oocasion and were active and zealous.

Captain Blackburn, commanding my escort, ever cool and vigilant, rendered essential service, and made several bold reconnoisances.

Charles Choutard of the escort, acting as my orderly on Wednesday, displayed much gallantry and intelligence.

The army retired before daybreak on the morning of the 4th of January. My division, moving on the Manchester road, was the rear of Hardee's corps. The Ninth Kentucky, Forty-first Alabama, and Cobb's battery, all under the command of Colonel Hunt, formed a special rear-guard. The enemy did not follow us.

My acknowledgments are due to Colonel J. Stoddard Johnston, Lieutenant-Colonel Brent, and Lieutenant-Colonel Garner, of General Bragg's staff, and to Major Pickett, of Lieutenant-General Hardee's staff, for services on Friday, the 2d of January.

Respectfully, your obedient servant, John C. Breckinridge, Major-General, C. S. A.

Report of Colonel R. L. Gibson.

headquarters Adams' brigade, Breckinridge's division, Hardee's corps, A. T., Tullahoma, January 11th, 1863.
Colonel T. O'Hara, A. A. A. G.:
Sir: I beg leave to submit the following report of the part taken by the Thirteenth Louisiana volunteers in the action of the 31st:

We were posted on the right of Adams' brigade, the right of the regiment resting near the river and the two left companies overlapping the rail-track. We advanced in line of battle until we reached the houses destroyed by fire, and the point at which the ground swelled into a considerable hill, stretching towards the line of the enemy, and where the river turned off quite abruptly to the right. We here halted in order that disposition might be made to pass the obstacles in front of us, the regiment next to the Thirteenth--the Sixteenth Louisiana volunteers-having been thrown into column. We then advanced up the ascent, leaving quite an unoccupied space between the right and the river. Ascending the elevated position, I discovered the enemy moving troops rapidly down the river on our right, and placing them also in ambush in the cornfield on our front. Riding to the rail-track, I saw, not more than fifty yards distant, a line of battle of the enemy, using the embankment as a breastwork and to conceal them from our troops, on the low-ground to our left. The line of battle on the rail-track, as the line of battle on the river bank, [218] was at right angles to our advancing line, and the enemy reserved his fire until we were flanked. So soon as I discovered the disposition of the enemy, I rode across the railroad and informed General Adams. It was, however, too late to accomplish a timely change in our positions. Moreover, from the moment of our advance in the face of the enemy, their artillery had kept a constant fire upon us, while the fire of his infantry was reserved, rendering it the more difficult, in addition to the broken nature of the ground, to make new dispositions.

The first fire we received was from the river bank and directed upon the Infirmary corps of the regiment, posted considerably in our rear. I immediately moved the regiment double-quick by the right-flank towards the river, but finding a front as well as flanking fire open upon us, I commanded a halt, and determined to contest the field. The right of the regiment stood firm for a few minutes, but under the combined fires gave way. The men naturally faced the direction in which the severest fire came, and this caused some confusion. We were enabled to hold the left in its position, the fence in its front affording some protection. I felt the necessity of holding our position until the balance of the brigade, already falling back, should pass the point at which the enemy was pressing us on the right. Should this be prematurely lost, there had been a much larger force than the rest of the brigade, with every advantage of position, covering its entire front and enveloping its right flank. I called upon Major Austin to form on my line and assist in its defence. In a few moments he disposed his battalion of sharpshooters as I suggested. We were successful in holding the high-ground on the right of the railroad until the left portion of the brigade, driven back by a storm of artillery and infantry fire on its front and flank, had reached a point beyond our line. The ground was much broken; a continuous line of battle could not be formed on the hill, and this was one of the main reasons why there was some apparent irregularity in falling back.

I should do injustice to the officers and men of the Thirteenth Louisiana volunteers, did I not state that they displayed the best qualities of soldiers. It is difficult for troops to stand firm against great odds, under a heavy fire from the front and on the flank. This was not only done for some minutes, but at the outset and until the full force of the enemy was developed on our right flank. We drove back his line on our front, charging beyond the fence in the cornfield and rescuing the colors of some Confederate regiment, which had previously engaged the enemy in this position and whose dead marked plainly its line of battle. I send the colors that you may return them to the gallant regiment, whose brave dead spoke its eulogy.

Major Charles Guillet, acting Lieutenant-Colonel, commanding the right, contributed much to steady this exposed flank of the command.

I am indebted chiefly to Captain M. 0. Tracy, acting Major, and in charge of the left wing, for the steadiness with which it moved forward and for its handsome behavior on retiring.

This officer has been mentioned in every report of various battles in which the regiment has been engaged-Shiloh, Farmington, Perryville — and having [219] lost his leg in this action, I would especially commend him to the favorable consideration of our superior officers.

To Captains King, Bishop, and Ryan, the praise of having borne them themselves with great efficiency and marked courage is especially due.

Adjutant Hugh H. Bein acted with becoming coolness and efficiency, and to the color-bearer, Sergeant Roger Tammure, and Sergeant-Major John Farrell, great credit is due for their disregard of personal danger and soldierly conduct.

We moved to the rear of our artillery and were no longer, on that day, under the infantry fire of the enemy. Lieutenants Hepburn and Smith were killed in this action — they were brave and devoted soldiers.

A reference to the list of casualties will show the heavy loss sustained in this action.

I have the honor to remain, your obedient servant, R. L. Gibson, Colonel Commanding.

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