The battle of Stone's River.
On the 26th of December, 1862, General W. S. Rosecrans
, who on the 20th of October had succeeded General Buell
in the command of the Army of the Cumberland, set out from Nashville
with that army with the purpose of attacking the Confederate forces under General Braxton Bragg
, then concentrated in the neighborhood of Murfreesboro
‘, on Stone's River, Tenn.
The three corps into which the army was organized moved by the following routes: General Crittenden
by the Murfreesboro' turnpike
, arriving within two miles of Murfreesboro
' on the night of the 29th; General Thomas
's corps by the Franklin
and Wilkinson turnpikes, thence by cross-roads to the Murfreesboro' pike
, arriving a few hours later; and General McCook
's corps, marching by the Nolensville pike
, and bivouacking at Overall's Creek
on the same night.
The forward movement had not been accomplished without some sharp fighting.
The advance of Crittenden
had a spirited action at La Vergne
, and again at the Stewart's Creek bridge
fought at Nolensville
, and the cavalry, under General Stanley
, found the march a continuous skirmish; but the Confederate
advance pickets had fallen back upon the main line, where they rejoined their divisions.
The armies were about equally matched.
's effective strength on December 10th was 39,304 infantry, 10,070 cavalry, and 1758 artillery,--total, 51,132; while on December 15th General Rosecrans
's returns showed a present for duty of 51,822 infantry and artillery, and 4849 cavalry,--total, 56,671.
In each army these figures were diminished by the usual details for hospital and transportation service, train guards, and other purposes, so that Rosecrans
reported his force actually engaged, December 31st, at 43,400, while Bragg
placed his own force at 37,712.1
's left wing, under Crittenden
, bivouacked on the night of the 29th within seven hundred yards of the Confederate
lines in front of Murfreesboro
's orders had been to go into Murfreesboro
‘, and he was inclined to obey them.
Riding forward, he found the two advance divisions arranged in line of battle, and, against the remonstrance of General Wood
, ordered a forward movement.
united with Wood
, however, in a protest on the ground that an advance at night over unknown ground, in the face of a force of unknown strength, was too hazardous to be undertaken.
finally suspended the execution of the order one hour, and soon after it was countermanded by General Rosecrans
came up to Crittenden
's headquarters at the toll-house on the Nashville turnpike
's line of battle was the base of a triangle of which Stone's River
on his left and the line of a dense cedar thicket on his right formed the other sides.
's division occupied the left, with his flank resting on the river, General Palmer
's the right, while General Van Cleve
was in reserve near a ford of Stone's River
's two divisions, Negley
formed on the right of Palmer
, with his right on the Wilkinson pike
, while Rousseau
was in reserve.2
The soldiers lay down on the wet ground without fires, under a drenching rain.
The slumbers of the commanding general
were disturbed at half-past 3 on the morning of the 30th by a call from General McCook
, who had just come up and who was instructed to rest the left of his corps upon Negley
Of his divisions, Sheridan
therefore, preceded by Stanley
's cavalry, moved on the Wilkinson turnpike
, closely followed by R. W. Johnson
Skirmishing into position, the line was formed by resting the left of Sheridan
's division on the Wilkinson pike
taking position on his right and Johnson
The general course of the Nashville and Murfreesboro' turnpike
, and of the railroad where they crossed the line of battle, is south-east.
On the left of the turnpike, and opposite the toll-gate house, was a grove of trees of about four acres in extent, crowning a slight elevation known as the “Round
forest,” in which Wagner
's brigade was posted.
The line of battle trending irregularly southward, facing east and accommodating itself to the character of the ground, was much nearer the Confederate
line in front of McCook
than on the left, where the flanks of the contending armies were separated by Stone's River
At 4 o'clock General McCook
reported the alignment of the right wing, together with the fact that two divisions of Polk
's corps and two of Hardee
's were in his front, extending far to his right out the Salem pike
. General Rosecrans
objected to the direction of McCook's line, and said it should face strongly south, and that Johnson
's division, in column of regiments at half distance, should be held in reserve in rear of Davis
's right at close musket-range; but he left the arrangement of his right wing with the corps commander, who had been over the ground.3
The right wing, generally occupying a wooded ridge with open ground in front, was further protected from surprise by an outlook over a narrow cultivated
1. Monument to the dead of the Regular Brigade, Stone's River Cemetery. 2.
Cannon inscribed with the number buried in Stone's River Cemetery. 3. Stone's River Cemetery (see map, P. 616)--the Nashville railroad in the foreground.
From photographs made in 1884.|
The Round forest mentioned in the text included the right of Harker's first position and all of Hazen's position, field of December 31st. |
valley, widening from left to right from 200 to 500 yards, beyond which, in a dense cedar thicket, the enemy's lines were dimly visible.
Confidence in the strength and staying qualities of his troops, and reluctance to yield a favorable position without a struggle, together with the fact that the retirement of his line must be executed in the night, induced General McCook
to make the fatal mistake of leaving his position unchanged.
The plan of battle was as follows: General McCook
was to occupy the most advantageous position, refusing his right as much as was practicable and necessary to secure it; to receive the attack of the enemy, or, if that did not come, to attack sufficiently to hold all the forces in his front.
and General Palmer
View on the Nashville pike at the Union Cemetery, looking South-east toward Murfreesboro‘. from a photograph taken in 1884. |
open with skirmishing and engage the enemy's center and left as far as the river.
was to cross Van Cleve
's division at the lower ford (covered and supported by Morton
Monument to the dead of Hazen's Brigade, on the position held by his Brigade in the angle between the pike and the railroad.
From a photograph taken in 1884. |
Pioneers, 1700 strong) and to advance on Breckinridge
's division was to cross by brigades at the upper ford, and, moving on Van Cleve
's right, was to carry everything before it to Murfreesboro
‘. This move was intended to dislodge Breckinridge
, and to gain the high ground east of Stone's River
, so that Wood
's batteries could enfilade the heavy body of troops massed in front of Negley
The center and left, using Negley
's right as a pivot, were to swing round through Murfreesboro
' and take the force confronting McCook
in rear, driving it into the country toward Salem
The successful execution of General Rosecrans
's design depended not more upon the spirit and gallantry of the assaulting column than upon the courage and obstinacy with which the position held by the right wing should be maintained.
Having explained this fact to General McCook
, the commanding general asked him if, with a full knowledge of the ground,
he could, if attacked, hold his position three hours,--again alluding to his dissatisfaction with the direction which his line had assumed, but, as before, leaving that to the corps commander,--to which McCook
replied, “I think I can.”
witnesses had borne to the ears of General Bragg
the movements of General Rosecrans
He had in his army about the same proportion of raw troops to veterans as General Rosecrans
, and the armies were equally well armed.
By a singular coincidence Bragg
had formed a plan identical with that of his antagonist.
If both could have been carried out simultaneously the spectacle would have been presented of two large armies turning upon an axis from left to right.
was put in command of the Confederate
left wing, consisting of McCown
's divisions, and received orders to attack at daylight.
's attack was to be taken up by Polk
with the divisions of Cheatham
, in succession to the right flank, the move to be made by a constant wheel to the right, on Polk
's right flank as a pivot.
object of General Bragg
was by an early and impetuous attack to force the Union
army back upon Stone's River
, and, if practicable, by the aid of the cavalry, cut it off from its base of operations and supplies by the Nashville pike
As has been shown, the Union
and Confederate lines were much nearer together on the Union
right than on the left.
In point of fact the distance to be marched by Van Cleve
to strike Breckinridge
's right, crossing Stone's River
by the lower ford, was a mile and a half.
To carry out the order of General Bragg
to charge upon Rosecrans
's right, the Confederate
left wing, doubled, with McCown
in the first line and Cleburne
in support,, had only to follow at double-quick the advance of the skirmish line a few hundred paces, to find themselves in close conflict with McCook
The Confederate movement began at daybreak.
moved his two divisions with the precision that characterized that able commander.
, deflecting to the west, as he advanced to the attack, left an opening between his right and Withers
's left, into which Cleburne
's division fell, and together the two divisions charged upon R. W. Johnson
, while yet the men of those divisions were preparing breakfast.
There was no surprise.
The first movement in their front was observed by the Union
skirmish line, but that first movement was a rush as of a tornado.
The skirmishers fell back steadily, fighting, upon the main line, but the main line was overborne
by the fury of the assault.
Far to the right, overlapping R. W. Johnson
, the Confederate
line came sweeping on like the resistless tide, driving artillerists from their guns and infantry from their encampments.
Slowly the extreme right fell back, at first contesting every inch of ground.
's brigade 500 men were killed or wounded in a few minutes.
lost nearly as many.
's battery, on Willich
's right, lost three guns.
The swing of Bragg
's left flank toward the right brought McCown
's brigades upon the right of Davis
Leaving the detachments in R. W. Johnson
's division to the attention of two of his brigades and Wheeler
's cavalry, McCown
to the right, where Cleburne
was already heavily engaged.
's skirmishers before him, Cleburne
advanced with difficulty in line of battle, bearing to the right over rough ground cut up with numerous fences and thickets, and came upon the main line at a distance of three-fourths of a mile from his place of bivouac.
It was not yet daylight when he began his march, and he struck the Union
line at 6 o'clock. General Davis
now changed the front of Colonel Post
's brigade nearly perpendicular to the rear.
's battery was moved to the right, and the 59th Illinois assigned to its support.
One-fourth of a mi le to the right of Post, Baldwin
's brigade, with Simonson
's battery on its right, took position behind a fence on the margin of a wood.
's, and Sill
's brigades were on the main battle line.
Against this force, about seven thousand strong without works of any kind, Hardee
hurled the seven brigades commanded by Manigault
, Bushrod Johnson
, and McNair
--10,000 men. The engagement which followed (being the second distinct stage of the battle on the right) was one of the fiercest of the day. Baldwin
was the first to give way. After half an
hour's spirited resistance, finding the left of McCown
's division, in pursuit of the remnants of Willich
's and Kirk
's brigades, advancing far beyond his right, Baldwin
withdrew to the edge of the woods in rear of the front line, and tried to make a stand, but was driven back.
The salient angle formed by the junction of Post
's brigade with Carlin
's, which at this time formed the right of the extreme Union line of battle, was in the meantime fiercely assailed.
In front of Post, the Confederates
, in command of McNair
's brigade of his own division, and Liddell
's division, received a decided repulse; and Cleburne
was for a time equally unsuccessful in pushing back the main Union line.
Three successive assaults were made upon this position.
In the second, Vaughan
's and Maney
's brigades of Cheatham
's division relieved Loomis
's and Manigault
's. In the third attack Post
's brigade was enveloped by Hardee
's left, which, sweeping toward his rear, made withdrawal a necessity.
had been killed in the first assault.
's Union brigade was brought forward to the support of the front line.
The dying order from General Sill
to charge was gallantly obeyed, and Loomis
was driven back to his first position.
advanced at about 8 o'clock and attacked directly in
his front, but, meeting with the same reception, was compelled to retire.
A second attack resulted like the first.
's brigade now came up and advanced in line with Manigault
supported by Vaughan
's Confederate battery took position near the brick-kiln [see map, p. 616], and opened fire, under cover of which Manigault
made an unsuccessful dash upon Houghtaling
's Union battery. Colonel Roberts
was killed, and Colonel Bradley
, of the 52d Illinois, succeeded to the command of the brigade.
Having completed the formation of his line, Hardee
gave the order for a general advance, and that portion of the right wing, which up to this time had resisted every assault made upon it, retreated in perfect order toward the left and rear, with empty cartridge-boxes, but with courage undaunted.
's brigade, being entirely out of ammunition, obeyed Sheridan
's order to fix bayonets and await the charge.
's brigade, having a few cartridges left, fell back, resisting the enemy.
With the country to the right and rear overrun by McCown
's infantry and
's cavalry in pursuit of R. W. Johnson
's routed division, one-half of which were either killed, wounded, or captured, and with a strong, determined enemy pressing them upon front and flank, Davis
now found themselves menaced by another powerful auxiliary to defeat.
Their ammunition was nearly exhausted, and there was none nearer than the Nashville-Murfreesboro' pike
in the rear of Crittenden
On the other hand, McCown
, in his report, refers to the necessity of replenishing his ammunition at this juncture, Liddell
's brigade having exhausted forty rounds per man.
's brigade retired and re-formed on the Murfreesboro' pike
held out some time longer, but finally followed Carlin
toward the left, taking all the artillery with him, with the exception of one gun from Pinney
, dangerously wounded, was left upon the field.
The withdrawal of the artillery was a matter of greater difficulty.
Nearly all the horses having been killed, the attempt was made to withdraw the pieces by the use of prolonges.
, commanding a section of Hescock
's battery, was killed, and his sergeant brought off his two guns by hand.
The ground, however, was too rough, and the road to safety too long, and in consequence the six guns of Houghtaling
's battery were abandoned.
Dragging the remaining pieces of artillery with them, Sheridan
's division at 11 o'clock emerged from the cedars on Palmer
's right, passing Rousseau
on his way to the front.
's Confederates advanced in line of battle over the ground vacated by the Union
right wing, and came up with Stewart
's brigade hotly engaged with Negley
, while Cleburne
, sweeping toward the Nashville pike
, driving hundreds of fugitives before them, encountered a new line improvised by Rosecrans
to meet the emergency.
Thus far the plan of battle formed by Bragg
had been carried out in strict conformity with its requirements.
It now remained for Withers
to drive the Union
center back on the Union
The retirement of Sheridan
's division precipitated the entire command of Cheatham
and a portion of Withers
's upon Negley
's two brigades and two brigades of Rousseau
, on the left of the Wilkinson pike
, taking them in front, left flank, and rear.
The roar of artillery and the sharp rattle of musketry had aroused these brigades early, and they had stood in line, for hours, in momentary expectation of an attack upon their front.
This, it is possible, would have been repulsed; but when it came in such a questionable shape, preceded by a cloud of retreating troops, but one course appeared to present itself to the commander, and that was to fall back.
Nevertheless, he faced Colonel T. R. Stanley
's brigade to the right, and ordered Colonel John F. Miller
to hold his position to the last extremity.
arranged his brigade in convex order, with Schultz
's battery on his right and Ellsworth
's battery on his left.
Simultaneously with Cheatham
's advance upon his right, Stewart
's and Anderson
's brigades attacked Miller
's lines were barely formed when a heavy musketry and artillery fire opened upon his men, who met the charge with a well-directed fire.
On his right was Stanley
, and the rapid discharge of Schultz
's and Ellsworth
's guns told with terrible precision upon the ranks of the advancing Confederates who soon halted, but did not abate their
General Samuel Beatty's Brigade (Van Cleve's division) advancing to sustain the Union right near the Nashvilie pike (see map, P. 616). from a Lithograph. |
The 29th and 30th Mississippi, of Anderson
's brigade, made a dash upon Schultz
's battery, but were hurled back behind the friendly cover of a stone wall, where Stewart
passed them in his charge upon Miller
A bayonet charge was met by the 21st Ohio, and repulsed with great gallantry.
The fighting at this point was terrific.
All along the front the dead and wounded lay in heaps, and over their bodies came the assaulting host, seemingly strong and brave as when the first charge was made in the morning.
But the inevitable result of a successful flank movement, by which the ammunition trains had been captured, came to Negley
's strong fighting brigades as it had come to those of Sheridan
Ammunition was nearly exhausted, and it could only be replenished in rear of Crittenden
, whose lines still stood intact.
to retire, which he did in perfect order; and Miller
's brigade, after holding its position until the ammunition on the persons of the killed and wounded was all used, slowly fell back to re-form in Palmer
, having arranged his plan of battle, had risen early to superintend its execution.
, whose headquarters were a few paces distant, mounted at 6 A. M., and with his staff rode to an eminence, where Rosecrans
, surrounded by his staff-officers, was listening to the opening guns on the right.
The plan of Bragg
was instantly divined, but no apprehension of danger was felt.
Suddenly the woods on the right in the rear of Negley
appeared to be alive with men wandering aimlessly in the direction of the rear.
The roar of artillery grew more distinct, mingled with the continuous
volleys of musketry.
The rear of a line of battle always presents the pitiable spectacle of a horde of skulkers, men who, when tried in the fierce flame of battle, find, often to their own disgust, that they are lacking in the element of courage.
But the spectacle of whole regiments of soldiers flying in panic to the rear was a sight never seen by the Army of the Cumberland except on that occasion.
, from his position on the extreme right, dispatched a messenger, who arrived breathless, to inform General Rosecrans
that the right wing was in rapid retreat.
The astounding intelligence was confirmed a moment later by a staff-officer from McCook
, calling for reenforcements.
“Tell General McCook
,” said Rosecrans
, “to contest every inch of ground.
If he holds them we will swing into Murfreesboro
' and cut them off.”
with his reserves was sent into the fight, and Van Cleve
, who, in the execution of the initial movement on the left, had crossed Stone's River
at 6 A. M. at the lower ford, and was marching in close column up the hill beyond the river (preparatory to forming a line of battle for a movement to the right, where Wood
was to join him in an assault upon Breckinridge
), was arrested by an order to return and take position on the turnpike facing toward the woods on the right.
A few moments later this gallant division c ame dashing across the fields, with water dripping from their clothing, to take a hand in the fray.
's brigade was withdrawn from the left and sent in on Rousseau
's right, and Morton
's Pioneers, relieved at the ford by Price
's brigade, were posted on Harker
The remaining brigades of Van Cleve
's division (Beatty
's and Fyffe
's) formed on the extreme right, and thus an improvised line half a mile in extent presented a new and unexpected front to the approaching enemy.
It was a trying position to these men to stand in line while the panic-stricken soldiers of McCook
's beaten regiments, flying in terror through the woods, rushed past them.
The Union lines could not fire, for their comrades were between them and the enemy.
All these dispositions had been made under his personal supervision.
While riding rapidly to the front, Colonel Garesche
, his chief-of-staff, was killed at his side by a cannon-ball.
coming out of the cedars into which Rousseau
had just entered, Rosecrans
to the ammunition train, with orders to fill his cartridge-boxes and march to the support of Hazen
's brigade, now hotly engaged on the edge of the Round Forest
The left was now exposed to attack by Breckinridge
, and riding rapidly to the ford, Rosecrans
inquired who commanded the brigade.
“I do, sir,” said Colonel Price
. “Will you hold this ford?”
“I will try, sir.”
“Will you hold this ford?”
“I will die right here.”
“Will you hold this ford?”
for the third time thundered the general.
“Yes, sir,” said the colonel.
“That will do” ; and away galloped Rosecrans
, who was contending against long odds for the possession of the Round Forest
At half-past 10 o'clock Rousseau
's reserve division, shorn of one brigade, under command of Major-General Lovell H. Rousseau
, was ordered into action on the right of General Negley
The two brigades commanded by Colonels John Beatty
and B. F. Scribner
, known as the 17th and 9th of the
Scene of the fighting of Palmer's and Rousseau's divisions.
From a Lithograph.
In the distance between the railroad on the left and the pike in the center was the first position of Hazen, of Palmer's division.
On the right are the cedars in which Negley's division and the regulars of Rousseau's: division were so roughly handled.
In the foreground are seen the batteries of Loomis and Guenther. |
old Army of the Ohio, were the same that only three months before had hurled back the strong fighting brigades of Hardee
on the bloody slopes of Chaplin Hills or Perryville
The regular brigade, composed of five battalions of the 15th, 16th, 18th, and 19th United States Infantry, commanded by Colonel Oliver L. Shepherd
, under perfect discipline, was placed on the extreme right.
The line was formed in a dense cedar brake, through which Cleburne
's and McOown's victorious columns were advancing, sweeping everything before; them.
On the left the roar of battle in Negley
's front showed that all was not lost, and to his right Colonel John Beatty
's brigade was formed.
was held in reserve.
The shock of battle fell heaviest upon the regulars; over one-third of the command fell either killed or wounded.
, of Fort Pickens
fame, was wounded early.
Steadily, as if on drill, the trained battalions fired by file, mowing down the advancing Confederate lines.
's battery could not long check the fury of the; charge that bore down upon the flanks and was fast enveloping the entire: command.
, the commander of the 2d Ohio, was killed; Colonel Forman
, the boy Colonel
of the 15th Kentucky, and Major Carpenter
, of the 19th Infantry, fell mortally wounded.
There was no resource but to retreat upon support.
At this moment Negley
's division, with empty cartridge-boxes, fell back, and Rousseau
, finding his flanks exposed, after a heroic fight of over two hours, fell back slowly and stubbornly to the open: field, where his flanks could be more secure.
, with the Pioneers and the Chicago
Board of Trade battery, pushed into the cedars, and disappeared from view on their way to the front simultaneously with Harker
The general course of the tide of the stragglers toward the rear struck the Nashville turnpike
at the point where Van Cleve
stood impatiently awaiting the order to advance.
All along the line men were falling, struck by the bullets of the enemy, who soon appeared at the edge of the woods on
At the order to charge, given by General Rosecrans
in per-son, Van Cleve
's division sprang forward, reserving their fire for close quarters.
It was the crisis in the battle.
If this line should be broken all would be lost.
Steadily the line moved forward, sending a shower of bullets to the front.
The brigades of Stanley
having fallen back, as previously described, and the entire strength of Cheatham
and three brigades of Withers
having come upon Rousseau
, the latter had fallen back into the open field, where he found Van Cleve
's and Guenther
's batteries, double-shotted with canister, were posted on a ridge, and as the Confederate
line advanced, opened upon it with terrific force.
Men fell all along the line, but it moved straight ahead.
The field was covered with dead and wounded men. The deep bass of the artillery was mingled with the higher notes of the minie-rifles, while in the brief pauses could be distinguished the quickly spoken orders of commanding officers and the groans of the wounded.
It was the full orchestra of battle.
But there is a limit to human endurance.
The Confederate brigades, now melted to three-fourths their original numbers, wavered and fell back; again and again they re-formed in the woods and advanced to the charge, only to meet with a bloody repulse.
All along the line from Harker
's right to Wood
's left, the space gradually narrowed between the contending hosts.
The weak had gone to the rear; there was no room now for any but brave men, and no time given for new dispositions; every man who had a stomach for fighting was engaged on the front line.
From a right angle the Confederate
left had been pressed back by Van Cleve
and the Pioneers to an angle of 45 degrees.
This advance brought Van Cleve
within view of Rousseau
, who at once requested him to form on his right.
, entering the woods on the left of Van Cleve
, passed to his right, and now closed up on his flank.
The enemy had fallen back, stubbornly fighting, and made a stand on the left of Cheatham
Brave old Van Cleve
, his white hair streaming in the wind, the blood flowing from a wound in his foot, rode gallantly along the line to where Harker
was stiffly holding his position, with his right “in the air.”
Bidding him hold fast to every inch of ground, he rode on to Swallow
's battery, which was working — with great rapidity.
He then passed to the left, where General Samuel Beatty
's brigade were firing with their minie-rifles at a line of men which seemed to be always on the point of advancing.
The advance of Bragg
's left wing had brought it into a position at right angles with the original line.
The entire strength of the center, and most of the left, was concentrated upon the angle formed by Rousseau
and the right of Palmer
's Confederate brigade, which up to 10 o'clock had lain concealed in the rifle-pits on tie right of Withers
's line, arose at the order, and, under a terrific fire, dashed forward across the open field upon Palmer
Finding that the time had come for a decisive blow, General Bragg
now directed General Breckinridge
to send two brigades to the left to reinforce Polk
, who, with his cavalry, was posted on the Lebanon
pike in advance of Breckinridge
's right, had observed Van Cleve
's movement, and notified General Breckinridge
that a heavy column of infantry and artillery had crossed Stone's River
and was advancing along the river bank upon the position occupied by Hanson
Interpreting this as the initial movement in a plan which was intended to strike his division, Breckinridge
declined to obey Bragg
's order, which in his report he terms a “suggestion.”
At ten minutes after ten he replied, “The enemy is undoubtedly advancing upon me.”
Soon after he wrote Bragg
, “The Lebanon
road is unprotected, and I have no troops to fill out my line to it.”
At half-past 11, upon Bragg
ordering him to move forward and attack the Union
replied, “I am obeying your order, but my left is now engaged with the enemy, and if I advance my whole line farther forward, and still retain communication with my left, it will take me clear away from the Lebanon
road, and expose my right and that road to a heavy force of the enemy advancing from Black
The withdrawal of Van Cleve
appears to have passed unnoticed by Breckinridge
, and was undiscovered until too late to accomplish any good by complying with Bragg
Thus, by simply thrusting forward the left flank of his army a nd at once withdrawing it, General Rosecrans
had held four Confederate brigades inactive at a time when their presence in support of Chalmers
might have administered the coup de grace to the center of the Union
The movement of Crittenden
's left and center divisions upon Bragg
's right wing having been arrested, Wood
's division was in position to cross at the upper ford.
's brigade was at the river bank.
was in reserve some distance to the rear of the opening between Wagner
's right and Hazen
The withdrawal of Negley
's right precipitated the attack of Donelson
's and Chalmers
's brigades against the right and Adams
against the left.
's attack was made with great fury.
His men had been confined, without fires, in their rifle-pits for forty-eight hours, and when finally the order came at 10 o'clock to “up and at ‘em,” they came forward like a pack of hounds in full cry. Cruft
recoiled from the attack in the open field between the Round Forest
and the wood in which Negley
was engaged, and, falling back, met the charge at the time that Negley
moved to the rear.
's right was in the air and exposed to attack by Donelson
in his front, but Donelson
's brigade, pouring to his rear, threatened to envelop him. Grose
, from his position in reserve, faced to the right, and soon after to the rear, and bore back the charging columns, enabling Cruft
's assault first fell upon Palmer
's right, Hazen
faced his two right regiments, the 6th Kentucky and 9th Indiana, to the rear, where the impetus of Chalmers
's assault upon Cruft
had borne him, at the same time retiring the two left regiments, the 41st Ohio and 110th Illinois, some fifty yards to the left of the pike and engaged to the front, the 40th Indiana having fallen back.
A burnt brick house [Cowan's] in the immediate front of the Round Forest
afforded cover for the enemy, and in the steady, persistent effort to force back the front of Hazen
's line the action became terrific.
's brigade, and two regiments of Wagner
's, being engaged on the right of the 6th Kentucky, and Wagner
's remaining regiments being in position.
at the ford some distance to the left, the assault on the left was borne by Hazen
, whose brigade was thought by Polk
to be the extreme left of the Union
Upon this point, as on a pivot, the entire army oscillated from front to rear for hours.
's horse fell shot square in the forehead.
Word came that the ammunition of the 41st Ohio was nearly exhausted.
“Fix bayonets and hold your ground!”
was the order.
To the 110th Illinois, who had no bayonets, and whose cartridges were expended, the order was given to club their muskets, but to hold the ground.
The 9th Indiana now dashed across the line of fire, from a battery in front, to the left, to relieve the 41st Ohio.
Cannon-balls tore through their ranks, but they were rapidly closed up, and the men took their place in the front line, the 41st retiring with thinned ranks, but in excellent order, to refill their empty cartridge-boxes.
An ominous silence succeeded, soon followed by the charge of Donelson
's fresh Confederate brigade and the remains of Chalmers
's. The time had been occupied in the readjustment of Palmer
The 24th Ohio, commanded by Colonel Fred. Jones
, and the 36th Indiana, shorn of half its strength in the previous assault, were sen t to Hazen
's battery was posted on the left.
The 3d Kentucky, led by McKee
, dashed forward and took position on the right of the 9th Indiana across the turnpike.
The terrible slaughter in this regiment attests its courage.
were thus gallantly defending the left of the line from 9 o'clock in the morning until 2 in the afternoon, the fight raged not less furiously on their immediate right.
Here a line was formed, composed of two brigades of Palmer
's division and Hascall
's, filled out by the remains of Sheridan
's and Negley
's divisions, who, after they had replenished their ammunition, formed behind the railroad embankment at right angles with Hazen
's brigade, which alone retained its position upon the original line.
Farther to the right was Rousseau
, with Van Cleve
, and Morton
on his right.
At this supreme moment the chances of victory were evenly balanced.
The undaunted soldiers of the left and center had swept past the crowd of fugitives from the right wing, and now in strong array they stood like a rock-bound coast beating back the tide which threatened to engulf tie rear.
Along this line rode Rosecrans
, calm, inflexible, from whose gaze skulkers shrank abashed; Crittenden
, cheerful and full of hope, complimenting his men as he rode along the lines; Rousseau
, whose impetuosity no disaster could quell; Palmer
, with a stock of cool courage and presence of mind equal to any emergency; Wood
, suffering from a wound in his heel, staid in the saddle, but had lost that jocularity which usually characterized him. “Good-bye, General, we'll all meet at the hatter's, as one coon said to another when the dogs were after them,” he had said to Crittenden
early in the action.
“Are we doing it about right now, General?”
, as he glanced along the blazing line of muskets to where the Chicago
battery [Stokes's] was hard at work.
“All right, fire low,” said Rosecrans
as he dashed by. Colonel Grose
, always in his place, had command of the Ammen
brigade, of Shiloh
memory, which, with Hazen
's and Cruft
's brigades, had driven the right of Beauregard
's victorious army off that field.
After the formation of this line at noon it never receded; the right swung around until, at 2 o'clock, considerable of the lost ground had been retaken.
The artillery, more than fifty guns, was massed in the open ground behind the angle in the line (twenty-eight Union guns had been captured), where they poured iron missiles continuously upon the Confederate
They could not fire amiss.
The fire from Cox
's battery was directed upon Hanson
's brigade across the river, whence Cobb
, with his Napoleons, returned the compliment with zeal and precision.
's brigade, having received a new stock of cartridges, formed on Palmer
's right, where later its commander received his death wound, the last of Sheridan
's brigade commanders to fall during the day. At 4 o'clock it became evident to the Confederate
commander that his only hope of success lay in a charge upon the Union
left, which, by its overpowering weight, should carry everything before it . The movement of Cleburne
to the left in support of McCown
had deprived him of reserves; but Breckinridge
had two brigades unemployed on the right, and these were peremptorily ordered across the river to the support of General Polk
The charge of Adams
, and the subsequent attack of Preston
's and Palmer
's brigades, have been described.
The error made by General Polk
in making an attack with the two brigades that first arrived upon the field, instead of waiting the arrival of General Breckinridge
with the remaining brigades, was so palpable as to render an excuse for failure necessary.
This was easily found in the tardy execution of Bragg
's order by Breckinridge
, and resulted in sharp criticism of the latter.
The Union 3d Kentucky, now nearly annihilated, was relieved by the 58th Indiana, Colonel George P. Buell
The 6th Ohio, Colonel Nicholas L. Anderson
at its head, took position on the right of the 26th Ohio, with its right advanced so that its line of fire would sweep the front of the regiments on its left.
The 97th Ohio and 100th Illinois came up and still further strengthened the position.
They had not long to wait for the Confederate
These dispositions had hardly been made when a long line of infantry emerged from behind the hill.
's and Jackson
's brigades were on the right, and Donelson
's and Chalmers
's, badly cut up but stout of heart, were on the left.
On they came in splendid style, full six thousand strong.
's case-shot tore through their ranks, but the gaps closed up. Parsons
sent volley after volley of grape-shot against them, and the 6th and the 26th Ohio, taking up the refrain, added the sharp rattle of minie-rifles to the unearthly din. Still the line pressed forward, firing as they came, until met by a simultaneous and destructive volley of musketry.
They staggered, but quickly re-formed and, reenforced by Preston
and the Confederate Palmer
, advanced again to the charge.
The battle had hushed on the extreme right, and the gallantry of this advance is indescribable.
The right was even with the left of the Union
line, and the left stretched far past the point of woods from which Negley
It was such a charge as this that at Shiloh
b roke the strong lines of W. H. L. Wallace
, and enveloped Prentiss
The Confederates had no sooner moved into the open
field from the cover of the river bank than they were received with a blast from the artillery.
Men plucked the cotton from the boles at their feet and stuffed it in their ears.
Huge gaps were torn in the Confederate
line at every discharge.. The Confederate line staggered forward half the distance across the fields, when the Union
infantry lines added minie-balls to the fury of the storm.
Then the Confederates
wavered and fell back, and the first day's fight was over.
New Year's was a day of fair weather.
During the night Rosecrans
retired his left to a more advantageous position, the extreme left resting on Stone's River
at the lower ford, where Van Cleve
had crossed on the previous morning, the line of battle extending to Stokes
's battery, posted on a knoll on Rosecrans
's and Starkweather
's brigades having come up, the former bivouacked in close column in reserve in rear of McCook
's left, and the latter, posted on Sheridan
's left, next morning relieved Van Cleve
's division, now commanded by Colonel Samuel Beatty
, which crossed the river and took position on the margin of a woodland that covered a gentle slope extending from the river to an open field in its front.
Across this field the Lebanon
road, running nearly at right angles with Beatty
's line, was nearly in sight.
In his front and right, an elevation still held by Hanson
's brigade of Breckinridge
's division was crowned by Cobb
's battery of artillery.
On the left and rear, Grose
's brigade of Palmer
's division occupied a knoll in support of Livingston
's battery on the following day.
The Confederate line, formed by Polk
on the right and Hardee
on the left, extended from the point on Stone's River
's brigade had bivouacked since the 25th, in a direction almost at right angles with its original line.
At dawn on the 1st of January the right flank of General Polk
was advanced to occupy the ground vacated by the Union
army on the west bank of the river.
Neither-commander deemed it advisable to attack, but each was watchful of every movement of the other.
The picket lines on either side were thrust forward within sight of the main lines of the opposing force, on the alert to notify their commanders of any movement in their front.
Weaker in numbers, but more compact, and decidedly stronger in morale, each awaited the order to advance and close in a final struggle.
confidently expected to find the Union
troops gone from his front on the morning of the 2d.
His cavalry had reported the turnpike full of troops and wagons moving toward Nashville
, but the force east of Stone's River
soon attracted his attention.
Reconnoissance by staff-officers revealed Beatty
's line, enfilading Polk
in his new position.
It was evident that Polk
must be withdrawn or Beatty
chose the latter alternative, and Breckinridge
, against his earnest protest, was directed to concentrate his division and assault Beatty
guns were added to his command, and the cavalry was ordered to cover his right.
The line was formed by placing Hanson
's brigade of Kentuckians, who had thus far borne no part in the engagement, on the extreme left, supported by Adams
's brigade, now commanded by Colonel Gibson
The Confederate Palmer
's brigade, commanded by General Pillow
, took the right of the line, with Preston
The artillery was ordered to follow the attack and go into position on the summit of the slope when Beatty
should be driven from it. The total strength of the assaulting column was estimated by Bragg
at six thousand men. His cavalry took no part in the action.
In the assault that followed a brief cannonade, Hanson
's left was thrown forward close to the river bank, with orders to fire once, then charge with the bayonet.
On the right of Beatty
was Colonel S. W. Price
's brigade, and the charge made by Hanson
's 6th Kentucky was met by Price
's 8th Kentucky regiment, followed by Hanson
in successive strokes from right to left of Beatty
Overborne by numerical strength, the Union brigades of Price
were forced back upon Grider
, in reserve, the right of whose brigade was rapidly being turned by Hanson
, threatening to cut the division off from the river.
ordered retreat, and assailants and assailed moved in a mass toward the river.
The space between the river bank and the ridge occupied by Grose
now presented a scene of the wildest confusion.
The pursuit led the Confederate
column to the right of Grose
, and Lieutenant Livingston
opened upon it with his artillery, but he was quickly ordered across the river.
, turning to his chief-of-artillery, said, “Mendenhall
, you must cover my men with your guns.”
Never was there a more effective response to such a request; the batteries of Swallow
, and Livingston
dashed forward, wheeled into position, and opened fire.
In all, fifty-eight pieces of artillery played upon the enemy.
Not less than one hundred shots per minute were fired.
As the mass of men
Position of Mendenhall's fifty-eight guns (as seen from the east bank above the Ford) which repelled the charge of Breckinridge, January 2, 1863.
from a photograph taken in 1884. |
swarmed down the slope they were mowed down by the score.
Confederates were pinioned to the earth by falling branches.
For a few minutes the brave fellows held their ground, hoping to advance, but the west bank bristled with bayonets.
was mortally wounded, and his brigade lost over 400 men; the loss in the division was 1410.
There was no thought now of attacking Grose
, but one general impulse to get out of the jaws of death.
The Union infantry was soon ordered to charge.
Colonel John F. Miller
with his brigade and two regiments of Stanley
's was the first to cross the river, on the extreme left.
He was quickly followed on the right by Davis
and by Hazen
in the center.
quickly re-formed his division and recrossed the river and joined in the pursuit.
The artillery ceased firing, and the Union
line with loud cheers dashed forward, firing volley after volley upon the fugitives, who rallied behind Robertson
's battery and Anderson
's brigade in the narrow skirt of timber from which they had emerged to the assault.
The Union line advanced and took possession of the ground from which Beatty
had been driven an hour before, and both armies bivouacked upon the battlefield.
, with a brigade guarding a much-needed supply train, came up and took position on the right, relieving Rousseau
on the following morning.
had been promptly notified by General Joseph Wheeler
of the arrival of this reinforcement to his antagonist, and says in his report:
Advance of Colonel M. B. Walker's Union Brigade, at Stone's River, on the evening of January 2, 1863.
from a Lithograph.
Walker's position is in the cedars near the right of Rousseau's line (see map, page 616). In the right of the picture is seen the 4th Michigan Battery.
The front line was composed of the 31st and 17th Ohio, and the second line of the 82d Indiana and 38th Ohio. |
Common prudence and the safety of my army, upon which even the safety of our cause depended, left no doubt on my mind as to the necessity of my withdrawal from so unequal a contest.
acknowledged a loss of over 10,000 men, over 9000 of whom were killed or wounded,--nearly 25 per cent. of the total force engaged.
The loss in the Union
army was, in killed, 1533; wounded, 7245 = 8778; and in prisoners, McCook
, 2092; Thomas
, 576; Crittenden
, 821,--total, 3489.
Apprehending the possible success of a flank movement against his left, General Bragg
had caused all the tents and baggage to be loaded on wagons and sent to the rear.
On the night of the 3d he began his retreat and continued it south of Elk River
, whence he was ordered back to Tullahoma
by General Johnston