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Doc. 146.-battle at Murfreesboro, Tenn.

Lieut.-General Polk's official report.

headquarters Polk's corps D'Armer, army of Tennessee, Shelbyville, February 28, 1863.
To Colonel G. W. Brent, A. A.G.:
sir: I have the honor to submit the following official report of the operations of my corps in the battles on Stone River in front of Murfreesboro. [477]

One of my brigades, that of Gen. Maney, was on outpost duty in front of Stewart's Creek, and, with a cavalry brigade under Gen. Wheeler, was held in observation.

The enemy made a general forward movement on the twenty-sixth in their immediate front, and they were ordered to retire slowly upon the line of battle which the General Commanding had decided to adopt on Stone River, a short distance from Murfreesboro.

On the evening of the twenty-eighth my brigade struck their tents and retired their baggage-trains to the rear, and on the morning of the twenty-ninth they were placed in line of battle.

As the brigades composing the division of Major-Gen. Withers had not been engaged in any heavy battle since Shiloh, I placed them in the first line. They extended from the river, near the intersection of the Nashville turnpike and railroad, southward across the Wilkinson pike to Triune or Franklin road, in a line irregular, but adapted to the topography.

The division of Major-General Cheatham was posted in the rear of that of Major-Gen. Withers, as a supporting force. The division of Major-General McCown, of Lieut.-Gen. Kirby Smith's army corps, was in prolongation of that of Major-Gen. Withers on the left, having that of Major-Gen. Cleburne, of Lieut.-Gen. Hardee's corps, as its supporting force. Major-Gen. Breckinridge's division of Lieut.-Gen. Hardee's corps occupied the ground on the east side of the river, in the line of Major-Gen. Withers on the right.

The enemy moved forward, and our outposts went back slowly, and took their place in the line of the battle on the twenty-ninth.

On the thirtieth, in order to discover the position at which we proposed to offer battle, he moved up cautiously, shelling his front heavily as he advanced.

The cannonading was responded to along our line, and the theatre of the impending conflict was speedily determined.

On the left of my line the skirmishing became very active, and my left brigades front and rear became hotly engaged with the line which was being formed immediately before them. The enemy pressed forward very heavily, with both artillery and infantry, and a sharp contest ensued, in which he attempted, with several regiments, to take one of my batteries by assault, but was repulsed in the most decisive manner.

In this preliminary onset many lives were lost on both sides. It was from its severity an introduction to the great battle of the ensuing day, and prepared our troops for the work before them. Twilight following soon after, the enemy settled around his bivouac-fires for the night.

Orders were issued by the General Commanding to attack in the morning at daybreak. The attack was to be made by the extreme left, and the whole line was ordered to swing around from left to right upon my right brigade as a pivot. Major-General Breckinridge, on the extreme right and across the river, was to hold the enemy in observation on that flank.

At the appointed time the battle opened, evidently to the surprise of the opposing army. Major-Gen. McCown, who was acting under the orders of Lieut.-General Hardee, was upon them before they were prepared to receive him. He captured several batteries and one Brigadier-General, wounded another, and drove three brigades — those composing the divisions of Brig.-General Johnson--in confusion before him.

He was followed quickly by Major-General Cleburne, as a supporting force, who occupied the space left vacant by the forward movement of McCown, between the left of my front line and McCown's right. Opposing him in that spate was the second division of Major-Gen. McCook's corps, under the command of Brig.-Gen. Jeff C. Davis, to confront which he had to wheel to the right, as the right of Gen. McCook's corps was slightly advanced. Cleburne's attack following soon on that of McCown, caught the force in his front also not altogether prepared, and the vigor of the assault was so intense that they too yielded and were driven.

Major-Gen. Withers's left was opposed to the right of General Sheridan, commanding the third and remaining division of Gen. McCook's corps. The enemy's right was strongly posted on a ridge of rocks, with chasms intervening, and covered with a dense growth of rough cedars. Being advised of the attack he was to expect by the fierce contest which was being waged on his right, he was fully prepared for the onset, and this notice and the strength of his position enabled him to offer a strong resistance to Withers, whose duty it was to move next.

Col. Loomis, who commanded the left brigade, moved up with energy and spirit to the attack. He was wounded and was succeeded by Colonel Coltart. The enemy met the advance with firmness, but was forced to yield. An accession of force aided him to recover his position, and its great strength enabled him to hold it. Coltart, after a gallant charge and a sharp contest, fell back, and was replaced by Col. Vaughn, of Major-General Cheatham's division, of the rear line. Vaughn, nothwithstanding the difficulties of the ground, charged the position with great energy, but the enemy, intrenched behind stones and thick woods, could not be moved, and Vaughn also was repulsed.

This caused a loss of time, and Cleburne's division pressing Davis, reached a point where Sheridan's batteries, still unmoved, by wheeling to the right, enfiladed it. Col. Vaughn was speedily reorganized and returned to the assaults, and in conjunction with Col. Coltart, drove at the position with restless courage and energy, and although their losses were very heavy, the enemy could not bear up against the onset. He was dislodged and driven with the rest of the flying battalions to McCook's corps.

In this charge, the horse of every officer on the field and staff of Vaughn's brigade, except one, and the horses of all the officers of the field and staff of every regiment except two, were killed. The brigade lost also one third of all its [478] forces. It captured two of the enemy's field-guns.

The brigade of Col. Manigault, which was immediately on the right of that of Colonel Coltart, followed the movement of the latter according to instructions. But as Coltart failed in the onset to drive Sheridan's right, Manigault, after dashing forward and pressing the enemy's line in his front, back upon his second line, was brought under a very heavy fire of artillery from two batteries on his right, supported by a heavy infantry force. He was therefore compelled to fall back.

In this charge the brigade suffered severely, sustaining a very heavy loss in officers and men, but the gallant South-Carolinians returned to the charge a second and a third time, and being aided by the brigade of Major-General Maney, of the second line, which came to his relief with his heavy Napoleon guns, and a deadly fire of musketry, the enemy gave way and joined his comrades on the right in their precipitate retreat across the Wilkinson pike. This movement dislodged and drove the residue of Sheridan's division, and completed the forcing of the whole of McCook's corps out of its line of battle, and placed it in full retreat. The enemy left one of his batteries of four guns on the field, which fell into the hands of Maney's brigade.

Here I think it proper to bring to the notice of the General Commanding an instance of self-sacrificing devotion to the safety of their immediate commands, and of our cause, which, for heroic courage and magnanimity, is without a parallel.

A battery was pouring a murderous fire into the brigade of Gen. Maney, from a point which made it doubtful whether it was ours or the enemy's. Two unsuccessful efforts had been made by staff-officers--one of whom was killed in the attempt — to determine its character. The doubt caused the brigade on which it was firing to hesitate in returning the fire, when Sergeant Oakley, color-bearer of the Fourth Tennessee confederate regiment, and Sergeant M. C. Hooks, color-bearer of the Ninth Tennessee regiment, gallantly advanced eight or ten paces to the front, displaying their colors and holding themselves and the flag of their country erect, remained ten minutes in a place so much conspicuous as to be plainly seen and fully to test from whom their brigade was suffering so severely. The murderous fire, instead of abating, increased and intensified, and soon demonstrated that the battery and its support were not friends, but enemies. The sergeants then returned deliberately to their proper positions in the line unhurt, and the enemy's battery was silenced and his column put to flight.

The front of Manigault and Maney being free, they swung round with our lines on the left, and joined in pressing the enemy and his reenforcements into the cedar brake.

At nine A. M. Brig.-Gen. Patton Anderson, on Manigault's right, moved in conjunction with its left brigade, formed upon the line in its front. That line rested with its right near the Wilkinson pike, and is understood to have been General Negley's division of Gen. Thomas's corps, which constituted the centre of the enemy's line of battle. The division, with that of Gen. Rousseau in reserve, was posted in the edge of a dense cedar brake, with a position of strength not inferior to that held by Sheridan's right. His batteries, which occupied commanding positions, and enabled him to sweep the open field in his front, were served with admirable skill and vigor, and were strongly supported. Anderson moved forward his brigade with firmness and decision. The fire of the enemy, of both artillery and infantry, was terrific, and his left for a moment wavered. Such evidences of destructive firing as were left on the forest from which this brigade emerged, have rarely, if ever, been seen. The timber was torn and crushed. Nothing but a charge could meet the demands of the occasion. Orders were given to take the batteries at all hazards, and it was done. The batteries, two in number, were carried in gallant style. Artillerists were captured at their pieces, a large number of whom, and of their infantry supports, were killed upon the spot, and one company entire, with its officers and colors, were captured. The number of field-guns captured in this movement was eight, which, together with four others from which the gunners had been driven by the heavy firing from Maney's long-range guns and Manigault's musketry on the left, made twelve taken on that part of the field. This was one of the points at which we encountered the most determined opposition, but the onward movement of the Mississippians and Alabamians was irresistible, and they swept the enemy before them, driving him into the dense cedar brake to join the extending line of his fugitives.

This work, however, was not done without a heavy loss of officers and men. The Thirtieth Mississippi, commanded by Lieut.-Col. Seales, in the act of charging, lost sixty-two officers and men killed, and one hundred and thirty-nine wounded; others lost in proportion. Here the brave Lieut.-Colonel Jas. L. Autry, of the Twenty-seventh Mississippi, fell, while cheering and encouraging his troops.

The supporting brigade of Gen. Anderson, commanded by Brig.-Gen. A. P. Stewart, moved with that of Anderson. It was ordered by the division commander, Major-Gen. Withers--who was in the command of Major-Gen. Cheatham's two right brigades, as Major-General Cheatham was of his two left — to move to the support of the left regiments of Anderson, which were pressed. These regiments, which had suffered greatly, he replaced, and moving forward attacked the enemy and his reenforcements on Anderson's left. After strong resistance they were driven back, shattered and in confusion, to join the hosts of their flying comrades, in their retreat through the cedars. In their flight they left two of their field-guns, which fell into the hands of Stewart's brigade.

Brig.-Gen. Chalmers's brigade, the remaining one of those constituting my front line, whose right flank rested on the river, was the last to [479] move. This brigade, owing to its position in the line, was called on to encounter a measure of personal suffering, from exposure beyond that of any other in my corps. The part of the line it occupied lay across an open field, in full view of the enemy and in range of his field-guns. It had thrown up a slight rifle-pit, behind which it was placed, and to escape observation it was necessary for it to he down and abstain from building fires. In this position it remained awaiting the opening of the battle for more than forty-eight hours, wet with rain and chilled with cold; added to this the enemy's shot and shell were constantly passing over it. Not a murmur of discontent was heard to escape those who composed it. They exhibited the highest capacity of endurance and firmness in the most discouraging circumstances.

In its front lay the right of Brig.-Gen. Palmer's division of Major-Gen. Crittenden's corps, which constituted the left wing of the enemy's line of battle.

The general movement from the left having reached Chalmers's brigade at ten o'clock, it was ordered to the attack, and its reserve under Brig.-Gen. Donelson was directed to move forward to its support. This charge was made in fine style, and was met by tile enemy, who was strongly posted in the edge of the cedar brake, with a murderous fire of artillery and infantry. In that charge, their Brigade Commander, Gen. Chalmers, was severely wounded by a shell, which disqualified him for further duty on the field. The regiments on the left recoiled and fell back; those of the right were moved to the left to hold their place, and were pressed forward. The brigade of Gen. Donelson having been ordered forward to Chalmers's support, moved with steady step upon the enemy's position, and attacked it with great energy. The slaughter was terrific on both sides. In this charge, which resulted in breaking the enemy's line at every point, except the extreme left, and driving him as every other part of his line attacked, had been driven, Donelson reports the capture of eleven guns and about one thousand prisoners. The regiment of Chalmers's brigade having been separated after he fell, moved forward and attached themselves to other commands, fighting with them with gallantry as opportunity offered.

There was no instance of more distinguished bravery exhibited during tile battle than was shown by the command of Gen. Donelson. In the charge which it made, it was brought directly under the fire of several batteries strongly posted and supported, which it assaulted with eager resolution. All the line in their front was carried except the extreme( right.

This point, which was the key to the enemy's position, and which was known as the Round Forest, was attacked by the right of the brigade. It was met by fire from artillery and musketry, which mowed down more than half its number. The Sixteenth regiment Tennessee, under the command of Col. John II. Savage, lost two hundred and seven out of four hundred and two. It could not advance, and would not retire. Their (Colonel, with characteristic bravery and tenacity, deployed what was left of his command as skirmishers, and held his position for three hours. In the Eighth Tennessee, of tile right wing, under the lamented Colonel Moore, who fell mortally wounded, and who was succeeded by Lieut.-Col. J. H. Anderson, the loss was three hundred and six men and officers, out of four hundred and twenty-five.

The enemy was now driven from the field at all points occupied by him in the morning, along his whole line, from his right to the extreme left, and was pressed back until our line occupied a position at right angles to that which we held at the opening of the battle. After passing the Nashville and Murfreesboro turnpike, his flight was covered by large bodies of fresh troops and numerous batteries of artillery, and the advance of our exhausted columns was checked.

His extreme left alone held its position. This occupied a piece of ground well chosen and defended, the river being on the one hand and deep railroad cut on the other. It was held by a strong force of artillery and infantry, well supported by a reserve composed of Brig.-General Wood's division.

My last reserve having been exhausted, the brigades of Major-Gen. Breckinridge's division and a small brigade of General J. K. Jackson's, posted to guard our right flank, were the only troops left that had not been engaged. Four of these were ordered to report to me. They came in detachments of two brigades each, the first arriving near two hours after Donelson's attack, the other about an hour after the first. The commanders of these detachments, the first composed of the brigades of Generals Adams and Jackson, the second under Gen. Breckinridge in person, consisting of the brigades of Gen. Preston and Colonel Palmer, had pointed out to them the particular object to be accomplished, to wit, to drive in the enemy's left, and especially to dislodge him from his position in the Round Forest. Unfortunately the opportune moment for putting in these detachments had passed.

Could they have been thrown upon the enemy's left immediately following Chalmers and Donelson's assault, in quick succession, the extraordinary strength of his position would have availed him nothing. That point would have been carried, and his left driven back on his panic-stricken right, would have completed his confusion and insured an utter rout. It was, however, otherwise, and the time lost between Donelson's attack and the coming up of these detachments in succession, enabled the enemy to recover his self-possession, to mass a number of heavy batteries and concentrate a strong infantry force on the position, and thus make a successful attack very difficult. Nevertheless, the brigades of Adams and Jackson assailed the enemy's line with energy, and after a severe contest, were compelled to fall back. They were promptly rallied by Gen. Breckinridge, who, having pressed his [480] other brigades, reached the ground at the moment, but as they were very much cut up they were not required to renew the attack.

The brigades of Preston and Palmer, on arriving, renewed the assault with the same undaunted determination, but as another battery had been added since the previous attack to a position already strong and difficult of access, this assault was alike ineffectual. The enemy, though not driven from his position, was severely punished, and as the (lay was far spent, it was not deemed advisable to renew the attack that evening, and the troops held the line they occupied for the night.

The following morning, instead of finding him in position to receive a renewal of the attack, showed that, taking advantage of the night, he had abandoned his last position of his first line, and the opening of the new year found us masters of the field.

This battle of the thirty-first of December developed, in all parts of the field which came under my observation, the highest qualities of the soldier among our troops. The promptness with which they moved upon the enemy, whenever they were called to attack him, the vigor and éclat with which their movements were made, the energy with which they assaulted his strong positions, and the readiness with which they responded to the call to repeat their assaults, indicated a spirit of dauntless courage, which places them in the very front rank of the soldiers of the world. For the exhibition of these high traits, they are not a little indebted to the example of their officers, whose courage and energy had won their confidence and admiration.

The first of January passed without any material movement on either side, beyond occasional skirmishing along the lines in our front. I ordered Chalmers's brigade, now commanded by Col. White, to occupy the ground in rear of the Round Forest, just abandoned by the enemy. This it did, first driving out his pickets.

On the second there was skirmishing during the morning. In the afternoon, about three o'clock, Gen. Bragg announced his intention to attack the enemy, who was supposed to be in force on the north side of the river, and ordered me to relieve two of Gen. Breckinridge's brigades, which were still in my front, and send them over to that officer, who had returned to his post, as he proposed to make the attack with the troops of Breckinridge's division. I issued the necessary orders at once, and the troops were transferred as directed. The General Commanding ordered me also to open fire with three batteries, which had been placed in Chalmers's line, to distract the enemy at the time of Breckinridge's attack, and to shell out of the woods which covered his line of movement any sharp-shooters who might annoy him while approaching the river.

The shelling ordered, which was to be the signal for Breckinridge's advance, was promptly executed, and the woods were cleared. Of the particulars of this movement, Gen. Breckinridge will speak in his own report.

When the firing of my batteries was opened as above, there was a forward movement of the enemy's infantry upon my pickets in the Round Forest, and a sharp conflict, which lasted for some time, and ended in the enemy's regaining possession of the forest. This position being of much value to us, I found it necessary to regain it, and gave the requisite orders. On the following morning I ordered a heavy fire of artillery from several batteries to open upon it, and after it had been thoroughly shelled, detachments from the brigades of Cols. White and Coltart charged it with the bayonet at double-quick and put the enemy to flight, clearing it of his regiments, capturing a lieutenant-colonel and thirteen men.

The enemy, however, knew the importance of the position, also, and was occupied during the day in throwing up earthworks for the protection of batteries within easy range.

These being completed, he reopened fire from three points with batteries of heavy guns, and placed it under concentrated fire for many minutes. It was a severe ordeal, and was followed by a charge of a heavy force of infantry. But our gallant troops met the advance with firmness, and after a severely contested struggle, drove back the advancing column with slaughter, and held possession of the coveted position.

In this battle we lost several men and officers, especially of the First Louisiana regiment. Among those who fell mortally wounded was Col. Farrar. This young officer was one of the most promising of the army — intelligent, chivalrous, and brave. His loss will he felt by his country, and lamented by his many friends.

This battle closed the operations of my corps in the field front of Murfreesboro.

By orders from the General Commanding, after being eight days under arms and in actual battle or heavy skirmishing, in the rain and cold, without tents and much of the time without fires, my troops were retired from the field, and ordered to take a position near Shelbyville. This they did at their leisure and in perfectly good order.

In all the operations in which they were engaged, no troops ever displayed greater gallantry or higher powers of endurance. They captured fifteen hundred prisoners and twenty-six guns.

For the details connected with these operations, I beg leave to refer to the reports of division, brigade, and regimental commanders. For the same reports also I refer, for instances of distinguished gallantry in the case of corps and individuals.

I beg leave to refer, also, to the accompanying statement marked A, containing a list of the number of men and officers engaged in the battle. Also to B, containing the number of killed, wounded, and missing. I refer, also, to the accompanying map of the field of battle marked Bh.

This map was prepared with care by Lieutenant Morris, of the Engineers of my corps, from actual survey, and from the reports of the corps commanders of the Federal army. From these sources he has been enabled to fix the relative positions of the corps divisions and brigades of both armies [481] at different periods during the battle with great accuracy.

The statements A and B, I submit as part of this report, also the accompanying map marked “B B.”

To Major-Generals Cheatham and Withers, my division commanders, I am under obligations for their cordial support and active cooperation, in conducting the operations of my command. Also to the brigade commanders, who, without an exception, managed the part assigned them in the programme of the battle with great skill, energy, and judgment. Of the conduct of the regimental battery and subordinate commands, their immediate commanders will speak in their reports, as they were more directly under their eye. Our artillery also was well handled, when it could be used, but the dense cedar brake into which the enemy was driven, continuously prevented it from following our advancing columns. This made it necessary to have the work done chiefly with the musket and bayonet.

To Major G. Williams, A. A.G., who was severely wounded in the shoulder, Major Thomas M. Jack, A. A.G., Lieut.-Col. T. F. Sevier, Inspector-General, Lieut. P. B. Spence, of the same department, Lieut. J. Rayle, Chief of Ordnance, Capt. Felix Robertson, Acting Chief of Artillery, Capt. F. R. Sayers, and Lieut. N. J. Morris, of Engineers, Lieut. W. A. M. Otey, Chief of Signal Corps, Dr. Cavanagh, Medical Director, Majors Thomas Peters and R. M. Mason, of the Quartermaster's Department, Major J. J. Murphy, Chief of Subsistence, members of my general staff, I am indebted for their vigilance and activity in the execution of my orders, and the fearlessness with which they exposed themselves in the discharge of their duties.

To my Aid-de-Camp, Lieut. W. B. Richmond, I am particularly indebted for the intelligence, decision, and energy with which on this, as on other fields, he gave me his support. Also to Lieut.-Col. Henry T. Yeatman, my volunteer aid, for services of a like character. And our thanks and praise are, above all, due to Almighty God, the Lord of Hosts, for the success of our arms and the preservation of our lives.

I have the honor to be, respectfully, your obedient servant,

L. Polk, Lieutenant-General.

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