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Chapter 20:

  • The two main theatres of the war.
  • -- operations in Virginia. -- battle of Fredericksburg. -- preliminary movements of the two armies. -- expedition of Stuart's cavalry into Pennsylvania. -- removal of McClellan. -- the true reasons for it. -- Gen. Burnside's “on to Richmond.” -- his movement towards Fredericksburg. -- the surrender of the town demanded. -- it is abandoned by the citizen-population. -- sorrowful scenes. -- Burnside forces the passage of the Rappahannock. -- the Confederate position. -- Burnside's hope to surprise Gen. Lee. -- how disappointed. -- the Confederate line of battle. -- the attack on the Confederate right. -- young Pelham's gallantry. -- the Confederate right broken. -- the battle restored. -- interest of the field on the left. -- the attack on Marye's and Willis' hills. -- gallantry of the Federals. -- they make six attacks. -- a terrible scene of carnage. -- Burnside's army driven into Fredericksburg. -- his appalling extremity. -- expectations in Richmond of the destruction of his army. -- he escapes across the Rappahannock. -- Gen. Lee's own explanation of his failure to follow up his victory. -- comparative losses in the battle. -- death of Gens. Gregg and Cobb. -- Gen. Lee's sentiment with respect to the objects of the war. -- operations in Tennessee. -- battle of Murfreesboroa. -- the situation in the West. -- the lines in Tennessee and Mississippi. -- Rosecrans' advance from Nashville. -- conflicting statements of his force. -- position of Gen. Bragg's army around Murfreesboroa. -- Bragg anticipates the Federal attack. -- Hardee commences the battle. -- he drives the entire right wing of the Federals. -- desperate situation of Rosecrans. -- his sang-froid. -- he develops a New line of battle. -- the Confederates renew the attack. -- how Bragg lost an opportunity. -- splendid charge of the Confederates. -- the day undecided, but the advantage with the Confederates. -- Bragg's “happy New year.” -- Breckinridge attempts to dislodge the enemy. -- “the bloody crossing of Stone River.” -- repulse of Breckinridge. -- why Bragg determined to retreat. -- the results of the battle of Murfreesboroa in favour of the Confederates. -- a peculiarity of Gen. Bragg. -- his eloquent tribute to the private soldier of the Confederacy. -- operations in the Trans-Mississippi. -- the campaign West of the Mississippi feeble and irregular. -- Gen. -- Hindman's command. -- his extravagant address to his soldiers. -- battle of Prairie Grove. -- Hindman's first success and unfortunate delay. -- his blunders and extraordinary retreat.Condition of the Trans-Mississippi country. -- Hindman's “Government ad Interim.” -- his despotic orders. -- an extraordinary list of outrages. -- virtue and fidelity of the Confederate States West of the Mississippi River

[339] About the close of the year 1862, two heavy battles were fought on the two main theatres of the war, Virginia and Tennessee, and were the great topics of the period referred to.

Operations in Virginia.-battle of Fredericksburg.

After Lee's retreat into Virginia, McClellan appeared to be concentrating in and near Harper's Ferry, but made no forward movement. On the 6th October President Lincoln had ordered an immediate advance, recommending that McClellan should take the interiour line between Washington and Lee's forces, and make an early battle. McClellan hesitated, and seemed disposed to spend time in complaints of inadequate supplies, and in incessant demands for reinforcements. Meanwhile, to ascertain the position and designs of the enemy, Gen. Lee ordered the famous cavalry commander Gen. Stuart to cross the Potomac above Williamsport, to reconnoitre the Federal positions, and, if practicable, to enter Pennsylvania, and do all in his power to impede and embarrass the military operations of the enemy. The order was executed with skill, address, and courage. Gen. Stuart, with twelve or fifteen hundred cavalry, passed through Maryland, occupied Chambersburg, and destroyed a large amount of public property, making the entire circuit of Gen. McClellan's army, and thwarting all the arrangements by which that commander had reported his capture certain.

About the last of October, the Federal army began to incline eastwardly from the mountains, moving in the direction of Warrenton. As soon as this intention developed itself, Longstreet's corps was moved across the Blue Ridge, and about the 3d of November, took position at Culpepper Court House, while Jackson advanced one of his divisions to the east side of the Blue Ridge. The enemy gradually concentrated about Warrenton, his cavalry being thrown forward beyond the Rappahannock, in the direction of Culpepper Court House, and occasionally skirmishing with our own, which was closely observing his movements.

Here McClellan's hesitation and timidity were very evident. Weeks wore on without any decided movement. The beautiful autumn weather had passed, without any demonstration of moment from the enemy, and now cold, bleak November whistled over the fields and mountains of Virginia. But on the 5th of November there was an unusual sensation and stir in the Federal camp, for on that day a messenger arrived at Warrenton, and delivered to McClellan an order to resign the command of the army to Gen. Burnside, and to report himself at Trenton in New Jersey. The order was unexpected. Whatever the military demerits of McClellan, [340] it was undoubtedly designed at Washington as a coup daetat, with reference to the fall elections of 1862, and influenced by the argument that a time when the Administration party was incurring defeat in the elections, it was dangerous to allow a political opponent to possess the confidence and to hold the chief command of the main army.

Gen. Burnside found at his command a splendid army. It was now divided into three grand divisions, each consisting of two corps, and commanded by Gens. Sumner, Hooker, and Franklin. It was at once proposed by Burnside to move from Warrenton to a new line of operations, and to make a campaign on the Lower Rappahannock. His plan was to march rapidly down the left bank of that river, to cross by means of pontoons at Fredericksburg, and to advance on Richmond by Hanover Court House. For this plan of operations against the Confederate capital, the advantages were claimed that it would avoid the necessity of the long lines of communication which would have to be held in case of a movement against Richmond by Gordonsville; that, in fact, the Federal army, after arriving at Fredericksburg, would be at a point nearer to Richmond than it would be even if it should take Gordonsville; and that it would all the time be as near Washington as would be the Confederates, thus covering that city and defeating the objection to the adoption of the line of the Peninsular campaign.

On the 15th November, it was known by Gen. Lee that the enemy was in motion towards the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, and one regiment of infantry, with a battery of light artillery, was sent to reinforce the garrison at Fredericksburg. On the 17th, it was ascertained that Sumner's corps had marched from Catlett's Station, in the direction of Falmouth, and information was also received that, on the 15th, some Federal gunboats and transports had entered Acquia Creek. This looked as if Fredericksburg was again to be occupied, and McLaws' and Ransom's divisions, accompanied by W. H. Lee's brigade of cavalry and Lane's battery, were ordered to proceed to that city. To ascertain more fully the movements of the enemy, Gen. Stuart was directed to cross the Rappahannock. On the morning of the 18th, he forced a passage at Warrenton Springs, in the face of a regiment of cavalry and three pieces of artillery, guarding the ford, and reached Warrenton soon after the last of the enemy's column had left. The information he obtained confirmed the impression that the whole Federal army, under Burnside, was moving towards Fredericksburg. On the morning of the 19th, therefore, the remainder of Longstreet's corps was put in motion for that point.

It arrived there before any large body of the enemy had appeared. It is true that the Stafford Heights on the north bank of the river, were held by a Federal detachment many days ere the approach of the Confederate forces, but they had never attempted to cross over into the town. Picket [341] hiring was now constant along the river. But there were many who yet believed that Burnside had no serious intention of attacking, regarding his demonstration at the river as a harmless display of force to divert attention from his real designs.

Such surmise was soon banished from the mind. On the 21st it became apparent that Gen. Burnside was concentrating his whole army on the north side of the Rappahannock. On the same day, Gen. Sumner summoned the corporate authorities of Fredericksburg to surrender the place, and threatened, in case of refusal, to bombard the city at nine o'clock, next morning. The weather had been tempestuous for two days, and a storm was raging at the time of the summons. It was impossible to prevent the execution of the threat to shell the city, as it was completely exposed to the batteries on Stafford Hills, which were beyond our reach. The city authorities were informed by Gen. Lee that while his forces would not use the place for military purposes, its occupation by the enemy would be resisted, and directions were given for the removal of the women and children as rapidly as possible.

The threatened bombardment did not take place. But the inhabitants were advised to leave the town in view of the imminence of a collision between the two armies, and almost the entire population, without a murmur abandoned their homes. The country around for miles was strewn with tents and rude shelters, where the women and children of the town had betaken themselves; and along the roads, in the rude blasts of winter, wandered many of the poor without aught of worldly property beyond some scanty packs of food and clothing borne on their backs.

Gen. Burnside now commenced his preparations to force the passage of the Rappahannock and advance upon Richmond. Lee's left wing, under Jackson, had not yet arrived, although it was rapidly pushing forward. On his arrival, the disposition of the Confederate forces was soon made. D. H. Hill's division was stationed near Port Royal, and the rest of Jackson's corps so disposed as to support Hill or Longstreet, as occasion might require. Our lines in the vicinity of Fredericksburg extended from the river about a mile and a half above, along the range of hills in the rear of the city to the Richmond Railroad. As these hills were commanded by the opposite heights, in possession of the enemy, earthworks were constructed upon their crests, at the most eligible positions for artillery.

On the Stafford Heights the enemy had an array of military force the most brilliant and magnificent of modern times. Burnside's total numerical strength was about one hundred and fifty thousand men. A more than ordinary powerful artillery was attached to the army, of which no less than one hundred and forty-three guns, overlooking the town of Fredericksburg, commanded the course of the river and the opposite bank. The Confederates numbered about eighty thousand men. They were drawn [342] up along the heights in the rear of Fredericksburg, which, retiring II: a semi-circle from the river, embrace within their arms a plain six miles in length, and from two to three in depth. It seemed as if nature had prepared here an arena for one of the grandest conflicts of arms that had yet been witnessed in the war. The landscape, stretching from the hills to the river, was like an amphitheatre; the intrenched Confederates holding an upper tier of seats, and the stage being the valley in which were placed the red-brick buildings of Fredericksburg. Outside of the town a few houses were scattered here and there over the scene, and the leafless woods added to the bleak aspect of the country. Small detachments of the Confederate forces were quartered in the deserted houses, from which rose few and feeble clouds of smoke; while on the banks of the river the active picket walked his post through piercing winds and sleet and rain.

Before dawn, on the 11th December, our signal guns announced that the enemy was in motion. About two A. M., he commenced preparations to throw bridges over the Rappahannock, opposite Fredericksburg, and one about a mile and a quarter below, near the mouth of Deep Run. Two regiments of Barksdale's brigade, McLaws' division, the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Mississippi, guarded these points, the former, assisted by the Eighth Florida, of Anderson's division, being at the upper. The rest of the brigade, with the Third Georgia regiment, also of Anderson's division, was held in reserve in the city. From daybreak until four P. M., the troops, sheltered behind the houses on the river bank, repelled the repeated efforts of the enemy to lay his bridges opposite the town, driving back his working parties, and their supports, with great slaughter.

At the lower point of the river near Deep Run there was no such protection. Here the enemy made a prodigious effort to lay his pontoons, and swarms of men could be seen moving to and fro with beams and boats. Our sharpshooters maintained an annoying fire, and for a moment the enemy retired. Then commenced a terrible cannonade, as more than a hundred guns were pointed at the city. Houses fell, timbers crashed, dust rose, flames ascended, while there poured out from the city a stream of unlucky citizens who had remained too long, or had screened themselves in hope of the enemy's speedy arrival. Unable to withstand the fire of the batteries and a superiour force of the enemy's infantry on the river banks, our troops were withdrawn; and soon loud cheers from the Federals announced that the bridge was completed. Burnside's advance into Fredericksburg was bravely resisted until dark. But Gen. Lee had accomplished the most important condition for a successful battle; he had gained the necessary time for the concentration of his forces.

It had been Burnside's hope, by rapidly crossing the river to take Lee at a serious disadvantage. He had discovered that a large portion of the Confederate force had been thrown down the river, and it was his design [343] to separate, by a vigorous attack, the forces on the river below from the forces behind and on the crest in the rear of Fredericksburg. But in this prospect he was disappointed. He found Lee in compact lines prepared to receive him; and availing himself of the dense fogs on the river, he continued during the 12th December, to cross his men at and below Fredericksburg very much at his leisure, and without material interruption.

Our artillery could only be used with effect when the occasional clearing of the mist rendered the enemy's columns visible. His batteries on the Stafford Heights fired at intervals upon our position. Longstreet's corps constituted our left, with Anderson's division resting upon the river, Ransom's division supported the batteries on Marye's and Willis' Hills, at the foot of which Cobb's brigade, of McLaws' division, and the 24th North Carolina, of Ransom's brigade, were stationed, protected by a stone wall. The Washington Artillery, under Col. Walton, occupied the redoubts on the crest of Marye's Hill, and those on the heights to the right and left, were held by part of the reserve artillery, Col. E. P. Alexander's battalion, and the division batteries of Anderson, Ransom, and McLaws. A. P. Hill, of Jackson's corps, was posted between Longstreet's extreme right and Hamilton's Crossing, on the railroad. His front line, consisting of the brigades of Pender, Lane, and Archer, occupied the edge of a wood. Lieut.-Col. Walker, with fourteen pieces of artillery, was posted near the right, supported by two Virginia regiments. Early and Taliaferro's divisions composed Jackson's second line-D. H. Hill's division his reserve. Gen. Stuart, with two brigades of cavalry and his horse artillery, occupied the plain on Jackson's right, extending to Massaponax Creek.

On the morning of the 13th, the plain on which the Federal army lay, was still enveloped in fog, making it impossible to discern its operations. At an early hour the batteries on the heights of Stafford began to play upon Longstreet's position. In the intervals of the fire, noises from the valley and loud-toned commands told of marching and counter-marching in the fog and mists. The rattle of picket-firing on our right gave tokens of the impending battle. All was feverish expectation. A little past nine o'clock the sun lifted the foggy veil from the valley, and there stood the Federal array, right, left, and centre, just on the point of moving.

Dense masses appeared in front of A. P. Hill, stretching far up the river, in the direction of Fredericksburg. As they advanced, Maj. Pelham, of Stuart's horse artillery, who was stationed near the Port Royal road with one section, opened a rapid and well-directed enfilade fire, which arrested their progress. Four batteries immediately turned upon him, but he sustained their heavy fire with a courage that in half an hour made him one of the most famous names in the Confederacy. Thirty Federal cannon were striving in vain to silence him; and yet the young artillerist --only twenty-two years of age — was firm as a rock, his unyielding courage [344] and composure under the deadliest fire making him for a time a spectacle for the whole field.

Meanwhile the enemy extended his left down the Port Royal road, and his numerous batteries opened with vigour upon Jackson's line. Eliciting no response, his infantry moved forward to seize the position occupied by Lieut.-Col. Walker. The latter, reserving his fire until their line had approached within less than eight hundred yards, opened upon it with such destructive effect as to cause it to waver, and soon to retreat in confusion.

About one P. M., the main attack on the right began by a furious cannonade, under cover of which three compact lines of infantry advanced against Hill's front. They were received as before by our batteries, by whose fire they were momentarily checked, but soon recovering, they pressed forward, until coming within range of our infantry, the contest became fierce and bloody. Here at one time the enemy broke the Confederate line, turning the left of Archer and the right of Lane. But reinforcements from Jackson's second line were rapidly brought forward, and restored the battle. After a severe contest, the enemy was routed, driven from the woods; and although largely reinforced, he was driven back, and pursued to the shelter of the railroad embankment. Here he was gallantly charged by the brigades of Hoke and Atkinson, and driven across the plain to his batteries. The repulse of the enemy on our right was now decisive, and the attack was not renewed, although his batteries kept up active fire at intervals, and sharpshooters skirmished along the front during the rest of the afternoon.

While these events were transpiring on our right, the enemy, in formidable numbers, made repeated and desperate assaults on the left of our line. Here was fixed the chief interest of the field. Fresh divisions had crossed the river at Fredericksburg, and the mass of Burnside's army was now concentrated in front of Longstreet's strong position. Strong columns of attack were formed under the withering fire of the Confederate batteries to attack Marye's and Willis' Hills towering immediately in their front. All the batteries on the Stafford Heights directed their fire upon the positions occupied by the Confederate artillery with a view to silence it, and cover the movement of the infantry.

Our artillery did not reply to the furious cannonade. But as the masses of the enemy came forward-one immediately in front and one on each flank of Marye's Hill — the Washington artillery corps poured into these dense lines of infantry a rapid and destructive fire. Still, the enemy, notwithstanding the havoc caused by our batteries, pressed on with great determination. His ranks were frequently broken; but at last his lines had staggered within one hundred yards of the foot of the hill. At this time our infantry suddenly rose and poured such rapid volleys into them, that the advance was impeded by their own dead. As the columns halted [345] and Staggered and swayed or broke, our men from breastworks and rifle-pits, and from every imaginable place, were pouring into their bleeding masses showers of small shot. It was too much for human endurance. Six different attacks, or rather frantic dashes, were directed against the almost impregnable position of the foe. It was an exhibition of courage that was worthy of a better cause and deserved a better direction. It was no longer a scientific battle, but a wholesale slaughter of human beings. In vain Sumner pushed forward French, Hancock, and Howard; each division was repulsed with terrible loss; the Irish brigade advanced impetuously, and almost perished within a short distance of the Confederate guns; all was in vain; and Gen. Burnside, who, two miles across the river, sat upon the heights, glass in hand, saw the successive defeat of each assaulting column. When night closed in, the shattered masses of the enemy had disappeared in the town, leaving the field covered with dead and wounded.

Burnside was now at an appalling extremity. His shattered army was cowering beneath the houses of Fredericksburg, with a river in its rear, which, though threaded by pontoon bridges, would have been impassable under the pressure of attack. The thought in Richmond was that the time had at last come when the consequences of a great Confederate victory would be pursued, and its results completed; and the public waited with impatience to hear that Gen. Lee had assumed the offensive, and despatched his crippled enemy on the banks of the river. The North trembled for the same result. One day might decide the fate of the large and yet magnificent remnants of Burnside's army; they might be annihilated, or take the alternative of capitulation; and the great event might put a new aspect on the war, which had so long lingered in the trail of wasted and unfruitful blood. Expectation was high in Richmond; there was a keen impatience for the finishing blow. But in the midst of these feelings came the astounding news that two days had passed without any renewal of the battle on Gen. Lee's part, and that on the succeeding night Burnside had crossed the river without a single effort at interruption, and that a great Federal army, supposed to be in the jaws of destruction, was now quietly reorganizing in perfect security on the north bank of the river.

Various excuses have been made for Gen. Lee's omission to assume the offensive, and realize the proper result of his victory at Fredericksburg. These excuses have mostly originated in the generosity of friends and admirers. But the great commander himself, averse to all efforts of others to cover up any failure of his own, and insensible to the offers of misrepresentation made to him by flatterers, has nobly and candidly confessed his errour. In an official report he says: “The attack on the 13th had been so easily repulsed, and by so small a part of our army, that it was not supposed the enemy would limit his effort to one attempt, which, in view [346] of the magnitude of his preparations, and the extent of his force, seemed to be comparatively insignificant. Believing, therefore, that he would attack us, it was not deemed expedient to lose the advantages of our position, and expose the troops to the fire of his inaccessible batteries beyond the river, by advancing against him. But we were necessarily ignorant of the extent to which he had suffered, and only became aware of it, when, on the morning of the 16th, it was discovered that he had availed himself of the darkness of night, and the prevalence of a violent storm of wind and rain, to recross the river.”

The battle of Fredericksburg presented a disproportion of loss on the Federal and Confederate sides, such as no battle of the war had as yet exhibited. A great victory, measured by the list of casualties, had been obtained by the Confederates with a comparatively small loss. Gen. Burnside, in his official report, stated: “Our killed amounts to 1,152, our wounded to about 9,000, and our prisoners to about 700.” A few days after he despatched: “On the authority of our medical director, the whole number of wounded is between six and seven thousand.” Gen. Lee, in his official despatch, writes: “Our loss during the entire operations, since the movements of the enemy began, amounts to about eighteen hundred killed and wounded.” Among the killed were two conspicuous names--Brig.-Gen. Maxcy Gregg of South Carolina, and Brig.-Gen. Thomas R. R. Cobb of Georgia-men, who, aside from military merit, had earned the reputation of statesmen, and had adorned the councils of the South by brilliant eloquence and chivalrous sentiment. “The country,” wrote Gen. Lee, “consents to the sacrifice of such men as these, and the gallant soldiers who fell with them, only to secure the inestimable blessing they died to obtain.” This sentiment was written when the cause of the Confederacy was above all earthly things in the minds of its people, and when the dying words of Gregg were commemorated like a phrase of antique heroism: “Tell the Governor of South Carolina I cheerfully yield my life for the independence of my State!”

Operations in Tennessee.-battle of Murfreesboro.

Our last notice of operations on the Western theatre of the war, left Gen. Bragg in front of Nashville. The bulk of his army had gone into camp at Murfreesboro, while the brigades of Forrest and Wagner, about five thousand effective cavalry, were absent, annoying Grant's rear in West Tennessee, and breaking the enemy's railroad communications in Northern Kentucky. The main Federal army now in Tennessee, under command of Gen. Rosecrans, maintained itself with some difficulty at Nashville and on the line of the Cumberland. It was only a portion of the enemy's forces [347] which threatened the Confederacy from the West; for Grant was moving from West Tennessee into Mississippi, while a strong detached force under Sherman was organizing for a separate expedition down the Mississippi River against Vicksburg. The Confederate positions were the lines of the Tallahatchie River, the approaches by rail into Mississippi and the fortifications at Vicksburg. Such was the situation in the West at the close of the year 1862, when Bragg confronted Rosecrans, and prepared for an important battle, likely to decide the fate of Tennessee.

In the absence of Bragg's cavalry, Rosecrans determined to seize the opportunity for attack, and to advance from Nashville. He prepared to force the passage of Stone River north of Murfreesboro, and on the 26th December commenced to move his forces; McCook, with three divisions, forming the right column, Thomas the centre with two divisions, and Crittenden the left with three divisions. The total of this force has been officially stated by Rosecrans at about forty-seven thousand men; but Gen. Bragg declares that from papers captured from the enemy in the subsequent battle, it was discovered that his strength was nearly, if not quite seventy thousand men, while we had on the field on the morning of the battle, less than thirty-five thousand men, of which thirty thousand were infantry and artillery.

The Confederate army was collected in and around Murfreesboro; Polk's corps and three brigades of Breckinridge's division holding the town. The three cavalry brigades of Wheeler, Wharton, and Pegram, occupied the entire front of our infantry, and covered all approaches within ten miles of Nashville. It was thus impossible that any movement of the enemy could take place without due notice being received at the Confederate headquarters. When it was known that he was advancing, preparations were made to receive him; the detached portion of Hardee's corps at Eagleville was brought up; and on the 28th December our main force of infantry and artillery was concentrated in front of Murfreesboro, whilst the cavalry, supported by three brigades of infantry and three batteries of artillery, impeded the advance of the enemy by constant skirmishing and sudden, unexpected attacks.

The whole force of the enemy was concentrated on and near the direct road on. the west of Stone River. Crittenden's corps formed the left of the line, Thomas the centre, of which Negley's division was drawn up in advance, and Rousseau's in reserve, and McCook's corps the right. The road and the river divided both armies into two wings. The ground was favourable to manoeuvre-large open fields, densely wooded tracts of cedar and thinner ones of oak; the gentle swells of the land were scarcely increased by the banks of Stone River, which ran through the lines of both armies, was fordable at almost every point for infantry, and at short intervals practicable for artillery. The Confederate line of battle was about nine miles in [348] length. Polk's corps, consisting of Withers' and Cheatham's divisions, formed our left wing. Hardee's corps, consisting of Breckinridge's and Cleburne's divisions, with McCown's division, held in reserve on his right flank, was formed on the east bank of the river, its left resting near the Nashville road, and its right extending towards the Lebanon pike.

On the night of the 30th December both armies bivouacked at a distance not greater in some places than five hundred yards, the camp-fires of the two being within distinct view. Both commanders prepared to attack the next day. Rosecrans drew up an elaborate plan of battle, and expressed uneasiness at McCook's position on the right. By seven o'clock in the morning of the 31st December, the troops were preparing for the battle.

But the enemy's attack had been anticipated. At the break of day on the cold and cloudy morning, Gen. Hardee gave the order to advance, and commenced the battle by a rapid and impetuous charge on McCook's position. The enemy here was taken completely by surprise; general and staff-officers were not mounted; artillery horses not hitched, and infantry not formed. One of McCook's divisions, after a sharp but fruitless contest, was — to use the words of Gen. Rosecrans himself--“crumbled to pieces.” Hardee continued to push the enemy, pursuing his victorious career for miles, while captured artillery, flying battalions, and hosts of prisoners, attested the rout. The entire right wing of Rosecrans was being driven in the greatest disorder, and it appeared that the day was already decided. McCook's corps was driven for six miles towards the centre. For hours continued the rapid movement of the noise of battle towards the north, and, at last, the streams of fugitives and stragglers passing towards the Nashville road, and making their way in the greatest disorder through the cane-brakes, convinced Rosecrans, of what had been before reported to him, that McCook's corps was utterly routed. The Federal commander was remarkable for self-possession and sang-froid. As report of disaster after disaster came to him, he remarked: “We will soon rectify it.” He was incorrectly told that McCook was killed “We cannot help it,” he replied; “men who fight must be killed. Never mind; let us fight this battle.” It was a crisis in which such cool words were remarkable. It was now near noon, and Rosecrans had his right wing broken; he had already lost twenty-eight pieces of cannon, and not less than five thousand prisoners; and it was in such circumstances that he was to prepare a new disposition of his forces, and impart a new inspiration to dispute what remained of the day.

A new line of battle was rapidly developed. Rousseau's division was hurried forward from the centre, and Crittenden was ordered to abandon all idea of an advance, and to march as quickly as possible two out of his three divisions to support the right wing. These movements were masked by immense cedar forests. The whole of the Federal right and centre was [349] now drawn up nearly at right angles with the position it held in the morning. The right of the left wing held the angle of high ground between the rail and river. Here the enemy massed his artillery, and seemed to bid defiance to the hitherto victorious career of the Confederates.

Finding that the enemy had concentrated such a force on Hardee's front as to check his further progress, Gen. Bragg sent orders for Breckinridge's division to move from the right to reinforce Polk; but there was a considerable delay in carrying out this order, owing to a threat of an advance on the Federal left, and a rumour of fresh forces appearing on the Lebanon pike. “These unfortunate misrepresentations,” said Gen. Bragg, “on that part of the field which, with proper caution, could not have existed, withheld from active operations three fine brigades until the enemy had succeeded in checking our progress, had re-established his lines, and had collected many of his broken battalions.”

Having settled the question that no movement was being made against our right, and none to be apprehended, Breckinridge was ordered to leave two brigades to support the battery on his side of Stone River-and with the remainder of the force to cross to the left, and report to Polk. By the time this could be accomplished it was too late to send this force to Hardee's support, who was unable to make further progress, and he was directed to maintain his position. Polk was directed with these reinforcements to throw all the force he could collect upon the enemy's extreme left, and thereby either carry that strong point which had so far resisted us so successfully-or failing in that, at least to draw off from Hardee's front the formidable opposition there concentrated. The three brigades of Jackson, Preston, and Adams were successively reported for their work.

Upon this flank, his strongest defensive position resting on the river-bank, the enemy had concentrated not less than twenty pieces of artillery, masked almost from view, but covering an open space in front of several hundred yards, supported right and left and rear by heavy masses of infantry. A terrible trial awaited the devoted men who were to attack this position. As they pressed up to the edge of the cedar forest, and swarmed out into the open field, it was a grand scene. Every feature of it was keenly cut and clearly defined. The day was one of surpassing beauty. The gray suits of the Confederates dotted the dark line of the cedars; presently they could be seen to thicken in order of battle, with the bright glitter of their steel flashing in the heavy green of the thicket. As they passed into the open field, the hostile array imparted sublimity to the spectacle. Great masses of troops moved steadily forward, careless of the batteries, which tore open their ranks, and scattered them bleeding upon the soil. They marched through the destroying storm dauntlessly. Two attempts were made to carry the enemy's position. But each time the whole extent of their lines was engirdled with a belt of flame and smoke, and the ground [350] strewn with their dead. For two hours the battle raged with horrible slaughter, and neither side receded until near five o'clock. Then the nearly exhausted armies suspended operations for the night, excepting the play of a few batteries.

It had been a desperate but undecided contest. The advantage was with the Confederates. They had driven the enemy's right almost upon his left, captured nearly one-third of his artillery, compelled him to change front under fire, and occupied that part of the field from which he had been driven in the morning. Rosecrans had shown a great power in handling troops, and had performed a maneuver requiring high qualities of generalship; for he had successfully formed a new line in presence of an enemy and under his attacks.

The next day-1st January, 1863-Gen. Bragg telegraphed to Richmond: “God has granted us a happy New year.” The exultation of the despatch was extravagant, and was certainly not justified by what ensued. The first of January passed without any important event. Breckinridge had been transferred to the right of Stone River to resume the command of that position, now held by two of his brigades. It was soon reported that no change had occurred, except the withdrawal of the enemy from the advanced position occupied by his left flank. Finding, upon further examination, that this was the case, the right flank of Polk's corps was thrown forward to occupy the ground for which we had so obstinately contended the evening before. This shortened our lines considerably, and gave us possession of the centre of the battle-field, from which we gleaned the spoils and trophies throughout the day, and transferred them rapidly to the rear.

On the 2d January, Van Cleve's division of the enemy's forces was thrown across the river, and occupied the eminence from which Gen. Polk's line was commanded and enfiladed. The dislodgement of this force or the withdrawal of Polk's line was an evident necessity. The latter involved consequences not to be entertained. Orders were accordingly given for the concentration of the whole of Breckinridge's division in front of the position to be taken. An addition was made to his command of ten Napoleon guns, and the cavalry forces of Wharton and Pegram, about two thousand men, were ordered to join in the attack on his right. The instructions given to Breckinridge were to drive the enemy back, crown the hill, intrench his artillery, and hold the position.

The attack was made at 4 P. M. Van Cleve's division gave way, retired in confusion across the river, and was closely followed by the Confederates. The enemy however, had disposed his batteries on the hill on the west side of the river, and Negley's division was ordered up to meet the onset. The firing was terrific. In about half an hour the Confederates lost two thousand men. Breckinridge's command was driven back in [351] considerable disorder; but the pursuit of the enemy was checked by Anderson's brigade of Mississippians, which was thrown forward from Polk's line, staggered the enemy, and saved all the guns not captured before its arrival.

Next day the rain fell in torrents. Each General anticipated an attack from his opponent, and neither appeared willing to commence a new battle. Meanwhile Bragg was deceived into the belief that the enemy was receiving reinforcements, and in view of the exhausted condition of his army, determined to withdraw from the unequal contest. In the night of the 3d January, the retreat was commenced without molestation from the enemy. The next day Rosecrans moved into Murfreesboro, and Bragg retired to Tullahoma, which, as a base of operations, and as a position of defence, offered great advantages.

The occupation of Murfreesboro afforded the North some pretence of claiming a victory. But the position was of little importance, and the works neither extensive nor strong. the actual results of the battle were in favour of the Confederates. Our loss exceeded ten thousand, nine thousand of whom were killed or wounded. As our offset to this loss, we had taken considerably over six thousand prisoners, and had captured over thirty pieces of cannon, sixty thousand stand of small arms, ambulances, mules, and horses, with a large amount of other valuable property, all of which was secured and appropriated to proper uses. Besides all this secured, we destroyed not less than eight hundred wagons, mostly laden with various articles, such as arms, ammunition, provisions, baggage, clothing, medicine, and hospital stores. We had lost only three pieces of artillery, all in Breckinridge's repulse. Rosecrans gave his loss in killed and wounded as 8,778. Of this estimate Gen. Bragg remarks: “One corps, commanded by Maj.-Gen. Thomas L. Crittenden, which was least exposed in the engagement, report over five thousand killed and wounded. As the enemy had two other corps, and a separate division, third of a corps, and cavalry, his loss is safely estimated at three thousand killed and sixteen thousand wounded. Adding the six thousand two hundred and seventy-three prisoners, we have a total of twenty-five thousand two hundred and seventy-three.”

The battle of Murfreesboro was the subject of much criticism in the Confederacy, and the occasion of various commentaries. Gen. Bragg was famous for his profuse censure of his officers, and his ascription of every failure in his campaigns to the fault of some subordinate officer. He never wrote an official report without such unpleasant and suspicious element of recrimination in it. He made the battle of Murfreesboro a text of censure of his subordinates; he declared that the remissness of Breckinridge, on the first day of action, checked Hardee's success, and made the victory incomplete. But he found in this terrible battle the) occasion of a beautiful [352] and memorable tribute to the private soldier of the Confederacy. He wrote: “To the private soldier a fair word of praise is due, and though it is so seldom given and so rarely expected, that it may be considered out of place, I cannot, in justice to myself, withhold the opinion ever entertained, and so often expressed during our struggle for independence. In the absence of instructions and discipline of our armies, and of the confidence which long associations produce between veterans, we have, in a great measure, to trust to the individuality and self-reliance of the private soldier. Without the incentive or the motive which controls the officer, who hopes to live in history, without the hope of reward, actuated only by a sense of duty and patriotism, he has in this great contest justly judged that the cause was his own, and gone into it with a determination to conquer or die, to be free or not to be at all. No encomium is too high, no honour too great for such a soldier. However much of credit and glory may be given, and probably justly given, to the leaders in the struggle, history will yet award the main honour, where it is due, to the private soldier, who, without hope of reward, and with no other incentive than a conscientiousness of rectitude, has encountered all the hardships, and has suffered all the privations. Well has it been said: The first monument our Confederacy raises, when our independence shall have been won, should be a lofty shaft, pure and spotless, bearing this inscription: ‘ To the unknown and unrecorded dead.’ ”

Operations in the Trans-Mississippi.

In other quarters of the war less important than Virginia and Tennessee, the latter part of the year 1862 was without considerable interest. Since the commands of Price and Van Dorn had moved east of the Mississippi, the campaign in the extensive country west of that river had become feeble and irregular. It was marked, however, by one battle-that of Prairie Grove — the dimensions of which were large for that campaign, and the results of no little importance to the country of the Trans-Mississippi.

In the latter months of 1862, Maj.-Gen. T. C. Hindman was commanding what was known as the District of Arkansas. Lieut.-Gen. Homes was commanding the Trans-Mississippi department, with his headquarters at Little Rock. Gen. Blunt, commanding about seven thousand Federal troops, had advanced from Springfield as far as Cane Hill, Arkansas, driving Gen. Marmaduke, who was commanding a small division of cavalry. Gen. Hindman, with about eight thousand Missouri, Texas, and Arkansas infantry and artillery, was at Van Buren. It was considered necessary to oppose the further advance of Blunt; and accordingly, on the [353] 1st December, Gen. Hindman put his whole force in motion to meet the enemy, and, if possible, drive him back, as a large supply of quartermaster and commissary stores had been collected at Van Buren.

Owing to delays occasioned by crossing the river and the bad condition of our transportation, the command did not reach the camp on Cove Creek until the evening of the 5th. The position was six miles from Cane Hill, the same where Gen. Price halted on his retreat from Springfield in the winter of 1861. When Gen. Hindman reached this place, he learned that Blunt was camped at Cane Hill, and that Gen. Herron, with five thousand men, was pushing on rapidly from Springfield to reinforce him. It was immediately determined by Hindman to meet this latter force, and, defeating it, to turn upon Blunt, and force him to surrender. He issued an extravagant address to his soldiers, and designated the enemy opposed to them as a combination of “Pin Indians, free negroes, Southern tories, Kansas Jayhawkers, and hired Dutch cut-throats.” He declared that unless this ruthless force was defeated, the country would be ruined.

In order that Gen. Hindman's plan of operations might be effectual, it was necessary to engage Blunt's attention so as to prevent his falling back to Fayetteville, and forming a junction with Herron. For this purpose, early in the morning of the 6th December, a regiment of cavalry was sent to drive in the enemy's outposts nearest us. At sunrise, the 11th Missouri infantry were pushed forward as far as the cavalry had advanced, to deploy as if to invite attack. It only succeeded in developing a party of Indians, who declined attacking. In the evening, Hindman's whole force was moved up to the ground occupied by the 11th Missouri infantry, and a regiment of cavalry was ordered to drive in the skirmishers, and feel the main body. Some desultory fighting ensued, and continued until nightfall.

Hindman's whole command, resting on their arms, were ordered to move at two o'clock in the morning on the roads towards Fayetteville, to attack Herron's force approaching the field of battle. A regiment of cavalry was ordered to remain with one battery of light field pieces, and to commence shelling the enemy in front at daylight. The next morning, the command struck the Fayetteville and Cane Hill road, and surprised the advance-guard of Herron's force, capturing two hundred prisoners.

This success appears to have confused Gen. Hindman, and, instead of attacking Herron immediately and with vigour, he divided his force, sending Parsons' brigade in the direction of Cane Hill, as if expecting an attack from Blunt. Meanwhile, Blunt, anticipating a flank movement, had fallen back, and Hindman made a new disposition of his forces. But valuable time had been lost, and the attack was not made on Herron's force until half-past 3 o'clock in the afternoon. In our line of battle, the Arkansas troops were on the right flank, the First Missouri brigade forming the [354] centre, the Second Missouri brigade the left, and the Texan troops the reserve. The action had scarcely commenced, when Gen. Blunt, who, having burned his stores and his train, had made a rapid movement, by an obscure road leading through a valley, reached the battle-field. The new force appeared upon the Confederate left. It was necessary for the First Missouri brigade to change its front from the east to the north, to meet the charge which the enemy was now preparing to make. Just as the evolution was completed, the combined forces of the enemy advanced to the charge. It was gallantly met by the two Missouri brigades. As night fell, the action was decided. The enemy was driven from the field; Blunt swinging around, uniting with Herron, and both retreating. The Federal forces fell back six miles.

The evidences of victory were with the Confederates. Their loss was about two hundred killed and five hundred wounded; that of the enemy, by his own accounts, exceeded a thousand. It appears, however, that Hindman, who had blundered during the day, although he had yet succeeded in driving the combined forces of Herron and Blunt, was so impressed with the fact they had formed a junction, that he determined to retreat during the night. The wheels of his artillery were muffled, and the Confederates actually retreated from a field of victory. Thus terminated the battle of Prairie Grove (as it was called by the Confederates); the importance of which was that it virtually decided the war north of the Arkansas River.

The country of the Trans-Mississippi suffered from peculiar causes in the war. A great part of it not only laboured under military incompetency; but singular disorders affected the whole population, and an enormous despotism cursed the land. Gen. Hindman, who had but a weak head in military matters, exhibited an iron hand in the management of other affairs, usurped all authority in the country he occupied, and exercised a tyrannical rule, that only finds a parallel in antique despotism. His conduct was made the subject of a special investigation in the Congress at Richmond. It was discovered that he had established within his military lines what he was pleased to call a “government ad interim.” He superseded the entire civil authority; he deliberately amplified the conscription law by proclamation; he declared martial law throughout Arkansas and the northern portion of Texas; and he demanded, under the penalty of death, the services of all whom he had tyrannically embraced in his conscription lists. Crops were ravaged; cotton burned, or appropriated to unknown purposes; while straggling soldiers, belonging to distant commands, traversed the country, armed and lawless, robbing the people of their property under the pretence of “impressing” it for the Confederate service. To a great part of the country within the limits of his command Hindman extended no protection whatever. Hostile Indians [355] began collecting on the border, and Federal emissaries were busy among the Cherokees and Creeks, inciting disaffection. Detachments of Federal cavalry penetrated, at will, into various parts of the upper half of Arkansas, plundering and burning houses, stealing horses and slaves, destroying farming utensils, murdering men loyal to the Confederacy, or carrying them into captivity, forcing the oath of allegiance on the timid, and disseminating disloyal sentiments among the ignorant.

Such a condition of affairs could not long be tolerated, although the statements of it were slow in reaching Richmond, and obtaining the just consideration of the Government there. The cruelties and disorders of Hindman-notoriously the favourite of President Davis-became at last so enormous in Arkansas, that it was unsafe that he should remain there longer, when he was brought across the Mississippi River, and assigned to some special duty. It was indeed remarkable that the people of the Trans-Mississippi, with such an experience of maltreatment, and in spite of a conviction that the concerns of this distant portion of the Confederacy were grossly neglected at Richmond, should yet have, even to the latest period of the war, faithfully kept and fondly cherished their attachment to the vital principle of our struggle and the common cause of our arms. It was an exhibition of devotion and of extraordinary virtue in the Confederate States west of the Mississippi River that should be omitted in no historic record of the war.

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