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Chapter 6:

  • South Carolinians in the West
  • -- Manigault's and Lythgoe's regiments at Corinth -- the Kentucky campaign -- battle of Murfreesboro.

In April, 1862, following the battle of Shiloh, in response to the urgent call of General Beauregard, at Corinth, Miss., for troops to reinforce the army he then commanded, the Tenth South Carolina, Col. A. M. Manigault, and the Nineteenth, Col. A. J. Lythgoe, were ordered from the coast of South Carolina to report to that general. Arrived at Corinth, the two regiments were brigaded with the Twenty-fourth, Twenty-eighth and Thirty-fourth Alabama regiments, under the command of Brigadier-General Trapier, in the division of Major-General Withers. From December, 1862, the brigade was commanded by Colonel Manigault, and known as ‘Manigault's brigade.’ Lieut.-Col. James F. Pressley took command of the Tenth.

Covering the front of Beauregard's army, on May 2d, Manigault's brigade was brought into prominent notice by the firm stand it made against the enemy's advance. The supports on its right and left having retired, Colonel Manigault held his position and repelled the attack. No report of the details of this affair is at hand. It reflected much credit on the brigade, and gave the South Carolina regiments their first battle before Corinth. At Corinth and at Tupelo, the army suffered from exposure and bad water, and 17,000 sick were sent to the rear, and in these hardships the South Carolina regiments had their full share. The faithful chaplain of the Tenth, Rev. W. T. Capers, and many of the officers and men of both regiments were ill, and many died. [112]

In July the army was moved to a healthier camp, and early in August it was concentrated near Chattanooga for an aggressive campaign in Tennessee and Kentucky. General Bragg was now in command, General Beauregard having been called to Charleston.

Bragg crossed the Tennessee, moved over the Cumberland mountains and entered Kentucky. When the army moved against Munfordville, Manigault was in advance and met and drove in the pickets. The garrison capitulated September 18th, and Bragg moved on toward Frankfort. Buell, who had left Tennessee and marched to Louisville, where he reorganized his army, struck at Bragg's exposed rear, attacking Polk at Perryville. Polk held his own with greatly inferior numbers, repulsed Buell, captured much artillery and many prisoners, but lost in killed and wounded over 3,000 of his little army. General Bragg retired toward the mountains, and crossing into east Tennessee, occupied Knoxville, Buell moving to Nashville. During the rapid retreat on Knoxville, the army suffered greatly from want of proper food, rapid marches and the exposure of the men in bivouac. After resting his army at Knoxville, General Bragg recrossed the mountains and ultimately took post at Murfreesboro, where he was attacked by Rosecrans (who had displaced General Buell), and the battle of Stone's River, or Murfreesboro, followed on December 31st.

Manigault's brigade bore a conspicuous part at Murfreesboro, and its operations in connection with that battle will now be described. General Bragg's line of battle was formed in front of Murfreesboro, running a little east of north and west of south. Stone's river ran southeast, in his front, cut off his right, and bending south ran along his rear. As the divisions stood from right to left they were placed in the following order: Breckinridge east of the river, then Withers, Cheatham, McCown and Cleburne, the formation in two lines, the cavalry well out on the flanks. Near the river, on the west side of it, the [113] Nashville railroad and the turnpike, running near each other, passed through Bragg's line nearly at right angles. The Wilkinson pike passed through the line on the left of Withers, running northwest.

Lieutenant-General Polk commanded the right wing, and Lieutenant-General Hardee the left; Breckinridge, Withers and Cheatham made the right, and McCown and Cleburne, with Wharton's cavalry, the left.

Rosecrans stood before Bragg with three army corps, commanded by Major-Generals McCook, Thomas and Crittenden, all west of the river. Crittenden faced Breckinridge with three divisions; Thomas, with five divisions, faced Withers and Cheatham; McCook, with three divisions, faced Cleburne and McCown. Wharton, with his splendid brigade of cavalry, stood forward of Hardee's left, ready to make his brilliant attack on Rosecrans' right and rear.

The signal for battle was given, and at 7 o'clock on the morning of December 31st, Hardee ordered Wharton with his troopers to find the rear of McCook's right flank and fall upon his supports, and directed his infantry and artillery forward. McCown, supported by Cleburne, advanced and engaged in severe battle, taking the enemy by surprise and forcing him back toward the Wilkinson pike. Bragg's plan was to drive back the right wing of Rosecrans, and when beaten to attack his center and right simultaneously. Hardee's battle pushed McCook beyond the Wilkinson pike, when Withers moved out against Thomas, supported by Cheatham. Bragg's battle was a grand right wheel, pivoting on the river, the wheel obliquing toward the wheeling flank, and the pivot gaining forward. By 10 o'clock, both of Hardee's divisions were in full battle, as were those of Withers and Cheatham, and later on Breckinridge sent over four of his brigades to reinforce the battle of the pivot.

When evening came the full right wheel had been completed and the army stood against its enemy in a line at [114] an exact right angle to its first position. The pivot had gained forward a half mile, but Rosecrans had held fast with his left on the river. In the wheeling fight, on Hardee's right, and in the struggle to move the pivot forward as it turned, Withers' division made its battle. That general reported the operations of his division with great accuracy and distinctness, and we shall follow his report for an account of Manigault's brigade.

As Withers placed his brigades from right to left, Chalmers' brigade was on the right touching the river, and formed the pivot of the great wheel; then came Patton Anderson's brigade, then Manigault's, and lastly Deas'. Manigault moved out in due time, and his left swinging around met the enemy on a wooded ridge, and stormed and carried it. In his wheel through an open field, and before the brigade could touch Anderson's, on its right, it was taken in flank by artillery and the fire of the force it had driven. Here fell the gallant Col. A. J. Lythgoe, of the Nineteenth South Carolina, at the head of his regiment. His major-general well said of him: ‘He dies well who dies nobly.’ The flank fire on Manigault broke his line and repelled his advance in some confusion. Rallying, the brigade continued its battle, now with more success charging and gaining ground. But it had gone beyond its right and left supports, and was again fired upon by artillery on the right flank; the brigade on his immediate left was repulsed and again Manigault had to retire. Maney's brigade, from Cheatham's division, was ordered to support Manigault's left, and again he advanced and with Maney's gallant aid the brigade swung forward and round in victorious advance.

This third advance brought the two South Carolina regiments directly on the battery that had done their brigade so much harm, and the Tenth and Nineteenth were ordered to charge and take it. The Tenth, led by Lieut.-Col. J. F. Pressley, and the Nineteenth, by Lieut.-Col. T. P. Shaw, moved as one man to take the guns. A Federal [115] brigade in support delivered its volleys so rapidly as to check the assault, when Anderson, who was on Manigault's right, moved up his brigade and attacked the supporting brigade, while the Tenth and Nineteenth dashed forward and took the guns. General Bragg allowed these regiments to have the battery, and they sent it to South Carolina to have the names of the gallant men who fell in its capture inscribed upon the pieces. General Withers closed this part of his report with high praise of Manigault's brigade. The brigade, says the major-general, had been subjected to a most trying ordeal, and had lost heavily. The calm determination and persistent energy and gallantry which rendered Colonel Manigault proof against discouragements, had a marked influence on and was admirably responded to by his command.

Lieutenant-General Polk, in his report, thus refers to the brigade:

The brigade of Colonel Manigault, which was immediately on the right of that of Colonel Coltart [Deas'], followed the movement of the latter according to instructions; but as Coltart failed in the first onset to drive Sheridan's right, Manigault, after dashing forward and pressing the enemy back on his second line, was brought under a heavy fire of artillery from two batteries on his right, supported by infantry, and was compelled to fall back. . . . But the gallant South Carolinian returned to the charge a second, and a third time, and being aided by the brigade of General Maney, of the second line, which came to his relief with its Napoleon guns and a deadly fire of musketry, the enemy gave way and joined his comrades on his right in 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 line of battle, and placed it in full retreat.

With these operations, thus described, the honorable part borne by the South Carolina regiments in the battle was practically ended. Manigault was in line with Hardee and touching the troops on the pivot, and night ended the great contest. [116]

The brigade of Colonel Manigault lost a total of 517. The Tenth South Carolina had 109 killed and wounded and 2 taken prisoners; the Nineteenth had 80 killed and wounded, among the killed its gallant colonel. Maj. John A. Crowder and Lieut. J. T. Norris, of the Nineteenth, faithful and true men and officers, were among those mortally wounded. It is to be regretted that Colonel Manigault's report of Murfreesboro is not at the writer's command, and there is no official report from either regiment of record.

On the roll of those ‘conspicuous for courage and good conduct on the field of battle’ at Murfreesboro, published by order of the Confederate Congress, are the following:

Tenth South Carolina: First Lieut. C. C. White, Sergts. C. W. Cockfield (killed) and S. B. Rhuarck; Privates A. J. McCants, J. S. Beaty, W. D. Hewitt, G. S. Flowers, G. W. Curry, J. Cannon, N. Gray, W. H. Posten, J. W. H. Bunch (killed) and J. A. Boatwright.

Nineteenth South Carolina: Col. A. J. Lythgoe, Maj. John A. Crowder; Sergts. W. H. Burkhalter and Martin Youce; Privates Benjamin W. Boothe, Samuel S. Horn, W. A. Black, S. D. McCoy, Samuel Bloodsworth, Seth A. Jordan, James McClain and James Jones.

It is a grateful task to copy, in this connection, a paragraph from the report of Lieutenant-General Polk, in which he perpetuates an act of self-sacrificing heroism which is worthy of lasting remembrance, and gives an example of patient courage and devotion which the writer has never known surpassed by any of his Confederate comrades. It occurred just before the last charge of Manigault and Maney. Says General Polk:

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 to our cause, which for heroic courage and magnanimity is without a parallel. A battery was pouring a murderous fire into the brigade of General 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 [117] whom was killed in the attempt)to determine its character. The doubt caused the brigade to hesitate in returning the fire of the battery, when Sergeant Oakley, color-bearer of the Fourth Tennessee, and Sergt. C. M. Hooks, color-bearer of the Ninth Tennessee, 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 conspicuous as to be plainly seen, and fully to test from whom their brigade was suffering so severely. The murderous fire was increased and intensified, and demonstrated that the battery and its support were not friends, but enemies. The sergeants then returned deliberately to their proper places in line, unhurt, and the enemy's battery was silenced and his column put to flight.

With this act of devotion we leave the battle of Murfreesboro, making the following general remarks about it:

General Bragg's army, infantry and artillery, numbered 33,475. His cavalry, under Wharton, Wheeler and Pegram, aggregated 4,237, making his army, of all arms, 37,712. Wheeler's brigade reported on December 31st, 1, 169, and was not in the battle, but was operating on Rosecrans' immediate communications. Pegram and Buford, with five regiments, 118 strong, were on the extreme right and scarcely engaged. Hanson's brigade, of Breckinridge's division, 1,893 strong, was east of the river. Deducting Wheeler's and Hanson's brigades from Bragg's total, that general fought in actual battle against Rosecrans' columns a force of 34,650, of all arms. These figures are taken from the field returns of the army, as they are given from the originals in the War Records of the Union and Confederate armies.

It is interesting to note General Rosecrans' estimates of General Bragg's forces and losses. He reported to Washington that he had encountered superior numbers, and gave Bragg's strength, 46,200 infantry, 1,200 sharpshooters, 1,840 artillery, and 13,250 cavalry, ‘making a total of 62,490.’ In like manner the Union general estimated the Confederate loss at 14,560. In this estimate [118] he missed it by over 4,000! General Bragg lost 10,266 of all arms, killed, wounded and captured. General Rosecrans took the actual loss in General Breckinridge's division and multiplied by seven, instead of five, the number of divisions. The Federal loss in killed and wounded as reported by General Rosecrans was 8,778. He estimated his loss in prisoners at 2,800. The inspector-general of Bragg's army reported to his chief over 6,000 prisoners! General Hardee reported 1,900 captured by Wharton's cavalry alone!

The writer, from his experience in the field, knows it to be very difficult to report accurately, after a great battle, the losses in killed, wounded and prisoners, but he has often been impressed with the exaggeration of generals, Federal and Confederate, in giving estimates of the numbers opposing them, and the losses they inflict upon their adversaries. Here we have Rosecrans reporting Bragg's army opposed to him at 62,490, and General Bragg reporting Rosecrans' army at from 60,000 to 70,000; Rosecrans estimating Bragg's loss at 14,560, and Bragg reporting an estimated loss for Rosecrans at 25,273. By the official statements of both generals, as shown in the army returns, now published by the government in its invaluable War Records of both armies, Rosecrans engaged Bragg's 34,650 of all arms, with a force of 43,400 of all arms. ‘On the whole,’ said General Rosecrans in his report, written six weeks after the battle, ‘we fought superior numbers on unknown ground, inflicted much more injury than we suffered, were always superior on equal ground with equal numbers, and failed of a most crushing victory on Wednesday [December 31st] by the extension and direction of our right wing.’ The facts are that Bragg was victorious everywhere on the field, except on his extreme right, and after the withdrawal of Rosecrans' left on the river, at night, the whole battlefield was Bragg's, with all its spoils. He captured 31 pieces of artillery; over 6,000 prisoners, two brigadiergenerals [119] among them; several stand of colors, 200 wagons with their contents, destroying over 800 others, loaded with ammunition and army stores, all of which he secured and appropriated.

Both armies were non-aggressive on January 1st; on the 2d, Rosecrans crossed a force in front of Breckinridge, bringing on a bloody engagement in the afternoon with that division. On the 3d and 4th, no movement of importance was made, and Bragg, learning of reinforcements coming to his adversary, whose strength he estimated at 70,000, with the river in the rear rapidly rising from constant rains, and his army without tents and baggage and much worn by constant watching and battle, determined upon retreat, and fell back ultimately to Tullahoma, without firing a gun in his retirement. Here, as afterward at Chickamauga, General Bragg failed to take advantage of his success, and General Rosecrans claimed a great victory. [120]

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