« PreviousContinue »
The eastern Portion of Tennessee.-Its Military Importance.-Composition of Bragg's Army.-THE BATTLE OF MURFREESBORO'.-The Right Wing of the Enemy routed.-Bragg's Exultations.-The Assault of the 2d of January." The bloody crossing of Stone River."-The Confederates fall back to Tullahoma.-Review of the Battle-field of Murfreesboro'.-Repulse of the Enemy at Vicksburg.-THE RECAPTURE OF GALVESTON.-The Midnight March.-Capture of the "Harriet Lane.”— Arkansas Post taken by the Yankees.-Its Advantages.-The affair of the Rams in Charleston Harbor.-Naval structure of the Confederacy.-Capture of the Yankee gunboat "Queen of the West."-Heroism of George Wood.-Capture of the "Indianola."-The War on the Water.-The Confederate Cruisers.-Prowess of the "Alabama."
THE eastern portion of Tennessee abounds in hills, rocks, poverty, and ignorance. But its military situation was one of great importance to the Confederacy. The enemy already held West and Middle Tennessee. It required but to occupy East Tennessee to have entire possession of one of the most valuable States of the Confederacy. They also felt bound in honor and duty to render the long-promised assistance to the Unionists of East Tennessee. Tennessee would be more thoroughly theirs than Kentucky, when once they filled this eastern portion of it with their armies. The essential geographical importance of this country to the Confederacy was too obvious to be dwelt upon. It covered Georgia and involved the defences of the cotton region of the South. Through it ran a great continental line of railroad, of which the South could not be deprived without unspeakable detriment. The impor tance of this road to the supply of our armies was no less considerable than to the supply of our general population.
The gallant and heroic army of the Confederacy, commanded by Gen. Braxton Bragg, composed of Floridians, Louisianians, South Carolinians, Georgians, and Kentuckians, numbering between thirty and forty thousand men, had occupied Murfreesboro' for over a month, in confidence and security, never dreaming of the advance of the enemy. President Davis had visited and reviewed the brave veterans of Fishing creek,
Pensacola, Donelson, Shiloh, Perryville, and Hartsville, and, satisfied of their ability to resist any foe who should have the temerity to attack them, he withdrew from our forces Stevenson's division, of Kirby Smith's corps, numbering about eight thousand men, leaving scarcely thirty thousand men to defend what was left to us of Tennessee.
Balls, parties, and brilliant festivities relieved the ennui of the camp of the Confederates. On Christmas eve scenes of revelry enlivened Murfreesboro', and officers and men alike gave themselves up to the enjoyment of the hour, with an abandonment of all military cares, indulging in fancied security.
The enemy's force at Nashville, under command of Rosecrans, was not believed to have been over forty thousand, and the opinion was confidently entertained that he would not attempt to advance until the Cumberland should rise, to afford him the aid of his gunboats. Indeed, Morgan had been sent to Kentucky to destroy the Nashville road and cut off his supplies, so that he might force the enemy to come out and meet us. Yet, that very night, when festivity prevailed, the enemy was marching upon us!
THE BATTLE OF MURFREESBORO'.
The grounds in front of Murfreesboro' had been surveyed and examined a month before, in order to select a position for battle in case of surprise, and our troops were thrown forward to prevent such a misfortune. Polk's corps, with Cheatham's division, occupied our centre, Maney's brigade being thrown forward towards Lavergne, where Wheeler's cavalry was annoying the enemy. A portion of Kirby Smith's corps, McCown's division, occupied Readyville on our right, and Hardee's corps occupied Triune on our left, with Wharton's cavalry thrown out in the vicinity of Franklin.
Festival and mirth continued on Christmas day, but the day following, Friday, the 26th, was a most gloomy one. The rain fell in torrents. That same evening couriers arrived and reported a general advance of the enemy. All was excitement and commotion, and the greatest activity prevailed. The enemy had already driven in our advance front. Hardee's
corps fell back from Triune. Major-gen. McCown's division was ordered to march to Murfreesboro' at once, having received the order at midnight. Heavy skirmishing by Wheeler and Wharton's cavalry had continued since the 25th. On the 27th the ground for our line of battle was selected in front of the town, about a mile and a half distant on Stone's river. The enemy had now advanced beyond Triune, his main body occupying Stuart's creek, ten miles from town. On the 28th our troops took up their position in line of battle. Polk's corps, consisting of Withers' and Cheatham's divisions, formed our left wing, and was posted about a mile and a half on the west side of Stone's river, its right resting on the Nashville road, and its left extending as far as the Salem pike, a distance of nearly six miles. Hardee's corps, consisting of Breckinridge's and Cleburne's divisions, was formed on the east bank of the river, its left resting near the Nashville road, and its right extending towards the Lebanon pike, about three miles in length, making our line of battle about nine miles in length, in the shape of an obtuse angle. McCown's division formed the reserve, opposite our centre, and Jackson's brigade was held in reserve on the right flank of Hardee. Stone's river crosses the Salem pike about a mile and a half on the south side of the town, making a curve below the pike about a mile further south, and then runs nearly north and south in front of Murfreesboro', crossing the Nashville pike and extending towards the Lebanon pike, some half a mile, when it makes another turn or bend and runs nearly east and west, emptying into the Cumberland river. The river, at the shoals, where it crosses the Nashville pike, was fordable, and not over ankle deep. The banks above and below were rather steep, being some five to eight feet high, with rocky protrusions. The nature of the country was undulating, but mostly level in our front, with large, open fields. To the right or the west side the ground was more rolling, with rocky upheaval and croppings of limestone and thick cedar groves. On the side of the river towards the Lebanon pike were thin patches of woods and rocky projections.
On the 29th there was continued skirmishing by our cavalry forces, the enemy gradually advancing. On the 30th the enemy had advanced by three columns and took up his posi
tion about a mile in our front.
At noon he shelled our
right and centre, in order to feel our reserves. the enemy made an advance on our left, and attempted to drive us back in order to occupy the ground for his right wing. A spirited engagement immediately commenced, Gen. Polk having ordered forward a portion of Withers' division. Robinson's battery held the enemy in check, keeping up a most deadly and destructive fire. Three times the enemy charged this battery, but were repulsed by the gallant one hundred and fifty-fourth Tennessee. Col. Loomis, commanding Gardner's brigade, and the brigade formerly Duncan's, with the South Carolinians, Alabamians, and Louisianians, were most hotly engaged, and though suffering considerably, succeeded in driving back the enemy with great slaughter. It was now clear that the enemy intended to mass his forces on our left, in order to make a flank movement the next day, and obtain, if possible, the Salem pike, which, if successful, would give him possession of the Chattanooga railroad. Cleburne's division, of Hardee's corps, and Major-gen. McCown's division, were immediately ordered over towards the Salem pike to reinforce our extreme left wing. Wheeler's cavalry had already gained the enemy's rear, and had captured a train of wagons and a number of prisoners. A cold, drizzling rain had set in, and our troops were greatly exposed, being without shelter, and bivouacking by their camp fires.
On the morning of the 31st, the grand battle was opened. At the break of day on the cold and cloudy morning, Gen. Hardee gave the order to advance, and the fight was opened by McCown's division, with Cleburne, advancing upon the enemy's right wing under Gen. McCook. The charge was of the most rapid character. The alarm given by the enemy's pickets scarcely reached his camp before the Confederates were upon it. The sight of our advance was a most magnificent one. Two columns deep, with a front of nearly threefourths of a mile, the line well preserved and advancing with great rapidity, on came the Confederate left wing, the bayonets glistening in a bright sun, which had broken through the thick fog.
The enemy was taken completely by surprise, their artillery horses not even being hitched up... Such was the impetuosity
of the charge, that the enemy fell back in dismay, our troops pouring in a most murderous fire. With such rapidity did our men cross the broken ploughed fields, that our artillery could not follow them. Wharton's cavalry had charged a battery, the horses not being harnessed, and driving back the infantry supporting it, succeeded in capturing it. The enemy having gradually recovered, now disputed our further advance, and the battle raged with terrific violence. They continued to fall back, however, under our fire, until we had swung round nearly our whole left on their right, as if on a pivot, driving the enemy some six miles towards his centre, when Withers and Cheatham also hurled their divisions on the foe with such terrible effect, that battery after battery was taken, and their dead lay in heaps upon the field. The enemy was now driven towards the Nashville road, about a mile in front of our centre, and took a commanding position on an eminence overlooking the plain, and which was protected by rocks and a dense cedar wood.
The battle had been terrific; crash upon crash of musketry stunned the ear; the ground trembled with the thunder of artillery; the cedars rocked and quivered in the fiery blast, and the air was rent with the explosion of shells. The enemy at several points offered a most gallant resistance, but nothing human could withstand the impetuosity of that charge. A spirit of fury seemed to possess our men, from the commanders down to the common soldiers, and on they swept, shot and shell, canister, grape, and bullets tearing through their ranks, until the way could be traced by the dead and dying. Still on they went, overturning infantry and artillery alike, driving the enemy like the hurricane scatters the leaves upon its course, capturing hundreds of prisoners, and literally blackening the ground with the dead. Such a charge was never before witnessed. For miles, through fields and forests, over ditches, fences, and ravines, they swept. Brigade after brigade, battery after battery, were thrown forward to stay their onward march; but another volley of musketry, another gleaming of the bayonet, and like their predecessors they were crushed into one common ruin.
It was now about noon. Our charge had been one of splendid results. We had already captured some five thousand