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THE BATTLE OF MURFREESBOROUGH.
sail Breckinridge's division, exposed there, and seize the heights, from which an artillery fire would not only take in reverse the works in front of the enemy's centre, but also enable the national centre, with the remainder of the left wing, to overthrow it. Meantime the assailing divisions of the left would swing into Murfreesborough, and, continuing their movement, come round to the Franklin Road, thereby forcing the Confederates from their line of retreat. It was a disadvantage to the national general that in this movement the river must be crossed.
On his part, also, Bragg had determined to take the of Bragg's plan of the fensive, and with his left to strike Rosecrans's right. There was thus a similar intention on the two sides, and not a dissimilar disposition of force. Both intended to strike with the left, and therefore both massed their force on that wing. Bragg's plan was to wheel his attacking force on Polk's extreme right, as on a pivot, and, pressing his antagonist back to Stone River, seize the turnpike and railroad to Nashville, his lines of communication in the rear.
In the dawn of the last day of the year (1862), while The battle of Mur- Rosecrans's left was rapidly crossing Stone River to make its expected attack, Bragg, with his left, had already anticipated him. Coming out of a fog which had settled on the battle-field, he fell furiously upon Johnson's division, and so unexpectedly that two of its batteries were taken before a gun could be fired. The Confederate success was de cisive. Johnson's division, which was on the extreme national right, was instantly swept away. Davis, who stood next, was assailed in front and on his uncovered flank. He made a stout resistance, but the shock was too great; he was compelled to give way, with the loss of many guns. And now the triumphant Confederate left, the centre also com
Bragg obtains the initiative.
Rosecrans's right is overthrown.
CHAP. LIII.] OVERTHROW OF THE NATIONAL RIGHT WING. 363
ing into play, rushed upon the next division-but that was commanded by Sheridan.
Rosecrans's aggressive movement was already paraHe has to abandon lyzed; nay, more, it had to be abandoned. He had to withdraw his left for the purpose of saving his right and defending his communications. He must establish a new line.
The possibility of doing this-the fate of the battlerested on Sheridan. He was furiously aschecked by Sheri- sailed in front by the Confederate division of Withers; on his flank, uncovered by the overthrow of Johnson and Davis, he was attacked by their victors, McCown and Cleburne. The front attack he received with such an artillery and musketry fire that the Confederates were not only checked and broken, but were pursued across the field to their intrenchments. Then, by retiring his right and reserves, he swung his line round so as to come perpendicularly to its former direc tion. He faced now south instead of east, and stood parallel to the Wilkinson Turnpike. The Confederate divisions in front of him, and greatly overlapping him in this his new position, were at once held in check. Before they could advance to the Nashville roads, and so seize Rosecrans's communications, Sheridan must be put out
who is at length
But it took an hour to do that. As his antagonists pressed on his flank, he changed his front compelled to fall again. Pivoting on the right flank of Neg ley's division, he wheeled round his line so as to face to the west, thereby covering the rear of Neg ley's line. With Negley he was now forming a wedgeshaped mass, with his batteries at the point of the wedge. Here he withstood an impetuous attack of Cheatham's division and of other heavy masses. All three of his brigade commanders had been killed, his ammunition
ROSECRANS RENEWS HIS LINE.
train had been captured; he could not resist much longer, for the cartridge-boxes of his men were empty. The time had come when even Sheridan must fall back. But, if he had not powder, he had steel. The fixed bayo nets of his reserve brigade covered him, and he retired, unconquered and unshaken, out of the cedar thicket toward the Nashville Road. In this memorable and most glorious resistance he had lost 1630 men. "Here's all that are left," he said to Rosecrans, whom he had saved and now met.
After Sheridan had been pushed back, there was noth Resistance of Neg- ing for Negley but to follow. He did so, ley and Rousseau. securing his way against all resistance. In
vain had Thomas sent his other division under Rousseau to the front of the battle. It too, after a desperate struggle, was forced out of the cedar grove.
Rosecrans establishes a new line.
Meantime, on a knoll in the plain to which these divisions had receded, Rosecrans had massed his artillery. He was forming a new line, in which the army would face southwestwardly, with the Nashville Turnpike on its rear. In the critical moment of establishing this new formation, every thing depended on the resistance of Hazen's brigade, which was on the left of Palmer's division. Of that division the two right brigades had been forced away, but Hazen stood firm, delivering such a fire as to sweep his assailants back, though losing one third of his numbers. While thus he held firm, Rosecrans had adjusted his new front, and was ready for the final Confederate charge.
Final charge of the
On that new line the gray-coated Confederates came forth from the cedar thickets they had won, advancing over the plain, a magnificent column of attack. Their advance was but for a moment. Instantly in front of them sprang up a cloud-wall of sulphury smoke that shut out Rosecrans's line from their
RETREAT OF THE CONFEDERATES.
view. There burst forth from the cannon hidden in it a double-shotted iron-fire, from the musketry a sirocco of lead. Four times the Southern soldiers tried to face the tempest. A horrible slaughter ensued. The momentum of the fire hurled them back into the dark green shade of the cedars. One of Cleburne's brigades was in an instant almost destroyed.
It was all over in front; but Bragg, unwilling to be foiled, now brought Breckinridge, who had hitherto been untouched, across the river to make a final attempt on Rosecrans's left flank with 7000 fresh men. His first attack was repulsed; he made a second; it shared the same fate.
So stood affairs when night came-a clear and beautiful starlight night-the closing night of 1862. On New Year's Day nothing was done; the two armies, breathless with their death-struggle, stood looking at each other. Rosecrans holds his On January 2d Rosecrans was found, not retreating, but busily engaged in trying to carry out his original plan. He had made his position impregnable; he had thrown a force across Stone River, and, as he at first intended, was getting ready to crown with artillery the heights beyond the east bank. HereRenewal of the upon Bragg brought Breckinridge back to his old position, ordering him to drive the enemy across the river-a task which that officer bravely tried, but only imperfectly accomplished, for the artil lery on the opposite bank tore his division to pieces. In twenty minutes he lost two thousand men.
Bragg retreats to
A violent storm prevented the renewal of the battle on the 3d.. On that night Bragg, despairing of Tullahoma. success, withdrew from Murfreesborough, retreating to Tullahoma, and Rosecrans at last grasped his blood-clotted prize, so crippled, however, that it was im possible for him to make any pursuit.
Losses in the battles.
THE BATTLE LOSSES.
In these dreadful battles the Confederates lost 14,700 On the national side there were killed 1553, wounded more than 7000, prisoners more than 3000; more than one third of its artillery and a large portion of its train were taken. The losses were about one fourth of each army. Henceforth the Confederates abandoned all thought of crossing the Ohio River. Two desperate but unsuccessful attempts had convinced them that they could not break through the line of investment between the Cumberland Mountains and the Free States.