Report of Brig. Gen. J. Patton Anderson, C. S. Army, commanding Walthall's brigade.
December 26, 1862-January 5, 1863.--The Stone's River or Murfreesborough, Tenn., Campaign.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XX/1 [S# 29]
HDQRS. WALTHALL'S BRIGADE, WITHERS' DIVISION,
POLK'S CORPS, ARMY OF TENNESSEE,
Shelbyville, Tenn., January 26, 1863.
MAJOR: On the evening of December 27, I received an order from corps headquarters to turn over the command of the brigade recently assigned to me to Colonel Manigault, my next in rank, and to assume command of Walthall's brigade, that officer being absent on sick leave. The several brigades of Withers' division had been previously ordered to have three days' cooked rations in their haversacks, and to hold themselves in readiness for action at a moment's notice.
About midnight of the 27th and 28th, orders were received to move out at an early hour on the morning of the 28th, so as to have a line of battle formed by 9 a.m. At daylight, however, corps, division, and brigade commanders were to assemble at a point designated on the Nashville pike, for the purpose of reconnoitering the ground on which the line was to be formed. On assembling at the rendezvous, the fog proved to be so thick as to prevent, in a great measure, a thoroughly satisfactory reconnaissance. The line, however, was determined upon, and the major-general commanding the division designated the positions of the several brigades. They were immediately marched out from their encampments, and drawn up in line of battle at right angles with the Nashville pike, and about 1,000 yards in front of the point where the pike crosses Stone's River, Brigadier-General Chalmers' right resting upon the pike very near the point where the railroad intersects it, and his left reaching up a slope in an open field, and resting about the crest of the hill, with an interval on the top of the hill of about 80 yards between General Chalmers' left and my right. My line was a prolongation of his, stretching some 300 yards into a dense cedar forest. Colonel Manigault was on my left; his line was deflected to the rear at an angle of about 45. My command was posted from right to left as follows: Barret's battery (four guns) on the crest of the hill, in open field; the Twenty-seventh Mississippi, Col. T. M. Jones commanding; Twenty-ninth Mississippi, Colonel [W. F.] Brantly; Thirtieth Mississippi, Lieut. Col. Junius I. Scales; Twenty-fourth Mississippi, Lieutenant-Colonel [R. P.] McKelvaine, and the Forty-fifth Alabama, Col. James [G.] Gilchrist. The troops remained under arms during the afternoon and night of the 28th.
On the 29th, rifle-pits were constructed along the line of the Twenty-seventh Mississippi, which was in the open field. Captain [Overton W.] Barret also threw up slight earthworks to protect his cannoneers and horses against the enemy's sharpshooters. The other regiments, all of which were in the cedar forest, erected temporary breastworks of stone, great quantities of which covered the ground about them. A line of skirmishers had already been thrown out from 200 to 300 yards in front, connecting on the right with those of General Chalmers, and on the left with Colonel Manigault's. Some skirmishing took place during the day, and a few casualties were the result.
On the 30th, the skirmishers were more hotly engaged, killed and wounded on this day amounting to 35. At 9 p.m. the order for attack the next morning was received. Regimental commanders were immediately assembled, and the order communicated to them.
On the morning of the 31st, soon after daylight, a few shots on our extreme left, quickly followed by the thick roll of musketry and then by booming artillery, announced that the action had commenced. In pursuing the instructions contained in the order, it was necessary that the extreme left of our line should advance some distance, swinging around upon the right, before my command should move beyond the breastworks. The direction of Colonel Manigault's line on my left, as heretofore explained, made it necessary for his left to describe an arc equal to the eighth of a circle, the length of his line being the radius, before reaching the point where it would be on a prolongation of my line. The enemy's right was being steadily driven back.
About 9 a.m. Colonel Manigault came to me and informed me that he intended to charge a battery in his front; wished me to send two regiments to his support. I consented to do so, and immediately ordered the Forty-fifth Alabama and Twenty-fourth Mississippi forward to perform that duty. They became hotly engaged soon after leaving their breastworks, the enemy being in heavy force and strongly posted, backed by many pieces of artillery, so planted as to enfilade a portion of our line. In addition to this enfilading fire, Colonel Manigault was exposed to a cross-fire from a battery in front of his left. In the unequal contest our line halted, staggered, and fell back in some confusion, but were easily rallied, reformed, and moved to the front. The Thirtieth, Twenty-ninth, and Twenty-seventh Mississippi were now successively ordered forward, with instructions to swing round upon and preserve the touch of elbow to the right. Captain Barret, commanding the battery, was directed to hold his fire, not to respond to the long-range guns of the enemy, and only to use his pieces when a favorable opportunity of playing upon the masses or lines of the enemy was presented. Immediately in front and in short range of these regiments the enemy had two batteries advantageously posted, so as to sweep an open field over which they had to pass in their advance. The ordeal to which they were subjected was a severe one, but the task was undertaken with that spirit and courage which always deserves success and seldom fails of achieving it. As often as their ranks were shattered and broken by grape and canister did they rally, reform, and renew the attack under the leadership of their gallant officers. They were ordered to take the batteries at all hazards, and they obeyed the order, not, however, without heavy loss of officers and men.
Not far from where the batteries were playing, and while cheering and encouraging his men forward, Lieut. Col. James L. Autry, commanding the Twenty-seventh Mississippi, fell, pierced through the head by a minie ball. (The evening before, the colonel of the regiment, Thomas M. Jones, had gone to the rear, complaining of being unwell, and had not returned during the action.)
The death of this gallant officer at a critical period caused some confusion in the regiment until they were rallied and reformed by Capt. E. R. Neilson, the senior officer present, who subsequently was seriously wounded on another part of the field.
About the same time that Lieutenant-Colonel Autry fell, Colonel Brantly, of the Twenty-ninth Mississippi, and his adjutant (First Lieut. John W. Campbell) were knocked down by concussion, produced by the explosion of a shell very near them, but the regiment was soon after carried forward by Lieut. Col. J. B. Morgan in gallant style, capturing the battery in their front, and driving the enemy in great confusion into and through the dense cedar brake immediately beyond. On the left of this last regiment was the Thirtieth Mississippi, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Scales. Most gallantly did they perform their part. In moving across the open field in short range of grape, canister, and shrapnel, 62 officers and men were killed and 139 wounded, of this regiment alone, all within a very short space of time, and upon an acre [area] not greater than an acre of ground. The Twenty-fourth Mississippi, Lieutenant-Colonel McKelvaine commanding, and the Forty-fifth Alabama, Colonel Gilchrist commanding, respectively, on the left of the Thirtieth Mississippi, also encountered a battery in their front, strongly supported by infantry on advantageous ground. For a moment these regiments appeared to reel and stagger before the weight of lead and iron that was hurled against them. They were encouraged to go forward by the example of their officers, and a battery was taken. A number of prisoners also fell into our hands. Artillerists, who felt confidently secure in the strength of their positions, were captured at their pieces, and others were taken before they knew that their guns had fallen into our hands. One company entire, with its officers and colors, which had been posted in a log-house near the battery in front of the Twenty-ninth Mississippi, was captured by the Twenty-seventh Mississippi, while the pieces were falling into the hands of the Twenty-ninth.
After losing his artillery, the enemy retired through a dense cedar forest in a direction almost parallel to our original [line] and to the right. In this forest they made no obstinate stand, but, owing to the density of the growth and the exhausted condition of our troops, the pursuit was slow and cautious. It was impossible to preserve a regular and continuous line through such obstacles as the fallen and standing cedars presented. After having pushed through this brake a distance of 500 or 600 yards, an open field appeared in front, through which the enemy was fleeing in scattered confusion. The ground in our front was gently ascending for several hundred yards until the crest of the hill was reached, upon which he was now industriously planting artillery and apparently massing heavy forces of infantry. Our second line had come up and occupied the edge of the forest near the open field. It was growing late in the evening, and advance across the open field, where the enemy would have such decided advantage, was not deemed advisable. Indeed, after resting awhile to collect stragglers and replenish cartridge-boxes, and having become satisfied that my first apprehensions of an effort on the part of the enemy to repossess themselves of the forest was not well founded, a staff officer was sent to Major General Withers, commanding the division, suggesting that, with his consent, I would withdraw my brigade to its original position, where the troops could better recover from their exhaustion, and obtain that rest which they so much needed. He returned soon with the reply that the major-general approved the move. Accordingly, about sundown the brigade resumed its position of the morning, leaving the troops of the second line in position at the far edge of the cedar brake, confronting the enemy's line.
We remained here during the night, but moved forward at an early hour the next morning by order of Major-General Withers, and by his direction had begun to deploy the column on the right of the line then formed in the woods, when Colonel Brantly, of the Twenty-ninth Mississippi, informed me that, by continuing the deployment, much of the line would be exposed to a severe fire from the batteries last above alluded to. I communicated this to General Withers, who directed me to withdraw the line to a position in rear of the second (now become the first) line, near where the batteries had been taken on the day before.
We remained in this new position until about noon of this day (January 1), when, by order of Lieutenant-General Polk, we were conducted by one of his staff officers to the position originally occupied by Brigadier-General Donelson's command, in front of Stone's River, and stretching from Wilkinson pike, on the left, to the railroad, on the right.
At an early hour next morning we moved up by order of Major-Gen-eral Withers, and took the position at first occupied by Brigadier-General Chalmers' brigade. I was soon ordered across Stone's River, to the right, for the purpose of supporting Major-General Breckinridge's division, upon whom it had been reported the enemy were moving. When the two right regiments of the brigade had succeeded in getting across the river, the order, so far as the other three were concerned, was countermanded, and they were directed to resume their positions in Chalmers' old place, and before I had reached General Breckinridge with the two right regiments, an order was received to return and join the balance of the brigade. Soon after resuming Chalmers' position with the whole brigade, the Twenty-fourth Mississippi, Lieutenant-Colonel McKelvaine, was detached, by order of Lieutenant-General Polk, and sent forward to support Scott's battery, then posted on our front line. This was about 2 p.m., January 2. About 4 p.m. I was ordered by the general commanding to hasten with my brigade to the support of General Breckinridge, on the opposite side of the river from where I then was. Not being familiar with that part of the field, Lieutenant-Colonel [G. W.] Brent, of General Bragg's staff, was directed to conduct me to the desired position.
The troops deserve much credit for the alacrity with which they moved, having waded the river and pushed forward at a double-quick for more than a mile to the scene of Breckinridge's bloody conflict. Darkness had separated the combatants when I reached the spot. A staff officer had been previously sent forward to report to General Breckinridge my near approach. My column was conducted by Colonel Brent to a position in an open wood between two fields, where, as I understood from him. Breckinridge's line of battle had first moved forward to the attack. The column was halted, faced to the front, and skirmishers immediately thrown forward. This precaution had become necessary, inasmuch as there was no line at that time between mine and the enemy, as I learned from Colonel [John A.] Buckner, of General Breckinridge's staff. The general himself rode up at this moment, and soon directed me to with draw my line to one that would be pointed out by one of his shaft officers, in a wood some 200 or 300 yards in the rear. The line of skirmishers, however, was not withdrawn.
Having arrived at the new position about 9 p.m., a reconnaissance was made to the right and left, which disclosed the fact that on my left an interval of 800 yards or more existed between it and the right of Hanson's brigade, and that there were no troops on my right at all. Before daylight the next morning, however, the brigades of Generals Pillow. Preston, and Adams, of Breckinridge's division, had prolonged my right and a few hours later the brigade of Brigadier-General Jackson occupied most of the interval between my left and Hanson's right.
The troops remained in line of battle during the day; many, however, were sent to the rear on account of sickness, caused by the fatigues and exposures of the six days and nights past. It rained nearly all day (3d), and at times so violently that fires could not be kept up; blankets and clothing were wet, and cooked rations were in a condition, from the same cause, not at all inviting, even to a half-famished soldier.
About sundown I received an order from Major-General Withers to withdraw my command at 9 o'clock that night from its position, and take up the line of march down the Shelbyville pike. At the moment the hour arrived, and just as the column was about to be put in motion. I was directed to suspend the execution of this order until further notice. At 11 o'clock the order was repeated, the movement to commence at 1 o'clock the next morning.
At I o'clock the morning of January 4, my command moved right in front, following the [rear] of Brigadier-General Pillow's brigade, until we reached the public square in Murfreesborough, where I rejoined Major: General Withers' division, to which I belonged, and marched with it to this place without the loss of a man or anything else.
It should have been mentioned elsewhere that, early in the afternoon of the 31st, the adjutant of the Thirty-ninth North Carolina Regiment (Lieutenant [Isaac S.] Hyams, C. S. Army) reported to me on the battlefield that his regiment had become detached from the command to which it had been assigned in the morning, and was at that time out of ammunition and under command of Captain [A. W.] Bell, the field officers having been killed or wounded. I supplied the needed ammunition, and formed the regiment on the right of the Twenty-seventh Mississippi. It participated creditably in all our subsequent movements until, on the evening of January 2, by order of Lieutenant-General Polk, it was detached and ordered to join Colonel Manigault's brigade.
To my staff officers-Captain [W. G.] Barth, assistant adjutant-general; Lieutenant [W. M.] Davidson, aide-de-camp; Captain [W.] Anderson, ordnance; Capt. Lambert May and Lieut. R. H. Browne, of the inspector-general's department, and Capt. J. B. Downing and Mr. Scanlan, volunteer aides--I am much indebted for their active and efficient assistance in all that pertained to their respective positions. Each and every one performed his duty to my entire satisfaction. Captain May was particularly conspicuous in rallying and leading the troops where danger was thickest. To him I am also indebted for the prompt attention of my order to bring from the field the captured artillery. Capt. E. T. Sykes, assistant adjutant-general on Brigadier-General Walthall's staff, temporarily on duty with me, rendered very efficient service throughout the entire engagement. His activity, courage, and intelligence rendered his services invaluable on a field so extended and in a conflict so protracted. Lieutenant [J. H.] Wood, also ordnance officer of Walthall's brigade, performed his duty with the greatest promptness, displaying much good sense and judgment in conforming the movements of his train to those of the troops.
In endeavoring to give a simple statement of the part taken by the troops under my command in this great engagement, the capture of several batteries has been mentioned in passing. I have abstained from making a statement of the number or kind of pieces taken, for the simple reason that I did not stop to count them or to examine their caliber. The Twenty-seventh, Twenty-ninth, and Thirtieth Mississippi, all participating (but the Thirtieth suffering more severely than the others), captured a battery, of from four to six guns, near a log-cabin in the edge of the cedars, on the right of the Wilkinson pike, and not far from a well used by the enemy in procuring their water on the night previous to the battle. This battery included a small iron rifled piece, somewhat detached from, and a short distance to, the right of the other pieces, and lay in front of the Twenty-ninth Mississippi, which took it. In the log.-cabins, and strongly supporting the battery, was a company of sharpshooters, all captured by the Twenty-seventh Mississippi. Farther to the left was a battery, nearer the Wilkinson pike, from which the enemy were driven by the Twenty-fourth Mississippi, supported by the Forty-fifth Alabama. Some 15 or 20 prisoners were here captured at the pieces. Another battery was posted still farther to the left, and nearer the Wilkinson pike, close by which the left of the Forty-fifth Alabama (my left regiment) passed simultaneously with the right of Colonel Manigault. This battery, however, was silenced a few moments before we reached it--I think by one of our batteries playing from a direction where I supposed Colonel Manigault's left to be at the time his right reached the battery simultaneously with my left. As the batteries immediately in my front were being passed, I directed Captain May, of my staff, to have the pieces taken to the rear with as little delay as possible. He subsequently reported to me that he delivered to the chief of ordnance in Murfreesborough eight pieces of different caliber; and I afterward learned that there were two or three pieces taken from the same part of the field by other parties, whose names I could not learn.
Our loss in this engagement was heavy, as the long list of killed and wounded will show. An infant nation struggling for existence, and just now fairly disengaging itself from the oppressor's grasp, pauses in the strife to drop a sympathetic tear over the grave of its gallant dead, and long after that nation shall have risen to manhood among great powers of earth, will her free sons and daughters cherish and revere the names and memories of those who fell upon the bloody plains of Murfreesborough.
The loss of this brigade was 766, as follows: Killed, 119; wounded. 584; missing, 63.
I am, major, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
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