Report of Col. Joseph B. Dodge, Thirtieth Indiana Infantry, commanding Second Brigade.
December 26, 1862-January 5, 1863.--The Stone's River or Murfreesborough, Tenn., Campaign.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XX/1 [S# 29]
HEADQUARTERS SECOND BRIGADE, SECOND DIVISION,
In Camp near Murfreesborough, Tenn., January 8, 1863.
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.
SIR: In compliance with your order of the 7th instant I have the honor to respectfully submit the following report of the operations of this command since the 26th of December last up to the evening of the 31st ultimo:
On the morning of December 26, last, this brigade left camp, near Nashville, under command of Brig. Gen. E. N. Kirk, and marched out on the Nolensville pike about 12 miles, where we encamped during the night. Although there was heavy skirmishing in our front and on each flank, we were in nowise engaged with the enemy during that day, as there was a heavy three of Federal troops in front of this brigade and between it and the enemy.
On the morning of the 27th we were ordered to resume the march, and on that day the brigade was in advance of our whole forces, with the exception of the cavalry, which was thrown out as skirmishers in advance.
About 1 mile from where we hard bivouacked for the night the enemy made his appearance in considerable force, composed of cavalry and supported by artillery, all of which opened upon us, and he showed a disposition to contest the ground over which we wished to pass. The Thirty-fourth Regiment Illinois Volunteers and the Twenty-ninth Indiana were promptly deployed as skirmishers, each regiment retaining a good reserve, and thrown forward, with instructions to push on as rapidly as possible, which order was obeyed with alacrity and skill, and the other regiments of the brigade moved forward in line of battle, the Thirtieth Indiana supporting Edgarton's battery.
Owing to a dense fog, which enveloped everything, so that we could not distinguish the troops of the enemy from our own, it was deemed prudent to halt until the fog partially disappeared, when we again moved forward, with continued skirmishing on our front, until we gained an elevated position overlooking the village of Triune. Here the enemy were in plain view, drawn up in line of battle, the center of their line being in the village. Edgarton's battery opened upon them immediately with splendid effect, soon throwing them into disorder, and disabling at least one piece of their artillery, as I have good reason to believe. While in this position a very heavy rain commenced, accompanied with fog, rendering an advance immediately hazardous.
The fog disappeared again in the course of about an hour, when we again advanced; but, owing to the ground being very much softened by the rain, the men's clothes were so saturated with water that it was impossible to do so at the rate of speed desired. The enemy had destroyed a bridge across a stream that runs through the edge of the town, thus compelling the artillery to make a detour of nearly a mile to a ford, and by this means gained time to collect his scattered forces and withdraw. On that night we bivouacked about 1 mile south of Triune.
During that day this brigade lost none in killed or wounded, but inflicted considerable loss upon the enemy. The officers and men engaged showed themselves to be cool, skillful, and courageous, and behaved splendidly.
We staid at the above-mentioned place all of the 28th, and on the morning of the 29th took up our march for Murfreesborough. During this day nothing of importance occurred. We bivouacked that night in an open field, without fires, and in a cold, drenching rain.
On the morning of the 30th we were ordered out to take position, preparatory to an expected attack upon the enemy. Heavy skirmishing and fighting was going on in front of us during the whole day, in which we took no active part until about 3 p.m., at about which time we arrived at the extreme right of the line of our army.
At that time the enemy had a battery of artillery stationed directly in front of this brigade, which was pouring a destructive fire into some troops on our left, belonging to Brig. Gen. J. C. Davis' division. General Kirk immediately ordered Captain Edgarton's battery to open upon it, which order was complied with, with great execution, dismounting one of the enemy's pieces, and killing quite a number of men in a very few moments, and driving him from his position.
There was no more firing, either from artillery or infantry, that evening or night. The brigade was formed in line of battle, the Thirty-fourth Illinois, Maj. A. P. Dysart commanding, on the extreme right; the Twenty-ninth Indiana, Lieutenant-Colonel Dunn commanding, next on the left: the Thirtieth Indiana, Col. J. B. Dodge, next, and the Seventy-seventh' Pennsylvania, Lieutenant-Colonel Honsum commanding, on the left; Edgarton's battery (E, First Ohio Artillery) in the rear and to the left of the Thirty-fourth Illinois, in a cedar grove, with a rather dense thicket immediately in front of the three left regiments. A strong picket line was thrown out from 150 to 200 yards in front, with a cornfield in front of their (the picket) line. Every precaution that was possible was taken to prevent surprise, and to give seasonable warning of the approach of the enemy.
The brigade was up and under arms for nearly or quite an hour before daylight. Just after daylight a part of the horses of the battery were unhitched from the caissons and taken to water, which was close by. Just at this moment the enemy made his appearance on our front and right in immense force, and formed in close columns, with a front equal to the length of a battalion in line and ten or twelve ranks in depth. General Kirk immediately ordered the Thirty-fourth Illinois to advance to near where the picket was stationed, in order to check, at least, the advance of the enemy, and save the battery, if possible, which movement was promptly executed under an awful fire, which almost annihilated the picket line or line of skirmishers, which it really was, and killed or wounded a large number in the line, some 150 or 200 yards in the rear. The battery under command of Captain Edgarton immediately opened with canister upon the enemy, and only had time to fire eight rounds before the battery was taken. Nearly or quite one-half of the horses were killed or wounded, so as to be unmanageable, by the first fire from the enemy, and it was impossible to remove it from the ground.
Captain Edgarton and his officers and men fought nobly, as the number of killed and wounded will testify, and did everything possible to maintain their ground against all overpowering force. The captain was taken prisoner while assisting to work his guns, and Lieutenant Berwick was bayoneted and taken prisoner while assisting him. General Kirk was seriously wounded at almost the first fire, and I then succeeded to the command of the brigade.
The fire the enemy received from us, although well directed, and as effective as a fire from two ranks generally is, produced no visible effect upon him as he moved his heavy column forward upon a double-quick. General Rains, who commanded a part of their column, fell dead or mortally wounded at this point.
The enemy then moved to the left oblique, or nearly, by his left flank, until his center was Opposite our extreme right, when he moved forward again, changing direction to his right as he did so, so as to bring his whole force upon our most exposed point. We held our ground until our ranks were not more than 20 yards from the enemy, when I was forced to retire, having no support and seeing that it was a needless waste of life to contend in that position with at least twenty times the number of men I their had left, which was done in the best order possible, across a corn-field in the rear and to the left of our first position, to a field one side of which was on rising ground and overlooking the ground over which the enemy must advance to attack.
I here formed the Thirtieth Indiana at that time under command of Lieut. Col. O. D. Hurd, of that regiment, and the Seventy-ninth Illinois, Col. S. P. Read commanding, that had just reported to me (it having been detailed to guard a train the day before, and had just arrived upon the field), behind a fence on the rise of ground before spoken of. Before the Seventy-ninth Illinois reached the fence and while it was at least 200 yards distant from it, the enemy made his appearance and instantly poured a terrible fire into their ranks. Although a new regiment, they advanced with a firmness that would have done credit to veterans, and, after reaching the fence poured a terribly destructive fire into the enemy Here, assisted by Captain Simonson's (Fifth Indiana) battery, this brigade, unsupported, except by the Third Brigade, which was on our left, and almost alone, succeeded in checking the enemy, bringing his columns to a halt, and requiring the utmost exertions of his officers to keep his men from fleeing in disorder from the field, during all of which time a tremendous fire was kept up. The enemy finally succeeded in throwing his left wing forward across the fence, thus outflanking this brigade and dislodging us from that position; but the number of dead left by him on that ground for five days afterward shows conclusively that it was by far the dearest position to him that he gained that day.
Colonel Read, of the Seventy-ninth Illinois, was killed instantly while bravely urging his men on. In his death the service has lost a fine officer, a brave soldier, and a true man. Adjutant Stribley, of the Thirtieth Indiana, was also killed here. The service contained no braver or cooler officer than he. The Seventy-seventh Pennsylvania, Lieutenant-Colonel Housum commanding, at the time of the occurrences above mentioned was some 600 yards on the left of the troops under my immediate command, acting with a brigade in General Davis' division. While hotly engaged with the enemy, Colonel Housum was wounded severely, from which he died shortly afterward. He was a cool, clear-headed, courageous officer and gentleman.
After being driven from the fence, I retired my command to a piece of woods in the rear of my former position, the enemy closely following up with infantry on our rear and cavalry on our left flank. I halted my command twice, and formed a line and undertook to hold him in check, but it was impossible to do but little, owing to our weakened condition and the absence of all support.
I finally fell back to near the Murfreesborough and Nashville turnpike, and made up my mind that the enemy must be stopped there. I had at that time t he Seventy-seventh Pennsylvania, Captain Rose commanding, Twenty-ninth Indiana, Major Collins commanding, and about 100 men belonging to the Thirtieth Indiana, Thirty-fourth Illinois, and Seventy-ninth Illinois; in all, about, at that time, 500 men. By command of Brigadier-General Johnson, I formed my little force on the right of Captain Simonson's battery, which was in action with one of the enemy's batteries, which was soon silenced, immediately after which it (Captain Simonson's battery) was placed in another position.
I wish to be pardoned for testifying here to the skill, efficiency, and courage displayed by Captain Simonson and his officers and men during that day. I then moved my command some 150 yards to the right of where it had been while supporting the battery, into a piece of woods, and took a good position for defense.
Some troops belonging to some other division moved in on my left just at that moment, and a moment after the remains of the column that made the first attack in the morning made its appearance, coming up on a doublequick. I immediately gave the command forward, and my command met them, poured in a deadly volley, and rushed forward. Their advance was stopped, their line wavered, and in a moment was in full retreat, and thus the brigade that received the first attack from this column in the morning had the satisfaction of giving it the first repulse it received during the day. I followed them but a short distance, when I got a regiment to relieve the command I had left, as they were entirely out of ammunition, and, by order of General Johnson, I took them back and formed along the railroad, and got a supply.
I was then ordered back to the bank of the river, where I awaited further orders. While there, an officer rode up and informed me that the enemy's cavalry was attempting to cross the river some distance below, near a hospital, and that it was important that we should have a force there. There was no superior officer near, and I took the responsibility of at once moving to the point designated and forming in line. The enemy, seeing us approach, promptly fell back, but not until he had taken quite a number of prisoners, as I understand.
I then returned to the turnpike, and at dark bivouacked in the woods near by, where we spent the night.
On the morning of the I at instant I placed my command in line, under your directions, and we immediately threw up a line of breastworks, behind which we bivouacked until the evening of the 3d instant, without any movement of importance on our part, with the exception that on the 2d instant, at about 9 p.m., I was ordered to take four companies from my command and a like number from the Third Brigade of this division, and to advance to our front until I reached the Franklin turnpike or found the enemy in force.
It was a very dark night, and I took my little Command according to your orders, deployed the whole as skirmishers, and started. I first crossed an open field or fields nearly to the woods in our front, where I could distinctly hear the enemy chopping and moving either artillery or heavy wagons. When we got about 20 yards from the edge of the woods, I distinctly heard officers giving commands to their men, and, fearful that I was going into a trap, I ordered my men to fire, which was promptly obeyed, and my suspicions confirmed, as the enemy returned a withering volley in reply. Found at least ten times the number I had with me. Having ascertained that the enemy were in heavy force near our lines, thereby accomplishing the purpose for which I was sent our, I ordered my men to retire, which they did in good order, losing but 4 wounded; none killed.
The officers and men under my command, during this terrible battle, behaved with great coolness and courage under the most trying circumstances.
I cannot help but bring to the notice of the commanding general the gallant conduct of Capt. T. E. Rose, of the Seventy-seventh Pennsylvania Regiment, who took command of his regiment after Lieutenant-Colonel Housum was wounded, and who, by his skill, perseverance, and energy, kept his regiment well together, and, by his example, urged on his men to attack the enemy when all around was disorder and confusion.
Major Collins, of the Twenty-ninth Indiana, took command of that regiment about 9 a.m. on the 31st, after Lieutenant-Colonel Dunn had, by some means, become separated from his command, and fought nobly.
Major Buckner, of the Seventy-ninth Illinois, took command of that regiment after the death of Colonel Read, and gallantly rallied his men, and showed himself worthy of a higher position than he now holds.
Maj. A. P. Dysart, commanding the Thirty-fourth Illinois, distinguished himself in his efforts to arrest the enemy's progress, and his regiment stood by him until it was utterly impossible for the same number of men, without Support to do so longer.
Lieutenant-Colonel Hurd, commanding, and Major Fitzsimmons (who was taken by the enemy), of the Thirtieth Indiana, showed that they were worthy of the positions they occupy. Both needlessly, almost, exposed themselves, and were untiring in their efforts to stop the progress of what seemed a victorious enemy.
I can but express my heartfelt thanks to my staff for their conduct on the field--firm, cool, energetic, and fearless, their assistance was invaluable. Capt. D.C. Wagner, acting assistant adjutant-general; Capt. E. P. Edsall, acting assistant inspector-general; Lieut. I. C. McElfatric, topographical engineer, and Lieutenants Baldwin and Walker, aides, were untiring in their efforts to rally the troops, and to their exertions the whole right wing of the army is, in my opinion, indebted.
Dr. George W. Hewitt, acting brigade surgeon, was untiring in his exertions in behalf of the wounded, and was captured while at his post by the enemy, as was also Dr. Hostetter, of the Thirty-fourth Illinois, Dr. Keen, of the Twenty-ninth Indiana, and Dr. McAllister, of the Seventy-ninth Illinois, were all taken where a surgeon should be in time of action, attending to the duties of their profession. While in the enemy's lines they were engaged night and day in taking care of our wounded-They have been released since, and their horses retained by the enemy, in pursuance, as they report, of order of General Wharton. Surgeon Downey, of the Seventy-seventh Pennsylvania, was fortunately spared, and staid with the brigade. He was of invaluable service to those who were so unfortunate as to require the attention of a surgeon.
The medical department of this brigade was in splendid condition, thanks to Dr. Hewitt and division medical director, Dr. Marks, and, notwithstanding' our loss in surgeons, the wounded were well cared for.
Chaplain Bradshaw, Seventy-ninth Illinois, and Chaplain Decker, of the Thirty-fourth Illinois, exposed themselves in the most fearless manner in taking care of the wounded, taking them off the field, &c., and proved themselves to be well worthy, at least, of the positions they occupy.
This brigade met with a serious loss, in the person of General Kirk, early in the engagement. He fell at the head of his brigade, trying manfully to resist and repel the overwhelming force thrown against it.
Accompanying, please find a summary of killed, wounded, and missing of this command. The missing are, a large majority of them, I fear, wounded and in the hands of the enemy; also, please find reports of regimental commanders of this brigade and complete list, by name, of casualties.
J. B. DODGE,
Colonel Thirtieth Indiana, Commanding Second Brigade.
P. S.--Excuse me for calling the attention of the general commanding to a gallant charge made by the Seventy-seventh Pennsylvania, while they were separated from this brigade, and were acting in concert with a brigade in Brig. Gen. J. C. Davis' division. A battery in possession of the enemy made its appearance directly in their front and opened upon them. Lieutenant-Colonel Housum immediately ordered a charge upon it, which was obeyed instantly by his command. The cannoneers were either killed or wounded, the horses disabled, so they could not move back. The Seventy-seventh had possession of Captain Edgarton's battery, which the enemy had brought along with them, for a few moments, but before they could do anything more than compel the enemy to strike the guns, a heavy force of infantry made its appearance in their front and flank, and they were compelled to retire, during which movement Lieutenant-Colonel Housum was mortally wounded.
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