Report of Maj. Gen. Jones M. Withers, C. S. Army, commanding Division.
December 26, 1862-January 5, 1863.--The Stone's River or Murfreesborough, Tenn., Campaign.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XX/1 [S# 29]
HDQRS. WITHERS' DIV., POLK'S CORPS, ARMY OF TENN.,
Shelbyville, Tenn., May 20, 1863.
Maj. THOMAS M. JACK,
Asst. Adjt. Gen., Polk's Corps, Army of Tennessee.
MAJOR: This division took position in line of battle in front of Murfreesborough and Stone's River on the morning of December 28, 1862, as directed in "Memoranda for general and staff officers," issued from headquarters of the army. The brigade of Brig. Gen. James R. Chalmers was placed, with its right resting on Stone's River and extending in a direction west of south, nearly across the open field toward the Wilkinson pike; Walthal's brigade, in command of Brig. Gen. [J.] Patton Anderson (by whose name it will be designated in this report), was placed next; and Anderson's brigade, under Col. A.M. Manigault, of the Tenth South Carolina Regiment, was placed next, and on the left of the line then formed. That night Deas' brigade, under Col. J. Q. Loomis, of the Twenty-fifth Alabama Regiment, arrived from outpost and was placed on Manigault's left, extending the line to the Franklin or Triune road. This was the front center division of the line of battle, the division of Major-General Breckinridge being on the right, its left flank resting on the east bank of the river and to the rear of Chalmers' right, and the division of Major-General McCown being on the west side of the Franklin road, with its right some distance in advance of Loomis' left. The general direction of the line from right to left of the division, the initial point being on the river, was west of south, crossing the Nashville rail and pike roads about 1.000 yards from their crossing of the river and near their intersection; thence across the Wilkinson pike, and thence to the Franklin road, on which was placed Robertson's battery. The open fields, extending along their fronts and the character of the ground rendered it proper to throw Anderson's left to the front of the general direction, Manigault's left to be retired, and again Loomis' left to be advanced, the greatest angle being formed by Anderson and Manigault, and which would require that Manigault's left should describe an arc of near 60° to bring his front on a line with that of Anderson's.
On the evening of the 29th, skirmishing commenced between Chalmers' admirable battalion of sharpshooters and the enemy, which gradually extended to Anderson's right. About the same time there was a dash made by a portion of the enemy's cavalry on Manigault's skirmishers, which was creditably punished by Companies A and C, of the Tenth South Carolina Regiment. The supporting division, under Major-General Cheatham, now occupied its position from 500 to 800 yards in rear, and near the crest of the river ridge. The character of the country rendering it impossible for the division commanders to give that immediate, personal supervision which would insure the supports being thrown forward when necessary and with the least delay, it was agreed that Major-General Cheatham should take position on the left and the immediate control of the brigades of Manigault and Loomis, giving to me the direction of his two right brigades, Donelson and Stewart.
Early on the morning of the 30th, firing commenced between the skirmishers on the right, and gradually extended throughout the line to the Franklin road. The artillery of the enemy also opened, and the firing was kept up with more or less rapidity through the day. The cannonading was mostly directed against Chalmers' brigade and Anderson's right, which occupied the exposed position across the field from the Wilkinson pike to the river. About 2.30 p.m. the enemy made a dash to capture Robertson's battery, on our extreme left, which was handsomely repulsed and severely punished by a well-directed and rapid fire from the battery and from the Twenty-sixth and Thirty-ninth Alabama Regiments. The attempt, with less vigor, was repeated late in the evening with similar result, the Twenty-fifth Alabama having been thrown forward to the support of the other two regiments. The enemy's line of battle was now established in our front. His left rested on the river bluff, some 1,000 yards from Chalmers' right, in a skirt of woods; thence through the Round Forest, or Mississippian's "half acre"; thence through the south end of the cedar brake, and along the ridges and woodland to the cedar pedregal on the Franklin road, and about 300 yards from Loomis' front. From this point his line seemed to be retired, making quite an obtuse angle with that running back to the river.
The commanding general's order, directing an assault to be made by our left on the right of the enemy the next morning as early as it was "light enough to see," was received at 9 o'clock at night. Chalmers' brigade was to remain stationary, and constitute the pivot on which the movement was to be made; my left to "swing around and correspond with the movement of General McCown's division," on my left.
Early on the morning of the 31st, skirmishing commenced on the extreme left, and was followed by artillery, and then the full volleys of the line, announcing that the stern work of the day had commenced.
About 7 o'clock Loomis' brigade moved forward, and was immediately and hotly engaged. Steadily advancing, it drove back the first line of the enemy, but having no commanding officer (Colonel Loomis subsequently reporting himself as having been disabled), and the enemy being re-enforced by the second line, the brigade was driven back in some confusion. The reserve, being promptly ordered forward by Major-Gen-eral Cheatham, made a gallant charge, but was also repulsed. Colonel Coltart, of the Twenty-sixth Alabama Regiment, having assumed command of Loomis' brigade, with the assistance of Captains [D. E.] Huger, [J. R. B.] Burtwell, and [E. B. D.] Riley, of my staff, ordered to the left for the purpose, quickly rallied and reformed the line. The two brigades, under Colonels Vaughan and Coltart, being now formed in line, were moved forward under the immediate direction of Major-General Cheat-ham, and, after a desperate conflict, dislodged the enemy from their strong position, and drove them for more than a mile and beyond the Wilkinson pike. Moving forward to the cedar brake, between the Wilkinson and Nashville pikes, and finding other troops pressing after the enemy in his front, Colonel Coltart, by direction of General Cheatham, moved his command to the right, and, coming into the front line on the east edge and extreme right of the cedar brake, had a sharp engagement with the enemy, occupying a ridge across a narrow cotton-field, and strongly supported by artillery. Manigault's brigade moved promptly at the proper moment, and his left swinging round, drove the enemy from the wooded ridge back on his second line. In the wheel through the open field, and before his command had completed the angle necessary to bring it on a line with Anderson's, a heavy fire from two batteries and a column of infantry was opened on him from his right, which, enfilading his line, checked and finally forced him back to his former position. Col. A. J. Lythgoe, of the Nineteenth South Carolina Regiment, was killed in this charge while gallantly leading his command. He dies well who dies nobly. Manigault, quickly rallying his command, again moved forward, successfully driving the enemy, and with every prospect of being able to hold his position, when the repulse of the troops on his left, leaving both flanks exposed, rendered it necessary for him again to fall back. The position of the forces and character of the ground and movement, however, rendered it impossible altogether to avoid a cross or enfilading fire. The repulse at any point only increased the liability. The supporting brigade, under Brigadier-General Maney, was now moved forward, and, taking position on Manigault's left, both brigades moved forward, meeting comparatively with but little opposition. As Manigault swung round to a line with Anderson, this brigade was put in motion, and soon Manigault's right was engaged in an attack on a battery, with strong supports of infantry. The assault seemed successful, but before the capture was made, a brigade of the enemy moved up from below the hill, forcing back the regiments engaged, but was in turn driven back by Anderson's left, which was sweeping round. This concluded the engagements of Manigault for the day. His command had been subjected to a most trying ordeal, and had suffered heavily. The calm determination an(l persistent energy and gallantry which rendered Colonel Manigault proof against discouragements had a marked influence on and was admirably responded to by his command.
Anderson's left, being now moved forward immediately after the right of Manigault, was quickly engaged with the strong force in front.No brigade occupied a more critical position, nor were the movements of any invested with more important consequences. Opposite there were three batteries strongly supported by infantry. The capture of the batteries and rout of the supports was a necessity. Anderson was, therefore, directed to take the batteries at every cost. Stewart's brigade had been moved up into the woods within close supporting distance. In rapid succession Anderson threw forward his regiments from left to right, and terrific was the fire to which they were subjected. Time and again checked, and almost recoiling before the tremendous fire, the regiments were as often rallied by their gallant and determined officers, and the brigade advanced by its cool, steadfast, and skillful commander. His right temporarily falling back in some confusion, caused by the fall of the gallant commanders of the two right regiments (Lieut. Col. James L. Autry, commanding Twenty-seventh Mississippi, killed, and Col. W. F. Brantly, of the Twenty-ninth Mississippi, stricken down by the concussion from a shell exploding near him), Brigadier-General Stewart was ordered forward to the support. In splendid order, and with a cheer, this fine brigade moved forward under its gallant and accomplished commander. Anderson's right, quickly rallying and pressing forward vigorously, attacked and drove back the enemy. This completed the rout of his first line and the capture of the batteries. Our loss, however, was very heavy, the Thirtieth Mississippi alone having within the limits of an acre 62 officers and men killed and 139 wounded.
Stewart, having moved his brigade to the left down the Wilkinson pike, now pressed forward on Anderson's left and hotly engaged the enemy. The determined advance and steady fire of our forces was more than the enemy could withstand. The entire force gave way, and in wild confusion rushed through the cedar brake in rear, being pursued to the northeast edge of the brake, and subjected to an irregular but quite effective fire. Within the northeast edge of this cedar brake, nearly parallel with the Nashville pike road and at right angles to the original line of battle, our troops were halted. They required rest and ammunition.
At l I a.m. Brigadier-General Chalmers received an order direct from the lieutenant-general commanding to move forward and attack the enemy posted in his front. Quickly advancing to the Cowan, or burnt, house, he was there met by a destructive fire, and soon after, while actively engaged in the discharge of his duties, was stricken down by a fragment of a shell and borne senseless from the field. The quick perception, prompt decision, and fearless energy of this gallant officer being lost to his command, and his staff failing to report promptly to the officer next in rank, this veteran brigade became disorganized, the regiments attaching themselves to and serving with other commands until night, when they were brought together and placed in their original position under Colonel [T. W.] White, of the Ninth Mississippi Regiment. The brigade of Chalmers being driven back, the support under Brigadier-General Donelson was ordered to the attack by the lieutenant-general commanding, and moving rapidly forward was warmly engaged, but was repulsed, and, gradually swinging to the left, passed into the cedar brake.
On the morning of January 1, Anderson's brigade was moved to the position originally occupied by Donelson, and in rear of Chalmers. At daylight on the morning of January 1, Chalmers' sharpshooters were ordered forward, to ascertain the position of the enemy. Moving forward, and into the Round Forest, they drove out the skirmishers of the enemy, whose forces had been withdrawn during the night, and could then be seen in a northeast direction. Quiet prevailed until late in the evening, when the enemy sent forward a force and retook the Round Forest, driving back our skirmishers into the skirt of woods above and on the river.
Before daylight on the morning of the 2d, the batteries of Stanford, Carnes, and Smith had been moved up and placed in the north and outer edge of this river skirt of woods by Capt. J. R. B. Burtwell, division chief of artillery, and Scott's battery advanced up the Nashville pike to a line within but some 300 yards south of the others. In support, Chalmers' brigade, under Colonel White, had been moved up and occupied the crest of the ridge in rear, and the skirmishers thrown forward extended to the railroad on the left.
At dawn the skirmishers advanced and drove out the enemy from the Round Forest, but in turn were forced to retreat before superior numbers. The enemy advancing, opened fire on the artillery, which, promptly responding, soon shelled them into a precipitate retreat, when, with an increased force, we again occupied the Round Forest. Anderson's brigade had been advanced to and now occupied the former position of Chalmers. The brigades of Manigault and Coltart occupied the southern extremity of the cedar brake, and the right of the column facing the Nashville pike.
Shortly after 3 p.m. the batteries on the hill, as previously instructed, opened a brisk fire on the enemy, whose line extended toward the river and beyond, or into the extreme edge of a skirt of woods, the nearest point of which was some 300 yards from that in which our batteries were. The firing was continued as long as it could be with safety to the column of General Breckinridge, advancing on the east side of the river. The left of this column passing across the river into the woods, in or behind which rested the left of the enemy's force, was immediately attacked by it and driven up the river toward the position of Chalmers' brigade. Colonel [T. W.] White immediately threw out supports, with instructions to drive back the enemy. This was followed by a general advance of the enemy along his entire front, and his being driven out of the Round Forest back into the woods on the river. Night closing in, the fighting ceased for the day.
Late in the evening, Anderson's brigade, under orders from the commanding general, was moved rapidly across the river to the support of General Breckinridge, and did not rejoin the division until the morning of the 4th. That night Manigault was moved to the position vacated by Anderson, and Coltart was moved up to White's support, and their commands placed in proper positions for operations the next morning.
At daybreak on the morning of the 3d, the artillery shelled the Round Forest, which was immediately thereafter charged into by the infantry, and the enemy driven out with considerable loss. Brisk skirmishing was kept up through the day, chiefly with Coltart's command, which occupied the Round Forest.
Late in the evening, after subjecting the Round Forest and woods to a terrific cannonading, the enemy advanced in force, and, engaging our troops, succeeded in breaking a part of our line, when the timely arrival of the reserves enabled the line again to advance, and, after a very sharp and well-contested engagement, to repulse the enemy. Lieutenant-Colonel Farrar, of the First Louisiana (Regulars), was mortally wounded in the engagement. He was a bold and gallant officer, and had arrived on the field only in time to assume command of his regiment in this last engagement. Their infantry being driven back, the enemy renewed the can-nonading, continuing it some time after dark. Colonels White and Coltart proved themselves deserving of commendation by the admirable conduct: of their commands throughout the harassing period of their occupancy of this important and almost isolated position.
The troops were withdrawn on the morning of the 4th without contest or pursuit. For seven days they had cheerfully endured fatigue, exposure, and hardships sufficient to cause despondency in any breast not actuated by the same steadfast determination to dare all and suffer all in defense of the right. In temporary repulses and the most trying positions, the total absence of everything like panic, and the cool self-possession and alacrity with which they rallied, reformed, and moved forward against the enemy, was as truly remarkable as it was most honorable.
The timely preparations made under direction of Surgeon [Carlisle] Terry for the care of the wounded seem to have been as judicious and ample as was practicable, and the infirmary corps for the division discharged its duties fearlessly and well.
To Capts. D. E. Huger, assistant adjutant-general; J. R. B. Burtwell, chief of artillery, and E. B. D. Riley, chief of ordnance, I am indebted for valuable and indispensable services. In extending orders, seeing to their execution, and in rallying and cheering on the troops, they were energetic and untiring, displaying gallantry and capacity. Maj. B. M. Thomas, adjutant and inspector general, reported on the field from sick leave on the morning of the 2d, and immediately entered on the discharge of his duties with intelligence and efficiency. Lieut. R. W. Withers, aide.de camp, Asst. Surg. J. Paul Jones, and Lieut. Charles L. Huger, First Louisiana (Regulars), were, through the entire engagement, actively, zealously, and most creditably engaged in the discharge of the various duties assigned them. Maj. W. H. Ross, acting commissary of subsistence, and Maj. R. Q. Pinckney, quartermaster, did good service in their respective departments. Captain [T. M.] Lenoir and Lieutenant [H. R.] Gordon, commanding escort, gave valuable assistance in the collecting and sending off captured property, in driving forward stragglers from and laggards in the fight, and in staff duties, which they were several times called upon to perform. Private M. G. Hudson, of the Twenty-fourth Alabama Regiment, long engaged in the assistant adjutant-general's office, and well and favorably known within the command, rendered services on the field evidencing his fitness and capacity for a more responsible position.
The total strength of the division was 7,774; the total loss by casualties, 2,519. Brigade and regimental reports and detailed statement of casualties have heretofore been forwarded.
Very respectfully, yours, &c.,
J. M. WITHERS,
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