Great Battle Near Murfreesboro
Company D, 100th Illinois Volunteer Infantry
Copied from the Joliet Signal of January 6, 1863
Special Dispatch to the Chicago Times
GREAT BATTLE NEAR MURFREESBORO.
Nashville, Jan. 1
I have just arrived from a terrific battle on Stones River, in front of Murfreesboro, west side. It has raged with unremitting fury two days, and at last reports was not decided. It is one of the most ferocious battles of modern times, sustained by both sides with splendid determination.
Gen. Rosecrans marched from Nashville last Friday, with about 45,000 effectives, and 100 pieces of artillery, and skirmished all the way to the battle field, the enemy resisting bitterly. The whole of Tuesday was spent by our forces in reconnoitering. The enemy was found strongly posted on a bend of Stones River, west side his flanks resting on Murfreesboro, west side. The centre also had the advantage of high ground, with a dense growth of cedar masking completely their position, which gave them the advantage of cross fire.
Gen. McCooks corps closed in on their left, on Walkersons Creek. Negley, of Thomas" corps, worked with great difficulty to the front of the rebel centre. Rosecrans division being in reserve, Crittendons corps was posted on comparatively high ground, on their left: Palmers and Van Cleves divisions in front, Woods in reserve.
The battle was expected all day Tuesday, but the enemy merely skirmished and threw a few shells, one of which killed Orderly McDonald, 4th United States Cavalry, not ten feet from General Rosecrans.
That P.M. the Anderson Penn. Cavalry on McCooks flank,was drawn into an ambuscade, and its two Majors, Rosengarten and Waid were killed. Crittendons corps lost 4 killed and 21 wounded that day, including Adj G.Elliot, of the 57th Ind. severely. McCooks loss was about 50 on the same day.
The rebel cavalry made a dash on our rear at Lavergne, burnt a few wagons, and captured 35 prisoners.
That night dispositions were made to attack the enemy in the morning. After dark the ememy was reported moving upon McCook, obviously to attack our right wing. This corresponded with the wishes of Gen. Rosecrans, who instructed Gen. McCook to hold him in check stubbornly, while the left wing should be thrown into Murfreesboro behind the enemy.
At daybrake on the last day of December, everything appeared working well----The battle had opened on the right, and our left wing was on hand. At 7 oclock ominous sounds indicated that the fire was approaching the left. Aids were dispatched for information and found the forest full of flying negroes, with some straggling soldiers, who reported whole regiments falling back rapidly.
Meantime, one of McCooks aids had announced to Rosecrans that Gen. Johnston had permitted the batteries of his division to be captured by a sudden attack of the enemy, which had somewhat demoralized the troops. This was obvious.
The brave Gen. Sill, one of our best officers, was killed. Gen. Kirk severely wounded, and Gen. Wallich killed or missing, besides other valuable officers.
Gen. Rosecrans sent word pressing McCook to hold the front; he would help him and it would all work right. He now galloped to the front of Crittendens left with his staff to order the line of battle, when the enemy opened a full battery and emptied two saddles of the escort.
Van Cleves division was sent to the right, Col. Beatleys brigade in front. The fire continued to approach on the right with alarming rapidly, extending to the centre, and it was clear that the right was doubling upon the left. The enemy had compelled us to make a complete change of front on that wing, and were pressing the centre. Gen. Rosecrans with splendid daring dashed into the furious fire, and, sending his staff along the lines, started Beattys brigade. Some six batteries opened, sustaining a magnificient fire.
Directly, a tremendous shout was raised along the whole line. The enemy began to rally back rapidly. The General himself urged the troops forward. The rebels, throughly punished, were driven back fully a mile. The same splendid bravery was displayed in the centre, and the whole line advanced.
Meantime, the enemy made formidable demonstrations upon our left, while they prepared for another onslaught on our right.
Meanwhile, orders had been issued to move our left upon the enemy. Before they had time to execute them, they burst upon our centre with awful fury, and it began to break. Rosecrans division was carried into the breach magnificently by their glorious leader, and the enemy again retreated hastily into the dense cedar thicket.
Again they c
nved our right, and again we were driven back. This time the number of stragglers was formidable, and the prospect was discouraging; but there was no panic. The General, confident of success, continued to visit every point of the field and, with the aid of Thomas, McCook, Crittenden, Rouseau (?), Negly and Wood: the tide of the battle was again turned.
Early in the day we were severely embarrassed by the enterprise of the rebel cavalry, who made some serious dashes upon some of McCooks ammunition and subsistence trains, capturing a number of wagons and artillery. Ammunition was alarmingly scarce. At one time it was announced that not a single wagon
load of it could be found. Some of our batteries were quiet on the account. This misfortune was caused by the capture of McCooks train.
About 2 oclock the battle had shifted again from the right to the left. The enemy, discovering the impossibility of succeeding in their main design, had suddenly massed his forces on the left, crossing the river, or moving under cover of high bluffs from his right; and for about two hours the fight raged with unremitting fury, to the advantage of the enemy, for a considerable length of time, when they were checked by our murderous fire of both musketry and artillery. The scene at this period was magnificently terrible. The whole battle was in full view; the enemy deploying right and left, bringing up their batteries in fine style; our own vomiting smoke and iron missiles upon them with awful fury and our gallant fellows moving to the front with unflinching courage, or lying first upon their faces to escape the rebel fire until the moment for action. There was not a place in the field that did not give men a satisfactory idea of hot fire. Solid shot, shells, and Minie balls rattled around like hail. Rosecrans himself was incessantly exposed. It is wonderful that he escaped. His Cheif of Staff, the noble Lieut. Col. Garesche, had his head taken off by a round shot, and the blood spattered the General and some of the staff. Lieut. Lyman Kirk, just behind him was lifted clear out of his saddle by a bullet, which shattered his left arm. Three Orderlies, and gallant Sergeant Richmond, of the 4th United States Cavalry, were killed not ten feet from the General, and five or six horses in the staff and escort were struck.
Between 4 and 5 oclock, the enemy apparently exhausted by his rapid and incessant assaults took up a position not assailable without abundant artillery, and the fire on both sides slackened and finally ceased at dark, the battle having raged eleven hours. The loss of life on our side is, considering the terrific nature of the firing, comparatively limited. The whole casualty list that day, excluding captures, did not exceed, perhaps, 1,500, of whom not more than one forth were killed. This is attributed to the care taken to make our men __ ____. The enemys loss must have been more severe.
When the battle closed the enemy occupied the ground which was ours in the morning and the advantage is therefore in their favor.
The object in __ting was to cut us off from Nashville. They almost succeeded. They played their old game. If McCooks corps had held more firmly against Hardees corps and Cheathams Division, whom he fought, Rosecrans plan of battle would have succeeded.
At dark, the enemy had a heavy force on our right, leading to the belief that they pretended to pursue. Their cavalry, meantime, was excessively troublesome, cutting deeply into our trains behind us, and we had not cavalry enough to protect ourselves. The 4th Regulars made one splendid dash at them, capturing 67 and releasing 300 prisoners; the enemy have a large number.
Gen. Rosecrans determined to begin the attack this morning, and opened furiously with our left at dawn. The enemy, however, would not retire from our right, and the battle worked that way. At 11 oclock matters were not flattering on their side. At 12 0clock our artillery received new supplies of ammunition and a terrible fire was opened. The enemy began to give way. Gen. Thomas pressing on their centre, and Crittenden advancing on their left. The battle was more severe at that hour than it had been, and the result was yet doubtful. Both sides were uneasy but determined. Gen. Rosecrans feels its importance fully. If he is defeated, it will be badly, because he will fight as long as he has a brigade. If he is victorious the enemy will be destroyed. At this hour we are apprehensive, some our troops behaved badly, but most of them were heroes.
Stones River, Tenn, Jan. 2.
The terrific battle at Stones River is not yet decided. It has continued three days, with intermissions yesterday and today. Old soldiers pronounce it the gamest conflict ever fought on this continent.
After the great battle of Wednesday, the enemy persisted in moving upon our right, to cut us off from Nashville. Our right was thrown out to Ostermans Creek; but, on Thursday, finding our right too strong, they suddenly rushed upon our centre, but were bitterly repulsed by the left of the corps commanded by Thomas and the right of Crittendens corps.
Later in the day they fiercely assailed the right centre and were again repulsed.
Both sides spent the remainder of the day in sharp skirmishing and maneuvering for position.
During that night the enemy appeared to be concentrating again upon our right. Their commands were distinctly heard in our camps, but, suspecting a ruse, Gen. Rosecrans threw Bentleys brigade of Van Cleves division across the river on our left, with supports, where they rested.
At about 10 oclock this morning the enemy made another formidable dash at our centre, but were handsomely repulsed.
At between 3 and 4 oclock this afternoon a tremendous mass of the enemy was suddenly precipitated upon Bentleys brigade, and drove it, after a gallant struggle, clear back across the river. Negleys superb division, which had already immortalized itself and its heroic commanded, and the faithful division of Jeff. C. Davis, were thrown in successively. The most desperate contest of the battle ensued. Both sides seemed furiously determined to win a victory, and both threw in their artillery until nearly all the batteries of both armies were at work. The uproar of musketry and artillery was of the most furious description. The whole field was soon shrouded in a rail of smoke. Our brave fellows were sadly cut up, but they marched to the assault with unflinching determination.
Gen. Rosecrans, in the midst of fire and carnage, ordered an advance of the whole line, and at dark the dense forest blazed with fires of fierce intensity, our line sweeping forward with wild enthusiasm; but darkness made it impossible to press our advantage to a conclusion. Nevertheless, the left was fairly established on the east bank of the river; the centre advanced to the position heretofore held by the enemy; and the right again advanced almost to the line from which it was driven on Wednesday.
Thus, you perceive, the decided advantage is with us. Tomorrow morning however, the battle will be resumed. We feel confident of victory.
Our losses have been serious. Since Wednesday morning they amount to about 4,000 killed and wounded, of whom 600 are killed. Our loss of prisoners is several thousand.
The enemy, on the first day, captured about twenty-six guns and disabled six. We captured four from them on Wednesday.
The rebel loss, as estimated by themselves, is between 4,000 and 5,000 killed and wounded, including Brig. Gen. Rains, killed.
Altogether we have captured about 1,000 prisoners, from all the southern States. Gen. Cheathams Adjutant General and Sundry field officers were captured."
*Note: This describes the battle in which Edward T. Hyland of the 100th ILL VOL. INF., Co. D, fought and was severely wounded.
Also participating in this battle were Edwards brothers-in-law; Albert Augustus Funk, William Madison Funk, and Josiah Burdick of the same company. Also, Josiahs brother, Isaac Lewis Burdick.
Transcription completed Sept. 7, 2002, by Kathy Hyland Smith