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Attack on

Murfreesborough Dec. 1864

Confederate Account

NOVEMBER 14, 1864-JANUARY 23, 1865.--Campaign in North Alabama and Middle Tennessee.
No. 252.--Report of Maj. Gen. Nathan B. Forrest, C.S. Army, commanding cavalry, of operations November 16, 1864-January 23, 1865.

On the following morning (the 2d) I ordered Brigadier-General Chalmers to move on the left and to guard the Hillsborough and Hardin pikes, while I proceeded to the right with Buford's and Jackson's divisions and took position in sight of the capitol at Nashville. I ordered Brigadier-General Buford to move with his division across to Mill Creek and to form line of battle near the lunatic asylum on the Murfreesborough pike. Jackson's division was ordered into position so as to cover the Nashville and Mill Creek pike. My command being relieved by the infantry I commenced operating upon the railroad, block-houses, and telegraph lines leading from Nashville to Murfreesborough. I ordered Buford's division on the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad for the purpose of destroying stockades and block-houses.
On the 3d of December stockade No. 2 surrendered, with 80 prisoners, 10 men killed, and 20 wounded in the attack by Morton's battery. On the day previous, while assaulting stockade No. 2, a train of cars came from Chattanooga loaded with negro troops. The train was captured, but most of the troops made their escape.
On the 4th I ordered Brigadier-General Buford to attack block-house No. 3, but the demand for surrender was complied with, and the garrison <ar93_755>of thirty-two men made prisoners. An assault was also ordered on stockade No. I, on Mill Creek, but the garrison unhesitatingly surrendered. I ordered the destruction of the block-house and two stockades, in which were captured 150 prisoners.
On the morning of the 4th I received orders to move with Buford's and Jackson's divisions to Murfreesborough, and to leave 250 men on the right to picket from the Nashville and Murfreesborough pike to the Cumberland River. Colonel Nixon, of Bell's brigade, was left for this purpose.
On the morning of the 5th I moved, as ordered, toward Murfreesborough. At La Vergne I ordered Brigadier-General Jackson to move on the right of town and invest the fort on the hill, while I moved with Buford's division to block-house No. 4. The usual demand for surrender was sent under flag of truce and a surrender made. The garrison on the hill, consisting of 80 men, 2 pieces of artillery, several wagons, and a considerable supply of stores, also surrendered to Brigadier-General Jackson. A large number of houses, built and occupied by the enemy, were ordered to be burned.
Four miles from La Vergne I formed a junction with Major-General Bate, who had been ordered to report to me with his division for the purpose of operating against Murfreesborough. I ordered Brigadier-General Jackson to send a brigade across to the Wilson [Wilkinson] pike, and moving on both pikes the enemy was driven into his works at Murfreesborough. After ordering General Buford to picket from the Nashville and Murfreesborough to the Lebanon pikes on the left and Jackson to picket on the right to the Salem pike, I encamped for the night.
The infantry arrived on the morning of the 6th, when I immediately ordered it in line of battle and to move upon the enemy's works. After skirmishing for two hours the enemy ceased firing, and showed no disposition to give battle. I ordered a regiment from Brigadier-General Armstrong's brigade, with which I made a careful reconnaissance of the enemy's position and works. On the evening of the 6th I was re-enforced by Sears' and Palmer's brigades of infantry. I ordered Colonel Palmer in position on the right upon a hill, and to fortify during the night.
On the morning of the 7th I discovered from the position occupied by Colonel Palmer the enemy moving out in strong force on the Salem pike, with infantry, cavalry, and artillery. Being fully satisfied that his object was to make battle, I withdrew my forces to the Wilkinson pike, and formed a new line on a more favorable position. The enemy moved boldly forward, driving in my pickets, when the infantry, with the exception of Smith's brigade, from some cause which I cannot explain, made a shameful retreat, losing two pieces of artillery. I seized the colors of the retreating troops and endeavored to rally them but they could not be moved by any entreaty or appeal to their patriotism. Major-General Bate did the same thing, but was equally as unsuccessful as myself. I hurriedly sent Major Strange, of my staff, to Brigadier-Generals Armstrong and Ross, of Jackson's division, with orders to say to them that everything depended on their cavalry. They proved themselves equal to the emergency by charging on the enemy, thereby checking his farther advance. I ordered the infantry to retire to Stewart's Creek, while my cavalry encamped during the night at Overall's Creek. The enemy returning to Murfreesborough, I ordered my cavalry to resume its former position. 
It is proper to state here that I ordered Brigadier-General Buford to protect my left flank, but he was so remote the order never reached him. While the fight was going on, however, he made a demonstration on Murfreesborough, and succeeded in reaching the center of town, but was soon compelled to retire.
On the 9th General Hood sent to my support Smith's brigade, commanded by Colonel Olmstead, and ordered Bate's division to report back to his headquarters. On the 11th I ordered Brigadier-General Buford to proceed to the Hermitage, and to picket the Cumberland River, so as to prevent any flank movement in that direction. On the 12th I ordered the infantry to destroy the railroad from La Vergne to Murfreesborough, which was most effectually done. Brigadier-General Jackson, who had been previously ordered to operate south of Murfreesborough, captured, on the 13th, a train of seventeen cars and the Sixty-first Illinois Regiment of Infantry, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Grass. The train was loaded with supplies of 60,000 rations, sent from Stevenson to Murfreesborough, all of which were consumed by fire, after which the prisoners, about 200 in number, were sent to the rear.
On the 14th I moved with Colonels Olmstead's and Pahner's brigades across Stone's River and east of Murfreesborough, with a view of capturing the enemy's forage train, but on the evening of the 15th I received notice from General Hood that a general engagement was then going on at Nashville, and to hold myself in readiness to move at any moment. Accordingly, on the 16th I moved my entire command to the Wilkinson Cross-Roads, at the terminus of the Wilkinson pike, six miles from Murfreesborough. On the night of the 16th one of General Hood's staff officers arrived, informing me of the disaster at Nashville and ordering me to fall back via Shelbyville and Pulaski. I immediately dispatched orders to Brigadier-General Buford to fall back from the Cumberland River, via La Vergne, to the Nashville pike, and to protect my rear until I could move my artillery and wagon train. From this position General Buford was ordered across to the Nashville and Columbia pike, for the purpose of protecting the rear of General Hood's retreating army. My sick, wounded, and wagon train being at Triune, I did not retreat via Shelbyville, but moved in the direction of Lillard's Mills, on Duck River. I ordered Brigadier-General Armstrong to the Nashville and Columbia pike. Most of the infantry under my command were barefooted and in a disabled condition, and being encumbered with several hundred head of hogs and cattle, my march along the almost impassable roads was unavoidably slow. On reaching Duck River at Lillard's Mills I ordered everything to be hurried across, as the stream was rapidly rising. After putting over a part of my wagon train the stream became unfordable. I was therefore compelled to change my direction to Columbia, which place I reached on the evening of the 18th.


NOVEMBER 14, 1864-JANUARY 23, 1865.--Campaign in North Alabama and Middle Tennessee.

No. 255.--Report of Brig. Gen. Lawrence S. Ross, C. S. Army, commanding Ross' brigade, of operations October 24-December 27, 1864.
On the morning of December 5 the brigade was ordered to La Vergne. Found there a small force of infantry, which took refuge inside the fort, and after a slight resistance surrendered upon demand of the division commander. Moving thence to Murfreesborough, when within a few miles of the city, the enemy's pickets were encountered, and after a stubborn resistance driven back by the Sixth and Third Texas, dismounted. A few days after this Major-General Forrest invested Murfreesborough with his cavalry and one division of infantry. The duty assigned my brigade, being to guard all the approaches to the city from the Salem to the Woodbury pikes inclusive, was very severe for so small a' force, and almost every day there was heavy skirmishing in some portion of our line.
December 15, a train of cars from Stevenson, heavily laden with supplies for the garrison at Murfreesborough, was attacked about seven miles south of the city, and although guarded by a regiment of infantry 200 strong, was captured and burned. The train was loaded with sugar, coffee, hard bread, and bacon, and carried full 200,000 rations. The men guarding it fought desperately for about an hour, haying a strong position in a cut of the railroad, but were finally routed by a most gallant charge of the Sixth Texas, supported by the Third Texas, and 150 of them captured; the others escaped to a block-house near by. The next day, in consequence of the reverse to our arms at Nashville, we were withdrawn from the front at Murfreesborough, ordered across to Triune, and thence to Columbia, crossing Duck River on the evening of the 18th.

Union Account




MURFREESBOROUGH, TENN., December 8, 1864--12 m.
GENERAL: I beg leave to report that everything is in first-rate condition here. The railroad south of this is believed to be uninjured, as <ar93_613>well as the railroad between this and Overall's Creek, five miles north. From a point half a mile beyond that creek the railroad is believed to be destroyed north beyond La Vergne. The block-houses Nos. 5 and 6 were abandoned, and the garrisons arrived safely here. These garrisons received orders from Captain Hake, at La Vergne (who said he acted under the orders of General Thomas),to abandon the block-houses. They did so, with the enemy all around them, and, much to my surprise and their own, reached here without loss, coming though the country. On Sunday [4th] last the block-house at Overall's Creek was attacked by General Bate's division with a battery of artillery, and seventy-four shots fired at it, doing it no damage. In the afternoon a force of three regiments of infantry, four companies of the Thirteenth Indiana Cavalry, Colonel Johnson, with a section of artillery, went out from here, under General Milroy. The force of the enemy was unknown to me. This force attacked and routed the enemy, showing great spirit and courage. Our loss in the affair was 4 killed and 49 wounded. The loss of the enemy was unknown, for although we took possession of the field night closed in at the end of the fight, and I ordered our forces to return at once to the fortress, which they did. Colonel Johnson, Thirteenth Indiana Cavalry, with four companies of his regiment, being cut off from Nashville by the enemy, joined me here and has rendered very efficient service. On Monday [5th] the enemy were re-enforced by two brigades of infantry and 2,500 of Forrest's cavalry, under Forrest in person. On Monday evening and during Tuesday and Wednesday [7th] the enemy demonstrated against the fortress at all points as well as against the town. They were very impudent and skirmished heavily with us, especially on the Nashville pike, coming up to within a mile of the fortress. On Wednesday the enemy's infantry had moved around on the Wilkinson pike, about one mile and a quarter northwest of the fortress. The major-general commanding will not have forgotten the very spot, being near where Negley's command was formed at the battle of Stone's River, a little farther south. Not knowing where the main body of the enemy was, I sent General Milroy, with seven regiments and a battery, on the Salem pike, with directions to swing around to right, returning parallel to the works along the line of the woods west and northwest of the fortifications. The enemy was encountered on the Wilkinson pike behind breast-works made of logs and rails, and infantry and cavalry utterly routed and driven off in great confusion, Forrest's cavalry making the finest time, to the right, across and down the Nashville road, I have seen in many a day.
Our loss was about 30 killed and 175 wounded. The loss of the enemy unknown, though it largely exceeded ours. Immediately after the fight I ordered our forces to return to the fortress. In this fight we captured 207 prisoners, including 18 commissioned officers. We captured also 2 guns of the enemy (12-pounder Napoleons), and have them now in position on the fortress.
Just before General Milroy fell upon the enemy Buford's division of cavalry attacked Murfreesborough and entered the town, shelling it fiercely, knocking the houses to pieces. With a regiment of infantry and a section of artillery I drove the enemy out of the town, and I have not heard any more of them in any direction since. All is perfectly quiet here to-day, which doubtless results from the fact that the enemy was badly whipped. In these fights the troops have behaved with exceeding courage and I am glad to say that the new troops have not been at all behind the old in the exhibition of steadiness and courage.
I heard from General Granger on Monday last by telegram and he was all right at Stevenson, having had great difficulty from high water in reaching there, going but eight miles a day for three days. The wires in that direction were cut at 4 p.m. on that day, and I have not heard from him since.
Perhaps you have not heard of the enemy's loss of generals at the battle of Franklin; I have it definitely from prisoners; it is this: Killed, Major-General Cleburne, Brigadier-General Gist, Brigadier-General Strahl, Brigadier-General Adams, Brigadier-General Carter, Brigadier-General Granbury, and three others wounded. It is reported by citizens here that Bate was killed on yesterday, and I think the report very probably true.
I shall ask leave to make a more detailed report, calling attention, amongst other matters, to the deportment of individual officers and men.
I am, general, very respectfully, &c.,
Brig. Gen. W. D. WHIPPLE, 
Chief of Staff.


In the Field, December 17, 1864
Commanding, &c. :
GENERAL: I have the honor to inform you that citizens on the road in rear of where we fought yesterday report that the universal testimony of rebels, officers and men, is that Forrest was killed certainly at Murfreesborough, where they admit their cavalry was badly whipped.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,