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This was the force under Price. They advanced with great impetuosity, but, coming within range of the Federal batteries, were smitten with a storm of shot that opened great gaps in their ranks. They closed steadily up, pressed up the glacis, and, receiving the fire of the Union line with marvellous fortitude, returned it with such vigor that the division of Davies broke in disorder. The enemy rushed in at the opening, and took possession of the head-quarters of Rosecrans. The retiring troops, however, were quickly rallied by the opportune advance of the Fifty-sixth Illinois, and, returning the charge, recovered the ground. The Confederates now wavered, and a general advance of the Union line drove them to the woods in front. Meantime, Van Dorn, having great difficulties to encounter, advanced much slower than Price, who had already suffered defeat before Van Dorn was in line. The two forts, Robinson and Williams, were one hundred and fifty yards apart, on high ground, the latter commanding the former. The Ohio Brigade of Fuller was formed behind the ridge. The Fortythird Ohio was on the right, and the Twenty-seventh and Sixty-third, in succession, towards the left, which rested on Fort Robinson. The Forty-third stood at right angles with the Sixty-third, and extended between the two forts. The Eleventh Missouri was in the angle. The Thirty-seventh supported the Twenty-seventh. The enemy advanced, with the Mississippians and Texans in front. As they approached, the batteries made havoc in their ranks, but they came on with a determined and unbroken front until they reached a ditch which lined the front of the position. The Ohio troops were lying flat behind the ridge, with orders to reserve their fire until the enemy were at short range. As the latter advanced, under a storm of grape from the fort, they rose and delivered their fire with terrible effect. The rebels dropped by scores, and fell back upon their supports. These came on with terrible vigor. The Sixty-third Ohio, however, opened fire, and the Missourians came into line just as the enemy rushed in, A hand-to-hand combat ensued, until the enemy at last gave way, and the day was won. The battle had lasted two hours. The enemy gradually drew back, masking his movements so skilfully as to keep up the impression that he would renew the attack. At three o'clock on the morning of the 5th, General Rosecrans, having been re-enforced by fresh troops from Jackson, sent out a force in pursuit. The Federal loss in the battle was stated at three hundred and fifteen killed, one thousand three hundred and twelve wounded, two hundred and thirtytwo prisoners. That of the rebels was over fourteen hundred killed, eighteen hundred wounded, and two thousand two hundred and fifty prisoners. They also lost fourteen stand of colors, two pieces of artil. lery, and a large quantity of small-arms and ammunition.
The Confederate army retired by the way it came, and at the Hatchie bridge was attacked by a part of Grant's command, under Generals Ord and Hurlburt, defeated and driven off with a loss of six guns. This action interrupted Price's retreat, but he finally crossed at Crum's Mills, and was pursued to Ripley, losing one thousand prisoners, eleven guns, and much ammunition and stores. The battle decided the fate of West Tennessee, which was now securely held.
The Confederates, having fallen back, gradually concentrated and reorganized their broken force, and, having brought it into good condition, again advanced northeast, and occupied Holly Springs, near Grand Junction. In the mean-time, General Rosecrans was ordered to Cincinnati to take command of the Army of the Ohio, vice Buell. General Grant's force was increased by new levies, and he occupied Columbus, Trenton, Jackson, and Bolivar, on the line of the railroad; thus approaching within twenty miles of the position of Price and Van Dorn. The opposing forces remained in their relative positions, with little change, until towards the end of November.
It was now determined to make a new attempt to capture Vicksburg, and an expedition for that purpose was organized at Cairo and Memphis, under General W. T. Sherman, who was to descend the Mississippi and attack Vicksburg in front, while General Grant should pro.ceed by the railroad route, and operate on the rear of the city. Accordingly, on the 28th of November, General Hamilton's Corps was put in motion for Holly Springs, which point he reached on the following day. The remaining troops followed, and on the 1st of December Grant encamped at Lumpkin's Mills, seven miles north of the Tallahatchie River. The enemy, commanded by General Pemberton, had thrown up extensive works, with a view of defending the passage of the river; but, simultaneously with the advance of Hamilton, General Hovey had bean detached with a division, seven thousand strong, of General Curtis's troops, from Helena, Arkansas, to cross the river, and make a flank movement upon the Confederate position of the Tallahatchie. Intelligence of this movement caused Van Dorn, who held the Confederate advance, to fall back, and on the 3d he passed through Oxford, his rear-guard skirmishing with the Federal advance. General Pemberton continued his retreat to Granada, under the impression that the combined force of Curtis and Grant, in his front, was very large. Hovey, however, after destroying some property on the railroad, and boats on the river, returned to Helena, when Pemberton immediately assumed the offensive. Grant's head-quarters were at Oxford, and his chief dépôt of supplies was at Holly Springs, thirty miles north. Accordingly, a considerable cavalry force was organized, which, making a circuit, surprised Holly Springs on the 20th December, capturing the force there with immense stores. The prisoners were paroled, and the stores and cotton which had been purchased in the neighborhood were destroyed. Simultaneously with this movement, attacks were made on Jackson, Tennessee, Humboldt, and Trenton. The latter place was surrendered by Colonel Fry, who was in command, and stores and cotton burned. These operations, cutting up Grant's line of communication, compelled him to retreat to Holly Springs, thus defeating his plan of co-operation. A division, ten thousand strong, of his troops, was, however, detached to support Sherman's expedition.
After the successful retreat of Bragg from Kentucky, the forces of Buell fell back in order to obtain forage and supplies; and in the latter part of October, Rosecrans was ordered to take command of the Army of the Ohio, Buell being relieved. The army, somewhat shattered by its campaign, required reorganizing and recruiting. The calls made by the President for six hundred thousand men, under the laws of July and August, were now producing results, and the new troops arriving freely at camp required to be organized and drilled, and properly equipped for active service. To this task Rosecrans sedulously devoted himself. On the 1st of November, general head-quarters were at Bowling Green, whence on the 7th they were transferred to Nashville. Rosecrans at once bastened the opening of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad in order to obtain supplies, and proceeded with the great work of perfecting the condition of his new army, which occupied a position southeast of Nashville and about ten miles distant from it.
In the mean time, Bragg had brought off his army, with its immense spoils, into Tennessee; had rested his men, recruited by an inexorable conscription, and aided by bodies of mounted men, formed into a guerrilla-like cavalry, to avoid the hardships of conscription and infantry service. He had taken position at McMinnsville, Murfreesboro', and Lavergne, facing the new position of Rosecrans. His force was estimated at about forty-five thousand, comprising the three corps of Smith, Hardee, and Polk, and was greatly superior in cavalry. The difficulties of an advance into that country, against such a force, and at such distance from his base of operations, with which he was connected by a single precarious thread, made it manifest that Rosecrans's policy was to induce Bragg to travel over as much as possible of the space that separated them; thus avoiding for us the wear and tear and diminution of our forces, and subjecting the enemy to all these inconveniences, besides increasing for him, and diminishing for us, the dangerous consequences of a defeat. Both parties remained comparatively quiet until towards the close of December. At that time, Bragg, under the belief that Rosecrans with his raw troops would go into winter-quarters at Nashville, had weakened his force by dispatching Colonel Forrest to make an attack upon Grant's communications, in aid of Pemberton, who bad commenced his forward movement. He also sent an infantry force in the same direction. Aware of these facts, Rosecrans determined to seize the opportunity for a movement, which was appointed for Christmas night. The position of the Confederate army at this time was approachable by several roads. Hardee held the left at Nolinsville, Polk the centre at Lavergne, and Kirby Smith the right at Murfreesboro'. The right of the Union army, opposed to Hardee, was under McCook, at Franklin turnpike. The centre, under Crittenden, with Wood's, Palmer's, and Van Cleve's Divisions, was at Breakville, and the left under Thomas, who had succeeded Gilbert, at Mill Creek. The general plan was for each corps to advance by the highway before it, while General Negley should attempt to turn the Confederate left. At dawn of the 26th, the men went forward with great enthusiasm. McCook drove in the advance posts of Hardee, capturing one gun, while Crittenden advanced to Lavergne, on the Murfreesboro' pike, withont serious opposition. The Confederates retired, and were so sharply pushed that they had no time to destroy the bridges over which they passed on the Jefferson and Murfreesboro' turnpikes. The Federals therefore followed uninterruptedly until they reached Stone River, where the Confederates were concentrated. On the 29th, McCook moved within seven miles of Murfreesboro', having Thomas on his left, while Crittenden was on the left of Thomas. On the 30th, the commanders met at head-quarters, and the plan of battle was explained to them
General McCook was cautioned that in his present position he faced too much to the east, and should change more to the south, and that the success of the wbole plan of turning the enemy's right depended upon his holding his position three hours. General Smith held the Confederate centre, masked by cedar forests. Their right comprised the three divisions of Cheatham, Breckinridge, and Buckner, under Polk, and rested on Lebanon Turnpike and Stone River. At this time there were several attacks on the Federal rear, by which some wagons were captured and the communications threatened.
The inorning of the 31st was very foggy. The troops were under arms at daylight, and at seven were preparing for battle, the opposing forces being separated by a valley, which narrowed towards the Federal left. The corps of McCook was drawn up with Johnson on the right, Davis in the centre, and Sheridan on the left. The movement on the Union side commenced by the advance of Van Cleve on the left. The enemy bad, however, made earlier provision to attack the Union right. At half-past six o'clock their batteries opened with a furious fire, under which the infantry advanced in heavy columns of regiments, at the double-quick, and attacked Willich's and Kirk's Brigades of Johnson's Division, which, being without support, were, after a sharp contest, driven back, leaving Edgarton's and part of Goodspeed's Batteries in the hands of the enemy.
The enemy, following up, attacked Davis's Division, and speedily dislodged Post's Brigade; Carlin's Brigade was compelled to follow, as Woodruff's Brigade had previously left its position on his left. Johnson's troops, on retiring, inclined too far to the west, and were too much scattered to make a combined resistance, though they fought bravely at one or two points before reaching Wilkinson pike. The reserve brigade of the division, advancing from its bivouac near Wil. kinson pike, towards the right, took a good position, and made a gallant but ineffectual stand, as the whole Confederate left was moving up on the ground abandoned by our troops. Within an hour from the time of the opening of the battle, a staff officer from General McCook announced to General Rosecrans that the right wing was heavily pressed, and needed assistance.
The retreat of Johnson and Davis uncovered the division of Sheridan, which offered firmer resistance, and struggled manfully to maintain its ground, until the others might rally on the supports, and again come up. The effort was vain, however. The division retreated slowly, until it again got into line with the others, which had meantime reformed, but only again to break. They formed for the third time, under cover of the advance of the centre, under Negley, who came to their aid, and, being supported by Rousseau, succeeded in checking the Confederate advance. Sheridan, after sustaining foor successive attacks, gradually swung his right from a southeasterly to a north.westerly direction, repulsing the enemy four times, with the loss, how. ever, of the gallant General Sill of his right, and Colonel Roberts of his left brigade, when, having exhausted his ammunition-Negley's Division being in the same predicament, and heavily pressed-after desperate fighting, he fell back through the cedar woods, in which Rousseau's Division, with a portion of Negley's and Sheridan's, met the advancing enemy and checked his movements, relieving Sheridan from the pressure. This violent irruption of the Confederates on the Union right prevented Rosecrans from throwing forward his left, as he had intended. He therefore massed his artillery in great strengh upon his centre, at the probable point of attack. The Confederate force, consisting of the centre and left wing, flushed with success, advanced with great impetuosity, when Negley's covering force retired, and brought the Confederate line within a most destructive concentric fire of artillery, which staggered and caused it to pause, amidst the most terrible slaughter, then waver and partly retire. Meantime, McCook had succeeded in re-forming his troops, and getting into line on the right of Thomas. It was now noon; the Rebels had fallen back, and firing had ceased along the entire line. The Union troops had been driven back between two and three miles, with the loss of twenty-eight guns, two hundred wagons, four thousand prisoners, and three thousand killed and wounded. The Confederate loss was not known.
The left and centre of the Union army, occupying very strong positions, was now perpendicular to the Murfreesboro' road, and the right was parallel to the road, being thus at right angles with the centre. The communication with Nashville had been cut off by the Confederate cavalry, which had captured large quantities of hospital stores. With great promptness and skill, Rosecrans re-formed his lines, and at about three P. M. the rebels resumed the battle with undiminished vigor. Four desperate assaults were repulsed with prodigious slaughter, and at nightfall Bragg drew off his discomfited troops, and both armies rested.
Although the Union troops were worsted in the fighting, the day had not been one of unmixed disaster to them. Their new position was strong, and the ease with which the assaults of the enemy had been repelled in the afternoon showed that the defeat of the right wing had not demoralized the army. The enemy had, moreover, suffered terribly in the latter part of the day, and would be cautious of again pushing too hard an opponent, over whom he had apparently triumphed with so much ease in the morning. At a council of Union generals, held at Rosecrans's head-quarters, in the evening, it was determined to maintain the position then occupied by the army, and, if opportunity should offer, to turn the enemy's right, and get possession of Murfreesboro'. “We conquer or die right here,” were the words of Rosecrans, and the announcement jumped with the wishes of his officers, not one of whom counselled a retreat to Nashville. During the night of the 31st, the Union lines were strengthened, and the morning of January 1st found them almost impregnable to the attacks of the enemy. In vain did the latter reconnoitre from right to left: everywhere he was met with an artillery fire which drove him back with heavy loss, and night fell without any decisive or important action.