The Battle of Murfreesboro.
I improve the moment to give you a little account of the past two weeks. A description is simply out of the question — as the man who would describe the battle which has been fought here is not living. The pen is not sufficient, nor does any language possess the power to reach the reality. But to the work.
We left Camp Sheridan, 6 miles from Nashville, on Friday morning the 26th Dec., at 7 A. M. Soon after we started it commenced raining, and rained very hard. Before reaching Mill Creek, some miles, this side, we met a portion of the enemy's cavalry and 4 companies of our regiment under my command were deployed as skirmishers. We drove the enemy before us, from tree to tree, and crossed Mill Creek, deployed, some of the men getting wet to the waist. Scarcely had we got over and commenced ascending the Mountain, here they skedadled, and we met with no more resistance that day.
The next, 27th, we were behind another division, and consequently did not skirmish any; but on nearing Frism, we were placed in line of battle, and marched forward through a drenching rain, but they had left. We camped that night and Sunday on the ground that a rebel brigade had left. I forgot to say that the night of the 26th inst., it rained all night, and our entire brigade stood picket guarde without fires on mountain tops.
The second day, the advance division captured one cannon, and killed several men. — On Sunday the 28th, we remained in camp. On Monday, we left camp (bivouac, for we had no tents whatever) at 7 A.M., and left Louisville Pike, directing our course over one of the roughest roads towards Murfreesboro, and did not reach our bivouac until after dark. Our advance skirmished all day. — Tuesday we left bivouac, and crossed Overtons Creek, and soon commenced the fifth days battle, the 30th being the first. On this day we drove the enemy steadily before us until dark. We killed many, and had some 5 of our brigade killed, and 15 wounded. — Night closed the battle, as we slept on the field of battle. Our rations were out, and the rebels at Lavergne burned our train. We sent out and killed some beef, but had no bread.
May I never have to live through another such day as the 31st. Before daylight our division was in line. Would to God I could say the same for General Johnson's division which occupied a position on our right, but I cannot. The enemy surprised him while his battery horses were at water and his infantry asleep. My heart sickens to think of his damnable carelessness, his criminal negligence. His division was completely routed, his batteries captured. Our right was turned and our division had to change its position.
The enemy actually got into our rear, and we had to leave our hospitals in their hands.
We formed three sides of a square with our brigade, and here we fought for six or seven long hours, in what is now called the "slaughter pen," the enemy on three sides. — Here the slaughter on both sides was terrible. All the horses of Houghtellings battery were killed and the ammunition all gone. Our three brigade commanders, Gen. Sill, Colonel Shaffer and Col. Roberts, were killed, and Col. Harrington mortally wounded. Four of Co. A were killed and two wounded. Shuntz was knocked down by a shell and thought dead, but has since turned up a paroled prisoner. He was senseless for over an hour.
Soon all had left, and at a little after 12 o'clock the 27th and 51st Ill. left the field in good order. I took command of the 27th at about 10 A.M. We marched to the rear or rather to the left and had scarcely left the Murfreesboro pike when we were ordered to clear a cedar thicket and hold it.
We drove the enemy at the point of the bayonet, having only an average of three rounds of ammunition. This was done by the 27th and 51st Ill., and reports will show how it was done.
We captured in this charge some two hundred prisoners. The 27th for the fourth time during this war met the 21st Tennessee, and this time almost annihilated them. Here we replenished our ammunition and threw up a little earthwork, or rather stone work.
On the 1st of January a rebel brigade came rather too close to us and we killed and wounded a large number and captured 117 prisoners.
Friday there was considerable fighting on the center, but not before us. On Saturday the fight was terrific. The enemy made a final charge, but were severely punished, and next day (Sunday) commenced leaving. — Thus ended one of the hardest fought battles of the war. Gen. Polk told Dr. Bowman, our surgeon, who stayed with Col. Harrington, that Shiloh was no comparison to this fight.
Our regiment is doing finely, and the men are in good spirits, and we are in a good camp.