R.L.; freelance reported for the U.S. , 1-2-63
Seldom in warfare has such a terrible and grand affair been witnessed, yet as I write one such
spectacle has just concluded in the gloom of the dusk. Victory has been ours this day!
All day, I held back behind our lines and interviewed soldiers willing to speak of the horrors they had
endured. About noon, I began to realize that there was a movement being conducted within our tight
lines. Occasional pops of skirmishers could be heard all across our front during the entire day, and
occasionally a cannon would fire a shot presumably at Rebel forces forming elsewhere in an effort to
break up their units or keep them at bay. The weather was cool again and dry although clouds have
been forming all day.
When I saw some artillery shifting from our right across our rear to parts unknown past the pike, I
decided to follow. Soon, I had crossed the railroad bed and the pike by a distance of about a half
mile and found that our army was becoming concerned that the Rebels in that area were massing. I
could plainly see across the river below some higher ground on our banks and saw numerous
enemy skirmishers. Our own skirmishers were across the river there and fighting lone battles almost
man to man in the brush. From my higher vantage point, I could see the fighters easily even though
it was apparent that they could not always see each other as they groped in the tangles.
As the day progressed into the afternoon, I saw many Rebel infantry and cavalry forming on the high
ground on the opposite banks about a mile distant. While this progressed, more of our infantry
waded across the river and drove the enemy skirmishers back a good distance. More and more of
our regiments formed here on our bank and some waded across after the lead elements of our
infantry. Gen'l Rosecrans was all the while moving our batteries here and positioning them across
the high ground overlooking the river and the mostly open fields on the opposite banks.
This was almost surreal, being mostly quiet on both sides. I could see them over there forming, and
occasionally could hear their buglers. Our own movements were also quiet as though this was a
mere exercise. As darkness approached, I was aware finally that there was about to be an assault
on our army on this wing by the Rebels. Dread fear filled my soul as I saw them aligning. I could
easily count their banners, and realized that each represented perhaps a hundred men. How many
thousands they were aligning to kill us could not easily be determined. Their cannons were
positioned on high ground across the river from our own, but they did not have as many as did we! I
counted at least 50 guns aligned here on our side stretching several hundred yards. It seemed as
though our entire force was now crammed into this small space, and the Rebels were massed within
sight waiting only for an order before our forces would begin an entirely new battle here.
With less than an hour of daylight remaining, I heard the Rebels announce the battle with a volley of
cannon fire directed at some of our guns on our right. The concussions shook my chest as though
they were from a huge bass drum, and the following bangs of their case or shell projectiles exploding
on our side punctuated the affair. Within a second or two, the Rebel brigades, banners flying, began
their march down the opposite slopes toward the river. In their way, however, were our own infantry.
Roars of the infantry battle again filled the air as the white thick smoke began to rise above the din.
Cannons on both sides began dueling with each other with their thunderous booms. Rebel balls
whistled through the air past the field, over the river, and exploded in the air and trees on our side.
Our own guns answered shot for shot, and being more numerous gave more than they received. I
saw a Rebel cannon withdrawn after its crew took a terrible beating from our own gunners.
Our infantry fought the Rebels hidden from my eyes in the smoke and briars and scattered woods on
the far bank, but the sounds of the musketry told the tale. Again our own infantry was being driven
before our foe. The sounds grew louder and soon I could again see the dark blue shapes on the
opposite slope and bank withdrawing, firing as they fell back. The whoops and yells of the onrushing
Rebels filled the air as loud as the constant musketry, each man, on both sides evidently firing on his
own hook so there were no longer any large volleys but rather a constant sound of individual
muskets being fired. It sounded much as though long sheets of heavy canvas were being ripped
continually. The smoke from that bank reached my nostrils and again I was reminded of the aroma
of hateful sulfur smoke. Momentarily, I saw our infantry breaking and running again. Some seemed
in a perfect panic, but most were in their companies, grouped together as they waded the river.
Some men waded and ran as the water was shallow beneath them, and others were slowed by waist
or chest deep water, their muskets held over their heads., and still others leapt in, waded or trudged
a short distance and then swam the last few feet to shore, those that could swim. I saw some men
flailing about, their muskets gone as they washed down stream until they could grasp a branch or
another man. The banks in some areas are steep and strewn with boulders and the odd rock
outcroppings and many men congested on these places trying to get across. The Rebels fired into
our retreating masses again and again, bodies floated down the river, catching on the rocks, the
branches and the other men. The splashing of musket shots peppered the water around the men,
larger splashes shown where solitary cannon shots slammed to earth. Horses of the officers swam
and leapt through the throngs. In a matter of minutes, almost all of our retreating men were
reforming below our guns along our side of the bank as the Rebels swarmed forward, their ranks still
in long dense lines. The banners flew and waved in the darkening light. There a moment of quiet
from our infantry as it was reforming. Across the river I saw the flags flying, and saw Kentucky
surging for the river against our own. Kentucky was fighting Kentucky here, and Tennessee loyalists
on our banks likewise were fighting the banners of the Tennesseans across the water. What a bitter
contest this had to be for those men! A volley of musketry from our side was loosed as some Rebels
made it to the opposite bank. Our guns roared to life again!
The cannon's gaping mouths belched forth repeated shots of case and shell, bursting in the masses
of Rebels on the slopes across the way, now that our own troops had crossed the river, clearing the
field of our own men. Roaring! Roaring! Roaring! The noise was harsher than any I have yet to
experience on this earth! If the Rebel guns were still firing it was impossible for me to hear. More
than 50 guns were all in simultaneous action throwing iron and fire into the ranks of the advancing
Rebels. The screams and an odd moan was distinctly heard as it began from the opposite banks,
and then all that could be heard from this banks was the constant reports of the guns. In the
darkening gloom the flame of each gun was plainly visible in the smoky haze. For a solid 45 minutes,
until darkness had effectively hidden the foe from our view, this scene unfolded. For our own part,
the scene behind the gun line was that of excited activity. Regiments of infantry knelt low in long
lines, all with the look of grim determination. The gun crews performed their duties constantly, never
taking a break as men fed their machines of death, rammed the charges home, pulled lanyards and
then rushed to push the guns back into position after each shot recoiled the guns several feet. Men
ran back and forth from the guns to the caissons located 30 or more yards behind the guns. The
horses reared slightly with the report of each shot of their own and other nearby guns so that the
drivers still mounted on them had to constantly slap and fight the beasts to remain where intended.
Couriers raced on horse and foot back and forth to various officers. Gen'l Rosecrans was himself
seen riding back and forth watching the entire spectacle across the river through his glasses.
Some Rebels crossed the river, but were too few and too disorganized to stand against our own
reformed infantry! Our infantry fired and fired again into the Rebels as they attempted to cross the
river where they had just retreated across. Staggering volleys from our side were sent pouring into
the butternut and gray clad ranks. Flags went down, were raised, went down again, raised again,
and down finally to rise no more. A cheer went up from below me and several companies then a
regiment and then all the infantry below our guns charged the Rebels coming out of the river with
bayonets! Rebels fired scattering shots before leaping back into the water. The water was choked
with bodies of horses and men, and branches from trees, and the throngs of men trying to escape
the cold steel. The river was a deepening color of red and the once white froth of the rapids along
the rocks was now red. Our infantry began re-crossing the river and more firing was heard. I could
no longer very well see the enemy lines in the gloom of approaching dusk, yet I could see muskets
firing with sinister flashes. Soon however, the field and the guns fell silent. Cheers went up on the
opposite banks from our infantry; "Huzzah! Huzzah! Huzzah!" was the cry and it spread like wildfire
across the river to our bank and the artillerists and the rest of the infantry located on our side took up
Our infantry once again did not fair too well against the Rebs' own, but our guns once more saved
the day here on the banks of this river. The defeated spirit we had held two days ago is all but
vanquished now and victory seems possible. The Rebels are still in control of the land they held
before this last assault, and we are still in possession of all we had still held. The enemy is still very
dangerous indeed, and he has maintained control of all that he took from us on the 31st, but we
have showed him that we will not be easily driven from this place.
Supply wagons are said to be finally driving south along the pike from Nashville. This is a welcome
bit of news here as food and tents surely will be arriving tonight and tomorrow. The men still suffer
from cold tonight, and they have had nothing to eat for 2-3 days. Our wounded again are being
evacuated on wagons that are available. When the supply wagons arrive and dump their cargoes,
more wounded and dead can be loaded and returned to Nashville. No reinforcements are coming
however. The army is virtually all here and the few that remain in garrison in Nashville are needed in
case the Rebs strike north. It would be a comfort if fresh troops were to be sent. These men here are
severely worn down by the recent battles.
I will close today's dispatch with a prayer of thanks to the Lord for His aid in defeating this latest
assault by the Rebel hosts. Praise His Name!
J.R.; reporting for the Confederacy, 1-2-63
We have been halted once more by the Federals' more numerous artillery. This day dawned cold
and clear and carried on until about noon much as yesterday had. Our wounded and dead were still
being cared for or buried. The dead of the Federals were being buried in mass graves to keep the
stench of rot under control on our portions of the field. Neighbors and relatives from surrounding
areas were seen scouring the woods and fields looking for their kin or friends among the casualties.
The soil here in most places is so shallow that bodies are not able to be fully buried and many lie
half covered with earth with their hands or feet protruding from the shallow depressions in which they
were unceremoniously tossed. Hogs are wandering about at night it has been noticed and rooting
out and devouring many of these unfortunate corpses. Vultures circle overhead and when no one is
about they swoop to feast.
Before noon I noticed that activity with our skirmishers all along the front was increasing and the
Federals occasionally slung a shot from a cannon our way but did little more than to annoy us.
I fell in with a column of infantry marching across the pike and rails well south of the Federal lines
about noon. This column I was soon to learn was a part of the army that was being massed for an
assault against the enemy's left wing. This portion of our army had yet to be heavily engaged and so
it had been determined to make it the point of a final thrust to drive the Yankees off the river banks
and thus to remove his ability to remain in the area. All the afternoon I watched more and more
infantry and artillery arrive here. A thousand, two thousand, three and four arrived. This wing was
under the command of Vice President John Breckinridge, now commanding as a Maj. Gen'l in
Hardee's corps. Many of these men are Kentuckians from his own native soil. They have become his
"Orphan Brigade" since they have no Confederate State to fight for since their native soil has not yet
The Yankees did not bother our men much other than to advance a few skirmishers over to our side
early on, yet late in the day they sent over a brigade of infantry to guard the river from us. More and
more of our infantry arrived. Five thousand, six, I cannot be certain how many all told were there in
the slopes and woods at the crest of the hills over the gentle slopes leading to the river below
several hundred yards away. Perhaps ten thousand finally were massed there.
With less than an hour of daylight remaining, our artillery fired into the Federal guns I could see on
the opposite side of the river on equally high ground. Our shots were answered with amazing speed
and accuracy! The cannon dueling went on for about an hour, well into the dark when it was too dark
to see the enemy guns except for his flashes. Our gunners fired as fast as they could. The roaring
was tremendous, but the Federals soon began dispatching our crews faster than they could be
replaced, and the guns began to retire or move. How many guns the Yankees had over there is
unknown to me, but they outnumbered ours and out-shot our crews handily! The roaring was
deafening and seemed as bad, or worse to our men than it had 2 days before.
As soon as the artillery contest began, our infantry advanced. The men were magnificent once
again! They kept perfect order at first, their scores of banners waving in the air as they marched. The
Yankee infantry fired a volley into our front ranks, lead by Gen'l Hanson, a Kentuckian. I saw men fall
all across his front. File closers stepped forward immediately to fill vacant positions. Hanson's men
did not slow a step and loosed a volley back at their tormentors dropping many of them. The
Federals stepped backward and fired again, dropping more of Hanson's men who again fired on the
march. Federals were seen dropping again in the front ranks, but some were seen moving rearward
faster than their withdrawing lines were stepping. Smoke covered the landscape so that I had to
move down the slopes behind our rearmost ranks to see what was happening. Our men let out their
shouts as the Federals broke and ran. Line after line advanced. The front lines were obviously taking
the brunt of the Federal infantry fighting. Soon, the Federal gunners began sending exploding
rounds over the rear ranks' heads. Men began falling from the effects of the pieces being sprayed
into them from these bombs. Our wounded were streaming back up the hill from our front, and were
being cut down on the slopes behind the front now by the artillery fire. There suddenly was no safe
place there! I found myself caught in that terrible trap and could not flee in any direction safely. Men
all about me were screaming and moaning in shock of agony. The lines which had begun in good
formations now were jumbling into each other as the slopes funneled them into tighter bunches and
the tangles of briars and felled branches caused some to slow while those beside them moved
freely. In a break in the smoke I once caught sight of our forward men firing across the river at close
range to the Federals scampering across the river. I felt joy at this sight but was still under artillery
fire myself so there was no time to stop and ponder the battle. I had to move with the army as we
marched! Our cavalry was atop a ridge on our right but not charging. This was a concern of mine I
admit, and I still do not know why they did not join our assault. I passed poor Gen'l Hanson on the
ground while Gen'l Breckinridge and his staff knelt by his side. He evidently was dying. The scene
was tragic and yet again there was no ceremony as death was raining upon the scene. The ground
was pounded with the big guns' projectiles and everywhere there was the "thud" of some large bit of
metal slamming into the ground about me, and the softer sounding "thwup" from some bullet or
fragment finding softer tissue. Men were destroyed, not merely killed, but actually destroyed here!
Bodies no longer resembled human beings but instead became almost un-recognizable clumps of
body parts. Wounded with parts missing or bellies ripped open dragged themselves to the sides of
the field or back up the long slopes.
A shout was raised near the river! "What was that?" I wondered. Had our infantry taken the river?
Had the Yankees fled? Soon I was met with thousands of our own men falling back in panic and
confusion! They trampled each other and almost trampled me in their haste to escape some unseen
foe. I began running with all speed I could muster with them back up the hill! Still, the artillery swept
us with their bombs and canister loads. Large chunks of the masses of men were felled all about me!
I was splattered more than once with another man's blood. A concussion over my head felled me to
the ground and I was stunned as the men stepped on me and tripped about me as I lay there
gasping for air and struggling to determine my injury. For an eternity I lay there, knowing that I was in
danger from the charging hosts behind me and that I must flee or die, yet I was unable to move.
Finally, I rolled over and looked and saw the Federals re-crossing the river below me. They were
firing into the backs of our fleeing men, but they were not charging us. I got back up and ran again. I
reached the crest of the hill without any breath in my body. All about the opposite side of the hill
were faltering men gasping for wind. Gen'l Breckinridge was riding here crying aloud; "My Orphans,
my poor, poor Orphans!" I then could plainly hear the cheers from the Yankees behind me on the
river and hill beyond. It was a hateful sound to me. Their cheers and the darkness around us
signaled and end to today's hostilities. Our infantry again had the day against the Yankee infantry,
but the Federal artillery was again too much for our brave men to stand against.
Tonight we will limp back into positions to rest and regroup to decide on another strategy. I pray that
Gen'l Bragg will know what way is best to beat the Yankees here.
As I close rumor is spreading that the cavalry is reporting wagons moving south from Nashville
behind the Union line. This might be fresh reinforcements being transported. If so we will have more
men to fight on the morrow. A fine drizzle has again begun. It is still cold and we still have little in the
way of shelter other than the tentage captured 2 days ago which is unfortunately still scattered
where we charged past it miles back. All the men are as usual, hungry. I will close now and try to
rest. I must clean myself of the filth spread over my body from the failed charge. I will ask God again
to lead our cause to victory, and to be with the souls of the recently slain. May no man ever witness
what I did here tonight again, that is my earnest desire.