|Battle of Murfreesboro, opening of first day, December 31, 1863|
Source: Civil War Maps by Hal Jesperson
Following are the events associated with my Great Grandfather Nathan Oakes's division, Gen. Cleburne's of Hardee's Corps, posted on the right of the Wilkinson Pike, extending toward Salem Pike.2
Gen. Cleburne ordered his men to be awakened and ready for battle at 5:00 AM. The morning was cold and frosty and a thick morning haze covered the ground. No fires were allowed, and the men were assembled quickly and readied to move before sunrise. Cleburne placed S.A.M. Wood’s Brigade behind Polk in a second line as a reserve.
Cleburne and his division, composed of L.E. Polk’s, Bushrod Johnson’s, St. John Liddell’s, and Wood’s brigades, began the advance, and his division moved forward on a front nearly a mile wide. The terrain was not ideal for an attack. The ground was broken and filled with limestone boulders and cedar bushes, allowing for gapping and bunching of the men during the advance.
The division encountered the enemy’s line behind a fence and natural breastworks of limestone. Cleburne threw his brigades into the charge against the Federals. The fight was short, fierce, and bloody, lasting about 25 minutes, when the enemy gave way, and Cleburne’s men pursued. The Rebel charge broke the second Federal line. This line soon yielded and both lines pressed into one. The Federals retreated, leaving behind their two rifled cannon, which were immediately turned upon them by the Confederate attackers. By now the alignment of units became haphazard and disorderly. When Cleburne’s brigades ran up against a new Federal line near the Wilkinson Turnpike about 9:00 AM, their progress was checked by the disciplined volleys of the Federals.
Cleburne's and McCown's Divisions renewed their advance at about 9:30 AM, in a sweep of a line that was 10 brigades long, against the startled Federals of Alexander McCook’s XX Corps. Every soldier assigned to the Confederate attack was now in the front line, and if it faltered before it reached the Nashville Pike, there would be no reserves to throw into the fight.
|Battle of Murfreesboro, end of first day, December 31, 1863|
Source: Civil War Maps by Hal Jespersen
1 The Battle of Murfreesboro is also known as the Battle of Stones River.