This document for personal use only!
Posted February 17, 1997 by Steven L. Driskell.

4. Battle of Murfreesboro by Captain Wilson P. Howell

Battle of Murfreesboro and falling back to Shelbyville, Tennessee ~ Where we spent the winter of 1862-1863

The leaving of Shelbyville and coming to Chattanooga ~ Battle of Chickamauga and Missionary Ridge and Lookout Point or the "Battle above the Clouds" in November 1863

General Bragg having evacuated Kentucky, the Federal troops under command of General Rosecrans had been concentrated about Nashville and Bragg's army around Murfreesboro.  Only about 25 miles lay between the two armies.  So about the last of December Rosecrans advanced on Murfreesboro sufficiently near to offer battle.  So on the morning of 31st December we accepted the challenge and at them we went.

The enemy were posted in line of battle on the opposite side of a plantation from us some 800 yards and we advanced on thm through the open field under heavy artillery fire as well as musketry and our loss was very heavy in going through the field.  Four men, Sid Phillips, Gus Pool, Charly Roper and Jack Ezzell of Company "I" were killed out right.  Lieutenant Archibald Patterson of Company "H" was also killed and every company of the regiment met a similar fate, in killed and wounded.

Our line, in the face of their concentrated fire, got within fifty yards of their battery when our line gave way and stampeded back through the field and we suffered worse than while advancing.

Among the killed in that unfortunate stampede was Major Costello who had just been promoted from the Captaincy of Company "K".  It looked for a time that all was lost and we had some difficulty in rallying the men and reforming the line of another attack.

I remember just at this critical moment General Frank Cheatham, Major General of Tennessee troops came rushing to our aid.  Made such a stiring appeal to the men, that our line was soon formed and in the face of another galling fire we charged on them again and so determined were the men that we rushed upon them and captured their battery and drove back the whole line, but they soon reformed their lines and for the live long day we fought over an area of two or three miles and at night fall we had driven them off the field.

Our regiment was led in this fight by Lt. Colonel George D. Johnston who displayed great courage and leadership and won the high esteem and love of the officers and men of the line.  At night fall, when the firing ceased he was the only field officer with the regiment.

Our loss in killed and wounded was very heavy.  Lt. Scofield of Company "C" from Columbiana was among the killed. I remember during the fight, of coming across his body just after he had fallen, he having been shot dead and I stopped long enough to take a plain gold ring from his finger and his pocket knife and pocket book and preserved them till after the battle and sent them home to his family.

I think I went in that morning with about 40 guns in Company "I" and when the battle closed that night there was only one man Pvt. Bob Clark and myself with the regiment.  Most of the others had been either killed, wounded or captured.

Our loss was so heavy, that we did not renew the fight next morning.  Although we had the previous day, driven the enemy from every position he had taken, we held the battlefield for two days and the enemy made but one attack on a part of our line and was repulsed.

So about the third night after the battle General Bragg withdrew his army and we fell back to Shelbyville, Tennessee where we went into winter quarters and remained there till June 1863. During that spring we had the longest rest we had enjoyed since the war began.
[1]

An Incident of the Battle of Murfreesboro

Up to September of 1862, the U.S. government issued only gold and silver as currency.  It was after the war began that the government issued paper currency.  Known after the war as Green Backs.  These notes were signed by the Treasurer of the United States (Mr. Spinner).

At the battle referred to, we drove the yanks off the battlefield and held it for two days.  In their stampede one of their pay or quarter masters had abandoned or lost the money in his possession with which to defray army expenses and a man in our regiment captured it and after the battle this man had his pockets full of yankee money.  I gave him a dollar of Confederate money for a dollar of his to send home to let out home folks know what sort of money they had.  My wife kept it till the close of the war and was all the good money we had when I got home from the war in June '65.

Several army missionaries came and held revival meetings for us.  Among the ministers who came and preached for us were Reverend M. Boggs and Watson of south Alabama and I think it was here that the distinguished Dr. Palmer, a Presbyterian Minister came and preached from New Orleans.  About the later part of June 1863 the federal army began their advance toward our line and Shelbyville not being a strategic point General Bragg withdrew his army to Chattanooga.  On that retreat we were annoyed very much by the Yankee cavalry.  Our supply train (wagons) had been sent on in advance of the army and our infantry had been detained crossing Cumberland Mountain and once more the soldiers ran out of bread, but we had bacon rations.

I remember the day we crossed the mountain being out of bread, but expected to reach the wagon train that night where we could get bread.  But the army had been on a forced march all day and till 9 or 10 o'clock at night and owing to the exhausted condition of the men we were ordered to go into camp without reaching the supply wagons and I remember marching my company out of the road and into what seems to be an Irish potato patch and ordered the men to "stack arms" which the men did.  And having had no bread since the day before, they were in a bad humor and as usual began to complain of being "starved".  While some of the men were spreading down their blankets to lie down and try to sleep (the ground had grown up in crab grass).  Some man called out "This is an Irish potato patch!" and on examination it proved to be.  Lights were made and the men having plenty of bacon and salt and a few cooking utensils the entire company cooked and ate most of the night as the potatoes was in good substitute for bread and they were the most cheerful set of men I ever saw.

I will state just here that if my memory serves me right, Colonel John Q. Loomis resigned just after the Murfreesboro battle and Lt. Colonel George D. Johnston became Colonel.  I also think it was about this time that Captain W. A. Handley of Company "F" resigned and his brother F. M. Handley was made Captain.  Next morning after the potatoes had been devoured we left camp with the army and took the line of march toward Chattanooga that day and overtook the wagon that day and were supplied with bread and I believe the next day was the 4th of July 1863. On this day the army crossed the Tennessee river on pontoon bridge just above Bridgeport. In a day or two we went into camp about two miles south of Chattanooga.


Notes:

[1] On the 30th of December, at the Battle of Murfreesboro fought the 31st of December 1862 to 3rd of January 1863, the brigade was first commanded by Colonel Loomis, who was disabled during the battle and Colonel Coltart then took command (Official Records, Serial 29, page 658). Page 667 shows the loss of the 25th Alabama to have 3 officers and 13 men killed, 10 officers and 79 men wounded, and 4 men missing. A total of 109; and the brigade, 8 officers and 45 men killed, 52 officers and 536 men wounded, and 31 men missing.

On page 973 of Serial 29, the following appears as the Honor Roll of those elected to the place by their companies after the Battle of Murfreesboro;

  • Sgt. Isaac N. Rhoades, Co. A
  • Pvt. Warren A. Jackson, Co. B
  • Pvt. Samuel Ellison, Co. C
  • Pvt. James A. Mote, Co. D
  • Sgt. J.F. Coker (killed in action), Co. F
  • Sgt. Patrick H. Smith, Co. G
  • Pvt. Marion F. Hazlewood, Co. H
  • Pvt. Charles W. Ropers (killed in action), Co. I
  • Pvt. J.B. Peacock (killed in action), Co. K