A Texas Lieutenant Remembers the Battle of Stones River

Confederate Battle Line

Confederate Battle Line by Darrin Dickey

Texans in the Battle at Murfreesboro
by Lieut. J. T. Tunnell, Proctor, Tex.

The “Reminiscences of Murfreesboro,” by Col. W. D. Pickett, in the September Veteran induce me to write my experiences in that memorable battle. I was first lieutenant of Company B, 14th Texas, Ector’s Brigade, McCowan’s Division. My brigade was on the extreme left of the Confederate infantry. When we struck their skirmish line in the open field, we drove them back on their main line so rapidly that we got to within easy gunshot of their main line before they knew it. My regiment confronted a battery of six guns, I think, but they fired only two or three shots with artillery until we were among them. Many of the Yanks were either killed or retreated in their nightclothes. We pursued them with the Rebel yell. In advancing we found a caisson with the horses attached lodged against a tree and other evidences of their confusion. The Yanks tried to make a stand whenever they could find shelter of any kind. All along our route we captured prisoners, who would take refuge behind houses, fences, logs, cedar bushes and in ravines. We drove them helter-skelter for, Colonel Pickett says, about three miles when we halted to re-form our lines and rest a few minutes.

My captain, F. A. Godley, was severely wounded early in the morning and placed me in command of the company. Our line was re-formed at the south side of a small open field beyond which was a heavy grove of timber, mostly red cedar, into which the enemy had retreated. They had concentrated a very strong force of fresh troops and planted, it was said, six batteries of artillery near the Nashville Pike.

After resting a few minutes we sent forward a line of skirmishers and then followed in line of battle. We encountered the enemy at the edge of the cedar brake. The ground was leverl, but overspread with large lime rocks with many lime sinks from a foot to two or three feet deep. The timber was principally cedar, interspersed with large white oaks and other trees. For some distance, we drove them, as we had been doing; but about this time the artillery opened on us and cut the timber off over our heads, and it seemed that the heavens and the earth were coming together. Our men sheltered themselves as best they could behind trees, ledges of rocks, etc. their front line of battle (for they had several lines) seemed to take fresh courage and began to advance up on us, walking a few steps, then firing and falling down to load.

In this critical situation, we having only one line and the men badly scattered, I began to look around for a superior officer to advise with; but there was not one in sight. Very soon, however, I saw Colonel Andrews, of the 3rd Texas of our brigade, coming down the line from the right, running from one large tree to another waving his hand to the rear, which I knew meant retreat, which command was passed down the line. A retreat just then was as dangerous as an advance, but was our only salvation from death or capture; we retreated our of the cedars and across the open field, where we again re-formed our lines. We left several officers and many good men in that cedar brake, many of them killed and wounded and some captured. Other troops took our place in front of the cedar brake and my brigade moved some distance to the right.

As it was now night, we bivouacked in line of battle after sending forward a strong skirmish line. The dead and wounded were thick all around us. It happened that there was a large lime sink four or five feet deep where my company was stationed. This afforded protection from the wind, which was very cold, and we built little fires in there, as they could not be seen by the enemy. Among the wounded we put in our resort was a Yank quite young and intelligent, shot centrally through the breast with a Minie ball. We divided water and rations with him, and next morning our young Yank, with assistance to rise, could sit up awhile. We moved from that position, and our skirmishers were constantly engaged; but we were not in any other general engagement until General Bragg retreated, my division going to Shelbyville.

Source: Confederate Veteran, Vol 16, No. 11. November 1908.

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