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PREPARING FOR BATTLE AT STONE RIVER.

and constantly, taking advantage of the continually increasing roughness of the country, which is in good part heavily wooded with forests of oak and dense thickets of cedar, rendering the movement slow and by no means bloodless. McCook, with our right, rested that night at Nolensville, and the next at Triune; Crittenden, with our left, advanced the first day to Lavergne, and the next to Stewart's creek, where Rosecrans seems to have expected that the Rebels might give him battle. The third day, being Sunday, our troops mainly rested. Next morning, McCook pressed on to Wilkinson's Cross-Roads, six miles from Murfreesboro'; while Crittenden, with Palmer's division in advance, moved on the main Murfreesboro' pike to STONE RIVER; finding the Rebel army in position along the bluffs across that stream. Palmer, observing an apparently retrogade movement on the part of the enemy, erroneously reported to headquarters that they were retreating; and Crittenden was thereupon ordered to push across a division and occupy Murfreesboro'. Harker's brigade was accordingly sent across the stream being almost everywhere fordable and drove a Rebel regiment back upon their main body in some confusion; but prisoners thus captured reporting that Breckinridge's entire corps was there present, Crittenden wisely took the responsibility of disobeying Rosecrans's order, and, favored by nightfall, withdrew Harker across the river without serious loss.

Next day," McCook fought his way down nearly to Stone river, somewhat west of Murfreesboro'; and be

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fore night our army was nearly all in position along a line stretching irregularly from north to south, a distance of some three or four miles: Crittenden on the left, Thomas in the center, and McCook on the right; and, at 9 P. M., the three met, by invitation, at Rosecrans's headquarters, and received their orders for the morrow.

It being now certain that Bragg had deliberately chosen this as his ground whereon to stand and fight, and that he had concentrated here his forces, while his cavalry so stubbornly contested and impeded our advance, Rosecrans proposed at daylight to throw forward his left and center, crushing Breckinridge, who held the Rebel right, and then, wheeling rapidly, fall with overwhelming force in front and flank on their center, sweeping through Murfreesboro' and gaining the rear of the enemy's center and left, pushing them off their natural line of retreat, and so cutting up and destroying their entire army. In pursuance of this plan, Van Cleve's division, on our extreme left, advanced soon after daylight; Wood's being ready to support and follow him.

Bragg, however, had already decided to fight his own battle, and not Rosecrans's. To this end, he had concentrated heavily on his left, where Hardee was in command, with orders to attack McCook at daylight." Bishop Polk, in his center, strengthened by McCown's division, was directed to second and support Hardee's attack; the two corps moving by a constant right wheel, and crushing back our routed right upon our center, seizing first the Wilkin

11 Dec. 31.

son and then the Nashville turnpike; | attacks on their front, when the disinterposing between our army and appearance of Johnson's division enits supply-trains, whenever they abled the Rebels to come in on their should have flanked our right and flank, compelling them also to give gained our rear. ground; and, though repeated efforts were made by Davis and his subordinates to bring their men again up to the work, their fighting did not amount to much thereafter.

According to Rosecrans's plan, McCook, however strongly assailed, was to hold his position for three hours, receding-if attacked in overwhelming force-very slowly, and fighting desperately; which he had undertaken to do. But there was a serious mistake in the calculation. Before 7 A. M., Hardee's corps burst from the thickets in McCook's front and on his right; Cleburne's four brigades charging vehemently its extreme right, Cheatham's and McCown's divisions striking it more directly in front, hurling back our skirmishers at once on our lines, and crumbling these into a fleeing mob within a few minutes. Of the two brigade commanders in Johnson's division, holding our extreme right, Gen. Kirk was severely wounded at the first fire; while Gen. Willich had his horse killed and was himself captured. So sudden and unexpected was the attack, that a portion of our battery horses had been unhitched from the guns and sent off to drink, a few minutes before. The guns, of course, were lost.

McCook attempted to reform in the woods behind his first position; but his right was too thoroughly routed, and was chased rapidly back toward our center. A large part of this (Johnson's) division was gathered up as prisoners by the Rebel cavalry; the rest was of little account during the remainder of the fight.

McCook's remaining divisions, under Jeff. C. Davis and Sheridan, had repulsed several resolute

Sheridan's division fought longer and better; but of his brigade commanders, Gen. J. W. Sill was killed early in the day, while leading a successful charge, and Cols. Roberts and Shaeffer at later periods-each falling dead at the head of his brigade, while charging or being charged. This division fought well throughout; but was pushed back nearly or quite to the Nashville turnpike, with the loss of Houghtaling's and a section of Bush's battery.

By 11 A. M., the day was apparently lost. McCook's corps—a full third of our army-was practically demolished, and the Rebel cavalry in our rear working its wicked will upon our supply trains and strag glers. Nearly half the ground held by our army at daylight had been won by the triumphant enemy, who had now several batteries in position, playing upon our center, where Negley's division of Thomas's corps was desperately engaged, with its ammunition nearly expended, its artillery horses disabled, and a heavy Rebel column pushing in between it and what was left of McCook's corps, with intent to surround and capture it. This compelled Negley to recoil; when Gen. Rousseau, pushing up his reserve division to the front, sent Maj. Ring's battalion of regulars to Negley's assistance. The regulars made a most gallant and effective

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