Memoir Chapter 25

MEMOIRS OF THE CIVIL WAR
W. L. TRUMAN


CHAPTER 25 – Retreat South

Nov. 2nd. Gen. Hood moved on to Nishville, and my battery (Guibore’s) goes with Gen. Forrest to Murfreesbora, what was left of Cockrell’s Brig. follows on to Nashville, and Col. Beiver says, “On the third of Dec. the Brig. assumed its place in the lines around the city, drove in the enemy’s advance and fortified near the Montgomery House. Very little skirmishing was engaged in, but the weather was winter, the snow on the ground the roads muddy, the long range artillery of the Federals, picking them off one by one, their comrades and companions of many months, through stirring events, lying dead and wounded, before and behind them, it is little wonder that the Missourians were supremely misserable. On the fifth of December the Brig. was moved to the extreme left to guard the flank, and from thence on the 1oth, with a battery of four guns under Capt. Cobb, of Alabama (Guibore being away with Forrest), and a squadron of Tennessee cavalry, took up the line of march for the mouth of Duck river, for the purpose of constructing a fort to obstruck the passage of the enemy’s gunboats to Nashville. After a march of ten days through an incessant rain and over bottomless roads, and just as they were approaching Johnsonville through water waist deep in Buffalo Creek bottoms, a courier came with news of Gen. Hood’s inglorious defeat in front of Nashville, that his army was in full and disorderly retreat, and bringing orders to Col. Flournoy to move at once to Bainbridge, and join the army at that point. The Brig. was placed at the rear guard and was one of the last to cross the Tennessee river.”

When Gen. Hood left Franklin for Nashville our battery, was sent with a part of Forrest cavalry and some infantry to Murfreesboro and about Dec. 5th when near that town a line of battle was formed on a slight ridge with our left in the edge of a point of timber. Slocum’s Louisiana & 1st Mo. Batteries were to left of infantry and some of Forrest cavelry were sitting their horses just to the left of our guns the pike only between us, we had hardly gotten unlimbered before the Blue coats were in view, almost within easy musket range, advancing upon us in perfect order to their left. We immediately loaded with 500 yard shells and commenced fireing, I had only fired two rounds with my gun, when Gen. Forrest rode up and asked me “Whose guns are these”, “Where is the Captain”, I pointed out “Little Toby” (Lt. Harris) to him and the Gen. said to him, “Limber up and move your battery to the rear, there are too many guns here together”. We did so, leaving the Louisiana, Washington artillery belching away at the advancing line. They were bearing to our right as they advanced, leaving their right flank exposed to our battery and Forrest cavalry, as well as to left of our infantry. On account of a clump of brushes to my right I could not tell how long their line was, but as the country was open from there on, the right of our line of battle could see them a great distance.

I had understood that Forrest had only one brigade of infantry with him and that they were Tennessee toops from Bate’s division, but will not say as to this for I see in Jefferson Davis’ History of the Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, page 577 this statement, “Hood sent Major General Forrest with the greater part of his cavalry and a division of infantry against Murfreesboro, the infantry did not fill expectations and it was withdrawn Mercers and Palmers brigades of infantry were sent to replace the division”. I was on the ground and saw the men in line of battle, and looked upon them in shame and mortification, in their unexpected uncalled for, disgraceful flight, and will say positively that there could not have been more than one average brigade, about 400 men. We moved to the rear on the pike, I do not know the name of the pike, within three hundred yards to the rear of our line was a creek with a good bridge over which we had to pass. By the time my battery had gotten half way to the bridge, I heard a scattering volley of musketry, as from a skirmish line, and then a volley from our right, I turned around upon the limber of my piece, and to my utter astonishment, our infantry on the right had given way, and were rushing pellmell down the slope towards the creek and bearing towards the bridge, in less than one minute the whole of the Brigade of infantry were rushing to the rear, without any semblence of order. Our Louisiana battery made a narrow escape from capture, as the enemy were right on them before they limbered up and they were called upon to surrender as they rushed away, leaving one of their cannoneers, who was not quick enough to get on the gun, but he continued the race on foot notwithstanding the shouts of the enemy to surrender, and the shower of minnie balls, he made good his escape.

Gen. Forrest and other officers on horseback rode among the disorganized mass and called upon them to halt and reform, but not a man gave the least heed to any command. The men were not panic stricken or frightened, the term does not apply to old soldiers, that have ssen years of hard active service, they looked sullen, sad and downcast; I think they had seen enough to convince them that there was not a ray of hope for the success of our cause and they were willing to quit and go home. Their conduct pointed that way. As our battery was traveling in a slow walk, the retreating men soon commenced passing by us in great numbers, on the pike and on the bridge, the greater number crossed the creek almost dry shod, as the water was shallow. Before they got to the creek, they were all going in a walk, and Gen. Forrest rode out among them again, and tried to rally them, but not a one stopped, but continued to walk quietly along as if they did not hear him. The General became very angry, and abused the infantry, the cuss words came thick and fast, and said many times in thunder like tones, “I am not whipped. My cavalry are not whipped”. He gave up his efforts to rally the men, and rode back onto the pike again and across the bridge, sword in hand, just behind my battery. From what I saw of him today, I would judge him to be a dangerous man when angry.

The enmy did not follow, and for some cause they did not fire any volleys into our retreating men, but seemed to have turned and gone back when they reached the position our infantry had abandoned. We all understood at the time, by common rumor, that Forrest had sent Gen. Armstrong with a body of cavalry to get between the enemy and Murfreesboro, and when the battle commenced, he was to attack them in the rear, and we would bag the whole command. So we understood Gen. Armstrong carried out his part of the plan, which caused the hasty reverse movement of the enemy. I did not see a dead or wounded man, as the result of that shameful affair. I never expected to see such a thing happen, even among the greenest Southern malitia. There must be many of those men still living, and they ought to explain through the public press, the cause of their action. I have never seen a line from any one about that affair. I think it was the effect of the battle of Franklin.

Our battery moved back a few miles, and went into camp, surrounded by a cedar thicket and we cut down the young cedars, and piled them up high and thick into a half circle and built good fires on the inside of the circle, and we were quite comfortable, as the cedar brush kept the cold North wind off. The infantry was sent back to Gen. Hood to swap for others, and we understood that Gen. Forrest was waiting for their arrival. On the sisteenth night we received news of Gen. Hood’s defeat, which did not surprise us as we could not see how it could be otherwise, and we were ordered to fall back and join him on the retreat at Columbia, which we did.

We found the roads in very bad condition, for the moving artillery. Our horses were fresh and fat, and we had but little trouble, as to bogging. The day before we joined Gen. Hood it rained on us all day. At one steep hill several wagons were stalled, and as we came up to the foot of the hill and halted, Gen. Forrest with a few of his staff, were standing by a small fire in the rain, he still looked mad and dangerous, and was watching the stalled wagons on the hillside, in their efforts to get up. Noticing our battery halted on account of the wagons, he turned to Lieut. Harris who was in command, and whom we boys nicknamed “Little Toby”, as he was small and a rather vain weak man, and commanded him to “Throw down that rail fence and take your battery through that field, and around those wagons”. Lieut. Harris said in reply, “General I can’t go through that field my guns will bog”. Forrest as quick as lightning, jerked his sword from the scabbard, and with a horrible oath said, “If you tell me you can’t do anything, when I tell you to do it I will cut yoour head off right here” and moving toward Lieut. Harris as he said it. Harris without uttering another word plunged his spurs into the flanks of his horse, and made for the fence, and in five seconds had it down, and we were moving through the cultivated fields and reached the top of the hill, ahead of the wagons without a hitch, and resumed our march. We boys laughed over that affair until we cried.

When we arrived at Columbia, Gen. Cheatem, was crossing his men on the pontoon bridge, and Gen. Forrest started to cross some wagons also, but Cheatem objected, and the two fiery generals had hot words mixed with oaths, before Forrest gave way, and let Cheatem finish crossing. Our whole battery was over and went into camp, before sundown, I think Gen. Forrest’s whole command got across early. We learned much about the Nashville affair, and that the fight was going well for our side, until one of Gen. Bate’s gave way, without sufficient cause, and let the enemy in behind our men, capturing many, and causing brigade after brigade after brigade to give way, to keep from being captured. Most all of Hood’s artillery was left int he works, as the horses were sent to the rear for protection, and when the break came the cannoneers could not get their horses in time, so they had to go away and leave them, to their greta sorrow, they are not to blame as they could not bring off their guns without horses. (I know how that thing works, as our Wade’s old 1st, Mo. Battery was caught in that same snap, at Black river bridge Miss. and had to spike our guns, and walk off and leave them to the enemy).

We all could see that our army was reduced to less than half the men and officers in the last thirty days, had lost nearly all of its artillery, and ordinance, and the morral of hte remainder of our army, as to its success in any move, was at a low ebb, and the final end seemed to be only a question of a few months time. Yet every man expressed his determination to do his duty, until that time should come. After a good night’s rest we moved slowly and steadily in the rear of everything except the rear guard, which was composed of picked infantry brigades, with Forrest’s cavalry under command of Gen. Forrest. Included in those picked brigades, was the remainder of the uncounquerable old 1st, MO. Brig. its reputation with its presence was a brace to any part of our lines, in the Army of Tennessee. It was never expected to give an inch from a front attack, as it had never done so, therefore wherever the Mo. Brig. was stationed in the line of battle, that part of the line was considered secure. What an honor to the state of Mo. was the 1st. Mo. Brig. of Confederate Volenteers. Knowing this brrigade from its organization, in Dec. 1860, to the day of its surrender at Mobile, Ala. in April, 1865, and weighing every thing as I saw it; its great patriotism, in sacrafising all for principle, its perfection in drill, never losing a drill contest, its cheerfulness on the march through heat, dust, rain, mus, sleet, snow, often shoeless and thinly clad, suffering from the pangs of hunger and without sleep, yet ever ready to answer the bugle call with the Rebel yell. Weigh its victories, over great obstacles and numbers, (it has no defeats to record) its great number of bloody contests, the many times it has been under a deadly fire for hours, without being able to return the fire, and not a man would flinch. I can say that I have never heard of its equal, if there is one in the World’s History.

It rained on us almost daily from Columbia to the Tennessee river, cold icy rain and the men were wet to the skin day and night. The army moved slowly during the day, and camped at night. We heard some little fighting occasionally with the rear guard, I noticed but two of our pontoon boats abandoned. The mules gave out and the boats had to be abandoned, but Hood had plenty left to bridge the Tennessee river just as soon as he reached it. I did not notice anything else left along our rout. The army spent Christmas on the march the most cheerless one of their lives. Guibore’s battery crossed the pontoon about ten o’clock A.M. Dec 27th, 1864, at Bainbridge, and continued our march to Columbus, Miss. Gen Hood, with the bulk of his forces moved to Tupelo, and Verona, and went into camp, for three or four weeks, he claimed to have eighteen thousand infantry, and two thousand three hundred cavalry still under his command. In 1862, Wade’s 1st Mo. Battery, and Gen. Little’s 1st Mo. Brig. spent about four months of pleasant soldier life at Tupelo, at that time our commissary and quartermaster departments were at their best, and no man had any complaint to offer, if he so desired. They had a well arranged camp and drill and parade grounds, arbors arrainged by every regiment for preaching and thousands made profession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and their hopes in the success of our cause, was bright. They returned with less than one tenth of their former number, with an empty commissary, and no quartermaster department, and nothing in view, but to fight from now on, many times their number, with no hopes of success.

 


Notes

  1. Page reference pending

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