60th North Carolina Infantry Regiment and the Battle of Stones River (Murfreesboro)

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60th North Carolina Infantry Regiment at the Battle of Stones River (Murfreesboro)

Report of Col. Joseph A. McDowell, Sixtieth North Carolina Infantry.

CAMP NEAR TULLAHOMA, TENN., January 11, 1863.
GEN.: I respectfully submit the following report of the part taken
by the Sixtieth North Carolina in the recent battles of December 31,
[1862,] and January 2, [1863:]

On Sunday morning, the 28th, we were ordered into line of battle and
occupied our position on the right wing, a little to the left of the
Lebanon pike. We were moved from point to point without being
engaged with the enemy from Sunday morning until Wednesday, the 31st.

On Wednesday, the 31st, about 2 p.m., we marched across Stone's
River and formed line of battle near the Nashville pike, the Sixtieth
North Carolina occupying the right-center position of the brigade. We
were then marched in the direction of the enemy through an open field
about three-quarters of a mile. We advanced in good order, under a
heavy fire of shell, until we came upon very serious obstructions in the
shape of a large brick house, out-buildings, and strong picket fencing,
which extended the length of our regimental line of battle. Owing to
these obstructions, and the great difficulty of getting through the picket
fencing, my regiment was thrown into some confusion and the line was
broken. Company E, Lieut. [S. C.] Wright commanding; Company
F, Capt. [James M.] Ray; Company H, Capt. [James T.] Huff, and
Company K, Capt. [W. R.] West, succeeded in making their way
through the fence, where the line was reformed with these companies,
and was obliqued about 200 yards through a cotton-field, taking shelter
in a skirt of woods. During our march through the cotton-field we were
subjected to a most terrific fire of grape and shell and musketry, losing
at this point about 28 in killed and wounded. We remained for some
time in this skirt of woods, our men keeping up a brisk fire.

Lieut. [J. T.] Weaver, commanding Company A, although detached
from the regiment by the obstructions above mentioned, took position
on the left of the Twentieth Tennessee, and fought with that regiment
until he regained his position with my regiment in the skirt of woods.
At this point the general commanding came up and seized
the flag of a Florida regiment, and advanced, the brigade following him
into a cedar thicket, where the enemy had been strongly posted, and
from which position he had done us such serious damage; but when we
reached there he had ingloriously fled, and we remained masters of the
field. Night put a stop to further operations, and we slept that night on
our arms.

I desire to make special mention of Capt.'s Ray, Huff, and West;
Lieut. Weaver, commanding Company A, and Lieut. Wright,
commanding Company E, for their brave and gallant conduct, and
likewise the cool and deliberate courage exhibited by W. T. White, a
private in Company K; H. C. Fagg, Company B; little John [A.]
Freshour, Company B, and the color-bearer, Francis [M.] Bailey,
Company E, and Corpl. T. J. Garrison and Private H. N. Bridges, of
Company A, both of whom were seriously wounded. This being the first
engagement the Sixtieth North Carolina has been in, I am gratified to
say that with but few exceptions they acquitted themselves in a highly
commendable manner.

On Thursday, the 1st, we remained inactive, occupying the ground
gained on Wednesday.

On Friday, in the afternoon, we reoccupied Stone's River, and formed
line of battle in the rear of Hanson's and Pillow's brigades, to support
them in their attack on the enemy. About 4 o'clock we were ordered to
advance, which we did in good order; engaged the enemy and kept
driving him before us until about sunset, when, it becoming apparent
that he was strongly re-enforced and flanking us, we were ordered to
fall back. We retire in perfect order about 300 yards, in advance,
however, of our original line of battle, and there reformed our line. At
this juncture the general commanding came up and ordered us back to
our original position.

I regret to announce the death of Acting Adjt. Stanhope S. Erwin, who
fell, pierced through the head by a minie ball, while faithfully and
gallantly discharging his duties.

Col., Cmdg. Sixtieth North Carolina Volunteers.

Brig.-Gen. [W.] PRESTON,
Cmdg. Brigade.

Source: Official Records. KY., MID. AND E. TENN., N. ALA., AND SW. VA. [CHAP. XXXII, Series I. Vol. 20. Part I, Reports. Serial No. 29.]

Recommended Reading: No Better Place to Die: THE BATTLE OF STONES RIVER (Civil War Trilogy). Library Journal: Until now only three book-length studies of the bloody Tennessee battle near Stone's River existed, all old and none satisfactory by current historical standards. This important book covers the late 1862 campaign and battle in detail. Though adjudged a tactical draw, Cozzens shows how damaging it was to the South. Continued below.
Not only did it effectively lose Tennessee, but it completely rent the upper command structure of the Confederacy's major western army. Valuable for its attention to the eccentric personalities of army commanders Bragg and Rosecrans, to the overall campaign, and to tactical fine points, the book is solidly based on extensive and broad research. Essential for period scholars but quite accessible for general readers. (It is available in hardcover and paperback.)

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Editor's Choice: CIVIL WAR IN WEST SLIP CASES: From Stones River to Chattanooga [BOX SET], by Peter Cozzens (1528 pages) (University of Illinois Press). Description: This trilogy very competently fills in much needed analysis and detail on the critical Civil War battles of Stones River, Chickamauga and Chattanooga.  Continued below...

"Cozzens' comprehensive study of these three great battles has set a new standard in Civil War studies....the research, detail and accuracy are first-rate." Mr. Cozzens' has delivered a very valuable, enjoyable work deserving of attention. The art work by Keith Rocco is also a nice touch, effecting, without sentimentality...historical art which contributes to the whole.

Recommended Reading: Six Armies in Tennessee: The Chickamauga and Chattanooga Campaigns (Great Campaigns of the Civil War). Description: When Vicksburg fell to Union forces under General Grant in July 1863, the balance turned against the Confederacy in the trans-Appalachian theater. The Federal success along the river opened the way for advances into central and eastern Tennessee, which culminated in the bloody battle of Chickamauga and then a struggle for Chattanooga. Continued below...

Chickamauga is usually counted as a Confederate victory, albeit a costly one. That battle—indeed the entire campaign—is marked by muddle and blunders occasionally relieved by strokes of brilliant generalship and high courage. The campaign ended significant Confederate presence in Tennessee and left the Union poised to advance upon Atlanta and the Confederacy on the brink of defeat in the western theater.
Recommended Reading: Chickamauga and Chattanooga: The Battles That Doomed the Confederacy (Paperback). From Booklist: This slim, eminently readable book by an established novelist and historian covers the two major battles of the Tennessee campaign in the fall of 1863. The Confederacy then had its last clear chance to reverse the course of the war. Continued below...
But its army proceeded to throw away what might have been a decisive victory at Chickamauga and was then driven from Tennessee at Chattanooga (the best-known episode of which is the Battle of Missionary Ridge). Bowers gives us almost straight narrative history, providing little background and less analysis but many memorable pen portraits of specific units and commanders (he adds notably to the well-deserved scorn heaped on Braxton Bragg).

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