With the Regular Artillery at Stones River

On the first day of the Battle of Stones River, the Regular Brigade of the Army of the Cumberland, consisting of the 15th, 16th, 18th, and 19th U.S. Infantry regiments with Battery H, 5th U.S. Light Artillery, waded into the cedar forest late in the morning to halt the Confederate assault that had broken Alexander McCook's Corps. Last summer, I shared an account from Frank Reed of Co. H, 1st Battalion, 15th U.S. Infantry giving an infantryman's perspective of this crucial moment in the battle (see: http://dan-masters-civil-war.blogspot.com/2017/07/with-regulars-at-stones-river.html); this post will feature an account from an artilleryman's perspective of this same action. 
Cleveland resident  John Carroll was then serving in Battery H, 5th U.S. Light Artillery which was under the command of First Lieutenant Francis L. Guenther, and he wrote this fine battle account which was published in the January 16, 1863 issue of the Cleveland Morning Leader. 
Camp at Murfreesboro, Tennessee, January 6, 1863
I am at present all right and in health as good as ever. I escaped our great battle at Murfreesboro, and a harder or longer, or severer battle I never was in. We were constantly in the field for five days and nights, laying on the battle ground at our posts and our cannon, watching with eager eyes for our chance to strike a blow to end the struggle in which were in. We had plenty of chances, you better believe, for every blow we gave them took effect upon the enemy, as the field in our front plainly shows. The rebel dead lie thick, literally torn to pieces by our cannon and shell. 
Union artillery at Stones River
On Wednesday morning, we went in front of our line of battle, in a thick cedar wood, to take our position near the right wing. The 15th, 16th, 18th, and 19th Regular infantry were in our front. We had not been here but a little while when the enemy out and broke our right flank, under General Johnson, the men flying in all directions. 
Ed Bearss Map showing the location of Battery H, 5th U.S. Light Artillery at about 10 A.M. on December 31, 1862. The battery was behind the right flank of the Regular Brigade and in line with the right flank of Scribner's Brigade. "Our battery came out of here on a gallop," Carroll related. "Had we been three minutes later, they would have had us."
They next met our Regular Brigade, who stood their terrible fire and checked them for a while, but on account of the immense number of the enemy they had to contend with, they had to give way, retreating in pretty good order. The cracking of musketry here was terrible, bullets came like hail all around us, and many a brave man on both sides fell here. Our battery came out of here on a gallop and had we been three minutes later, they would have had us. 
About 500 yards from the edge of the woods, we took a position on a small hill. Loomis’ Michigan battery, the Chicago Board of Trade battery, and our battery were in line on this hill. The rebels cheered at their success so far and followed our men out of the wood into the open field, headed by the flag, determined no doubt to capture the battery and chase us off from the field.
By noon of December 31st, the battery had retreated to a position (circled above) along the Nashville Pike where the National Cemetery exists today. (Ed Bearss map)
Now was the time for the artillery; fate relied on them here-and such a roar of cannon was never heard before; three batteries, making 18 guns, pouring canister and shell at short range upon them soon checked them and made them hunt their holes and flee in all directions but towards us. After we had ceased firing, not a rebel was to be seen with the exception of a squad of 8 or 10 who rose from their hiding places with a white handkerchief and hollering ‘don’t fire!’ They were our prisoners. This was the hardest contest of the day and the firing afterwards was not so hard. 
Federal artillery

At one time, one of their batteries fired on us, killing some horses; but after our fire was directed on them, they soon left. The rest of the day and the next day, not much was done except altering the lines and skirmishing. Friday forenoon passed off rather still , changing troops from the right to the left, but towards four o’clock an attack was made on the left. The rebels, eight columns strong, came on and succeeded in pushing our men to the river. 
General Negley’s division came up in time to reinforce and went in for life or death and drive the enemy before them in all directions, capturing one or two rebel flags and 10-12 cannon. Had not darkness come on to stay them, they would have run through to Murfreesboro. This was harder, I think, than the attack on the right for terrible was the cracking of musketry and the roar of cannon. I had heard musketry before, but none that could put terror in one’s soul like this. Although so terrible, I never heard such cheering as out men gave as they were pushing the enemy off the field. Cheering went along the whole line and I doubt not every one wished to be in the fray. The rebel banners that were captured were taken along the whole line to tell all that victory was ours in the struggle. Cheers and cheers went up, every heart was alive, and new strength came to all and had not night come on, the men would have fought with double vigor and no doubt would have been in Murfreesboro before we were. 
One of the battle trophies that Carroll reported seeing taken along the line was the banner of the 26th Tennessee Infantry shown here which was captured by a private in the 78th Pennsylvania of Miller's Brigade, Negley's Division during their repulse of Breckinridge on the evening of January 2, 1863. There is some minor controversy about who actually captured the flag (a Sergeant in the 21st Ohio claimed that he picked the flag up from the ground after it had been abandoned, carried it awhile, and then threw it aside as it slowed him down in his pursuit of the Rebels), but the generally accepted story is that it exchanged hands after a hand to hand fight between the 26th Tennessee color bearer and members of the 78th Pennsylvania. As possession is 9/10ths of the law, the 78th Pennsylvania won credit for the capture. The flag resides today in the Objects of Valor exhibit at the State Museum of Pennsylvania. (see: https://www.facebook.com/26th-Tennessee-Infantry-CSA-1424599084469108/)

While this was going on in the left, Loomis’, the Chicago Board of Trade, and our battery were in the center watching for our time. No attempt was made here, so we remained silent. We remained in the front during the night, every man was to lay at his post but to sleep was impossible as it rained all night and the mud was ankle deep. We contented ourselves the best way we could, sitting around small, low fires. The night passed off quietly, except for the occasional firing of the pickets. The infantry lay in the mud all night alongside. Before daylight, everyone was at his post so as to be ready. Day came and was welcomed by all but still it rained. Wet through and shivering with cold and hungry as wolves, we were ready for an attack at our posts. But no attack was made, so we built fires but had nothing to eat. The horses had nothing to eat for two days and were almost given out. A load of corn came for them but the men could not stand it. The pitched in, taking about half the corn, roasting it by the fire and eating it as if it had been johnnycake. I saw on the field horses cut up and men roasting the meat like beefsteak. (This incident was also related in my previous post of Reed's account, and supposedly was encouraged by General Lovell H. Rousseau.)
Saturday it rained all day, no sun out and it was pretty cold. The pioneers were busy in throwing up earthworks, the rebel skirmishers firing upon them from behind trees, stumps, and houses. After building works for our batteries, we moved in, taking our position. The rebel skirmishers skedaddled and didn’t bother us much afterwards. They were not over 500 yards from us but it would not do for us to fire on them so they were left to the care of the infantry. At dusk, we fired the last cannon of the battle. Six rounds out of each piece to clear the woods out in front of our pickets. As soon as the pickets were out, they were met by the rebels. Sharp firing for about half an hour went on, when the rebels withdrew. The rest of the night passed off still, except for the toot of the cars. Whether they were receiving reinforcements or retreating, we couldn’t tell. Daylight told all. Not a rebel was to be seen. They had left us victors of the battle before Murfreesboro. All our generals deserve credit for this, for they came daily cheering the men among the shot and shell. 
Abandoned Confederate camps at Murfreesboro as depicted in Harper's Weekly.
Our battery came off lucky- three men wounded, one missing, and twelve horses wounded. Mike McGrath was lightly wounded in the leg in the first day’s fight. Cotter’s battery lost four guns but I believe they were taken back again. Mr. Beardsley’s brother is among the missing, so the boys of that battery told me. Peter Kunz is also missing. All others that I know from Cleveland are all right.
As ever,
John Carroll

First Lieutenant Francis Guenther's after action report is below:

No.64. Report of First Lieutenant Francis L. Guenther, Battery H, 5th U.S. Artillery


SIR: I have the honor to make the following report of the operations of the battery under my command in the recent engagements near Murfreesboro, Tenn.:

The battery arrived near the battle-field with the brigade of regulars, of which it forms a part, on the morning of December 30, 1862. On the morning of December 31 it was moved forward with the brigade, and, after a short halt, proceeded through a dense grove of cedars to take a position. Finding it impossible to operate with the battery in so dense a wood, I reported to General Rousseau, who, after seeing the impossibility of taking up a proper position, ordered the battery into action in the open field, which it had previously left. The battery was formed in time to check the advance of the enemy from the cedars, and was then moved to a position on a rise of ground on the opposite side of the pike. A heavy column of the enemy advanced from the cedars, but was finally driven back in disorder by the fire of canister from the battery.

On the afternoon of the 31st the enemy again moved forward in heavy force from a position to our left and front, but were unable to advance under the fire of the different batteries which was concentrated upon them. Though the battery changed positions several times, in order to follow up the movements of the troops, its main position was on the rise of ground already spoken of, and on which it camped at night.

On the morning of January 1, 1863, the battery was moved some distance to the rear, and after several changes of position was ordered back with the brigade of regulars toward a point on the Murfreesboro pike beyond Stewart's Creek. After proceeding some miles, the order being countermanded, the brigade and battery returned, and bout nightfall camped in the woods near the old position.

On the morning of January 2, the battery moved forward and took position, remaining in position during the day, and camping on the same ground at night. On the 3rd, the brigade and battery were moved forward and occupied rifle-pits and epaulements which had been constructed for them. At dusk the battery opened fire with shell and spherical-case shot on the enemy concealed in the woods, in buildings, and behind breastwork, &c., and the attack being followed up by the infantry, the enemy were driven from the position and the grounds occupied by our troops, who were subsequently withdrawn. The battery remained in position during the following day, and on the morning of January 5 took up the line of march toward Murfreesboro, encamping some distance beyond the town in the evening.

To Lieutenant-Colonel Shepherd, 18th Infantry, commanding brigade, and to Majors Carpenter, 19th Infantry; King, 15th Infantry; Caldwell and Townsend, 18th Infantry, and Slemmer, 16th Infantry, commanding battalions, and to their officers and men, I am indebted for the gallant support afforded me during the series of engagements. My officers, Second Lieutenants Israel Ludlow and J.A. Fessenden, deserve honorable mention for their display of coolness, gallantry, and judgment.

Sergeants Egan, Reed, Metcalf, Brode, Bickel, Ervin, and Manbeck behaved with conspicuous courage, and to the other non-commissioned officers and privates of the battery, without exception, I am indebted for faithful services.

I have the honor to append the following list of casualties in my command: Wounded: Corporal Charles Allitzon and Privates Thomas Burns, James F. Mohr, Michael McGrath, and Benjamin F. Burgess; total wounded, 5; total of horses killed, 10; total of horses wounded, 5; rounds of ammunition expended, 558.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

First Lieutenant, Commanding Battery H, 5th Artillery

Battery present for duty December 31, 1862: 3 officers, 120 men

Battery under command of First Lieutenant Francis L. Guenther

Reported Casualties: 5 wounded

Tabulated Casualties:
Killed: 0
Died of wounds: 0
Died while POW/on parole: 0
Wounded: 5
Missing: 0
Captured: 0
Total: 5

Corporal Charles Allitzon, wounded
Private Benjamin F. Burgess, wounded
Private Thomas Burns, wounded
Private Michael McGrath, wounded
Private James F. Mohr, wounded


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