The Battle of Murfreesboro-Part I

Battle of MurfreesboroAs wonderful as Jonathan Hamilton’s diary is, it often lacks a great deal of detail about what was happening on a daily basis.  I found an article published in the Xenia Torchlight regarding the 74th Ohio Volunteer Infantry and their experience in Murfreesboro.Jonathan Hamilton mentions Murfreesboro several times throughout his diary.  We know from his diary that he was at Murfreesboro, but we don’t really know what he experienced.  It is possible that Jonathan Hamilton’s experience was similar to the soldiers of the Seventy-Fourth.  Although, Jonathan may not have had the exact same experiences as we read about in this article, he was surely aware of the events that were unfolding in Murfreesboro that are depicted in this article.

As published in the Xenia Torchlight, January 21, 1863The Gallant Seventy-fourth in its First Fight and how it behaved-The Battle of Murfreesboro-Thrilling incidents-Bravery of Col. Moody.
Murfreesboro, Tennessee,
January 8th, 1863

Editor Torch-Light: While you are no doubt interested in the general account of how the Cumberland army won its way to Murfreesboro, perhaps some of your readers might desire to know how their own home regiments deported themselves.  The Seventy-fourth, as you doubtless know, is in the Eighth Division, General Negley’s.  Wherever you read of the doings of that Division, you may be sure that the Seventy-fourth is included.

The Seventy-fourth endured some hardships on its way from Nashville to the scene of conflict, as it was without blankets or overcoats, and a heavy winter rain poured down in torrents for two days and nights.  When it arrived within two miles and a half of Murfreesboro, the Eighth Division was ordered to occupy a cedar thicket, some distance to the left of the place occupied by General M’Cook’s corps, and just about the center of the whole army.  On Tuesday night at 12 o’clock, the Seventy fourth was deployed as skirmishers in front of the enemy.  It was relieved at 7 1/2 o’clock A.M., and General Thomas passed through its lines, and in fifteen minutes it was ordered to “fall in.”

Heavy firing was heard to the right in M’Cook’s corps.  In a few minutes the firing became terrific, and what surprised a listener, it came nearer and clearer and deadlier every moment.  Soon whole regiments and brigades came by the eighth division, all covered with powder and mud.  The Seventy fourth asked those men how the fight was going, and those sturdy veterans answered not, but said, “they were out of cartridges, and had to retire.”  The Seventy-fourth knew not that the truth was, that M’Cook’s whole corps had been driven back, or the stoutest heart might have quailed.  In a moment the order came, to “lay down,” then such a storm of shells and balls passed over as the united forces of the enemy concentrated after their victory over M’Cook, could send.  “Rise,” was Col. Moody’s order, and he led his men into their, and his, first battle.  Just as they were marching forward he said, “Say your prayers my boys, and give them your bullets as fast as you can.”

The regiment stood and fired amid that whizzing storm, calmly and firmly.  The bullets groaned and whistled by, like some fiend laughing at his victims, and the cannon balls roared and whirred past, as if the Demon of War was calling angrily for his prey.

Amid the thickest of the fight Col. Moody came riding down the lines, and three cheers were given even then.  For a moment the foe ceased firing, not knowing but what the cheering was for reinforcements.  But in an instant the deluge of wrath swept on.  Brothers were swept down by their brothers’ side, and comrades fell by the side of comrades, but the Seventy-fourth thought not of retiring from that field of strife, until surrounded on three sides by our enemies, an order came for it to fall back.

To be continued…..

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