Tuesday, December 31, 2013


        31, Governor Isham G. Harris' letter to General A. Sidney Johnston explaining failure to arm soldiers and fortify Nashville


Nashville, Tenn., December 31, 1861.


DEAR SIR: I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of a letter of 25th instant. Upon its receipt I immediately appointed energetic agents to collect laborers in this and adjoining counties to construct the fortifications near Nashville, but I must say that the response to my appeal for laborers has not thus far been as flattering as I had wanted and expected. I shall have within a very few days some 200 negro men at this work, and hope soon to increase this number to 500 or 600. Telegraphed you the same day your letter came to hand, asking how many laborers you thought necessary, about what length of time they would be employed, and what engineer would supervise and control the work, answers to which would have aided me in securing the laborers, but have as yet received no reply.

I fully appreciate the exigencies by which you are surrounded, and, as I have heretofore. I shall continue to use every effort within my power and all resources at my command to strengthen your position and to secure the country from invasion. In order, however, that the present resources of the State may not be overestimated, it is proper that I give you at least an approximate idea of them and some of the difficulties which I encounter at every step.

Tennessee has now organized and in the field, in addition to some independent companies, fifty-two infantry regiments and one battalion, nine battalions of cavalry, and two regiments of artillery. Volunteer companies are now in camp, under orders to move to rendezvous, sufficient to form six additional infantry regiments and two battalions of cavalry, making the whole force about sixty-six regiments. This force, large as it is, is drawn almost entirely from two divisions from the State, the unfortunate political dissensions in East Tennessee, with near one-third of the voting population of the State, having almost paralyzed that section, but I am pleased to state that these divisions and dissensions are rapidly disappearing, and I hope soon to see a united people in Tennessee, when we may reasonably expect re-enforcements from that section; but with the immense tax upon the population of Middle and West Tennessee to make up the force already referred to I do not hope for any considerable number of volunteers from either of these divisions, unless it be upon pressing emergency, when I feel assured that a patriotic response will be made by almost our whole people to meet such emergency.

But the difficulty is not, nor has it been, in obtaining men. The inadequate supply of arms has been and is the chief obstacle which I encounter in promptly furnishing to you any reasonable number of re-enforcements. With the greatest possible energy it takes time to collect and repair the private arms of the country, and this is the only means, I have of arming the force now called to the field. I have spared neither effort, pains, nor expense in expediting the work, and yet it has been and is impossible to proceed with it rapidly.

In furnishing arms to the large force above referred to the State has heretofore drawn from the hands of her citizens their most effective private arms. Almost every gun that we get at this time must necessarily pass through the hands of the smiths before it is fit for service, and in this connection it is well to remark that Tennessee, less fortunate than some of her sister States, had not United States arsenal or depository or arms within her limits from which her troops might have been supplied; that but comparatively a small number of her force have been armed independent of the State, and that upon assuming connection with the Confederate States all of her contracts for the manufacture of arms and other materials of war were assigned and transferred to the Confederate Government.

I am sure, general, you will appreciate and make due allowance for the difficulties that lie in my way in the works of arming the forces of Tennessee under these circumstances. I trust I shall be able, with the inferior arms of the country, to arm the volunteers now in, and that many will hereafter come into camp.

Very respectfully,


OR, Ser. I, Vol. 7, pp. 811-812.



        31-January 2, 1863, Battle of Stones River[1]

After the Confederate disaster at Ft. Donelson in February, 1862, the two antagonists remained relatively inactive, the only real action being in the form of raids by Union forces that bombarded Chattanooga in June, and Confederate raids led by Joseph Wheeler and Nathan Bedford Forrest in July and August. Confederate commander Braxton Bragg made plans to invade Kentucky from his base in Chattanooga and from Knoxville. The invasion was a success, but ended in a calamitous reverse for the Confederates at the Battle of Perryville, Kentucky, on October 8, 1862. Thereafter Confederate forces retreated to Knoxville in East Tennessee. Bragg then moved his headquarters to Murfreesboro and his army to Middle Tennessee. Federal General W.S. Rosecrans, despite Confederate attacks on his lines of communications and supply, amassed large stockpiles of supplies and equipment to fuel an anticipated struggle with the Army of Tennessee under General Bragg. Rosecrans did not want to give Bragg a chance to take Nashville and so regain that vital railroad center.

While Murfreesboro was still under Confederate control, President Jefferson C. Davis visited that Middle Tennessee town. Afterwards, however, Davis ordered a large contingent of the Army of Tennessee to Vicksburg, a move which would weaken Confederate forces in Middle Tennessee. Guerrilla raids and cavalry skirmishes continued throughout the autumn of 1862. It appeared as though the two Armies would wait until the spring of 1863 before becoming engaged in a decisive battle. As tensions mounted in Middle Tennessee, Confederate forces attacked Federal supply lines in West Tennessee in a successful effort to temporarily slow the Union advance upon Vicksburg. The Army of Tennessee and the Army of the Cumberland slowly jockeyed for position in Middle Tennessee.

General Bragg situated his troops at strategic points along the Stones River at Murfreesboro. From these points he could attack Rosecrans on the roads leading out of Nashville. Late in December Rosecrans moved his troops out of Nashville and began a deliberate advance toward the Army of Tennessee at Murfreesboro. He planned to march to Chattanooga after defeating Bragg. This he would do, but not until July, 1863.

When Bragg learned of the Federal army's movements, he prepared for battle and reinforced his line of defense along the Stones River. During the night of December 29, Confederate Brigadier General Joseph Wheeler made damaging raids against Rosecrans communications and destroyed most of their supplies for the forthcoming battle. Despite his boldness, however, in the end it didn't matter and did not positively affect the outcome of the battle for the Southern cause.

While the two Armies bivouacked a few miles each other in apprehension of a battle during the evening hours of December 30, soldiers from one army began to sing as their band played. The opposing army reopened with its own music and a "battle of the bands" raged until one of the bands began to play "Home Sweet Home." In a scene of poetic irony, soldiers of the two Armies began to sing together in a paradoxical manifestation of unity before killing one another en masse the next day.

On December 31, 1862, the Battle of Stones River began as the Rebel army charged the Yankee forces sending them into the dense cedar thickets to surrounded the erstwhile cotton field upon which the battle would take place. The noise of battle was so intense than many Rebel soldiers stuffed cotton in their ears.

Federal forces were initially driven back, but finally stopped the Confederate advance at their line at the Nashville Pike. General Rosecrans ordered his troops to engage the advancing rebels and regain every inch of ground lost to the Confederate onslaught. Nevertheless, Bragg believed that Rosecrans would withdraw on New Years Day. Because of this unwarranted assumption Confederate forces did not attack on New Year's Day, 1863. When Bragg found the Federal army still in position on the Nashville Pike the next day, he renewed his attack. This initiative drove the Federals back until the Confederate advance was halted by what was then the largest concentration of Federal artillery ever gathered in combat. At the Stones River the Confederate advance ground to a halt, decimated by canister fired from Yankee cannon. While both sides claimed victory the Confederates retreated from the field. The fighting ended. Bragg had learned that Rosecrans had received reinforcements and realized at the end of the fighting on January 2 that his men were no match for the more fire power and abundantly supplied of the Army of the Cumberland. Casualties were high for both sides: of 34,732 Confederate troops, 9,239 were killed, wounded or missing (26%); the Union losses totaling 9,220 killed, wounded or missing out of 41,400 troops (22%). Rosecrans occupied Murfreesborough and Bragg retreated to Shelbyville and Tullahoma for the winter and spring of 1863. A major Federal initiative would not begin until June, 1863, in the Middle Tennessee, or Tullahoma, Campaign which drove Bragg to Chattanooga.[2]



        31, Action at Tiptonville, warehouse and other properties burned by U. S. N. as retaliation for Confederate guerrilla attacks on River boats[3]

No circumstantial reports filed.

Excerpt from the Report of Lieutenant-Commandeer John G. Mitchell, Commanding 7th District Mississippi Squadron to Acting Rear-Admiral S. P. Lee, from the U. S. S. Sibyl, March 5, 1865, relative to the burning of warehouses at Tiptonville, December 31, 1864:

* * * *

On the 31st of December last, on the way down [the Mississippi] river, [I] stopped at Columbus, Ky., where I was informed by Colonel MacArthur, commanding post, that at the transport Silver Moon had reported that in landing at the wood yard at Tiptonville, she had been fired upon by fifteen guerrillas from behind the wood pile near the warehouse, and only saved the vessel from capture by immediately backing out into the stream. As General Veatch and staff were on board and wished to reach Memphis as soon as possible, I did not stop to investigate the affair myself, but ordered up Captain Sears, instructing him, if he found the fact to be as stated, to burn the balance of the wood pile, also the warehouse and store on the bank of the river.

I have not received any report from Captain Sears in regard to the execution of that order.

The statement that Mr. [J. D.] Davis makes through his agent, that "no boat had been fired into by guerrillas or others at Tiptonville since the war commenced," is substantially untrue.

Tiptonville has always been regarded as a dangerous place ever since I have been on the river, on account of the disloyalty of the people, and from the fact that the country in that vicinity has been continually infested with guerrillas, and no steamer would land there without the protection of a gunboat.

In July last [1864] the steamer St. Patrick was decoyed into the landing by some citizens on shore, and an attempt was made bay the notorious rebel Cushman and his command to capture her. Until the steamer landed they [the guerrillas] were concealed behind this warehouse belonging to Mr. Davis, and had not the U. S. S. Huntress come up at the time, they would have succeeded in capturing her. An account of this case can be found by reference to the log of the Huntress.

Had I not been away from the Eighth District at the time, I should have burned the houses, such being the custom of the squadron in similar cases. I am considerably surprised that the two officers of the Huntress, who were present at the attempted capture of the St. Patrick, should have indorsed the false statement of the citizens of Tiptonville.

I am satisfied that the commanding officer of the New Era did just as I should have done under the circumstances in the present case

* * * *

Navy OR, Ser. I, Vol. 27, pp. 8-9.


Excerpt from the communication of S. P. Lee, Acting Rear Admiral, Commanding Mississippi Squadron, dated March 22, 1865, from the U. S. S. Blackhawk then at Mound City, Illinois:

Rear-Admiral Porter's General Order No. 2 directs that any vessel that may be fired on by guerrillas or other persons, will do all the damage in her power to repress the outrageous practice of guerrilla warefare [sic].

Navy OR, Ser. I, Vol. 27, p. 8.



        31, 1865 - Racist Paternalism and the Freedman in East Tennessee; An Extract from the Diary of Eliza Fain

Amongst all the nations of the earth, so far as I can learn, there is towards the African race the felling you are unmixed with any other race[4] and are an inferior people. A boy named Hill [a former slave] who had once been one of my family as a servant had been here during part of the Christmas holiday. I felt kindly disposed to him and anxious for him to do right, I had given him much counsel in what way he would act to secure his friends. I told him to be kind and obliging in his manner to everyone, to be a good boy and try to do right. Cousin Annie Poats with her little children Fannie, Walter, Nannie and Ellie with Dick to drive got into the wagon go to town. I told Hill to go and open the gate for Dicky but this not suiting the young man's pleasure I had to speak harshly to him before I could get him to go and when he did he went to the first gate and came back. I was provoked as he had been here for several days and I had fed him and was willing for him to be with his mother but I just told him he had to go, that I would put up with no such conduct as that about me. Poor mortals what will become of them  I cannot see.

Fairn Diary.


[1] A plethora of secondary works deal with the Battle of Stones River. It would be necessarily redundant and even presumptuous to document the large battle here. For that reason it is only necessary to summarize the conflict here. There are a total of 307 reports on the battle.

[2] See map of the Battle of Stones River, OR, Ser. I, Vol. 20, pt. I, p. 916.

The following Tennessee units, part of Cheatham's Division of Polk's Corps, fought at the battle of Stones River: 1st, 4th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 13th, 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th, 24th, 26th, 28th, 29th, 45th 47th, 51st, 84th, 154th Senior Tennessee Volunteers, Scott's Tennessee Battery, Captain T.J. Stanford's Light Battery.

For reports relative to some of the Tennessee units that fought at the Battle of Stones River see: OR, Ser. I, Vol. 20, pt. I, pp. 728-730, 748-749, 717-719, 714-716, 720-721, 805-807, 821-822, 823-824, 882-885, 890-891.

[3] Referenced in neither OR nor Dyer's Battle Index for Tennessee.

[4] Yet she decried "racial amalgamation" earlier during the war. See her diary entries for September 20, 1863, March 13, 1864

James B. Jones, Jr.

Public Historian

Tennessee Historical Commission

2941 Lebanon Road

Nashville, TN  37214

(615)-532-1550  x115

(615)-532-1549  FAX


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