HISTORY OF THE 84TH REGI-
MENT ILL. VOLS.
BY L. A. SIMMONS.
The morning of the 27th was foggy and very little advance was made until near noon. About this time the enemy were driven from the town, and the army advanced along the pike some skirmishing in the advance. We halted for the night near Stewarts Creek, some five miles from Lavergne, and ten miles from Murfreesboro. It had rained all the afternoon and we thought we were having a pretty rough time of it. Our camp was on the very same camp ground of one so lately occupied by the enemy that the fires were not yet out. The creek was about a mile in our front and we could see the camp fires of the enemy across the bluffs on the opposite side. On the morning of the 28th we moved to the brow of the hill, half a mile from the creek, and formed in line of battle, where we remained all day, the enemy’s pickets in full view upon the opposite bluffs. On the morning of the 29th the 86th Indiana formed in a line of battle on our right, and we advanced, our left resting on the pike. We waded the creek about waist deep, and advanced down the pike in line of battle. We heard heavy skirmishing several miles to our right, and we knew the whole army was in motion. We marched in line of battle all day, our brigade (3d) arranged as follows: Mendenall’s (4th U. S.) Battery on the pike, 84th Ills., 36th Indiana and 23d Kentucky in front line of battle; 6th and 24th Ohio in the second line of battle, some 80 or 100 yards in the rear. Two companies of each advance regiment were four or five hundred yards ahead as skirmishers, and three or four times during the day were engaged, but as soon as a gun of the battery could get into position the enemy fell back. At dusk we were about two miles from Murfreesboro, and within about a mile of Stone’s River, our Regiment’s left resting on the pike, our right in the edge of a thick cedar grove, the 36th Indiana in the cedars, the 23d Kentucky fell back on a line with the 24th and 6th Ohio. Immediately in front of our Regt. was a cotton field of forty acres at the southeast corner of which a very large brick house was burning when we came up. It was reported that the enemy set fire to the outbuildings to make room for a battery and the house caught fire accidentally from them. The railroad from Nashville runs a short distance to the left of the pike, opposite where we lay, and crosses the pike some sixty rods below the cotton field; from this intersection of the railroad and pike to the river is about half a mile. The river is very crooked, and the bend where the pike crosses is the nearest point to Murfreesboro. The railroad for a mile or more before its intersection with the pike, runs nearly parallel with the general course of the river.
On the morning of the 30th the 6th and 24th Ohio took position about 150 yards in our advance and were skirmishing all day. On our right we heard constant skirmishing, occasionally artillery and once in the afternoon quite an engagement took place. We then understood that Gen. McCook was getting his corps into position.
We had two men wounded in skirmishing yesterday, and today the 6th and 24th Ohio lost several men. The enemy had a line of sharpshooters lying behind the railroad in rifle pits, which harassed our front line, and many a ball during the day whistled through the lines of the 84th. We knew a great battle was about to be fought and the boys were anxious for the ball to open. On the morning of the 31st the second brigade came up and relieved the 6th and 24th Ohio, and our brigade was retired about three hundred yards.
At daylight the fight had commenced on the extreme right of the army and gradually grew nearer, and partly to our rear. At 8 1-2 or 9 o’clock stragglers and runaways began to come from the right who said their regiments and brigades were cut all to pieces. It was evident that the whole army had been flanked during the night and we afterwards learned that General Johnson’s division was surprised and cut to peices, almost without firing a gun. Our front was now changed to the west and we lay parallel with the pike about seventy-five yards from it; the 6th and 24th Ohio in our front, in very thick cedar woods. Now come a host of fugitives from the broken corps on our right. Terrible sight! hundreds, yes thousands of men, many of whom had thrown away guns, cartridge box and knapsacks, each looking as though death was each moment expected, terror the only expression upon their countenances, as through our lines they came, on a run or a brisk walk, panting from fear and fatigue, and they could not and would not be rallied. Soon the firing told that the enemy were sweeping all before them, and coming directly upon us, from our new front and right. Each moment the crowd of refugees increased in number, each moment the firing became more rapid and nearer to us, till the advance regiments of our brigade, the 6th and 24th Ohio, were engaged, and for a few minutes we hoped they would be able to hold the thick cedar woods. They fought well a short time, but soon began to fall back. Their officers tried in vain to rally them, but they were rapidly getting into confusion and a run. Before they came out of the woods, our regiment had laid down to be out of range of the shower of balls that whistled over and around us. On came the 6th and 24th Ohio Volunteers in full retreat. Our officers joined in trying to rally the 24th, a part of which passed directly over our Regiment, but could not prevail upon but few to stop and fall in with us. They rallied and formed forty yards in our rear. Two batteries now opened, throwing shell and grape directly over us. Soon the enemy came out of the woods about three or four hundred yards in our front. Our boys sprang up with a loud shout and gave them a volley, then fell and loaded and fired at will. We were partly protected by a low ledge of rocks, and the boys fired as fast as they could load, and with the help of the batteries drove the enemy back into the woods, and soon after their fire ceased. The leaden shower which had fallen like hail, for at least an hour, for a time ceased, and we hoped the foe was effectually repulsed. While we were thus engaged, we had been exposed to a cross fire from a regiment of the enemy, who had advanced up the pike, on the left hand side. We had several men wounded while in this position, but none killed.
Shortly after the enemy were drive back – our front was changed by a let half-wheel, and we marched forward very nearly to the position owe occupied on yesterday, and during the night. Across the cotton field on the left hand side, (west) of the pike, a Regiment of the enemy had taken position, lying down, and on our right, which was in the edge of the woods, we could see a heavy force apparently coming upon the brigade at our right. Our Regiment opened a brisk fire upon these, as soon as it came into this position, which told upon the Regiment across the pike, as we could easily see. After a few minutes, Col. Grose, commanding the Brigade retired the right of our Regiment to make room for a battery which swept the advancing columns of the enemy as they charged up towards the cedar woods. The regiments immediately on the right of ours, fired briskly for a few minutes, but for some reason, fell back, fighting steadily as they came. Now the enemy came, into the cedars and the balls came upon us in a perfect shower from that direction. Our Regiment was now greatly exposed, especially the extreme right for the enemy were coming in upon us through the thick cedars giving us a perfectly enfilading fire. Here we laid under a most withering and destructive fire for some time, perhaps half an hour, and when the enemy were within about forty yards, the right was retired so as to front the enemy, and fought desperately, every man working as though his life depended upon his own exertions. The enemy continued to advance, and were gradually coming into our rear, and our Regiment was again retired to a low ledge of rocks, and here they fought some thirty or more minutes longer. The “Board of Trade” battery was now throwing shell, grape and canister over our right and Mendenall’s battery over our left, sweeping the trees, underbrush, and the advancing enemy down at each discharge. The enemy were giving us a most galling fire as we lay in this position, the balls falling like hail in a heavy storm. At last, when we had been the only Regiment west of the pike for some thirty minutes or longer, the order came to retire, which was heard and obeyed by the left and center, and afterwards the companies on the right followed across the pike, and then the railroad. The Regiment was now in considerable confusion, from the fact that both wings had been severally retired, and the left and centre had the start of the right. The Board of Trade battery saved us very much, as we were falling back, and deserves great credit for the pertinacity with which they held their position by the railroad. Here twenty five of our Regiment fell dead, and scores were wounded. The enemy found the fire too hot for them, and about the time we fell back, they retired into the woods. Our Regiment rallied on the west side of the railroad where they were under the fire of one of the enemy’s batteries, planted on the opposite side of the river, so we were marched back some distance, say half a mile northwest, into the woods, where we stacked arms, and rested. Tears coursed down the cheeks of our brave Colonel, when he counted only one hundred and thirteen guns in the stacks, and not a few cheeks that had not blanched in battle, were moistened with manly tears. But some were getting their wounded friends from the field, and some were wandering about trying to find the balance of the Regiment. The Regiment was not engaged in the fight again that day, it had been under heavy fire for more than five hours, and was badly cut to pieces, but the actual loss we could not then determine. The stand made by our brigade seems to have turned the tide of battle. Other divisions rapidly came to the assistance of Gen. Palmer’s division, and the enemy was driven back nearly to the river that evening. Our Regiment was not again brought into action, and when night came we laid down to rest thinking of the old stanza,
“The bugles sang truce, the night clouds had lowered,
The sentinel stars set their watch in the sky,
And thousands had sunk to the ground over-powered
The weary to sleep, and the wounded to die.”
Alas! how many were dying, every hour of that long, chilly comfortless night; for we were so situated that fires were not allowed, and therefore suffered severely from cold. The next day, Jan. 1st, but little fighting was done, though there was a great deal of maneuvering for position, and some heavy cannonading. Our regiment [fold] the river, all day, and were not engaged. The wounded were being collected at hospitals, and numbered thousands. On Friday, 2nd, General Van Cleve’s division crossed the river nearly opposite where we had the hard fight on Wednesday, and advanced a short distance toward Murfreesboro. Our brigade crossed and took position on a hill, as a reserve, the left of the 84th rested on the river bluff, and the right extended out across the hill, an open field in front, the 6th Ohio and 36th Ind., in the same line of battle. The 23d Ky., and 24th Ohio nearly at right angle with the 36th Ind., fronting east, or a little southeast. In the afternoon Gen. Van Cleve’s division made a slight advance, and were attacked by Gen. Breckenridge with five brigades of infantry, some artillery and a heavy force of cavalry. Van Cleve’s division fought bravely a short time and then fell back, brigade by brigade, losing most of their artillery – part of it crossing the river where our main force lay. Out of the woods into the open fields in our front they came, in the greatest possible confusion. The whole division was in full retreat, and taking one of those terrible stampedes which an army will when routed and pressed by the enemy. Each man seemed to be looking out only for himself, and making every possible effort to get out of danger. Out of the woods, pursuing them came the brigades of the enemy in most splendid line of battle, their colors flying and apparently secure of an easy and complete victory.
The 3d brigade had made a slight breastwork of logs, &c., behind which it was lying, and not a shot was fired until the enemy was within about three hundred yards. Then the 84th Ill., and 6th Ohio raised with a yell and gave them a volley, then loaded and fired at will. The balance of the brigade (24th Ohio, 36th Ind., and 23rd Ky.,) fell back in considerable confusion, perhaps owing to the fact that they had lost most of their field officers on Wednesday. Soon the several batteries massed by order of General Rosecrans, on the opposite bank of the river began to pour a heavy fire into the enemy. At our first volley the enemy wavered, and soon began to fall back. The 84th Ills and 6th Ohio now sprang over their breast works with a yell that was heard three miles, and charged on the enemy, who were soon in full retreat. They advanced but a short distance at first, fearing to expose the weakness of the reserve. Soon the balance of the brigade rallied as also did Van Cleve’s Division and after the enemy they went, into the woods, retaking the batteries lost, and one gun of the famous Washington battery of the enemy. The loss of the enemy in the open field and woods was immense. We were over the field in the evening and the dead were lying in heaps, and hundreds of wounded were on every side. The 84th getting short of ammunition, pursued the enemy only half a mile in the woods, and then retired to their breastworks, and remained there during the night. They had one killed and three severely and several slightly wounded, in this days battle and in the evening all were in fine spirits; the reverse of Wednesday was scarcely remembered in view of the brilliant success of today, which had virtually decided the battle of Stone River.
On Saturdy there was little fighting done, some cannonading, at intervals during the day, and a sharp engagement about dark, in which a regiment or two drove the enemy out of the front line of their intrenchments. Sunday the enemy were evidently withdrawing, and our advance entered Murfreesboro, about four o’clock. Our regiment remained near the battle field until the 7th. On Monday those who fell on the field were buried, and their graves fenced in with logs. The wounded were collected at one hospital where there were few preparations for their comfort, but here their wounds were speedily dressed.
Our Colonel exhibited the greatest coolness and bravery during the whole action. On Wednesday he sat on his horse in the thickest of the fight watching every movement, and no more excited than though engaged in an ordinary lawsuit. When brave Geo. Yocum fell, Col. Waters rushed to the spot, seized the colors, and brought them from the field. In the fight on Friday he was the first to leap the breastwork and lead the charge. The success of Friday is to a great extent due to him. Our Lieut. Col., like the Colonel, was brave and ever at his place. He was knocked from his horse by a shot, which would have pierced his heart had it not been for the steel plates in his vest. He was bruised by the fall as well as by the bullet. Maj. Morton, too, was ever present, cool calm, and collected in the moments of greatest peril. He had one horse killed and one badly wounded under him, on the 31st[?], and was slightly wounded in the left knee. Col. Waters got a ball through his hat on Friday. Serg’t Maj. Frierson too, was at his post in each day’s fight, doing his whole duty. The conduct of the Regiment while under fire, astonished the old regiments of the brigade, and the84th received not a few compliments from officers of high rank who witnessed the engagement.
[Fold] time was acting Regimental Quartermaster, (Lieut. Roe having resigned, Nov. 18) deserves much credit for his incessant exertions in bringing up supplies; by running his wagon trains day and night, he was able to keep the Regiment as well supplied with rations, as they were when in camp.
Our entire loss in this battle was as follows:
Killed on the field and died of wounds, 58
Severely and seriously wounded, 106
Taken prisoner, at Hospital and missing, 6
Total loss 170
Besides these there were at least forty others, slightly and very slightly wounded, who were not reported, indeed, there were very few men who did not carry from the field, some mark of the deadly Minnie upon their persons or clothing.
(To be Continued.)
Important to Soldiers – Don’t Sell
Sharpers and speculators are in the market endeavoring to buy up soldiers’ discharge papers, offering what appears like a very liberal price. Of course they have a motive in making these purchases, and that motive is – profit. They are moving in the matter in anticipation of future bounties to discharged soldiers, of course; and we advise all our brave boys to hold on to their discharges – if they are worth anything to sharpers, they are worth just as much, and a little more, to them.
Illinois Soldiers. – By a statement published in the Springfield Journal it appears that there are still 55 Illinois regiments in the service – 43 infantry and 12 cavalry. Also one battery – Cogswell’s which is at Montgomery, Ala.
Hawkins & Philpot still continue to take ambrotypes, photographs, and all other kinds of pictures in the most approved style of the art. These gentlemen can truly boast that their work cannot be surpassed by any artist in the State. If you doubt it go to their rooms and see for yourself.
→ We have been informed that a travelling agent for the Eagle has represented that the history of the 84th regiment, now being published in the Eagle, was first offered to this paper and was refused. We wish to say that there is no truth in this representation. – Journal.
For the information of the Journal we will state that we have never employed a traveling agent for the Eagle, and if there is any person so representing himself he is doing so without our knowledge. What the Journal says about the History is correct. The publication of it was never offered to him.