Report of Maj. Gen. Andrew J. Smith, U. S. Army, commanding Detachment Army of the Tennessee, of operations November 30, 1864-January 10, 1865.
HEADQUARTERS DETACHMENT ARMY OF THE TENNESSEE,
Eastport, Miss., January 10, 1865.
GENERAL: I have the honor to report the operations of my command from the date of their arrival at Nashville, Tenn., pursuant to orders from Maj. Gen. W. T. Sherman, commanding Military Division of the Mississippi, November 30, 1864, to the present date.
Debarked the First and Third Divisions on the 30th and the Second Division on the 1st of December. On the 1st, by your direction, the command was placed in line of battle for defense of the city of Nashville, as follows: The right resting on the Cumberland River, about three miles from the city in a direct line, and the left resting on the Hillsborough pike, about two miles and a half in a direct line from the city, forming a line of three miles from right to left. Breast-works strong enough to protect the men from either artillery or musketry were immediately constructed by the troops along the whole line. The command not being sufficiently large to form a continuous front line and still have any troops for a reserve, with your consent, one brigade was withdrawn from the works on the left and placed in rear of the left center, immediately on the right of the Hardin pike, to be used as circumstances might require, their works on the left being occupied by a division of the Fourth Corps, which had then arrived. The enemy made his appearance on the evening of the 2d and took position beyond artillery range in my front, which respectful distance was retained throughout the siege, with the exception of an occasional picket-post or reconnoitering party. Until the 14th of December the troops were employed in strengthening the works and some slight skirmishing. A spirited dash made by sixty of our cavalry, under command of Lieutenant-Colonel Blackburn, of a Tennessee regiment, in which some few prisoners were captured from the enemy, and desultory artillery firing at long range at small parties of the enemy, were all that occurred in my front. In the meantime transportation was obtained, ammunition and commissary stores loaded, and everything placed in readiness to move at an hour's notice.
On the night of the 14th orders were received to move outside the works early the next morning and form on or near the Hardin pike, the left connecting with the right of the Fourth Corps, the cavalry passing behind and forming on my right, the whole to wheel to the left, with the Fourth Corps as a pivot, and make a vigorous assault upon the enemy's left. This movement was commenced by my command at 6 a.m. on the 15th. The Second Division, Brig. Gen. K. Garrard commanding, moved out on the Hardin pike, and then moving by the left flank until he connected with the Fourth Corps, forming my left. The First Division, Brig. Gen. J. McArthur commanding, moving out next by the Hardin and Charlotte pike, formed on the right of the Second Division. The Third Division, Col. J. B. Moore, Thirty-third Wisconsin Infantry Volunteers, commanding, moving out by the Hardin pike, formed in rear of the center to act as a reserve to either flank.
The First and Second Brigades of General McArthur, which moved out by the Charlotte pike, owing to the roads diverging widely, and the stubborn resistance of the enemy's skirmishers, he having to silence one battery, did not connect with the main line until nearly 8.30. The cavalry then passed to our right and the movement began about 10 a.m., our orders being to touch to the left and guide right. Throwing out a strong skirmish line they became almost immediately engaged with the enemy's skirmishers, driving them back easily, and the line advancing and wheeling gradually, assumed a position almost parallel with the Hardin pike. Pressing forward we came to the first works of the enemy, about half a mile south of the Hardin pike, and one mile and a half from the main line of works around Nashville — a small earthwork on the top of a hill, in which were four 12-pounder brass guns, the fort covered by another on the hill about 400 yards west, in which were two 12-pounder brass guns. Four batteries opened on the first fort, soon silencing their guns, and General McArthur directed to take two brigades and carry the works by assault. Placing the First Brigade, Col. W. L. McMillen, in advance, supported by the Second, Col. L. F. Hubbard commanding, the work was carried at a run. The cavalry on our right, at the same time charging directly under the guns of the rear fort on the hill, entered the first fort simultaneously with our skirmishers. The guns in the fort were all captured and about 150 prisoners. The cavalry claimed the guns as their capture, and more for their gallant charge than because they were entitled to the pieces, they were conceded to them. The First and Second Brigades of McArthur's division, obliquing to the right without stopping, carried the second fort, capturing the two guns and about 200 prisoners, the First Brigade moving directly to the top of the hill, and the Second flanking it on the left. During the assault upon these two forts the Twenty-third Corps passed in my rear by the flank to my right, and by the time the forts were taken had formed on my right. Advancing Colonel Ward's brigade, of the Third Division, to fill the gap caused by the oblique movement of Colonels McMillen's and Hubbard's brigades, in the charge of the second fort upon the hill, the line again advanced, skirmishing heavily along its whole extent. A small earth-work containing two guns on a hill in front of Colonel Hill's (Third) brigade, of McArthur's division, was carried by that brigade in gallant style, capturing the guns and many prisoners, the skirmishers from the Second Division entering at the same time from the east. On entering this work Col. S. G. Hill, Thirty-fifth Iowa Infantry, commanding Third Brigade, First Division, was unfortunately struck in the forehead by a musket-ball and died almost instantly. In consequence, the guns and prisoners were not properly taken care of and turned over, but were taken possession of by other troops, and the brigade did not get the credit which it justly deserves. At the same time Col. E. H. Wolfe's (Third) brigade, of the Second Division, crossed the Hillsborough pike and carried the earthworks on the hill immediately to the left of that pike, capturing two guns in the fort and one more a short distance from it, which the enemy were endeavoring to take away.
At the time these last two assaults were made, which were almost perpendicular to the Hillsborough pike, the Fourth Corps charged, parallel with the pike, the works in their front, thereby crowding out the First and Second Brigades of the Second Division, the enemy's works at that point making nearly a right angle with the salient angle in front of the right of the Fourth Corps and the left of my command. I therefore passed the First and Second Brigades, Second Division, by the right flank, to the right and rear of Third Brigade, same division, and directed them to form on the right of that brigade. The Fourth Corps also took possession of the guns passed over by Colonel Wolfe. In the meantime the First Division and the brigade of the Third, advancing on the right, drove the enemy across the Hillsborough pike, dislodging them from the stone walls on either side, capturing 2 pieces of artillery, a large number of prisoners, and about 1,000 muskets. Night coming on, the troops bivouacked in line of battle. During the night, a request coming from General Schofield, commanding Twenty-third Corps, for re-enforcements, I sent him the Third Division, Col. J. B. Moore commanding, just before daylight.
On the morning of the 16th, advancing my lines in the same order as on the previous day, the First on the right and the Second Division on the left, it was discovered that the enemy had taken position at the base of a chain of hills called the Brentwood Hills, with a front nearly perpendicular to our line, and had strongly intrenched themselves by throwing up breast-works and massing artillery in every available position. Changing my front by a half wheel by brigades, the command moved slowly in echelon from the right, so as not to break connection with the Fourth Corps, and took a position directly in front of the enemy at a distance of about 600 yards, my right resting at the base of a hill on the top of which was the enemy's left, and my line, being the whole front of the two divisions, extending about one mile. The enemy opening a heavy artillery fire upon my brigade as they went into position, all the batteries of the First and Second Divisions, six in number, were brought into action at a distance of about 800 yards, and after a fierce cannonading of about two hours succeeded in quieting the enemy's guns in our front. The Twenty-third Corps was on my right in the intrenchments thrown up by them the night before, and nearly at right angles with my present line. Expecting that corps to take the initiative, as they were on the flank of the enemy, I held the command in its present position, keeping up a slow artillery fire at their lines without eliciting any reply. About 1 o'clock I received a request from General Schofield, and a few minutes later an order from you, to send another division to his assistance, he having retained the one sent at daylight that morning. Not having any reserve, and my whole line being immediately in front of the enemy and liable to be attacked and broken at any point, where even a brigade should be withdrawn, I therefore sent a staff officer to him to state the condition of my command and ascertain if he could not get along without the division. The officer reported to me that General Schofield's line was not engaged, and upon the condition being reported to him, that he said he did not need the additional force, consequently it was not sent.
About 3 p.m. General McArthur sent word that he could carry the hill on his right by assault. Major-General Thomas being present, the matter was referred to him, and I was requested to delay the movement until he could hear from General Schofield, to whom he had sent. General McArthur, not receiving any reply, and fearing that if the attack should be longer delayed the enemy would use the night to strengthen his works, directed the First Brigade, Col. W. L. McMillen, Ninety-fifth Ohio Infantry, commanding, to storm the hill, on which was the left of the enemy's line, and the Second and Third Brigades of the division to attack in front when the First should be half-way up the hill. Accordingly, Colonel McMillen formed his brigade in two lines, with the One hundred and fourteenth Illinois Infantry, Ninety-third Indiana Infantry, and Tenth Minnesota Infantry in the first, and the Seventy-second Ohio and Ninety-fifth Ohio in the second line, and gave his men orders not to cheer or fire a shot until the works should be gained. Throwing out a strong party of skirmishers, under a rapid fire from them and his artillery, he commenced the ascent. He had no sooner fully commenced his movement than the Second Brigade, Col. D. F. Hubbard commanding, eager in emulation, also took up the attack, immediately followed the Third Brigade, and, lastly, the Second Division. The enemy opened with a fierce storm of shell, canister, and musketry, sadly decimating the ranks of many regiments, but nothing save annihilation could stop the onward progress of that line. Sweeping forward, the right of the line up the hill and the left through mud and over walls, they gained the enemy's works, calling forth the remark from one of their general officers that “powder and lead were inadequate to resist such a charge.” The enemy were whipped, broken, and demoralized. Prisoners were taken by the regiment and artillery by batteries. The pursuit was continued until dark, when the troops bivouacked in line.
In this one charge the two divisions captured 27 pieces of artillery complete, over 4,000 prisoners, among whom were Maj. Gen. Edward Johnson and Brigadier-Generals Jackson and Smith, 12 stand of colors, General Johnson's headquarters wagons, and many ammunition and baggage wagons. I am not able to give you the exact number, as we left the next morning in pursuit, without collecting them, leaving them to be taken care of by the reserve troops in Nashville. The Second Division claims that they captured four more guns on the left, which were afterward taken possession of by the Fourth Corps, but as they were on the Fourth Corps line, and they were undoubtedly assisted by that corps in their capture, I am not disposed to question their right to them. I only hope that there may always be the same ardent desire to capture from a disloyal enemy his means and munitions of war; it is certainly a laudable rivalry. The three guns, however, taken by Colonel Wolfe on the 15th properly belong to and should be credited to him. The sum total of the captures on both days is: 36 pieces of artillery; 5,123 prisoners, among whom were Maj. Gen. Edward Johnson and Brigadier-Generals Jackson and Smith; about 6,000 stand of small-arms; 16 battle-flags; and about 30 wagons of various kinds.
Instances of individual merit were numerous. Colonel McMillen deserves to be specially mentioned for his conduct of the charge of the second day. Col. L. F. Hubbard, Fifth Minnesota, commanding' Second Brigade, First Division, had three horses shot under him on the 16th. Going into action with a total of 1,421 muskets in his brigade, he captured over 2,000 prisoners, 9 pieces of artillery, and 7 stand of colors, and the casualties in his brigade number 315.
For details and particulars I refer you to the reports of division and brigade commanders, herewith inclosed. Inclosed, also, is a complete list of the casualties.*
The prisoners and artillery were all sent back to Nashville to be turned over to the proper officers there. The stands of colors are in possession of the officers and men who captured them, which I will send to you with a list of the names.
On the 17th, in compliance with orders, my command, the Third Division having joined that morning, moved out on the Granny White pike about four miles, and thence south to the Franklin pike, with orders to fall in the rear of the Fourth Corps. From thence we marched, via Franklin, Columbia, Pulaski, Lawrenceburg, and Waynesborough, to Clifton, and from thence on transports to this place, without anything of importance occurring.
My division commanders deserve much credit for the able and soldierly manner with which they managed their commands and their ready and hearty co-operation in every respect. The Third Division, Col. J. B. Moore commanding, only needed as favorable an opportunity to have done equally as well as any. His troops that day upon the field were all tried soldiers, who have fought many a battle with credit and honor to themselves.
I have exceedingly to regret the loss of one gallant brigade commander, Col. S. G. Hill, Thirty-fifth Iowa Infantry, who was killed in the charge on the 15th. Long with the command, he has endeared himself to every member of it; brave and courteous, the service has lost a gallant officer and society a gentleman by his untimely death.
The officers of my staff, each and all, deserve special credit for their personal services, both on the field and in their respective departments. They rendered invaluable aid on the field by their activity and discrimination and their acute perception of the weak points and the proper time and moment for executing the different movements with which they were charged.
In the supply department everything moved with a prompt energy and reliability that gave an additional impulse forward to each officer and man.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
A. J. SMITH,
Brig. Gen. W. D. WHIPPLE,
Chief of Staff, Department of the Cumberland.
* Embodied in table, pp. 100-102.
SOURCE: The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Volume 45, Part 1 (Serial No. 93), p. 432-7