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77 Rosecrans’s army slogged through rain and mud to the outskirts of Murfreesboro . December 30 passed tensely, with widespread skirmishing. At dawn on the last day of 1862, the sleep-deprived Wolverines, who had spent a cold, wet, anxious night on the picket line, were relieved by the 18th Ohio to pull back and get something to eat. But their repast was unceremoniously cut short by the rising cacophony of battle to their right. They dropped their half-eaten meals and ran to urgent shouts of“Fall in!”As the Michiganders filed into line of battle, James King was ordered to help remove the wagon train to the rear.1 Rosecrans and Bragg had each ordered a morning assault on their enemy’s right, but Bragg beat Rosecrans to the punch, and the Union flank, caught by surprise, crumbled away in a perfect rout. Phil Sheridan’s division on Negley’s right stemmed the Confederate tide, but in the process the Federal line bent back so acutely as to form a V, with Sheridan’s men comprising the left leg and Negley’s, the right. Near the apex of this V—a critically exposed point in the Union line—the 11th Michigan was caught in the thickest of the fight, taking a pounding but holding firm against superior numbers of Confederate troops. Following a gallant countercharge by the Michiganders and their Illinoisan sister regiment,Sheridan’s adjacent division gave way,having exhausted its ammunition. Negley’s imperiled blue line, with its right flank hanging in the air, was ordered into a hasty retreat to escape encirclement. A desperate fighting withdrawal ensued,punctuated with another tenacious counterattack C h a p t e r 4 The Worst Scourge December 1862–June 1863 R I have seen sights that would make the blood curdle in one’s veins. 78 · Conspicuous Gallantry by the Wolverines and mercifully concluded when the artillery in Rosecrans’s hastily formed reserve stymied the Rebel pursuit for good.Although the strife continued in earnest elsewhere on the battlefield, the bloody day of battle was concluded for the 11th Michigan.2 New Year’s Day passed in relative silence around Murfreesboro, with the exception of some early morning skirmishing that sent James King back to Nashville with the supply train.On January 2 Negley’s division was redeployed to bolster the Union left and arrived in time to help repel a powerful assault. The 11th Michigan took part in the battle’s triumphant charge,splashing across Stones River in pursuit of the shattered Confederate ranks.The Michigan regiment ’s toll at Stones River escalated to 32 killed,79 wounded,and 29 missing: 140 out of 440 engaged, more than 30 percent casualties. On January 4, in the wake of Bragg’s retreat,the 11th Michigan and its brigade were the first Federal soldiers to occupy Murfreesboro.3 WilliamRosecransinitiatedthearduousprocessof rebuildinghisvictorious, butthoroughlyspent,army.ColonelStoughtonwasappointedprovostmarshal of Murfreesboro, with the 11th Michigan assigned as provost guard. Braxton Bragg settled in to the south and selected Tullahoma as his headquarters. The Army of the Cumberland would pass long months at Murfreesboro before resuming offensive operations.“If the people of St. Joseph could see our regiment ,” James King wrote to the Three Rivers Reporter, they could form some idea of the horrors of war. When we entered Louisville, the 12th day of December, 1861, we numbered one thousand men;now we have but four hundred and sixty-six men present.’Tis true that exposure and disease have carried away many of the victims, but the plains of Stone River has drank the blood of many of our bravest boys. Still there are enough of the 11th left to avenge their noble spirits, and with our gallant colonel to lead, we will wage a war of death and destruction to traitors wherever they may be found.4 —————— Nashville, Tennessee, January 3, 1863 Dear Jenny, Once more I am permitted to address you. I was in the Battle of Murfreesboro the 31st of Dec. Many of our brave boys werekilledandwounded.Amongthekilledis[mother’snephew]EzraSpencer, The Worst Scourge · 79 a brother of Julia’s,andAnson wounded.5 Lem is safe,was not in the battle.The nightof the30th,wewereorderedtomoveourtraintothefrontsoastoprovide the men with rations.When we reached the front we found our regiment to the right of Murfreesboro road. They had been skirmishing briskly all day though no one was injured, except Lt. Wilson of Co. F, who was struck in the head by a ball and killed...


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