concerning Twenty-First Michigan Infantry at Stone's River.
No. 54. Report of Col. Nicholas Greusel, Thirty-sixth Illinois Infantry,
commanding First Brigade.
HDQRS. FIRST BRIGADE, THIRD DIVISION, RIGHT WING, Camp on Stone's
River, Tenn., January 15, 1863.
SIR: Not being in command of the brigade until General Sill's death,
Wednesday morning, December 31, 1862, I am unable to give a very
correct report of its operations previous to that time, but have
succeeded, from what I observed myself and by reports of other regimental
commanders, in getting very near, if not quite, a correct report
of the movements of the brigade.
In obedience to orders from General Sill, the brigade was under
arms from 4 a.m. Tuesday, December 30, till 8 o'clock, on the Wilkinson
pike, about 5 miles from Murfreesborough, and at 9 o'clock we moved
forward, this brigade being the center of the division. Skirmishers
were deployed and soon were engaged with the enemy's skirmishers.
When within about 2 miles from Murfreesborough, the brigade was
ordered by General Sill to the right of the pike, and formed the
first line of battle on the edge of the timber, in the following
order: The Thirty-sixth Illinois on the right, Eighty-eighth Illinois
on the left, Bush's Fourth Indiana Battery in the center, the Twenty-first
Michigan supporting the Eighty-eighth Illinois, and the Twenty-fourth
Wisconsin supporting the Thirty-sixth Illinois.
Sharp skirmishing was kept up until 3 p.m., when General Sill ordered
an advance, and the brigade moved forward [changing front to the
left], the regiments keeping their relative positions across a corn-field,
and the battery was advanced into the woods beyond, supported by
the Thirty-sixth Illinois and five companies of the Twenty-fourth
Wisconsin. Soon after the advance into the woods, a battery of the
enemy opened on us from the low ground across a cotton-field, and
in the edge of a strip of timber, scarce 500 yards distant, and then
ensued a terrific artillery duel between our battery and the enemy's,
which finally resulted in their battery being silenced and withdrawn.
It now being near dark, our battery was moved to the rear, just out
of the woods, and the brigade formed in nearly the same relative
positions as at first, and lay upon their arms all night, with strong
lines of skirmishers out as pickets.
Soon after daylight, on the morning of the 31st, the enemy advanced
out of the woods on the opposite side of the cotton-field [referred
to before] in great force immediately on our front, but were met
by such a fire from our artillery and infantry that they were finally
repulsed and driven back with great loss the cotton-field.
About this time, 7 a.m., while directing the movements of the brigade,
our brave General Sill was struck in the face by a musket ball and
instantly killed. I then received your order to take command of the
brigade. The enemy having turned our right, and again advancing in
force, I moved to the rear with the Twenty-fourth Wisconsin and Eighty-eighth
Illinois, and across the road, where I formed on the left of the
Eighty-first Indiana, Woodruff's brigade, leaving the Twenty-first
Michigan to support Hescock's battery, where they were assailed by
great numbers of the enemy, but held their ground until the battery
was moved, when they retired in good order, losing heavily in killed
and wounded. [See report of Lieutenant-Colonel McCreery.] Having
expended all the ammunition of the two regiments with me, I retired
to and got a supply from the train of General Rousseau, ours having
been cut off.
I then reformed my line on the east of the railroad, and moved forward
to the Murfreesborough pike. Here I received orders from General
McCook to move to the extreme right of our line, to support the cavalry,
who were threatened by the rebel cavalry, and in some danger of being
flanked. I formed and supported the Fifth Wisconsin Battery and remained
in this position until dark, after which I retired the Eighty-eighth
Illinois to the rear of the battery, and detailed the Twenty-fourth
Wisconsin for picket duty, Colonel Kennett supporting my pickets
with his cavalry.
At 2 a.m., January 1, I received your order to move the brigade
to the vicinity of your headquarters, when, in accordance with your
orders, I formed line of battle in the rear of Colonel Laiboldt's
brigade in the following order: The Thirty-sixth Illinois on the
right, Fourth Indiana Battery, Eighty-eighth Illinois, and Twenty-fourth
Wisconsin on the left, the Twenty-first Michigan being for the time
joined to the Third Brigade, Colonel Bradley commanding, where we
lay during the 1st, 2nd, and part of the 3rd of January, 1863, inactive,
with the exception of being ordered to form double column on Friday,
January 2, to support the left wing [then heavily engaged with the
enemy], if necessary, but were not needed.
Saturday, January 3, we moved, by your order, the whole brigade
[the Twenty-first Michigan having joined] to the position before
held by General Davis' division, to the right and front of our former
position, where we remained inactive until Tuesday, January 6, when
we moved to our present camp, south of Murfreesborough.
I am unable to give sufficient praise to the officers commanding
the different regiments in the brigade; all have done their duty;
but I must say that, in regard to Major Miller, Captain Olson, and
Adjutant Biddulph, of the Thirty-sixth Illinois; Colonel Sherman
and Major Chandler, of the Eighty-eighth Illinois; Lieutenant-Colonel
McCreery and Adjt. M. B. Wells, of the Twenty-fourth Wisconsin, they
behaved with great coolness and presence of mind, ever ready to obey
my command. Of my staff, I would especially notice Lieut. J. B. Watkins,
acting assistant adjutant-general; Lieutenant J. L. Mitchell, aide-de-camp;
Lieut. N. S. Bouton, brigade quartermaster, who was very active in
procuring ammunition, and Quartermaster Sergt. Frederick Colburn,
Thirty-third Ohio, acting as volunteer aide to General Sill, and
after his death in the same capacity to me, and who showed great
coolness and activity in carrying orders during the thickest of the
fight. Brigade Surg. D. W. Young deserves especial notice for his
untiring efforts to care for the wounded.
In General Sill we all feel that we have lost an able commander
and a kind friend; though but a short time with us, he had endeared
himself to the whole command by his quiet, unassuming disposition,
combining gentleness with strict discipline, courageous in action
almost to a fault. We all feel that the brigade and the service have
lost an officer hard to be replaced.
I inclose with this the reports of the commanders of the different
regiments; also a complete list of casualties, the aggregate of which
is as follows: Killed, 102; wounded, 369; missing, 200. Total, 671.
I am, sir, yours, very respectfully,
Commanding First Brigade, Third Division.
Assistant Adjutant-General, Third Division.
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