Report from Brigade 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terrific artillery duel between our battery and the enemy's, which finally resulted in their battery being silenced and withdrawn.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,

N. GREUSEL,
Colonel, Commanding First Brigade, Third Division.

Lieut. GEORGE LEE,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General, Third Division.

 

 

 

 

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