29th North Carolina Infantry: Battle of Stones River

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Report of Col. Robert B. Vance, Twenty-ninth North Carolina
Infantry, commanding regiment and Second Brigade.

-- --, [1863.]
[The following is a] report [of the operations of the]
Twenty-ninth North Carolina Regt. in [the] fight near
Murfreesborough, December 31, 1862:

On the morning of December 31, the regiment, under my command,
took its place in the line of battle on the left, of the brigade (Rains'),
which was the extreme left of Gen. McCown's division. Ten minutes
after forming, the order to advance was given, which was done in good
order until a lane half a mile from the point of starting was reached,
when the enemy's pickets were encountered, and a short but brisk
firing commenced, without, however, retarding the progress of the
command for one moment. The pickets fell back behind the cover of a
field battery of one brass piece (12-pounder howitzers), which the men,
sweeping on, took before it could be got into position to open fire. Four
of the gunners were captured at their guns, besides some other of the
enemy's vedettes, who were run down by our men in the chase, which
had now extended to 2 1/2 miles. Not stopping at this gun longer than
to send the prisoners to the rear, the regiment again pushed on (in its
designated place in the brigade) for, perhaps, 2 miles farther, capturing
meantime one six-mule team and wagon, loaded with ammunition,
instruments of a brass band, kettle and bass drum, and one four-mule
wagon, loaded with medical stores. Soon after, in passing through a
dense oak wood, a battalion of the enemy's sharpshooters were
discovered lying on the ground some 50 paces in advance. They fired
one volley into us, which, being promptly returned, they retired rapidly
across a corn-field and into a thicket of cedars, where the enemy were
posted in strong force. This thicket of cedars was so dense that it
formed in itself a natural breastworks and protection to the enemy
posted therein. Halting the regiment but a moment for the stragglers to
close up, the command was given to drive them out, and the men
commenced promptly to advance. Here the struggle of the day took
place. The enemy, sheltering themselves behind the trunks of the thickly
standing trees and the large rocks, of which there were many,
stubbornly contested the ground inch by inch. Our brave boys, cheered
on and led by their field, staff, and company officers, advanced through
a very tempest of leaden hail and drove them pell-mell from the thicket
into an open field beyond. Here the enemy's batteries, on an eminence
half mile beyond, began to play upon us. The men stood to their places
amid this storm of shot and shell and grape and canister until it was
ascertained that their ammunition was exhausted. Just at this moment,
too, Gen. Rains was seen to fall, and the news, running like wild-fire
along the whole line, produced a temporary confusion, which induced
the senior colonel of the brigade to order the command to fall back both
to get ammunition and to shelter themselves from the enemy's batteries,
against which they could do nothing.

During the engagement my horse was killed and Adjutant [John E.]
Hoye's shot under him.

The regiment entered the fight with 300 men, but, from the
long-continued chase, at least 50 fell out and were not in the fight in the
cedars. We had 5 men killed, 46 wounded, and 5 missing, making a
total of 56.

Some of the officers and men deserve especial mention for their daring,
gallantry, and good conduct upon the field, while all engaged did their
duty.

Respectfully submitted.

ROBT. B. VANCE,
Col., Cmdg. Twenty-ninth North Carolina Regt.

Maj. [H. S.] BRADFORD,
Assistant Adjutant-Gen.

HDQRS. SECOND BRIGADE, Shelbyville, Tenn., January 10, 1863.
SIR: I have the honor to submit my report of the part taken in the battle
of Murfreesborough on the 31st ultimo by the Second Brigade,
McCown's division.

On the morning of the 31st, the brigade was formed in line at
day-break, the Twenty-ninth North Carolina Regt. having just
arrived from McMinnville, Tenn. The command ''forward'' was soon
given, and the whole command promptly sprang forward, soon taking
the double-quick, which was kept, under the direction of Gen. Rains
(who gallantly led his troops forward), until arriving at a range, where
we encountered the enemy's pickets, who fired upon us and fled. One
man in the Twenty-ninth North Carolina was killed in the first fire.
Crossing the fences, the double-quick was taken again, the enemy's
skirmishers continuing to retreat rapidly before our shouting and
triumphant troops. The charge was continued for about the distance of
3 miles, when the command was halted, the flank resting on a creek.
Here the stragglers were gathered up and the brigade reformed.

During the charge the Twenty-ninth North Carolina Regt. captured
one 12-pounder howitzers, one six-horse wagon laden with ammunition,
and one medical wagon, while the gunners were driven from a battery
on the right of Col. Stovall, Third Georgia, and the pieces sent to the
rear. The charge was so rapid that time was not afforded to ascertain the
number of pieces thus sent back, as the command was not halted for a
moment.

After resting for a short time, the command was moved some distance
by the right flank, then moved by the front through several fields into
a grove of oaks.

At this point the brigade was changed somewhat. Col. Stovall, Third
Georgia [Battalion], was placed on right; Maj. [J. T.] Smith, Ninth
Georgia, next; then Col. Vance, Twenty-ninth North Carolina,
leaving Col. [G. W.] Gordon, Eleventh Tennessee, on left. In this
manner we advanced, encountering the enemy in force in a few
moments. He delivered one fire and fell back in confusion, our boys
pushing on with enthusiasm, charging through the forest, and driving the
enemy pell-mell before them. The enemy formed again on a slight
elevation in our front, from which they were soon driven into a cedar
thicket, and from thence finally into a large field under cover of their
guns, a heavy battery of which opened on us at once with shell, grape,
and canister, while the enemy's infantry rallied and opened fire from
two or three heavy lines of battle. Here was the struggle for the day,
and a hard one it was. Almost immediately after his hard contest began
our gallant and noble brigadier-general (James E. Rains) was shot
through the heart, falling dead from his horse. Still, the troops fought
on, though the fall of so daring a leader necessarily produced
considerable confusion. Owing to the dense cedar through which we
were charging, the Third and Ninth Georgia Battalions got separated
from the Twenty-ninth North Carolina and Eleventh Tennessee, on the
extreme right. From the reports of Col. Stovall and Maj. Smith, I
learn that these gallant commands were hotly engaged in front and on
the right flank, being subjected to an enfilading fire. They drove the
enemy from his position, and, finding the line falling back, joined it and
reformed in the oak woods. They subsequently obtained position on the
right of Gen. Johnson's brigade, and continued there until placed in
the new line of battle near the cedar swamp, and were kept in line until
Friday night, January 2, having occasional skirmishes wit the enemy in
front.

In the mean time the Twenty-ninth North Carolina and Eleventh
Tennessee, after continuing the engagement for some time, found their
ammunition exhausted, and accordingly retired to get supplied and to
recover the line fully. Here again the Twenty-ninth [North Carolina] and
Eleventh Tennessee became separated, as, through a mistake, the
commands went to different points for ammunition. From
[Lieut.]-Col. [William] Thedford's report (Col. Gordon
having been wounded in the cedar thicket), I learn that after getting the
cartridge-boxes filled they went in with Gen. Liddell's brigade and
sustained heavy loss in a severe action, capturing several pieces, which
they were compelled to abandon for want of support.

The Twenty-ninth North Carolina also returned to the field, and were
ordered to attack a brigade of the enemy which was trying to flank
Gen. McNair. The command moved across the open field, being
exposed to a raking fire from the enemy's battery near by; but meeting
Gen. McNair's brigade coming out, the command was ordered to join
it, which it did in the woods to the rear, where they were also joined by
the Eleventh Tennessee.

Receiving orders to obey the orders of Col. Harper, I joined my two
regiments to Gen. McNair's brigade, and we were moved on the new
line of battle, constituting Gen. McCown's right, on Gen.
Cheatham's left. Here we lay in line of battle until Friday night, January
2, occasionally skirmishing in front and constantly expecting the attack
to be renewed.

From the report of First Lieut. W. A. McDuffie, Eufaula Light Artillery,
I learn that his battery was engaged with the enemy for an hour on
December 30, and that he was the ordered to take position in front of
his own (Second) brigade (he having been supporting Robertson's
battery), but could not do so for want of ammunition, which was
supplied during the night.

On Wednesday (31st) he was ordered to the front, and took position
near the Nolensville pike, but was not engaged; Second Lieut.
[W. J.] McKenzie was ordered to take position with two pieces on the
extreme left, with Gen. Buford. Here he was engaged on the 31st for
two hours, co-operating with Gen. Wheeler's cavalry. The report
speaks of the conduct of the men.

From all that I saw, and have sine heard, of the conduct of the troops
on the field, I fell that I cannot speak too highly of them. The ground
charged over first and last was quite 5 miles, and the time occupied in
the charge three and three-quarters hours.

The field and staff officers of the different commands, and the brigade
staff officers, behaved nobly, and have surely merited high favors at the
hands of their country.

It is perhaps unnecessary to speak further of Gen. Rains. His
gallantry and daring exposure of himself was certainly not surpassed
upon the field. Peace to his ashes.

As coming under my own eye, I beg to mention Adjt. J. E. Hoey, of the
Twenty-ninth North Carolina, who behaved with extraordinary courage
upon the field, encouraging the men by word and deed.

Several officers had their horses killed.

For the casualties* of the command I refer you to report of killed,
wounded, and missing.

Respectfully submitted.

ROBT. B. VANCE,
Col., Cmdg. Second Brigade, Army of Tennessee.
Maj. [H. S.] BRADFORD,
Assistant Adjutant-Gen.

Source: Official Records. KY., MID. AND E. TENN., N. ALA., AND SW. VA. [CHAP. XXXII, Series I, Vol. 20, Part I, Reports. Serial No. 29.]

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