Smith, Thomas – January 12, 1863

Michigan Civil War Collection Letters

Click here for this soldier’s biography:

Regiment: 11th Michigan Infantry

Battles Mentioned: Murfreesboro, Tennessee

Historical Figures: Lovell H. Rousseau, Richard W. Johnson

MurfreesboroJan 12th 1863

Friend Kate,

This morning I seat myself to inform you that I am yet well and trust this may find you the same.

Well we have taken Murfreesboro and I have no doubt you have seen by the papers long before this. After five days of hard fighting we entered the town. The battle commenced on Tuesday the 30th day of December and ended on Saturday the third of January in the night.

On the first day of the fight we lost but one man killed but on Wednesday the fight commenced early in the morning and the rebels turned General Johnson’s right flank and about nine o’clock they came pouring in on us. And such a storm of cannon balls, bomb shells, grape, and canister shot and bullets you never seen nor I never want to. See again they fell as thick as hail all around us and I tell it killed and wounded a great many of our men and at one time we were about surrounded but we fought our way out. The circle that was around us was just like a horse shoe and we were on the inside. So you see they poured into us all around but our men fought like tigers and by that means we were saved from being all taken prisoners. We fought until about one o’clock when we got under cover of some of our heavy artillery and by that means got a little rest. Presently the fire got too hot for them and they withdrew from the woods. Night at last came and put an end to the fighting for that day and I was glad enough of it for I had seen enough fighting for one and I was tired and hungry having had no sleep or rest the night before nor anything to eat since before daylight in the morning.

On New Years we did not do much. Only a little skirmishing at long range in the morning but our artillery shelled the woods all day with good effect. Now and then a shell from their batteries would light near us or burst over our heads but we did not mind that much and we got a good rest.

On Friday morning the ball opened bright and early on our side but the firing was light but toward noon it became more rapid and about one o’clock the Seventy Fourth Ohio Regiment gave way and left both their forces fall on us. They fought to drive us but they sort of missed their reckoning a little. We lay down behind the river bank and left them come right up to the other side when we rose up and sent such a shower of leaden hail among them that it threw them into confusion. We charged across the river and gave them another volley. When they turned and fled our batteries opened up on them at short distance with grape and canister which helped them along. Amazingly, we followed till we came right in front of their great Washington Battery which opened a most galling fire on us but we immediately charged on it and captured it before it could do us much injury.

In their haste to get away the rebels threw away everything that would hinder them from running fast, guns, cartridge boxes, haversacks, canteens, and all. We picked up a great many of their haversacks and found they were well filled. I got two that were filled with biscuit butter and boiled ham that lasted three days. We laughed a good deal at how easy we got a good supper when we did not expect any at all as we had nothing in our haversacks.

Their canteens were well filled with whiskey and gunpowder to make their men fight better and as soon as they were killed they would turn all black and bloat right up. But with all of it they could not stand the pressure.

On Saturday, we did not do anything but support a couple of batteries that were at work throwing shells among them. About eight o’clock at night Genl Rousseau’s Division attacked some them in a small piece of woods and drove them out with great loss on their side but that ended the fighting. On Sunday morning some of our troops entered the town. The rebels had all left during the night and on Monday all our troops crossed the river into town.

On Sunday afternoon I walked of the battle on which we fought and such sights as I then saw I never wish to see again. I would rather fight the battle than to walk over the ground after it is fought and before the dead are buried and the wounded removed. It is an awful sight to look at. I do not mind it to see a man of twenty fall in time of action, but when all is still then is when it looks hard. But the fight was over and the roar of cannon, the bursting of bombs, the rattling musketry, the whistling of bullets, the shouts of the soldiers as they rushed onward to the fray, the screams of the wounded, and the groans of the dying enough for one week and I am not very anxious to hear it soon again. Out of the Company to which belong we lost seven killed and thirteen wounded out of forty two that we took into action almost one half of our number.

Our Regiment is provost guards in Murfreesboro. I do not know how we will stay but I don’t think it will be long. At least I hope not for it is hard work and but little rest.

I must now come to a close. Please answer this as soon as you get it.

I remain your friend,
Thomas W. Smith