No. 8. Report of Capt. Jesse Merrill, Chief Signal Officer.
HDQRS. SIGNAL CORPS, FOURTEENTH ARMY CORPS, Murfreesborough, January 7, 1863.
MAJOR: We left Nashville on Friday, December 26, in company with the advancing army, and kept well up to the front until Monday, when the troops were pushed vigorously forward, about 11 miles from where we then were, to the place which was afterward the
battle-field, the west side of one fork of Stone's River. We kept communication with two columns of the advancing troops, but, as they afterward merged into one, one of the lines was abandoned. The one kept up was with General Crittenden, commanding left wing; the one abandoned, with Negley's division of center, which came in on Crittenden's right, on the same road on which we were.
The right wing of the army, under McCook, consisting of three divisions, marched on a road about 6 miles to our right. We used all our energies in trying to get communication with him, but failed, the intervening country being almost level, and a dense wood.
On Monday night I accompanied Generals Rosecrans and Thomas to the front. Communication was kept from the front to the rear during the night. A copy of the messages sent will be forwarded as soon as the reports are received. On Tuesday we communicated between Generals Rosecrans and Thomas. McCook was then about 10 miles to the right in the woods.
Crittenden's headquarters were beside those of Rosecrans. The skirmishing during the afternoon was very severe. At daylight on Wednesday morning loud reports of artillery and musketry in rapid succession were heard on the right, and at almost the same time an attack was made on the front center. Between 8 and 9 o'clock McCook's line of battle was broken, and his division separated, and, straggling, rushed through the woods to the Murfreesborough pike, 2 miles from their original position. Another line was formed parallel with the pike, and here the enemy were successfully resisted, both on the right and in front. They were pressing us heavily, though, and when the sun went down, and the din of battle and the roar of artillery ceased, all seemed relieved.
Signals could not be used to any advantage on that field; woods and clumps of trees were all around us. Even if this had not been so, it would have been impossible to use them, for General Rosecrans was constantly riding over the field, and other generals seemed equally active. At no one time, and I rode with him during most of the day, do I remember of his having been one-half hour at the same place. The result of this day's fight was, our right wing driven 2 miles, with a loss of thirty pieces of artillery, and a large number of wounded and prisoners, and thousands of stragglers, who were rushing to the rear, and could hardly be driven back to their places in the ranks. On Thursday both armies lay quiet, seemingly worn out by the contest of the previous day. To us it was a day of terrible suspense. On Friday afternoon all our available force was massed on the left, to attack the enemy's right. Happily for us, they attacked us just when we were about to move on them, and they were driven back with great loss and in much disorder. On Saturday evening we again attacked them, and drove them from a strong position. On Sunday morning they had withdrawn