up from Stewartsborough, reached the position occupied by the army about 4 p.m., and bivouacked on the Murfreesborough pike in rear of the center.
During the night of the 30th I sent orders to Walker to take up a strong position near the turnpike bridge over Stewart's Creek, and defend the position against any attempts of the enemy's cavalry to destroy it. Rousseau was ordered to move by 6 a.m. on the 31st to a position in rear of Negley. This position placed his division with its left on the Murfreesborough pike, and its right extending into the cedar thicket through which Negley had marched on the 30th. In front of Negley's position, bordering a large open field, reaching to the Murfreesborough pike, a heavy growth of timber extended in a southerly direction, the enemy had thrown up rifle-pits at intervals, from the timber to the river bank, to the east side of the turnpike. Along this line of intrenchments, on an eminence about 800 yards from Negley's position, and nearly in front of his left, some cannon had been placed, affording the enemy great advantage in covering an attack on our center. However, Palmer, Negley, and Sheridan held the position their troops had so manfully won the morning of the 30th against every attempt to drive them back, and remained in line of battle during the night.
December 31, between 6 and 7 a.m., the enemy, having massed a heavy force on McCook's right during the night of the 30th, attacked and drove it back, pushing his division in pursuit en echelon, and in supporting distance, until he had gained sufficient ground to our rear to wheel his masses to the right and throw them upon the right flank of the center, at the same moment attacking Negley and Palmer in front with a greatly superior force. To counteract this movement, I had ordered Rousseau to place two brigades, with a battery, to the right and rear of Sheridan's division, facing toward the west, so as to support Sheridan, should he be able to hold his ground, or to cover him, should he be compelled to fall back.
About 11 o'clock General Sheridan reported to me that his ammunition was entirely out, and he would be compelled to fall back to get more. As it became necessary for General Sheridan to fall back, the enemy pressed o still farther to our rear, and soon took up a position which gave them a concentrated cross-fire of musketry and cannon on Negley's and Rousseau's troops at short range. This compelled me to fall back out of the cedar woods, and take up a line along a depression in the open ground, within good musket-range of the edge of the woods, while the artillery was retired to the high ground to the right of the turnpike. From this last position we were enabled to drive back the enemy, cover the formation of our troops, and secure the center on the high ground. In the execution of this last movement, the regular brigade, under Lieutenant-Colonel Shepherd, Eighteenth U. S. Infantry, came under a most murderous fire, losing 22 officers and 508 men in killed and wounded, but, with the co-operation of Scribner's and Beatty's brigades and Guenther's and Loomis' batteries, gallantly held its ground against overwhelming odds. The center having succeeded in driving back the enemy from its front, and our artillery concentrating its fire on the cedar thicket on our right, drove him back far under cover, from which, though repeatedly attempting it, he could not make any advance.
January 1, 1863, repeated attempts were made by the enemy to advance on my position during the morning, but they were driven back before emerging from the woods. Colonel Starkweather's brigade of Rousseau's division and Walker's brigade of Fry's division having re-enforced