HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF TENNESSEE, Tullahoma, Tenn., February 23, 1863.
SIR: On December 26, last, the enemy advanced in force from Nashville to attack us at Murfreesborough. It had been well ascertained that his strength was over 60,000 effective men. Before night on that day the object of the movement was developed by our dispositions in front, and orders were given for the necessary concentration of our forces, then distributed as follows: Polk's corps and three brigades of Breckinridge's division, Hardee's corps, at Murfreesborough; the balance of Hardee's corps near Eagleville, about 20 miles west of Murfreesborough; McCown's division (which, with Stevenson's division removed, constituted Smith's corps) at Readyville, 12 miles east of Murfreesborough, the three cavalry brigades of Wheeler, Wharton, and Pegram occupying the entire front of our infantry, and covering all approaches to within 10 miles of Nashville; Buford's small cavalry brigade, of about 600, at McMinnville. The brigades of Forrest and Morgan (about 5,000 effective cavalry) were absent on special service in West Tennessee and Northern Kentucky, as will be more fully noticed hereafter. Jackson's small infantry brigade was in rear, guarding the railroad from Bridgeport, Ala., to the mountains.
On Sunday, the 28th, our main force of infantry and artillery was concentrated in front of Murfreesborough, while the cavalry, supported by three brigades of infantry and three batteries of artillery, impeded the advance of the enemy by constant skirmishing and sudden and unexpected attacks. To the skillful manner in which the cavalry, thus ably supported, was handled, and to the exceeding gallantry of its officers and men, must be attributed the four days' time consumed by the enemy in reaching the battle-field, a distance of only 20 miles from his encampments, over fine macadamized roads.
Fully aware of the greatly superior numbers of the enemy, as indicated in my early reports from this quarter, it was our policy to await attack. The position was selected and line developed with this intention. Owing to the convergence upon our depot at Murfreesborough of so many fine roads by which the enemy could approach, as will appear from the inclosed map, marked 1,* we were confined in our selection to a line near enough the point of juncture to enable us to successfully cover them all until the real point of attack should be developed.
On Monday, the 29th, it was reported that heavy columns moved on both the direct road from La Vergne and on the one leading into the Lebanon road by way of Jefferson, but on Tuesday, the 30th, it was ascertained that the Jefferson pike was abandoned by a countermarch, and the whole forces of the enemy were concentrated on and near the direct road on the west of Stone's River. The dispositions made for the unequal contest will appear from the inclosed map, marked 2,* and the copy of memoranda to general and staff officers, marked 3.* These arrangements were all completed before the enemy crossed Stewart's Creek, 9 miles out, and the infantry brigades were at once called in, and the cavalry was ordered to fall back more rapidly, having most gallantly discharged its duty and fully accomplished the object desired.
Late on Monday it became apparent the enemy was extending his right, so as to flank us on the left. McCown's division, in reserve, was promptly thrown to that flank and added to the command of Lieutenant-General Polk. The enemy not meeting our expectations of making an attack on Tuesday, which was consumed in artillery firing and heavy
*To appear in Atlas.