front of Stewart's Creek, and, with a cavalry brigade under General Wheeler, was held in observation. The enemy made a general forward movement on the 26th in their immediate front, and they were ordered to retire slowly upon the line of battle which the general commanding had decided to adopt-on Stone's River, a short distance from Murfreesborough.
On the evening of the 28th, my brigades struck their tents and retired their baggage trains to the rear, and on the morning of the 29th they were placed in line of battle. As the brigades composing the division of Major-General Withers had not been engaged in any heavy battle since that of Shiloh, I placed them in the first line.* They extended from the river, near the intersection of the Nashville turnpike and railroad, southward across the Wilkinson pike to the Triune or Franklin road, in a line irregular, but adapted to the topography. The division of Major-General Cheatham was posted in the rear of that of Major-General Withers, as a supporting force. The division of Major-General McCown, of Lieutenant General Kirby Smith's army corps, was in prolongation of that of General Withers, on the left, having that of Major-General Cleburne, of Lieutenant-General Hardee's corps, as its supporting force. Major-General Breckinridge's division, of Lieutenant-General Hardee's corps, occupied the ground on the east side of the river, in the line of Major-General Withers, on the right. The enemy moved forward, and our outposts fell back slowly and took their place in the line of battle on the 29th.
On the 30th, in order to discover the position at which we proposed to offer battle, he moved up cautiously, shelling his front heavily as he advanced. The cannonading was responded to along our line, and the theater of impending conflict was speedily determined. On the left of my line the skirmishing became very active, and my left brigades, front and rear, became hotly engaged with the line which was being formed immediately before them. The enemy pressed forward very heavily with both artillery and infantry, and a sharp contest ensued, in which he attempted, with several regiments, to take one of my batteries by assault, but was repulsed in the most decisive manner. In this preliminary onset many lives were lost on both sides. It was, from its severity, an appropriate introduction to the great battle of the ensuing day and prepared our troops for the work before them. Twilight following soon after, the enemy settled around his bivouac fires for the night.
Orders were issued by the general commanding to attack in the morning at daybreak. The attack was to be made by the extreme left, and the whole line was ordered to swing around from left to right upon my right brigade as a pivot. Major-General Breckinridge, on the extreme right and across the river, was to hold the enemy in observation on that flank.
At the appointed time the battle opened, evidently to the surprise of the opposing army. Major-General McCown, who was acting under the orders of Lieutenant-General Hardee, was upon them before they were prepared to receive him. He captured several batteries and one brigadier-general, wounded another, and drove three brigades-those composing the division of Brigadier-General [R. W.] Johnson-in confusion before him. He was followed quickly by Major-General Cleburne as a
*The division of Major-General Withers was placed in the front line by my order. See memoranda to general and staff officers, accompanying my report.