Numbers 196. Report of Colonel John H. Savage, Sixteenth Tennessee Infantry.
JANUARY 8, 1863.
The following report of the conduct of the Sixteenth Tennessee Regiment in the battle before Murfreesborough, December 31, 1862, is respectfully submitted:
When the advance was ordered, my regiment being the right of Cheatham's division, I was directed by General Donelson (through his aide, Captain [John] Bradford) to move along the railroad, but two companies to its right and eight on its left, taking the guide to the right. The advance was made under a heavy cannonade, and the line of battle and direction maintained, although serious obstructions impeded the march. The eight left companies advanced between the railroad and the turnpike in front of the Cowan house without the slightest protection, engaging a battery and the enemy's infantry in the woods at a distance of less than 150 yards. The right companies advanced through a stalk-field to the edge of a cotton-patch. Here the enemy opened a heavy fire at short range from a line extending to the right as far as I could see. This killed Captain Spurlock, who fell while leading his men in the most gallant manner. At this moment it seemed to me that I was without the expected support on my left, and that the line had divided and gone off in that direction. My men shot the horses and gunners of the battery in front, but I could not advance without being outflanked and
by the enemy on my right; I therefore ordered them to halt and fire. In a few moments my acting lieutenant-colonel (L. N. Savage) fell by my side, supposed mortally wounded, and my acting major (Captain Womack) had his right arm badly broken. There were batteries to the right and left of the railroad which literally swept the ground. The men maintained of fight against superior numbers with great spirit and obstinacy. The left companies, being very near and without any protection, sustained a heavy loss. Thirty men were left dead upon the spot where they halted dressed in perfect line of battle. It was on the day following a sad spectacle, speaking more eloquently for the discipline and courage of the men than any words I can employ. Here the Thirty-ninth North Carolina came up in my rear, and I ordered in into line of battle to my right, but before it got into position the lieutenant-colonel was shot down and was carried from the field. Under the command of Captain [A. W. Bell] it continued under my control and did good service until driven from this position, after which I lost sight of it.
Seeing a heavy force of the enemy crossing the field to my right and rear, I ordered the line to fall back to the river, and formed two lines to the front and right. To cover this space the men were deployed as skirmishers. I also ordered forward a portion of Blythe's Mississippi Regiment that had collected near the railroad, and was joined by Lieutenants [J. F.] Williamson and [T. W.] McMurry (Fifty-first Regiment), with three companies, who continued with me and did good service. This force checked and drove back the enemy advancing up the river, and a column that attempted to cut off my whole party advancing along the railroad, but not without loss. Lieutenant [R. B.] Anderson, of the Sixteenth, a valuable officer, while directing the skirmishers was dangerously wounded and carried under the river bank by Privates Thompson and Adcock, all od whom were captured by the enemy upon his subsequent advance. When Adams' brigade advanced I drew back my little force to let it move to the front, which it did in gallant style, but