No. 237. Report of Major. John T. Lesley, Fourth Florida Infantry.
JANUARY 10, 1863.
SIR: In obedience to your order of this date, I have the honor to make the following report of the part taken by the Fourth Florida Regiment in the late battles before Murfreesborough:
On the evening of December 31, 1862, the Fourth Florida Regiment, together with the other regiments of the brigade [to wit, General Preston's], was ordered forward, and formed a line of battle on the right of General Palmer's brigade, on the northwest side of Stone's River, the Fourth Florida occupying the center of Preston's brigade. General Breckinridge, commanding in person, gave the command "forward," which was promptly repeated by General Preston, and the whole brigade moved forward in regular order. The Fourth Florida, encountering some picket fences on the route, was compelled to pull them down amid a most galling fire of grape, bomb-shell, and canister. Still preserving perfect order, they marched forward, amid this deadly fire, a distance of 1,000 yards, where they encountered near a thicket a body of sharpshooters, who had taken shelter therein. At this critical moment the command "halt" was given. They were thus subjected to the fire from three different batteries of the enemy's artillery, and a cross-fire from the rifles of the sharpshooters. The command "fire" was given, which was responded to with alacrity. A hot contest ensued; the sharpshooters were soon driven from their lurking place. Our regiment being at a halt, and General Preston, doubtless, thinking they were wavering, rode forward, seized the flag, and called upon the regiment to charge. With a joyous shout our boys sprang forward, and were soon in possession of the wood that had lately covered the enemy. The enemy now turned their battery upon this cedar forest, literally tearing the trees to pieces by their balls, but doing us comparatively little damage. Our loss in this charge amounted to about 55 killed and wounded.
Again, on Friday, January 2, we were ordered to prepare for immediate action. Our brigade, together with Palmer's brigade, was marched to the southeast of Stone's River, to attack a formidable position of the enemy in their rear. The two brigades were formed in an open field, when the command "forward" was again given. Palmer's brigade being the advance, they charged upon the enemy amid a perfect shower of bullets. Balls whistling around us thick and loud, we were ordered to lie down. In ten minutes the order was given, "Up and to the charge." This order was responded to most heartily by our regiment and the brigade. They rushed forward with such impetuosity as to throw the enemy for a moment into confusion. They, however, soon rallied. A fierce and bloody contest now ensued for about one hour. There was one continual rattle of musketry and roar of artillery. The ranks of the enemy were being rapidly thinned when re-enforcements came to their succor, and they were in the act of flanking us on both wings when the order was given to retreat. Thus was valor force to give ground to overwhelming numbers. I mean no disparagement to other gallant regiments to state that the Fourth Florida was the last to leave the field.
This, sir, is a brief statement of the part taken by our regiment in the actual contest of the great battle before Murfreesborough, to say nothing of the marches and counter-marches we took in rapid succession