History 2019

Day 05

May 20

  Today we start the rest of the ride to follow in JKP's footsteps. I have Frost already packed and ready to roll on to the Cracker Barrel on I24 for breakfast.  
  As I make my way across Nashville the traffic is light and Mr. Sun is just starting to peak his head over the horizon.  
  This Cracker Barrel is out near LaVergne which puts us past all the morning traffic coming into town.  
  As usual, Sissy is early just like me - which is predictable. When we were raised up, we were always taught to never be late. If you are late, you are wasting somebody else's time so we got in the habit of being early pretty early in life.  
  After talking about the rest of the trip over hen fruit and pig meat, we settle up and head toward Murfreesboro where JKP fought at the Battle of Stones River. The incoming traffic will turn into a parking lot in about an hour.  

When I was doing research to find JKP's location at this battle, it was a series of fortunate coincidences colliding to give me that information. The commanding general, Patrick Cleburne set up his headquarters in the McCulloch house. Fortunately, I found an article about the efforts of a preservation group trying to save the house from demolition. After close examination, they decided there was not enough of the original house left so it was torn down to build condominiums. But the good thing was that they gave the street address of the house so I could locate it. Then I found the battle order which gives which units fought under the direction of Cleburne which included the 17th of Tennessee (JKP's unit). From studying the previous records I knew that the 17th and the 23rd always fought side by side. Then I found notes from LT. Colonel Keeble, commander of the 23rd confirming they marched right through the yard of the house -

Battle order - 17th was the third of four brigades under Cleburne
Cleburne's Division
MG Patrick R. Cleburne

Third (Johnson's) Brigade

BG Bushrod R. Johnson
17th Tennessee: Col Albert S. Marks (w), Ltc Watt W. Floyd
23rd Tennessee: Ltc Richard H. Keeble
25th Tennessee: Col John M. Hughs (w), Ltc Samuel Davis
37th Tennessee: Col Moses White (w), Maj Joseph T. McReynolds (k), Cpt Charles G. Jarnagin
44th Tennessee: Col John S. Fulton
Jefferson (Mississippi) Artillery: Cpt Putnam Darden

23rd Tennessee Infantry Stone's River after battle report:

Report of Lieut. Col. R. H. Keeble, Twenty-third Tennessee Infantry.

JANUARY 5, 1863.

The following report of the part taken by the Twenty-third Tennessee
Regt. in the battle of Murfreesborough is respectfully submitted:

Having been changed from the right to the left wing on the evening
before the battle, its position was in an open field, the left resting upon
the road leading to the McCulloch house. On the morning of the battle,
the brigade and division made a right-wheel, in doing which it passed
the house above referred to and continued to wheel and march until its
course was almost at right angles with the one it held the evening
before, marching in its wheel through a large corn-field and a meadow.

This placed JKP somewhere in the yard of the house on the first day of the battle.

  So the first order of business this morning is to visit the site of the McCulloch House. I have to wonder if that tree was there that morning as it appears to be pretty old growth.  
  Right across the street is what would have been the front yard of the plantation house where the men marched through.  
  Andy graciously takes a picture of Sissy and me once again standing with 100 yards of where our great, great grandfather marched off to a battle - a battle where 42% of his unit would be killed.  
  Matching the old battle maps to modern maps is a real challenge but I'm pretty sure I have located the modern location of where JKP was at the end of the battle.  
  It's hard to be sure about this since the road route has probably changed some since that day, but we park to get a shot.  
  This would have been an open field on that day because the growth before us is all 'new' growth judging by the size of the trees.  
  Because the position of the farthest advance is close to the Stones River Museum, we visit it next.  
  This one is a little easier to figure out because I know the railroad has not moved since those days. And chances are the Nashville Turnpike has stayed pretty much in the same place. There is an old building there that appears to be of the correct age and was probably used by one side or the other as cover when the bullets started flying.  
  Next we head for the museum to see what else we can learn about the bloody Battle of Stones River.  
  Fortunately, we find some nice shady parking spots as the temperature is already on the rise.  
  It's a nice museum, but much smaller than we expected given the significance of this particular battle. It was one of the most costly battles during the Civil War when measured in terms of loss of life and the wounded. Over 81,000 men clashed here starting on New Year's Eve, 1862. 23,525 men were killed, wounded or captured at the end of the battle - close to 30 percent of those on the field.  
  It was a battle over the control of the railroads and the path to the city of Nashville which would give the victorious army control of the Cumberland River, a vital link for supplying troops for the war.  
  They have several interesting exhibits like this one showing what a typical soldier's tent was like. Not much protection considering this was during the heart of the winter in 1862.  

One thing I was excited to see was a picture of Sam Watkins from Mount Pleasant, Tennessee near where I grew up. After the war, he wrote a series of articles for the local newspaper from his recollections of the war. The articles were later combined into a book called 'Company Aytch' which gives a unique perspective of the war from a man that was a simple foot soldier. As he says in his writings -

The histories of the Lost Cause are all written out by "big bugs,"
generals and renowned historians, and like the fellow who called a turtle
a "cooter," being told that no such word as cooter was in Webster's
dictionary, remarked that he had as much right to make a dictionary as
Mr. Webster or any other man; so have I to write a history.
But in these pages I do not pretend to write the history of the war.
I only give a few sketches and incidents that came under the observation
of a "high private" in the rear ranks of the rebel army. Of course,
the histories are all correct. They tell of great achievements of great
men, who wear the laurels of victory; have grand presents given them;
high positions in civil life; presidents of corporations; governors of
states; official positions, etc., and when they die, long obituaries are
published, telling their many virtues, their distinguished victories,
etc., and when they are buried, the whole country goes in mourning and is
called upon to buy an elegant monument to erect over the remains of so
distinguished and brave a general, etc. But in the following pages I
propose to tell of the fellows who did the shooting and killing, the
fortifying and ditching, the sweeping of the streets, the drilling,
the standing guard, picket and videt, and who drew (or were to draw)
eleven dollars per month and rations, and also drew the ramrod and tore
the cartridge.

His unit fought in many of the same battles as the 17th Tennessee Infantry where JKP was assigned. This is his observation of part of this particular battle -

Now, another fact I will state, and that is, when the private soldier was
ordered to charge and capture the twelve pieces of artillery, heavily
supported by infantry, Maney's brigade raised a whoop and yell, and
swooped down on those Yankees like a whirl-a-gust of woodpeckers in a
hail storm, paying the blue coated rascals back with compound interest;
for when they did come, every man's gun was loaded, and they marched upon
the blazing crest in solid file, and when they did fire, there was a
sudden lull in the storm of battle, because the Yankees were nearly all
killed. I cannot remember now of ever seeing more dead men and horses
and captured cannon, all jumbled together, than that scene of blood and
carnage and battle on the Wilkerson turnpike. The ground was literally
covered with blue coats dead; and, if I remember correctly, there were
eighty dead horses.

Wilkerson Turnpike was our second stop of the day.


Two places mentioned in the battle histories are the Slaughter Pen and Hell's Half Acre -

All three of Sheridan's brigade commanders were killed or mortally wounded and many Federal units lost more than one-third of their men. Many Confederate units fared little better. Union soldiers recalled the carnage as looking like the slaughter pens in the stockyards of Chicago. The name stuck. By 10 a.m., many of the Confederate objectives had been achieved. They had captured 28 guns and over 3,000 Union soldiers.

The carnage as described by J. Morgan Smith of the Thirty-second Alabama Infantry prompted soldiers to name the field Hell's Half Acre.
"We charged in fifty yards of them and had not the timely order of retreat been given - none of us would now be left to tell the tale. … Our regiment carries two hundred and eighty into action and came out with fifty eight."

  There were so many dead after the battle, that those tasked with burying them used a bent bayonet for hooking and dragging dead bodies to mass graves.  

This is the uniform jacket of Private Henry Hall who was killed when a cannon ball ripped both his legs from his body on the last day of the battle. This is a letter written to his mother by a friend and fellow soldier -

Manchester Tenn, Feb 9th 1863

Dear Mrs. Hall

As an opportunity offers itself to send a letter through to you. I conclude to write you feeling it a duty to give you information in regard to Henry, who you have doubtless been informed met his fate on the field of Murfreesboro.
He was killed almost instantly by a cannon ball passing through both thighs, severing his legs from his body, on Friday the 2nd of January. It being almost dark and us being compelled to retire from the field, I am sorry to say his body fell in the hands of the enemy. I did not see him myself after he was killed, we was seperated during the battle.
I heard he was killed before the battle was over and tried to recover his body, but could not find it. I was very much grieved to leave him on the field, but under the circumstances it could not be otherwise. Henry and myself have associated together for several years and I always found in him a kind and faithful friend.
You can imagine, Mrs. Hall, how much I am grieved for him, but we should not morn now he is dead. The hand of God has cut him down, and I hope, taken his soul from this world of sorrow to Himself above, where he may enjoy eternal bliss.
You must not grieve for Henry, but only think of the thousands of mothers in your condition made so by the implacable enemy who seeks to destroy our liberty and enslave us. Your son died a martyr, nobly laying down his life for his country. He was a good boy and a good soldier. He will ever live in the memory of his comrades, whose fortunes it may be to survive this bloody war.
I will close as I believe I have written all of which I know of the subject, painful as it is for me to speak or even think of. Virgil was wounded slightly, but has recovered entirely and is in good health.

From Yours Truly
H.F. Nuckols 4th KY

  Outside is a typical cannon like the one that killed Private Henry Hall.  
  Some of the most deadly and fierce fighting took place ...  

in the field in front of us. One thing we do begin to understand after visiting several of these battlefields is just how arrogant and uncaring the Confederate General Braxton Bragg was in real life. He often sent his men across open fields against fortified positions with no concern about casualties. Bragg treated them as if they were expendable resources, seldom did reconnaissance work to determine the enemy locations and plans, always blamed someone else when his plans failed and then did not understand why his officers and men did not respond quickly to his orders. (I feel certain that I have often encountered his 'descendants' in many corporate settings.) One of the few times his forces won the battle, he could not believe that the Union forces were still there. After all, he won the battle (of course at great cost of men and resources), so they should have left. He was quick to severely punish any soldier for any reason that he decided to use. An excerpt from "Company Aytch" by Sam Watkins tells us -

Well, here we were, again "reorganizing," and after our lax discipline on the road to and from Virginia, and after a big battle, which always disorganizes an army, what wonder is it that some men had to be shot, merely for discipline's sake? And what wonder that General Bragg's name became a terror to deserters and evil doers? Men were shot by scores, and no wonder the army had to be reorganized. Soldiers had enlisted for twelve months only, and had faithfully complied with their volunteer obligations; the terms for which they had enlisted had expired, and they naturally looked upon it that they had a right to go home. They had done their duty faithfully and well. ... From this time on till the end of the war, a soldier was simply a machine, a conscript. It was mighty rough on rebels. We cursed the war, we cursed Bragg, ... All our pride and valor had gone, and we were sick of war

Union generals were pretty quickly removed if they did not gain success on the field. We find out that Bragg was a good friend of Confederate President Jefferson Davis which explains why he was not removed until it was too late to do any good.


As we make our way back out to our rides, we see a car with two lovely poochie dogs, Daisy and Tucker. They immediately sense that I am a practiced dog petter and allow me to minister to them. Tucker says -

"I'll give you 30 minutes to stop that" or at least that's what I understand him to say. Their human tells us that they are both rescue dogs and it sure looks like they have finally found a good home.

  But we have more things to see and do so we mount up and proceed on to Hoover's Gap, the next place of engagement for the 17th Tennessee and JKP Lowrance.  

Locating his actual location on this battlefield was a real challenge. His unit played more of a supporting roll in this battle. But with some very careful topological work, I have located the site that his unit occupied during the battle. It is about 1 1/2 miles from the center point of the action, on the hilltop to our left. Sissy and Andy, who probably have better sense than me, decide they will pass on climbing over a barbwire fence and tramping up a steep hill through waist high undergrowth.

  So with a grunt and a growl, I'm off like a duck after a June bug. The hillside has not been cut in a long time so it makes for some very difficult walking. At least I will be able to 'see' my footsteps when I come back down.  
  When I reach the top after much huffing and puffing, I look behind me and see an old roadway. This would have been the way that they came to the top of this hill given where they were before the battle started.  
  I also see an old pathway to my left so other troops may have joined them by that access.  
  As I look forward, I see the view that they would have had looking toward the enemy on the next hill top.  
  Since I have no picture taker but me, this will have to be a selfie. But at least I know that with 100 yards of where I am standing, JKP was here on that day on June 24, 1863.  
  Going down is not much easier than climbing up, but I finally make it back to road without having a major heart attack. But I do have to sit down and pull off all the 'sticktites' that have decorated my riding pants as I do not want to transfer them to the inside of my overpants.  
  With that bit of business taken care of, and many assurances from Sissy and Andy on how glad they were they didn't follow me, we are off to the main battle site.  

On the top of the hill that was the Union main position, is an original family cemetery. As was the custom in the area in those days, grave sites were marked by carefully stacked stones on top of the grave. Also on this hilltop is the first Confederate Cemetery in the United States.


Here is the story -

The Beech Grove Confederate Cemetery

High atop a hill, with the Confederate battle flag flying proudly in the breeze, nestled between the hustle and bustle of busy Interstate 24 and U.S. 41 just about halfway between Murfreesboro and Manchester, is the first Confederate cemetery to be established after the War Between the States. It also holds the distinction of being the final resting place for 50 unknown Confederate soldiers who were killed at the Battle of Hoover's Gap, where Spencer Repeating Rifles were first used by Union troops. Despite the changing character of surrounding lands evolving into twenty-first century icons, the integrity of this small cemetery, and the tranquility of that place in time, still exists today.

The following is a letter published in the Manchester Times newspaper in 1904 by Civil War veteran and former resident of Beech Grove, William Hume, which tells the story of how the cemetery came into being -

Dear Friend and Comrade, As you are aware, nearly every man able to bear arms in the First, Second, and Third Districts of Coffee County, and in the adjoining districts of Rutherford and Bedford Counties, was in the Confederate Army, and made the best of soldiers.
In the spring of 1866, quite a number assembled at Beech Grove, and reports were made that many Confederate soldiers had been hastily buried in the fields and pastures nearby, and in some instances the graves were so shallow that portions of the remains were showing. These men all having lately returned to their homes-with fences and stock to a great extent destroyed or stolen and the country devastated-at once agreed to have all these bodies of Confederate soldiers taken up and given a suitable resting place. They selected the top of the hill in the old graveyard on the Manchester Pike, near the Rutherford County line, and in full view of the Manchester Pike, on the land owned by David Lawrence. They then had a nice walnut coffin made for each and re-interred there, putting head-boards on each grave, but being unable to put any name, as all were unknown. They also put a nice paling fence around the graves.
This was done by the people there at their own expense, never having called on any other section for help, and was the first Confederate Soldiers' graveyard in the South that I have any knowledge of.
The majority of these veterans and their fathers who did this work are dead. Possibly Stokley Jacobs, Bud Jacobs, and Henry Bivins could give you some information in regard to this.
I think it is due your country to have this honor, as it was done at a time when the Confederate soldier did not occupy the position in the State of Tennessee and the United States that he does today, and was entirely the work of love for fallen comrades.
Wm Hume
Manchester Times, March 25, 1904

At the time this cemetery was chosen as the final resting place for these fifty unknown Confederate soldiers, there were a few family graves, including one Revolutionary War Soldier, on the site. In 1942, one other Confederate veteran was buried there. For many years it was cared for by local residents and former veterans. Despite their efforts, it fell into a state of disrepair and vandalism became a serious problem. Then in the early 1950's, $5,000 in state money was appropriated to replace the deteriorating and missing original grave markers. Through the efforts of the late David Jacobs, a retired educator and historian, and with the help of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, an additional $5,000 was raised. The land was purchased and the cemetery dedicated in 1955. Mr. Jacobs was its caretaker until his death in 1993. The SCV continues to care for the cemetery at present.

  On the hilltop is also a memorial of the units that fought in that battle. This one lists the 17th Tennessee as one of the units that was led by Bushrod Johnson.  

Here are some very interesting and unusual notes about the battle -

Company E, of the 72nd Indiana overran its position and while returning to the battle line, and being fired upon by Confederates, came across three small children, two girls and a boy, trying to find their way out of the woods amid the shower of bullets. The firing suddenly stopped. Sgt. Wilhite of the 72nd dismounted, helped the children over a fence and headed them toward a house out of range of the battle. The fighting then resumed and Company E went about its business of fighting its way back to the brigade.


The 4th Division of MG Joseph Reynolds spearheaded by Colonel John T. Wilder, at the head of the "Lighting Brigade" of mounted infantry and armed with Spencer rifles, moved into the four-mile-long valley of Hoover's Gap and opened the Tullahoma Campaign . With the firepower of the Spencer rifles and an excellent artillery battery, under command of Captain Eli Lilly, Wilder prepared for the counter attack that was sure to come.With the gap now completely in his grasp Wilder prepared to defend his prize. He set his defense for the expected Confederate response by placing 2 companies of the 98th Illinois to the left of the road on the only acceptable terrain, a small hill with the remainder forming a reserve. To the right of the road the Union line started with the 72nd Indiana on "a hillock on which there was a graveyard". They were supported by two mountain howitzers which were placed on the front of the hill. Captain Eli Lilly's six ten-pound Rodman's anchored the center from a hill set back slightly from the main line. They were supported by the 123rd Illinois. The right was held the 17th Indiana. The mounted men had pushed about six miles ahead of the main infantry column and would have to hold out long enough for their support to close the distance. The rain and accumulated gun smoke had settled in the gap and made visibility an issue. Nevertheless the 20th Tennessee and Caswell's (Georgia) Battalion pushed across the field in an effort to flank the 17th Indiana. Wilder responded by dispatching the reserve companies of the 98th to extend the line there. They arrived just as the Confederate line had succeeded in turning the position. The reinforcements greeted the attackers with a "tornado of death" at about 100 yards. The volume of fire emanating from the Federal line drove the Confederates to the ground and they were forced to crawl back to safety. At this point in the fight a messenger from division headquarters arrived with instructions for Wilder. Recalling the episode 44 years later Wilder described the situation this way -

"Captain Rice, adjutant-general of the division, came riding speedily to the front with orders from General Reynolds to me to fall back immediately, as the division was six or eight miles in our rear, having stopped to repair a bridge, without letting me know of it. I told him I would hold this position against any force, and to tell General Reynolds to come on without hurrying, as there was no danger of our being driven out of the position. Capt. Rice repeated his order for me to fall back, and I told him I would take the responsibility of remaining where I was, and that if General Reynolds were on the ground he would not give such an order. Capt. Rice said that he had no discretion in the matter, and that if I did not obey the order he would put me in arrest and give the command to Colonel Miller, who would fall back as ordered. I declined to obey the order of arrest, and requested Captain Rice to return to General Reynolds and tell him we had driven their force back, and could not be driven by any forces that could come at us."

The 1,500 Spencer repeating rifles were capable of firing 14 rounds per minute and proved to be the difference between Union forces and the numerically superior Confederates. General Thomas declared following the day's battle that he had not expected to capture the gap for three days and that henceforth Wilder's men would be known as the "Lightning Brigade." Over two hundred, or nearly one fourth of the Confederate forces, were killed or wounded at Hoover's Gap while Wilder's Brigade suffered only fifty-one casualties. General Bate later commented that judging from the fire power of the Union force, he thought he was outnumbered five to one. It may very well be that this first encounter with repeating rifles at Hoover's Gap was the beginning of the expression which traveled around the Confederate army for the remainder of the war, that the "Yankees could load on Sunday and shoot all the rest of the week."

  With this much daylight left, we decide we will try to visit the next battle site - Chickamauga. We make it over Monteagle Mountain without a problem but ...  
  it appears one trucker was not so fortunate. Judging by the parked location of the truck, his brakes caught on fire coming down the mountain and he didn't notice it until he was on the flat. Flames fanned at 65 mph get out of control pretty quickly and my guess (and hope) is that he pulled off and made a hasty exit out of the burning trailer and truck.  
  And as always on the Interstate, I generally get stuck behind an 'elephant dance' or two. This is where one semi tries to pass another semi but just don't have the power to do it in a timely manner. So they run side by side for a few miles until one lets the other one in or one just gives up.  
  But our ship of expectation to visit Chickamauga has suddenly crashed upon the rocks of reality. Something has brought both lanes to a complete stop for a good while. The heat is almost overwhelming for Andy and me, but Sissy comes to rescue by jumping out of her Miata and bringing us both some cold water to drink while we wait. I always knew she should be good for something besides pestering me as a child, so guess this is it.  
  After baking like a potato in an asphalt microwave, I decide we'll just head straight for the motel as quick as we can get there once we get by the fender bender.  
  Supper is easy as there is a Cracker Barrel in walking distance. We talk about the rest of the trip over a nice supper. After the short walk back to the room, it does not take this roasted ear of corn long to drift off into the crib of rest.