Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Dec. 7th 1864 The Battle of the Cedars

On December 7th 1864, the Battle of the Cedars took place, also known as the Battle of Wilkinson's Pike. Charles Milton Adams and the 174th Ohio took a very active part in the ongoing struggle to protect Union supply lines and the railroad. In the morning, reports of the rebels moving their forces and wagons prompted General Milroy to move down the Salem Pike west of Murfreesboro in an attempt to flank the enemy. Milroy took seven regiments including the 174th and six guns with him. he reported;

"I encountered Reb Cav Videtts before I got out of sight of our own pickets I threw forward skirmishes and drove them before me. At my request Gen Rousseau permitted me to take with me seven Regts of Inf. and a battery of 6 guns. I had no cavalry except my orderlies and a small body guard. My Regts consisted of the 174th, 177th, 178th and 181st Ohio Vols, the 8th Minn Vols. 61st Ill Vols and 12th Ind Cav. who had never been mounted and are armed as Infantry. I divided my force into two Brigades. The 1st commanded by Col Thomas of the 8th Minn and consisted of the 8th Minn, 174th and 181st O. V. I. and the 67th Ill. The 2nd Bgd consisted of the 177th and 178th O.V.I. and the 12th Ind Cav. under the comd of Col Anderson of the 12th Ind. I moved in driving the Reb Cav before me to Stone River two Miles from town."
The 174th under Colonel John S. Jones then moved out in pursuit. They crossed Stone's Bridge and entered the deep woods where they encountered heavy enemy fire. Col. Jones reported, "...my command was formed in the line of battle in the edge of the woods to the left of our artillery. I threw skirmishers well to the front in the corn field and in the skirt of timber to my left, with a view of picking off the enemy's cannoneers." Milroy ordered the artillery brought forward and the opposing sides commenced a heated duel for about an hour. With ammunition running low, Milroy ordered the artillery back to the fort and advanced with his infantry under heavy musket fire. Col. Jones moved across an open field and his skirmishers from Company E under Capt. Campbell drove the rebels back to their breastworks. It was at this time that Major B.C.G. Reed was shot in the head and killed. Milroy describes Major Reed's death;

"He was so near to the reb soldier who shot him that his face blackened by the powder. He was a most Gallant officer. He had been a prisoner for 15 months and was most barbarously and brutally treated by them. He escaped from them five times and was each time recaptured. On the 6th time he succeeded in getting away. He escaped from Charleston S.C. in a boat and got to our vessels. He fought for vengeance. The history of his daring adventures is more strange than fiction."
Confederate General Bate lamented "The time of the reappearance of the enemy from the woods, when he was thought to have retired to Murfreesboro(no information being received by me from the cavalry in my front) did not admit of sufficient time to adjust the line before [the enemy] was upon us." General Forrest charged to the front of the 1st Florida and implored "Men all I ask of you is to hold the enemy back for fifteen minutes, which will give me time to gain their rear with my cavalry and I will capture the last one of them."

It was not to be, Col. Jones and the 174th captured a stand of colors, two cannons,(12 pound Napoleons) eight officers, and fifty two men. Later the number of prisoners climbed to near 200. Col. Jones was ordered by Milroy to take command of the faltering 178th Ohio during the battle as well. During the rout Forrest was reported as screaming;

"Rally men for God's sake rally!" according to a southern artilleryman. But the panic-striken soldiers ignored the General. Forrest called out to a color bearer "who was running for dear life," and ordered him to halt. When the frightened soldier paid no heed, Forrest, claimed the artilleryman, " drew his pistol and shot the retreating soldier down. " Then seizing the colors, the General vigorously waved them in front of the men racing to the rear, as he screamed at them, his shouts punctuated with threats and profanity, to halt and fight. Forrest's chief of artillery, Captain John Morton, called Milroy's attack "the hardest blow" that Forrest took during the entire war.
At that point Rousseau recalled Milroy to the fort. Col. Jones reported the losses to the 174th as follows: I officer killed (Reed) five wounded, five enlisted men killed and thirty three wounded. The regiment was later cited for gallantry in the general orders for its conduct. Rousseau later ordered the 174th on dress parade and complimented them in person. Milroy had glowing things to say about the regiment (and himself for that matter) and their conduct under fire.

(Ohio in the War pg 707) by Whitelaw Reid
Col. Jones Source
Milroy Source
Nashville pg 146 by James L Mc Donough

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