The 23rd Mississippi Infantry
at the Battle of Nashville

Written by Major G.W. Garrett, Corinth, MS

First Days Battle at Nashville

 At your request I send you a brief statement as the part I took in the 1st day's battle at Nashville, Tenn.  It was fought on the 15th of Dec. 1864.  I was Major of the 23rd Miss. Regt. Adam's Brigade, Loring's Division.  Gen. Adams being killed at Franklin, Gen. Robt. Lowry was in command of the Brigade at this time.  As I remember now, my Regt. 23rd was stationed rather S. West of Belmont College.  I was in command of the Regt. on that day.  My left rested some distance from the college.  I don't think we were very far from Graney White pike and close to a large flower house.  We occupied temporary ditches on east side of a ridge facing the enemy. On my right were stationed North Carolina troops.  I was cut off from view of troops on my left caused by a ravine.  I was given two pieces of artillery from the "Ponceepee Battery", my orders were to hold my position at all hazards until I was relieved by an officer.  Our army was being withdrawn and then I learned we were to cover the retreat.  But a short time and we heard the firing of the pickets, soon they were falling back and took position in ditches, then we could see the advance line of the enemy.  They formed three lines of battle one in the rear of the other and came in order. When the advance line came in reach of my artillery we began to play on them with ball and shell and when they had gotten in close range used grape and canister.  I then turned to my men, read them my orders told them that if we were to be sacrificed for the good of our army and our country that we must submit like men and officers.  I wanted them to remember Franklin and if possible revenge our fellow comrades, that they must hold their fire until the enemy came close enough to receive the discharge. I have been with courageous soldiers and let this day add fresh laurels to name and honor of the 23rd Miss.  I will here state that they did their duty and did it well as the long line of the enemies dead and wounded in our front bore a solemn testimony.  One line after the other would charge with desperate determination. We played upon them with our long range guns and cannons until they came to a hedge I took to be Bodoc, some seventy five yards in our front, our battery then used grape and canister. The Regiment was commanded to load and fire at will, and the galling fire from both cannon and musketry would cause the enemy to falter and lie down at this hedge to receive one volley after another until it seemed no human could survive.  Occasionally we could hear a voice cry out above the din of battle "Remember Franklin". On came the second and third lines only to meet similar results. They would rush to this point like demons, did not lack for courage until they reached this point where they were blinded by a terrific fire that belched forth from our line like that of a burning volcano. While they seemed courageous they did sorry shooting, wild and inaccurate which did but small damage. After the last line had gotten to the hedge I looked to my right and saw that the NC troops had abandoned the ditches and enemy were coming in south of a rock fence. Then I thought," Is it possible that we have been forgotten by our officers thereby dooming us either to death or a northern dungeon". At this time I walked up to the brow of the ridge in my rear hoping to see the officer on his way to relieve us. He was not to be seen but in his stead I saw about three Regts of the enemy who had passed around my left into my rear and were marching toward us. At this time their commanding officer seeing me, rode up to speaking distance and told me to surrender.  I told him I thought it was about time as I was completely surrounded. Ordered to raise my flag I told him that we had no flag of that kind.  He then said, "Go order your men to cease firing or I will have every d___ one of them shot." I presume he thought my men were firing on them but it was the over shooting of their own men who were in my front. But I went back to my men who were still holding their portion of the ditches with bulldog tenacity. I gave orders to cease firing and lay down arms. At this time a terrific  cannonading commenced from Hood's Batteries far in our rear.  The enemy in our immediate rear came hurrying back over the ridge among us and to add fuel to the fire one of my men raised up while the shells from Hood's guns were falling around us and yelled "Hurrah for Hood, Give them h___. Our shells won't hurt us."  I presume under the general mix up and excitement the enemy over looked the act of this man and I was relieved. The thought, was it possible that after we had withstood the third terrific onslaught in our front and the oblique fire from our right and infuriated mob in our rear that our own fellow comrades had joined in our further mortification and destruction. "God forbid". Just then cannonading ceased and all was over.  It may be considered a post of honor to cover a hazardous retreat but after this I would have been willing to let any of my fellow officers share this honor. We were then ordered to march to Nashville, placed in the Penitentiary. When we started back the officer in charge told us that we could not march over their dead. I told him that we were not disposed to show any disrespect to the dead but we had the consolation in knowing that they were there. I think it would be safe in saying that the number killed outright  in our front was greater than that of my command who fought them to say nothing of the wounded.

From Nashville we were sent to northern prisons.

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Copyright © 1997-2006 by Walter F. Cox, Jr. and Melissa McCoy-Bell. All rights reserved. Individual submissions remain the property of the submitter or author.  In no case is this information to be used for profit.  If copied for personal or library use, this copyright notice must remain attached.
This page was last updatedJanuary 23, 2018