After Action Report of Brig. Gen. Jefferson Davis
Commanding 1st Division, McCooks Wing.
On December 30th, at 5:00 am my Division, made up mostly of fighting
Illinois men, was ordered to take the lead of the Union Right Wing as we
advanced along Grisham Lane over to the Franklin Road where we were to turn
south towards the river and the waiting Rebels. Order of march for the Division
was Col. Sydney Post's Brigade (1400 men) in the lead, followed by Col. William
Carlin's Brigade (1800 men) and then Col. William Woodruff's Brigade (1400 men).
At approximately 7:00 a.m. lead elements of Post's brigade encountered
dismounted Rebel cavalry (Wharton's Brigade) on the high ground south of the
Smith cabin astride the Grisham Lane. The 1st Division was ordered forward to
drive them from the high ground and, thus, began the first action of the battle,
First Division first! As the Division deployed, we encountered Rebel infantry
(McGown's Division) and moved forward with determination to drive the Rebels
back. I commend the brave men of Col. Post's regiments that advanced without
hesitation as the rest of the Division was still deploying. The courage and
valor shown by these men during this time will stand proud in the USA Army's
fine tradition! By 8:00 am the Division was fully engaged in the battle and
Post's brigade still held firmly to the center, weathering the storm of fire
from the Rebels on the high ground. We began running low on ammunition and the
Division began falling back from the concentrated fire of the Rebels. General
Johnson came up with the Second Division and began deploying to my right.
Carlin and Woodruff moved up to where Post had been and continued the battle.
At 9:00 am the Rebels still held the high ground, but the lead elements of
Sheridans Division began appearing, coming down the Franklin road north of the
Puckett place. This threatened the Rebel position from the rear and if Sheridan
had been able to advance rapidly, he may have cut off their route of retreat.
With the arival of Sheridan to his rear, the Rebs began shifting their line
and fell back from the high ground. At 10:00 am Johnson's Second Division moved
forward and occupied the high ground vacated by the Rebs with my Division still
holding to their left. My Division was then ordered to rest and recover from
the effects of the hard fighting they had just been through. The Rebels paid
dearly for that piece of ground they chose to defend. As with any major battle,
I fear there are now too many new widows and orphans as a result of the
mindless carnage of both armies. Our supplies finally arrived and we
replenished our ammunition.
Word reached me that Sheridan and Johnson were making slow progress against
the Rebs, driving them back towards the river. At noon, the Union Center Wing
under General Thomas began passing to my left along the Wilkinson's Turnpike.
My Division was spread thinly along the length of Grishams Lane from the high
ground of the battle on the right to near the Wilkinson Turnpike on the left.
Shortly after noon we began our advance once more, eager to tangle with the
Rebs again. By 2:00 pm Carlin, advancing out of the treeline east of the
Rideout place, was once more engaged with Rebel infantry to his front.
Woodruff's picketts were meeting Rebels dugin in the trees to Carlin's left.
Post was closing to his the right to make room for Thomas' Wing in their
advance. The Division was slowly advancing towards the Widow Williams Place
near the Franklin Road.
By 5:00 pm it was clear the Rebs were falling back across the river.
Sheridan has been ordered to attack the Rebs while my Division and Johnson's
Division are held in place. As evening falls on the battlefield, my Division
is ordered to be on the Franklin Road by day break ready to advance across the
river at first light. The plan of attack is for Sheridan to force a river
crossing and for my Division to exploit the opening and try to cut off the
Rebel points of retreat behind their center, in the vicinity of the Nashville
Turnpike and RR bridges. We will rest and be ready when the time comes. Our
losses for this day were over 1200 men. I hope the Rebels paid as much. Tragic
news from the left told that we had lost a lot of men on the other side of the
river. Was that to be our fate tomorrow?
At 8:00 am, Dec. 31st, Sheridan is poised ready to attack the river
crossing. My men are in column on the road ready to advance quickly. I feel
very vulnerable in column along the road. There are signs of Rebel Cavalry off
to my right again. By 9:00 am my division has moved up right behind Sheridan,
ready for the crossing. At 10:00 there were over 1000 Rebel cavalry off to my
right. I ordered Post into line of battle just off the road in case they
decided to advance on us. My request to take my Division after them was
declined. I feared they were in a position to do us great harm if they were
not dealt with. I trusted the higher ups knew what they were doing.
11:00 a.m. - Sheridan crossed the river! I ordered my Division forward at
the double time! By noon Carlin and Post were across and deployed with
Woodruff coming across the river right behind them. Rebel resistance had been
light as Sheridan's boys were doing the brunt of the work right then. By 12:40
Carlin had reached the high ground by Lyttle Creek and could see Rebs crossing
the Nashvile RR Bridge headed his way. The Rebel Cavalry to our rear had
advanced and, as I had feared, were going to put us in a very awkward position
unless something was done quickly. Woodruff was across and the Division
advanced on the Rebs that were crossing the RR bridge. Unfortunately, the Rebs
had already crossed in great numbers and drove us back before we could get near
our objectives. The Rebels turned the tide against us and had us cut off.
Sheridan was trying to hold the bridge, but the Rebel cavalry on the other
side had gained the upper hand. By 3:00 pm we were completely cut off. Our
only avenue of retreat was blocked and we had our backs to the river with
Rebels completely surrounding us. Our end was a forgone conclusion at that
time, but duty called that we fight to the very end if called upon to do so.
Forutnately, sound minds prevailed and the carnage was called off as the day
came to an end. Our losses for the two days totaled over 2000 men killed and
wounded out of the 4600 that entered the battle.
I cannot begin to express my gratitude to the men and officers that fought
under me in this gallant battle. I especially commend Col. Post for his bravery
and stamina in the opening hours of the conflict. I also extend special
recognition to Col. Carlin and Col. Woodruff for their final stand in the
waning moments of the battle in the face of overwhelmong odds
Sirs, I submit this report in all humility and remembrance of those brave souls
who gave their all in this conflict in the firm belief that soon we shall
triumph over these Rebels and restore the Union to its once proud status.
Your Obedient Servant,
Brigadier General Jefferson Davis
First Division, McCook's Wing
XIV Army Corps