General McNair's Report

 

 
At 6AM on December 30, 1862 the brigade was posted on the right flank of General McCown's division. My artillery and that of General Ector occupied the Widow Smith Farm on the Franklin Road just east of the junction with Grisham Lane. My five regiments comprised 1750 men and were in line of battle from the Smith Farm to about 600 yards to the left where we abutted General Ector's brigade. I received orders from General McCown to move to the northwest and scout the woods east of Grisham Lane with the intention of advancing to the ridge north of the Franklin Road if the yankees weren't already there. While enroute at 7 AM we received word from General Wharton's cavalry that the ridge was occupied by them but that yankee infantry was coming down Grisham Lane. General McCown ordered the line to double quick to secure the ridge. We quickly complied and by 8 AM we were deployed along the northeast section of the ridge with General Deas in the woods to our right and General Rains holding the remainder of the ridge to our left. We engaged at least one yankee division as they came up and after a sharp fight of about one hour we had driven them back and secured the ridge. At this time the yankees brought up their artillery and began deploying a second division.
 
At 10 AM the yankees made a co-ordinated attack with two divisions supported by artillery. The brigade fought well but was forced to retire when General McCown ordered Ector and Rains to retire to avoid being flanked by a third yankee division. We continued to retreat in face of overwhelming odds over the next several hours first falling back south to the Franklin Road then east to the Rideout Farm. By 1 PM we had reached this point and the yankees in our front seemed to pause to catch their breath while the noise to the south indicated they were still trying to turn our left.
 
Just before 2 PM the yankees once again came forward in full force and we were forced to retire after a valiant fight. General McCown ordered my brigade and General Maney's to cover the retreat of the rest of the division. We retreated slowly eastward and at 4 PM we found ourselves back at the Widow Smith Farm. The retirement continued in face of the heavy attacks and by 5 PM we had retired another half mile to the east and the division was ordered to cross the river and set up a defensive position at the Franklin Road Bridge. By 7 PM the brigade was in support of Rains and Ector who were holding the bridge. Casualties for the first days action were about 700 men leaving the brigade with about 1000 men remaining.
 
At 6 AM on the 31st General McCown ordered the brigade to take over Ector's position to the right of the bridge. We deployed as ordered and saw little action until about 8 AM, at which time the yankees moved infantry and artillery to the opposite bank and began a furious fusilade in an attempt to force us away from the river. After two hours of heavy firing the division was forced to fall back to the high ground east of the river due to this destructive fire and the yankees prepared to cross the bridge. My brigade was placed in reserve to allow it time to reorganize after the heavy fighting of the early morning. By Noon the yankees were across the bridge in force and threatening to capture our guns posted on the high ground east of the bridge. My brigade and that of General Rains drove them back and for the next hour the fighting was at close quarters and very heavy. The yankees failed to take the high ground and pulled back around 2 PM and we were given a brief respite to rest and reorganize with only some long range artillery fire taking place. The brigade remained in close support of the artillery while the main focus of the battle moved to the woods on our left where General McCown had ordered an attack to retake the bridge. At 4 PM I was informed the bridge was once again in our hands and ordered to move to the right of the artillery. Reaching this position shortly before dark we took no further part in the battle and remained there over night.
 
After two days of fighting my brigade had less than 500 men remaining with the colors, a loss of over 2/3 of my original force. I wish to especially commend both the 4th Arkansas Regiment and the 4th Arkansas Battalion both of whom lost over 80% of their men, most of these losses coming on the second day as a result of the yankee artillery fire prior to their crossing the river. These regiments stood and took a murderous fire until ordered to retire and subsequently when the yankees threatened to overwhelm our artillery they joined the rest of the brigade in a charge that threw the enemy back from our gun line.
 
Evander McNair
Brigadier General
Army of the Tennessee

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