The 9th Kentucky at Stones River
Updated: Mar 31
Reports of Col. Benjamin C. Grider, Ninth Kentucky Infantry, commanding regiment and First Brigade. In Camp, near Murfreesborough, Tenn., January 1, 1863.
Lieutenant : My regiment, the Ninth Kentucky Volunteer Infantry, was early yesterday morning ordered on the south side of Stone’s River, and formed in line of battle in the front line, and on the left of the Nineteenth Ohio Volunteers (Major Manderson). We had advanced a short distance down the river, when we were ordered to recross, to support our forces in the center and on the right, understanding that the enemy were driving them, and had turned our right, and probably gained our rear. We moved by the flank, and at a double-quick, to the Murfrees-borough pike, and thence along that pike about a half mile to our rear, to a skirt of woods, through which we saw our men retreating, and heard that they had been before forced back through them. We formed on the pike, the Nineteenth Ohio on the right and the Ninth Kentucky on the left, the two composing the front line, supported by the Eleventh Kentucky, Major Mottley, and the Seventy-ninth Indiana, Colonel Knefler, in the rear or second line.
As soon as our retreating troops cleared the woods, our front, the Nineteenth and Ninth, opened upon the enemy a cool, well-aimed, and deadly fire, which brought them to a stand. After a few such rounds we were ordered to advance, which the men promptly did with the alacrity and steadiness of veterans, gallantly led on by all their officers, driving the enemy with great slaughter for half a mile or more. Here, the ammunition of the front line beginning to fail, and the enemy’s fire having almost ceased, we were ordered to open our lines for the reserve—the Eleventh Kentucky and the Seventy-ninth Indiana— to pass through, which they did in gallant style, seeing and hearing but little of the enemy for some hundreds of yards, when they found him rallied; but again he was forced to yield to the well-directed fire and gallantry of the Eleventh Kentucky and Seventy-ninth Indiana, and thus, for a time, the advance was continued for some distance, when we found a body of our troops broken, and retreating from our right in a direction which passed them diagonally through our lines. Our men kept firm, and we tried to rally them, but with no effect. Thus our right was exposed and turned, and you gave the order to fall back, which we did in most excellent order under the heaviest shower of balls and missiles that we had encountered during the day. Our loss here was great, and the courage and coolness of men and officers was here put to a severer test than during the advance, and well did they meet the trying emergency.
We came back a short distance, and promptly formed in line to again meet the enemy. Here General Rosecrans in person ordered me to advance my regiment to close range of the enemy, and, after giving him a few fires, to charge. I ordered the advance, but had gone only a short distance when the general ordered us to halt and cause the men to lie down, while a battery in our rear opened over us upon the enemy. After remaining here for a short time, my regiment and the Eleventh Kentucky were ordered to take position to sustain the Chicago Board of Trade Battery and another, the name of which I do not know, then threatened by the enemy. This we continued to do until late in the night, after the battle was all over for the day.
We were during this time under fire from the enemy’s artillery, and lost 2 men killed and several wounded. Our loss during the day was 2 commissioned officers—First Lieuts. Silas Clark and W. J. Cram-wounded; 2 sergeants, 1 of whom was the color-bearer, killed; 1 private killed, and 19 wounded. A full list will be handed in as soon as practicable.
I have no terms of praise that can do justice to the noble bearing and unflinching bravery of all the officers and men. I mention the names of them all: Lieut. Col. George H. Cram, Maj. John H. Grider, Adjt. C. D. Bailey; Capts. R. A. Read, Rufus Somerby, D. B; Coyle, William T. Bryan; First Lieuts. A. Sidney Leggett, T. Freely Heeter, W. J. Cram (commanding companies); R. T. Patton, Boyle O. Rodes, Henry W. Mayes, Silas Clark; Second Lieuts. Frederick F. Carpenter, D. C. Downing, John P. Grinstead, James M. Simmons, and Benjamin M. Johnson.
Company A, Capt. Henry F. Leggett, was on detached duty, and, I regret, could not be in the battle, as their services, brave men and well officered as they are, would have been valuable. First Lieut. John H. Wheat was not wfth the regiment, being detached on duty with the Pioneer Corps. Respectfully submitted. B. C. GRIDER, Colonel Ninth Kentucky Volunteers.
Headquarters First Brigade, Third Division,
Camp in front of Murfreeshorough,
Saturday, January 3, 1863.
Colonel : I had the honor to be placed in command of the First Brigade, Third Division (formerly the Eleventh Brigade), on the morning of January 1, and being ordered by you as commander of the division, I at once marched with my command to the south.side of Stone’s River, and bivouacked in the woods and fields belonging, as I learned, to a man named Hoover. Some skirmishing and picket firing was soon heard and some rebel cavalry seen, but nothing worthy of notice occurred during the day. * That night the enemy attempted to drive in our pickets, but failed.
Next morning opened with brisk cannonading on the part of the enemy, to which our artillery made no reply. Our skirmishers in front were actively engaged all day. It was then ascertained that the enemy had planted a battery in our front, and a section or more on our left, and that a portion of their guns across the river, which came down in a course parallel with our right, could reach us with a raking fire, and interfere with our crossing at the first ford, if compelled to recross. It was also suggested by myself and other officers, Major Manderson, commanding the Nineteenth Ohio, particularly, that our right, resting on the river, was exposed, and might be attacked and turned, and that neither the depth of the stream nor character of the banks was a sufficient protection; that troops and artillery were needed on the opposite side to sustain our right. You and we all were assured that this was attended to, and we rested on that assurance.
Thus matters stood until about an hour before sundown, when artillery firing on the part of the enemy and heavy skirmishing on both sides commenced. We now supposed that the attack which we had all day expected would be postponed until daylight the next day, but were mistaken. The enemy were seen advancing in three lines, the front composed of a battalion of sharpshooters, and the other lines composed of the whole divisions of Generals John C. Breckinridge and Cheatham. Generals Roger W. Hanson and James E. Rains, of Kentucky, as I learn, were present in Breckinridge’s command. The regiments of my brigade (the Nineteenth Ohio, Major Manderson, on the right; the Ninth Kentucky, Lieutenant-Colonel Cram, in the center, and the Eleventh Kentucky, Major Mottley, on the left) were, by your orders, held in reserve. The Seventy-ninth Indiana had been about noon ordered to form on and sustain the front line, composed of the Third Brigade, Col. S. W. Price commanding, and were not again seen by me during the day. I doubt not they will receive justice at the hands of the colonel under whose command they were placed.
The onset of the enemy, sustained as they were by their artillery, succeeded in breaking and driving back our first and second lines. You now sent me an order to bring up the reserve, which I instantly did, though it was almost manifest, from the character of the fire in front, that the force we had on the ground, unassisted as we at that moment were by artillery, could not check the enemy’s advance. Yet our men (the Nineteenth Ohio, Ninth Kentucky, and Eleventh Kentucky), undaunted by the terrible and desperate state of affairs, with bravery that cannot be described, and led on by their officers, the most cool and daring, moved forward, some through a thick undergrowth of wild briers, which to some extent broke their lines, fearlessly meeting the enemy and breaking his first line. Seeing this from my position, between and slightly in front of the Nineteenth Ohio and Ninth Kentucky, and noticing you just in my rear, I said to you, “Colonel, we have them checked; give us artillery and we will whip them.” You replied, “You shall have it.”
I rode back and soon saw the right regiment (the Nineteenth Ohio) falling back. Calling to Major Manderson, who halted and came back, I said to him, "Major, the Ninth is still standing; let us rally the Nineteenth and sustain her.” The major replied, "We are haflked on our right; we had better fall back and rally at the foot of the hill, if we can.” I told him to do so, and I would order the Ninth and Eleventh Kentucky to do the same. I rode forward for this purpose, but just as I was about to give the order to Lieutenant-Colonel Cram, he gave it to his regiment, which was then receiving most of the fire hitherto directed against the Nineteenth. The Eleventh Kentucky moved back about the same time, and both of these regiments, almost in line with some of the enemy’s troops, were the last regiments to quit the field—the Nineteenth Ohio leaving first, because first exposed to the flanking fire.
We fell back, fighting, though in some disorder, crossed the river, rallied under a very heavy fire, checked the enemy, and held him in check until we were re-enforced, when I, with the flags of the Nineteenth Ohio and Ninth Kentucky, recrossed the river, followed closely by Lieutenant-Colonel Cram, Majors Mottley and Manderson, men and officers from the Nineteenth Ohio, Ninth and Eleventh Kentucky, Lieut. Philip Beefy holding the colors of the Nineteenth, and Private Moses Rourk those of the Ninth Kentucky. The Twenty-first Ohio, led by Captain------, acting major, promptly followed. Our troops now crossed rapidly and opened fire on the south side of the river.
Observing that the men would follow and stand by their colors, I here took the flag of my own regiment (the Ninth Kentucky), and, riding forward, called on the troops to advance, to which they gallantly responded, and, rushing upon the enemy, drove them with great slaughter from and past the ground which they had occupied before the attack, the Eleventh Kentucky taking a stand of colors, and the three regiments capturing four of the enemy’s guns (the Washington Artillery), the colors of the Nineteenth Ohio and the Ninth Kentucky Volunteers being the first to reach them. Lieutenant-Colonel Cram, of the Ninth, and Major Mottley, of the Eleventh Kentucky, with myself, were the first mounted officers at these guns. All three of the above regiments were represented there, and at all times in the most advanced and exposed positions. Lieutenant-Colonel Cram and Major Mottley ordered off a gun each, and I ordered off two. In short, each and every officer and man in these three regiments was all that could be asked, and far above the reach of encomiums.
Of Lieutenant-Colonel Cram, Ninth Kentucky, Major Manderson, Nineteenth Ohio, and Major Mottley, Eleventh Kentucky, I make special mention as the commanders on that day of their respective regiments. I refer to their reports accompanying this for more special notice than I can here take of the officers and men under their commands. The result of the day was, the enemy retreated in haste and disorder, acknowledging a defeat, and evacuated Murfreesborough the next day. We bivouacked that night on the battle-field.
The loss of the three regiments under my command, as near as can be ascertained, is 250 officers and men killed, wounded, and missing, about one-third of the effective force which they had engaged. I refer for particulars to the enclosed regimental reports. Most respectfully submitted. B. C. GRIDER, Colonel, Commanding First Brigade, Third Division
Report of Lieut. Col. George H. Cram, Ninth Kentucky Infantry, of engagement January 2. January ___, 1863.
I respectfully submit the following as my report of the part my regiment took in "the engagement of January 2,1863, on the left wing of our army, in front of Murfreesborough:
Early in the forenoon Colonel Grider ordered me to hold my regiment in reserve, with another regiment of his brigade (the Nineteenth Ohio), under cover of a hill about 200 yards from the upper ford of Stone’s River, and told me that the enemy would probably attack us some time during the day, and ordered me to hold my regiment in readiness to re-enforce our line, if the enemy should attack us in too great force.
Nothing but heavy skirmishing and artillery firing on the part of the enemy occurred during the day, until about 4 o’clock in the evening, when our whole line was attacked by a heavy rebel force. My men were under arms, and I knew by the firing that our men were giving way. I was ordered forward, and moved up the hill at a double-quick, through briers add undergrowth, tearing our line badly. Arriving at the crest of the hill, we met our troops retreating in great confusion. Nothing could be more discouraging to my men than the aspect of affairs at that time, but they never faltered. I allowed the retreating mass to pass through my lines, the enemy all the time pouring into us a destructive fire, both infantry and artillery. Our lines closed up, and I ordered my men to commence firing. The enemy gave way after the fourth or fifth round, the colors of the regiment in front of us having fallen no less than three times, and had we had but the enemy in front to contend with, our chances of success would have been tolerably certain ; but just when the battle was being decided in our favor, we were flanked by a heavy force on our right, causing our support on that flank to give way, leaving us exposed to a raking fire, which was fast decimating my regiment. We had already suffered. Major Grider and Adjutant Bailey wounded; Captains Bryan and Coyle killed; Read badly wounded; Lieutenants Leggett and Carpenter killed; Heeter and Johnson wounded.
I do not hesitate to say that no regiment could have withstood this fresh attack. I ordered the regiment to fall back under the hill. Colonel Grider ordered me in person to rally my men at the foot of the hill. I found the ground almost in possession of a rebel regiment. We continued the retreat across the river, and I there rallied my men. We were here re-enforced by three or four regiments, and the enemy brought to a stand. The firing here was the most terrible I ever heard. The foe fought us bravely, but could not withstand such a terrible fire. He gave way slowly, and we not only retook the lost ground, but drove him over a mile, cutting him up badly and capturing his artillery, changing the result of the battle from a defeat to a splendid victory. The colors of the Ninth Kentucky recrossed the river by the side of those of the Nineteenth Ohio, and under your leadership. The regiments of your brigade, shattered as they were, were the first to wave their flags over the captured guns of the enemy.
My officers and men fought splendidly, under the most discouraging circumstances. Every man in the regiment knew what he had to encounter when we were ordered forward, but not one faltered. They knew that the gallant reserve—the Nineteenth Ohio and Ninth Kentucky—were insufficient to check the victorious enemy.
Major Grider was wounded while gallantly cheering on his men early in the engagement, and Adjutant Bailey soon afterward. I felt the loss of these officers greatly. Captain Bryan was mortally wounded, doing his duty nobly. Captain Coyle was killed while cheering on his men. Lieutenants Leggett and Carpenter were killed at the head of their companies. Captain Read, Lieutenants Heeter and Johnson were wounded while fighting gallantly. I take pleasure in mentioning the following officers, whose gallant conduct deserves great praise: Captain Somerby, Lieutenants Patton, Downing, Grinstead, Rodes, and Mayes. Private Moses Rourk, of Company C, deserves special mention. When the colors were shot down, in the engagement of the 31st, he grasped them and brought them safely through the fight, and in the battle of January 2 he carried them into the thickest of the fight, and was at times left almost alone. He is but eighteen years of age, and is one of the bravest soldiers in the army.
Our loss was as follows: Commissioned officers killed, 4; wounded, 7. Enlisted men, killed, 18; wounded, 80; prisoners, 3 (wounded). Of the above, 3 were killed and 21 wounded on the 31st. (See Colonel Grider’s regimental report.) I have the honor to be, your most obedient servant, GEO. H. CRAM, Lieutenant-Colonel, Comdg. Ninth Kentucky Volunteers.
I want to make sure that everyone is aware of the photos used in this post. All images of soldiers of the 9th Kentucky can be found at the website for the reenactors of the 9th Kentucky, and I am indebted to their research. To see a full album of amazing photos, visit www.9thKY.org.
Also, this weekend (December 28-29) Stones River National Battlefield will be having their anniversary programs, so if you are in the Nashville area, be sure to check it out!