Third Battle of Murfreesboro
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|Third Battle of Murfreesboro|
|Part of the American Civil War|
|United States (Union)||CSA (Confederacy)|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Lovell H. Rousseau
Robert H. Milroy
|Nathan Bedford Forrest|
|Murfreesboro Garrison||Forrest's Cavalry Corps|
|Casualties and losses|
The Third Battle of Murfreesboro, also known as Wilkinson Pike or the Cedars, was fought December 5–7, 1864, in Rutherford County, Tennessee, as part of the Franklin-Nashville Campaign of the American Civil War.
In a last, desperate attempt to force Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman's Union army out of Georgia, Gen. John Bell Hood led the Army of Tennessee north toward Nashville in November 1864. Although he suffered a terrible loss at Franklin, he continued toward Nashville. In operating against Nashville, he decided that destruction of the Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad and disruption of the Union army supply depot at Murfreesboro would help his cause. He sent Maj. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, on December 4, with an expedition composed of two cavalry divisions and Maj. Gen. William B. Bate's infantry division to Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
On December 2, Hood had ordered Bate to destroy the railroad and blockhouses between Murfreesboro and Nashville and join Forrest for further operations. On December 4, Bate's division attacked Blockhouse No. 7 protecting the railroad crossing at Overall Creek, but Union forces fought it off. On the morning of December 5, Forrest headed out toward Murfreesboro, splitting his force, one column to attack the fort on the hill and the other to take Blockhouse No. 4, both at La Vergne. Upon his demand for surrender at both locations, the Union garrisons did so. Outside La Vergne, Forrest hooked up with Bate's division and the command advanced on to Murfreesboro along two roads, driving the Union forces into their Fortress Rosecrans fortifications, and encamped in the city outskirts for the night. The next morning, on December 6, Forrest ordered Bate's division to "move upon the enemy’s works." Fighting flared for a couple of hours, but the Union troops ceased firing and both sides glared at each other for the rest of the day. Brig. Gen. Claudius W. Sears's and Brig. Gen. Joseph B. Palmer's infantry brigades joined Forrest's command in the evening, further swelling his numbers.
On the morning of December 7, Maj. Gen. Lovell Rousseau, commanding all of the forces at Murfreesboro, sent two brigades out under Brig. Gen. Robert H. Milroy on the Salem Pike to feel out the enemy. These brigades were led by Col. Minor T. Thomas, a veteran of the Dakota War, and Col. Edward Anderson. With Thomas' brigade forming the first line of battle and Anderson forming the second, Milroy engaged the Confederates and fighting continued. At one point some of Forrest's troops broke and ran causing disorder in the Confederate ranks; even entreaties from Forrest and Bate did not stem the rout of these units. The rest of Forrest's command conducted an orderly retreat from the field and encamped for the night outside Murfreesboro. Forrest had destroyed railroad track, blockhouses, and some homes and generally disrupted Union operations in the area, but he did not accomplish much else. The raid on Murfreesboro was a minor irritation, and Forrest was absent at the Battle of Nashville.
Order of battle
District of Tennessee - Maj. Gen. Lovell H. Rousseau
- Defenses of the Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad - Maj. Gen. Robert H. Milroy
- 1st Provisional Brigade - Col Minor T. Thomas
- 2nd Provisional Brigade (Post of Tullahoma) - Colonel Edward Anderson
Cavalry Corps - Maj. Gen. Nathan B. Forrest
- Buford's Division - Brig. Gen. Abraham Buford
- Bell's Brigade - Col. Tyree Bell
- Crossland's Brigade - Col. Edward Crossland
- Jackson's Division - Brig. Gen. William Hicks Jackson
- Bate's Division (from Cheatham's Corps) - Maj. Gen. William B. Bate
- Stevenson's Division
- Brown's & Reynolds's Brigade - Brig. Gen. Joseph B. Palmer
- French's Division
- Sears's Brigade - Brig. Gen. Claudius W. Sears
- Eicher, John H., and David J. Eicher. Civil War High Commands. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001. ISBN 0-8047-3641-3.
- National Park Service battle description