Thursday, January 03, 2013

Co. I of the 4th Florida Inf.Gets its Baptism of Fire at Murfreesboro

The Jackson County men who comprised Company I of the 4th Florida Infantry regiment had suffered terribly from the December cold in central Tennessee.   The 4th, which had not yet seen combat, had been assigned to Brig. Gen. William Preston’s brigade in Breckinridge’s division of Bragg’s army.   On December 31, 1862, the 4th was sent into action at the Battle of Murfreesboro.  Three previous Confederate assaults against the sector known as the Round Forest had been repulsed.  The 4th made its attempt and advanced until hit by canister from the 10th Indiana Battery.  The 4th was exposed and suffered terrible casualties until Gen. Preston personally led the men to nearby woods where the 1st and 3rd Florida had found cover.   
New Year’s eve was a bitterly cold night and because of the closeness of the armies, the soldiers could not make fires.  The Floridians remained in place until the afternoon of Jan 2nd.   Breckinridge and his brigade commanders, all lawyers, formed their men in lines and led them over a ridge straight into the range of massed Union cannon.   The 4th lay prone and held its ground as other troops retreated before a Union counterattack.  Breckinridge’s men ran before the assault, but the 4th distinguished itself for its orderly actions, allowing Preston’s artillery to withdraw and save its guns.  As darkness fell, the troops returned to their original lines. 
According to Jonathan Sheppard, the 4th was effectively decimated with 194 casualties out of the 458 who entered the fight two days earlier.   Among Breckinridge’s 19 regiments, the 4th suffered the most killed and 2nd most casualties.   I’ve found the following casualties among Jackson County men from Company I:  killed or mortally wounded:  Henry T. Barnes, E. A. Ellerby, William Alexander and Thomas J. Watts.   Seriously wounded: Leroy Mozely, James A. Sills, Anderson Smith and William Taylor.   Lt. C.C. Burke was wounded and captured.  Several other Jackson Co. men were also made prisoner by the Union.   (Note that Nathan Minchen of Company I had died of disease on Nov. 8, 1862.)   The actions of the 4th Florida described above are drawn from Jonathan Sheppard’s excelland and authoritative: “By the Noble Daring of Her Sons” The Florida Brigade of the Army of the Tennessee, Univ. of Alabama Press (2012)

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