25th Alabama soldier tells story of Battle of Murfreesboro

General Bragg having evacuated Kentucky, the Federal troops under command of General Rosecrans had been concentrated about Nashville and Bragg’s army around Murfreesboro. Only about 25 miles lay between the two armies. So about the last of December Rosecrans advanced on Murfreesboro sufficiently near to offer battle. So on the morning of 31st December we accepted the challenge and at them we went. The enemy were posted in line of battle on the opposite side of a plantation from us some 800 yards and we advanced on thm through the open field under heavy artillery fire as well as musketry and our loss was very heavy in going through the field. Four men, Sid Phillips, Gus Pool, Charly Roper and Jack Ezzell of Company “I” were killed out right. Lieutenant Archibald Patterson of Company “H” was also killed and every company of the regiment met a similar fate, in killed and wounded.

Our line, in the face of their concentrated fire, got within fifty yards of their battery when our line gave way and stampeded back through the field and we suffered worse than while advancing.

Among the killed in that unfortunate stampede was Major Costello who had just been promoted from the Captaincy of Company “K”. It looked for a time that all was lost and we had some difficulty in rallying the men and reforming the line of another attack.

I remember just at this critical moment General Frank Cheatham, Major General of Tennessee troops came rushing to our aid. Made such a stiring appeal to the men, that our line was soon formed and in the face of another galling fire we charged on them again and so determined were the men that we rushed upon them and captured their battery and drove back the whole line, but they soon reformed their lines and for the live long day we fought over an area of two or three miles and at night fall we had driven them off the field.

Our regiment was led in this fight by Lt. Colonel George D. Johnston who displayed great courage and leadership and won the high esteem and love of the officers and men of the line. At night fall, when the firing ceased he was the only field officer with the regiment.

Our loss in killed and wounded was very heavy. Lt. Scofield of Company “C” from Columbiana was among the killed. I remember during the fight, of coming across his body just after he had fallen, he having been shot dead and I stopped long enough to take a plain gold ring from his finger and his pocket knife and pocket book and preserved them till after the battle and sent them home to his family.

I think I went in that morning with about 40 guns in Company “I” and when the battle closed that night there was only one man Pvt. Bob Clark and myself with the regiment. Most of the others had been either killed, wounded or captured.

Our loss was so heavy, that we did not renew the fight next morning. Although we had the previous day, driven the enemy from every position he had taken, we held the battlefield for two days and the enemy made but one attack on a part of our line and was repulsed.

So about the third night after the battle General Bragg withdrew his army and we fell back to Shelbyville, Tennessee where we went into winter quarters and remained there till June 1863. During that spring we had the longest rest we had enjoyed since the war began.

HISTORY OF THE 25th ALABAMA INFANTRY REGIMENT
1861 – 1865 A Narrative by
CAPTAIN WILLIAM P. HOWELL
Company I
Compiled and Edited by
Steven L. Driskell

4 comments

  1. Captain Wilson Parks Howell was the brother of my great
    great grandmother, Melinda Howell, who was the daughter of
    an outstanding and well-belove Methodist minister named John
    Wesley Howell. As a United Methodist and a Christian, I have
    often wondered why southern Christians, and especially Meth-
    odists would participate in such a bloody war when they, them-
    selves were not slave owners. Anyway, Captain Howell was
    wounded four times. He was in every battle of Army of TN
    except at Franklin, when he had been furloughed to go back to
    his home county, Calhoun, later Cleburne, to collect clothing and horses and other necessities for his Company I. Captain
    Howell, like his father, was a Methodist minister and bey the
    end of his parenting, he was the father of ten children. He was
    partially educated but one of the smartest men in Alabama for
    his time, having served in the Alabama Legislature as Senator
    and Enrolling Clerk. He was very popular in his bailiwick. I am
    proud on my kinship to him but wish he had not been invovled
    in killing in a war. When the war was over, he was in a hospital
    in Virginia, suffering wounds, but he walked most of the way
    back to his home in Alabama on crutches.

  2. Hello
    My son is doing a project on the battle of Shiloh at school. While we were doing research my dad brought Wilson’s narrative on the battle of Shiloh for us to read. My son has chosen to represent him, and would like to have a picture of him if you have one. We are related by way of John and Elizabeth Howell, my great..3x…grandparents. We find his narrative very interesting!
    Thanks you
    Stacey

    1. I enjoyed reading this narrative. My 4th great grandfather was John Roper, a neighbor, and brother-in-law to William Howell. I have an excerpt from the Autobiography of Wilson Parks Howell and Family Up to January, 1901 and it is so interesting.

      1. I am also descended from John Roper and I am looking for genealogical information related to John Wesley Howell and William. I am looking for a copy of Autobiography of Wilson Parks Howell and Family Up to January, 1901. Does anyone know where I can aquire a copy?

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