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Encyclopedia > Stones River Campaign
Union troops retreat before the Confederate charge on the first day of the battle
Battle of Stones River
Conflict American Civil War
Date December 31, 1862January 3, 1863
Place Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Result Both sides claimed victory, but the Confederate Army withdrew
Combatants
United States of America Confederate States of America
Commanders
William S. Rosecrans Braxton Bragg
Strength
43,400 37,712
Casualties
13,249 (1,730 killed, 7,802 wounded, 3,717 captured/missing) 10,266 (1,294 killed, 7,945 wounded, 1,027 captured/missing)
Stones River Campaign
HartsvilleStones River

The Battle of Stones River or Second Battle of Murfreesboro (in the South, simply the Battle of Murfreesboro), was fought from December 31, 1862, to January 3, 1863, in central Tennessee, as the culmination of the Stones River Campaign in the American Civil War. Although the battle itself was tactically indecisive, the Union army's repulse of the Confederate attack was a much-needed boost to U.S. morale after the defeat at the Battle of Fredericksburg. Download high resolution version (852x448, 110 KB) This image has been released into the public domain by the copyright holder, its copyright has expired, or it is ineligible for copyright. ... The American Civil War was fought in the United States from 1861 until 1865 between the United States – forces coming mostly from the 23 northern states of the Union – and the newly-formed Confederate States of America, which consisted of 11 southern states that had declared their secession. ... December 31 is the 365th day of the year (366th in leap years) in the Gregorian Calendar. ... 1862 - Wikipedia /**/ @import /skins/monobook/IE50Fixes. ... January 3 is the 3rd day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar. ... 1863 is a common year starting on Thursday. ... Murfreesboro is a city located in Rutherford County, Tennessee. ... National Motto Deo Vindice (Latin: Under God our Vindicator) Official language English de facto nationwide Various European and Native American languages regionally Capital Montgomery, Alabama February 4, 1861–May 29, 1861 Richmond, Virginia May 29, 1861–April 9, 1865 Danville, Virginia April 3–April 10, 1865 Largest city New Orleans... William Starke Rosecrans (September 6, 1819 - March 11, 1898), nicknamed Old Rosy, served as an American military officer. ... General Braxton Bragg (March 22, 1817_ September 27, 1876) was a general in the Confederate army during the American Civil War. ... The Battle of Hartsville was fought on December 7, 1862, in central Tennessee at the opening of the Stones River Campaign the American Civil War. ... The U.S. Southern states or The South, known during the American Civil War era as Dixie, is a distinctive region of the United States with its own unique historical perspective, customs, musical styles, and cuisine. ... December 31 is the 365th day of the year (366th in leap years) in the Gregorian Calendar. ... 1862 - Wikipedia /**/ @import /skins/monobook/IE50Fixes. ... January 3 is the 3rd day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar. ... 1863 is a common year starting on Thursday. ... State nickname: Volunteer State Other U.S. States Capital Nashville Largest city Memphis Governor Phil Bredesen Official languages English Area 109,247 km² (36th)  - Land 106,846 km²  - Water 2,400 km² (2. ... The American Civil War was fought in the United States from 1861 until 1865 between the United States – forces coming mostly from the 23 northern states of the Union – and the newly-formed Confederate States of America, which consisted of 11 southern states that had declared their secession. ... The Union Army refers to the United States Army during the American Civil War. ... National Motto Deo Vindice (Latin: Under God our Vindicator) Official language English de facto nationwide Various European and Native American languages regionally Capital Montgomery, Alabama February 4, 1861–May 29, 1861 Richmond, Virginia May 29, 1861–April 9, 1865 Danville, Virginia April 3–April 10, 1865 Largest city New Orleans... Battle of jo mama Conflict American Civil War Date December 11–15, 1862 Place Spotsylvania County and Fredericksburg Result Confederate victory The Battle of Fredericksburg, fought on December 13, 1862 between General Robert E. Lees Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of the Potomac commanded by Maj. ...

Contents

Stones River Campaign

After Confederate General Braxton Bragg's Army of Mississippi was defeated at the Battle of Perryville on October 8, 1862, he retreated to Harrisburg, Kentucky, where he was joined by Maj. Gen. Kirby Smith's army of 10,000 on October 10. Although Bragg now had a strong force of 38,000 veteran troops, he made no effort to regain the initiative. The Union victor at Perryville, Maj. Gen. Don Carlos Buell, was equally passive and refused to attack Bragg. General Braxton Bragg (March 22, 1817_ September 27, 1876) was a general in the Confederate army during the American Civil War. ... Battle of Perryville Conflict American Civil War Date October 8, 1862 Place Boyle County, Kentucky Result Union strategic victory The Battle of Perryville was an important but largely neglected encounter in the American Civil War. ... October 8 is the 281st day of the year (282nd in leap years). ... 1862 - Wikipedia /**/ @import /skins/monobook/IE50Fixes. ... Portrait of Edmund Kirby Smith during the Civil War Edmund Kirby Smith (1824–1893) was a general in the Confederate Army during the American Civil War, notable for his command of the western Confederacy after the fall of Vicksburg. ... October 10 is the 283rd day of the year (284th in Leap years). ... Don Carlos Buell ( 23 March 1818- 19 November 1898) was an American assistant adjutant general who fought in the Seminole War, the Mexican-American War, and the Civil War. ...


Bragg, frustrated, withdrew through the Cumberland Gap, passed through Chattanooga, turned northwest, and eventually stopped in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. His army, renamed the Army of Tennessee as of November 20, took up a defensive position northwest of the city along the West Fork of the Stones River, and posted a detached division under Maj. Gen. John C. Breckinridge on the low hills to the east of the river. The corps of Maj. Gen. William J. Hardee was placed in Triune, Tennessee, about 20 miles to the west. The Cumberland Gap was the chief passageway through the Appalachian Mountains in early American history. ... Chattanooga, Tennessee Chattanooga is the 4th largest city in Tennesseee, and the seat of Hamilton County6, Tennessee in the United States of America. ... Murfreesboro is a city located in Rutherford County, Tennessee. ... The Army of Tennessee was formed in November 1862. ... November 20 is the 324th day of the year (325th in leap years) in the Gregorian Calendar. ... The Stones River is a major stream of the eastern portion of Tennessees Nashville Basin region. ... John Cabell Breckinridge (January 16, 1821–May 17, 1875) was a U.S. Representative and a Senator from Kentucky and the fourteenth Vice President of the United States. ... William J. Hardee (1817-1873) was a Confederate general in the American Civil War. ...


On the Union side, President Abraham Lincoln had become frustrated with Buell's passivity and replaced him with Maj. Gen. William S. Rosecrans, victor of the recent battles of Iuka and Corinth. Rosecrans moved his 47,000 men of the XIV Corps (which was also designated the Army of the Cumberland) to Nashville, Tennessee, and was warned by Washington that he too would be replaced if he did not move aggressively against Bragg and occupy eastern Tennessee. Rosecrans, in the widespread tradition of cautious Union generals, would not be hurried and he took ample time to reorganize his forces, particularly his cavalry, and resupply his army. He did not begin his march in pursuit of Bragg until December 26. Seal of the President of the United States, official impression The President of the United States is the head of state of the United States. ... Abraham Lincoln (February 12, 1809 – April 15, 1865), sometimes called Abe Lincoln and nicknamed Honest Abe, the Rail Splitter, and the Great Emancipator, was the 16th (1861–1865) President of the United States, and the first president from the Republican Party. ... William Starke Rosecrans (September 6, 1819 - March 11, 1898), nicknamed Old Rosy, served as an American military officer. ... Union army in the west during the American Civil War, commanded at various times by Generals Robert Anderson, Don Carlos Buell, William S. Rosecrans, and George Thomas. ... Downtown Nashville at dusk, viewed from the Gateway Bridge Nashville is the capital of the U.S. state of Tennessee. ... Aerial photo (looking NW) of the Washington Monument and the White House in Washington, DC. Washington, D.C., officially the District of Columbia (also known as D.C.; Washington; the Nations Capital; the District; and, historically, the Federal City) is the capital city and administrative district of the United... December 26 is the 360th day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar, 361st in leap years. ...


While Rosecrans was preparing in Nashville, Bragg ordered Colonel John Hunt Morgan to move north with his cavalry and operate along Rosecrans's lines of communications, to prevent him from foraging for supplies north of Nashville. The Battle of Hartsville, at a crossing point on the Cumberland River about 40 miles upstream from Nashville, due north of Murfreesboro, was an incident in Morgan's raid to the north, before Rosecrans had the bulk of his infantry forces on the move. The relatively small battle that followed Morgan's surprise attack was an embarrassing Union defeat, resulting in many captured Union supplies and soldiers. John Hunt Morgan (June 1, 1825 – September 4, 1864) was a dashing young Confederate general and cavalry officer in the Civil War. ... The Battle of Hartsville was fought on December 7, 1862, in central Tennessee at the opening of the Stones River Campaign the American Civil War. ... The Cumberland River is 687 miles long. ...


The Army of the Cumberland marched southeast the day after Christmas in three columns, or "wings", towards Murfreesboro and they were effectively harassed by Brig. Gen. Joseph Wheeler's Confederate cavalry along the way, delaying their movements. The left wing under Maj. Gen. Thomas L. Crittenden took a route that was parallel to the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad, passing through La Vergne and south of Smyrna. The center wing under Maj. Gen. Alexander M. McCook marched south along the Nolensville Turnpike to Nolensville, south to Triune, and then eastward to Murfreesboro. The right wing under Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas moved south along the Wilson Turnpike and the Franklin Turnpike, parallel to the Nashville and Decatur Railroad, then eastward through Nolensville and along the same route used by Crittenden south of the Nashville and Chattanooga. The separation of the wings was designed to launch a turning movement against Hardee at Triune, but when the Federal march began, Bragg moved Hardee back to Murfreesboro, avoiding a confrontation. Christmas (literally, the Mass of Christ) is a holiday in the Christian calendar, usually observed on December 25, which celebrates the birth of Jesus. ... Joseph Wheeler (September 10, 1836 – January 25, 1906) was an American military commander and politician who fought during the Civil War and Spanish-American War and served as a U.S. Representative from Alabama. ... Smyrna is a town located in Rutherford County, Tennessee. ... General George Henry Thomas (July 31, 1816 - March 28, 1870), Northern general during the American Civil War, was born in Southampton County, Virginia. ...


By the time Rosecrans had arrived in Murfreesburo on the evening of December 29, the Army of Tennesee had been encamped in the area for a month. It was organized as two corps of infantry (commanded by Lt. Gen. Leonidas Polk and Maj. Gen. William J. Hardee) and cavalry under Brig. Gen. Joseph Wheeler. By nightfall, two thirds of Rosecrans's army was in position along the Nashville Turnpike, and by the next day Rosecrans's army numbered about 45,000 and Bragg's 38,000. December 29 is the 363rd day of the year (364th in leap years) in the Gregorian Calendar, with 2 days remaining. ... Leonidas Polk (1804 - June 14, 1864) was a Confederate general who was once a planter in Maury County, Tennessee and a cousin of President James K. Polk. ... William J. Hardee (1817-1873) was a Confederate general in the American Civil War. ... Joseph Wheeler (September 10, 1836 – January 25, 1906) was an American military commander and politician who fought during the Civil War and Spanish-American War and served as a U.S. Representative from Alabama. ...


The odds were closer than those figures would indicate. Bragg had the advantage of cooperating cavalry commands under Maj. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest and now-Brig. Gen. John Hunt Morgan, who raided deeply behind Union lines while Wheeler's cavalry slowed the Union forces with hit-and-run skirmishes. On December 29, Wheeler rode completely around the Union army, destroying supply wagons and capturing reserve ammunition in Rosecrans's trains. Nathan Bedford Forrest Nathan Bedford Forrest (July 13, 1821 – October 29, 1877), perhaps the American Civil Wars most highly regarded cavalry officer and guerrilla leader, and one of the wars most innovative and successful generals, developed tactics that soldiers still study to this day. ... John Hunt Morgan (June 1, 1825 – September 4, 1864) was a dashing young Confederate general and cavalry officer in the Civil War. ...


On December 30, the Union force moved into line two miles northwest of Murfreesboro. The two armies were in parallel lines, about 4 miles long, oriented from southwest to northeast. Both commanders devised similar plans for the following day: envelop the enemy's right, get into his rear, and cut him off from his base. Since both plans were the same, the victory would probably go to the side that was able to attack first. Bragg's forces were situated with Polk on the west side of the river, Breckenridge on the east. He began moving Hardee's corps across the river to his left flank in preparation for the next morning's attack. Crittenden, facing Breckenridge on the Union left, failed to notify McCook, on the Union right, of these troop movements. McCook, anticipating that the next day would start with a major attack by Crittenden, planted numerous campfires in his area, hoping to deceive the Confederates as to his strength on that flank. December 30 is the 364th day of the year (365th in leap years) in the Gregorian Calendar, with 1 day remaining. ...


The armies bivouacked only 700 yards from each other and their bands started a musical battle that would be a non-lethal preview of the next day's events. Northern musicians played Yankee Doodle and Hail, Columbia and they were answered by Dixie and The Bonnie Blue Flag. Finally, one band started playing Home Sweet Home and the others joined in. Thousands of Northern and Southern soldiers sang the sentimental song together across the lines.


December 31

Map of battle

At dawn on December 31, about 6 a.m., Confederate General William J. Hardee struck first, attacking the Union's right flank, before some of the Yankees in Brig. Gen. Richard W. Johnson's division had even finished their breakfast. (This was the third major battle, after Fort Donelson and Shiloh, in which an early morning attack caught the Union army by surprise.) The 13,000 Confederates who massed on their left attacked like a "tidal wave". Although meeting stiff and spirited resistance, they drove the Union troops back three miles to the railroad and the Nashville Pike by 10 a.m., where Johnson was able to rally them. Rosecrans canceled Crittenden's attack on the Confederate right, which had begun with Brig. Gen. Horatio P. Van Cleve's division crossing the river at 7 a.m., and rushed reinforcements to his own right flank. As he raced across the battlefield, his uniform was covered with blood from a staff officer beheaded by a cannonball while riding alongside. Download high resolution version (2255x3000, 3468 KB)Author: Michler, Nathaniel; United States. ... Download high resolution version (2255x3000, 3468 KB)Author: Michler, Nathaniel; United States. ... December 31 is the 365th day of the year (366th in leap years) in the Gregorian Calendar. ... William J. Hardee (1817-1873) was a Confederate general in the American Civil War. ... Battle of Fort Donelson Conflict American Civil War Date February 11-16, 1862 Place Stewart County, Tennessee Result Union victory The Battle of Fort Donelson was fought February 12–16, 1862 in the American Civil War. ... Battle of Shiloh Conflict American Civil War Date April 6-7, 1862 Place Hardin County, Tennessee Result Union victory The Battle of Shiloh, also known as the Battle of Pittsburg Landing, was a major battle in the American Civil War, fought April 6–7, 1862, in southwestern Tennessee. ...


What saved the Union from total destruction that morning was the foresight of Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan, who anticipated an early attack and had the troops of his division up and ready in the center of the right half of the line by 4 a.m. While they slowed the enemy advance, they did it at heavy cost to themselves; all three of Sheridan's brigade commanders were killed and more than one third of his men were casualties in four hours of fighting in a juniper forest that became known as "The Slaughter Pen". Philip Sheridan Philip Henry Sheridan (March 6, 1831 – August 5, 1888), a military man and one of the great generals in the American Civil War. ... Species 50-55 species; see text. ...


Two Confederate blunders also came to the aid of Rosecrans. Breckenridge, on the east side of the river, did not realize that Crittenden's early morning attack had been withdrawn. He refused to send two brigades as reinforcements across the river to aid the main attack on the left. When Bragg ordered him to attack to his front—so that some use could be made of his corps—Breckenridge moved forward and was embarrassed to find out that there were no Union troops opposing him. At about this time, Bragg received a false report that a strong Union force was moving south along the Lebanon Turnpike in his direction. He canceled his orders that Breckenridge send reinforcements across the river, which diluted the effectiveness of the main attack.


By 11 a.m., Sheridan's ammunition ran low and his division pulled back, opening a gap that Hardee exploited. The Union troops regrouped and held the Nashville Pike, supported by reinforcements and massed artillery. Repeated attacks on the left flank of the Union line were repulsed by Colonel William B. Hazen's brigade in an area that would become known as "Hell's Half-Acre"; Hazen's brigade was the only part of the original Union line to hold. The Union line was stabilized due to strong leadership by Rosecrans and the rallying of the divisions under Johnson and (the unfortunately named) Union Brig. Gen. Jefferson C. Davis. The new line was roughly perpendicular to the original line, in a half oval with its back to the river. Historically, artillery refers to any engine used for the discharge of projectiles during war. ... Brigade is a term from military science which refers to a group of several battalions (typically two to four), and directly attached supporting units (normally including at least an artillery battery and additional logistic support). ...


Bragg now planned to attack the Union left, a portion of the oval line facing southeast, manned by Hazen's brigade. The only troops available for such an assault were Breckenridge's and Bragg ordered him to cross the river, but Breckenridge moved slowly. By 4 p.m., Breckenridge's first two brigades assaulted Hazen and suffered a heavy repulse. Two more brigades arrived and they were sent in, reinforced by other elements of Pope's corps. The attack failed a second time. Thomas responded with a limited counterattack that cleared his front.


That night Rosecrans held a council of war to decide what to do. Some of the generals felt that the Union army had been defeated and recommended a retreat before they were entirely cut off. Rosecrans opposed this view and was strongly supported by Thomas and Crittenden. The decision was made to stand and fight and as the Union line was reinforced, the morale of the soldiers rose. Rosecrans was quoted after the battle as saying, "Bragg's a good dog, but Hold Fast's a better." On the Confederate side, Bragg was certain that he had won a victory. His army began digging in, facing the Union line.


January 1–3

At 3 a.m. on January 1, 1863, Rosecrans revived his original plan and ordered Van Cleve's division (command by Col. Samuel Beatty following Van Cleve's wounding the previous day) to cross the river and occupy the heights there, protecting two river crossing sites and providing a good platform for artillery. But the day was relatively quiet as both armies observed New Year's Day by resting and tending to their wounded. Polk launched two probes of the Union line, one against Thomas, the other against Sheridan, to no effect other than wasted casualties. January 1 is the first day of the calendar year in both the Julian and Gregorian calendars. ... 1863 is a common year starting on Thursday. ... This article is about January 1st in the Gregorian calendar. ...


In the rear, Wheeler's cavalry continued to harass the Union line of communication on the turnpike back to Nashville. Convoys of wounded had to travel under heavy escort to be protected from the cavalry and Wheeler interpreted these movements as preparations for a retreat, reporting such to Bragg. Buoyed by his sense that he had won the battle, Bragg was content to wait for Rosecrans to retreat.


At 4 p.m. on January 2, Bragg directed Breckenridge's troops to attack Beatty's division, which was occupying the hill on the east side of the river. Breckenridge initially protested that the assault would be suicidal, but eventually agreed and attacked with determination. The Union troops were pushed back across the ford, but the Confederate charge ran into heavy fire from Union artillery across the river and stalled. In less than an hour, the Confederates suffered over 1,800 casualties. A Union division under the command of James S. Negley led a counterattack and the Confederate troops retreated. January 2 is the 2nd day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar. ... A ford is a section of water (most commonly a section of a river) that is sufficiently shallow as to be traversable by wading. ... James Scott Negley (1896_1901) was a U.S. soldier, farmer and U.S. Congressman. ...


On the morning of January 3, a large supply train and reinforced brigade reached Rosecrans. Wheeler's cavalry attempted to capture the ammunition train that followed it, but was repulsed. Late that evening, Thomas attacked the center of the Confederate line with two brigades, apparently acting on his own initiative, and drove the Confederates from their entrenchments. January 3 is the 3rd day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar. ...


On the night of January 3, Bragg withdrew skillfully through Murfreesboro and began a retreat to Tullahoma, Tennessee, 36 miles to the south. Rosecrans occupied Murfreesboro, but made no attempt to pursue Bragg. Tullahoma is a city located in Coffee County, Tennessee, in the south-central part of the state. ...


Aftermath

Total casualties in the battle were 23,515: 13,249 on the Union side and 10,266 for the Confederates. This was the highest percentage of casualties of any battle in the Civil War. The battle was tactically inconclusive, although Bragg would traditionally be considered defeated since he withdrew first from the battlefield. And in fact he received almost universal scorn from his Confederate military colleagues; only his personal friendship with President Jefferson Davis saved his command. But a case can also be made that it was at least a strategic Union victory. The battle was very important to Union morale, as evidenced by Abraham Lincoln's letter to General Rosecrans: "You gave us a hard-earned victory, which had there been a defeat instead, the nation could scarcely have lived over." And the Confederate threat to central Tennessee had been nullified. Jefferson Davis Jefferson Davis (June 3, 1808–December 6, 1889) was an American soldier and politician. ... Abraham Lincoln (February 12, 1809 – April 15, 1865), sometimes called Abe Lincoln and nicknamed Honest Abe, the Rail Splitter, and the Great Emancipator, was the 16th (1861–1865) President of the United States, and the first president from the Republican Party. ...


Rosecrans spent five and a half months reinforcing Murfreesboro. The massive earthenworks "Fort Rosecrans" was built there and served as a supply depot for the remainder of the war. The next major clash, the Battle of Hoover's Gap, also known as the Tullahoma Campaign, would not come until June, when Rosecrans finally moved his army against Bragg. Battle of Hoovers Gap Conflict American Civil War Date June 24–26, 1862 Place Bedford County, Tennessee and Rutherford County, Tennessee Result Union victory The Battle of Hoovers Gap was the principal battle fought in the Tullahoma Campaign of the American Civil War. ...


Part of the site of the Battle of Stones River and Fort Rosecrans is now a National Battlefield administered by the National Park Service. It contains the nation's oldest intact Civil War monument, erected by William Hazen's brigade at Hell's Half Acre. The 600-acre National Battlefield includes Stones River National Cemetery, established in 1865, with more than 6,000 Union graves. The National Park Service (NPS) is the United States Federal Government agency that deals with all National Parks, many National Monuments, and other conservation properties with various designations. ... 1865 is a common year starting on Sunday. ...


References

  • Eicher, David J., The Longest Night: A Military History of the Civil War, Simon & Schuster, 2001, ISBN 0-684-84944-5.
  • Esposito, Vincent J., West Point Atlas of American Wars, Frederick A. Praeger, 1959.
  • McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States), Oxford University Press, 1988, ISBN 0-195-03863-0.

For the Civil War General of the same name see James B. McPherson James M. McPherson (born October 11, 1936) is an American Civil War historian, and is the George Henry Davis 86 Professor of United States History at Princeton University. ...

External links

  • Stones River National Battlefield (http://www.nps.gov/stri/)
  • National Park Service battle description (http://www.cr.nps.gov/hps/abpp/battles/tn010.htm)
  • West Point Atlas map of the campaign and battle (http://www.dean.usma.edu/history/web03/atlases/american%20civil%20war/acw%20pages/confederate_withdrawal.htm)

  Results from FactBites:
 
The Battle of Stones River (or Murfreesboro), Tenn. (1725 words)
The Battle of Stones River (or Murfreesboro), Tenn.
Reinforcements hurried across the river; Beatty rallied his troops for a counterattack; and Breckinridge was driven back to his line of departure.
Stones River was a tactical victory for the Confederates, but Bragg lacked the strength to destroy Rosecrans' larger army or drive it from the field.
TN Encyclopedia: BATTLE OF STONES RIVER (908 words)
Positioned along the banks of the west fork of Stones River near the small town of Murfreesboro, it faced Braxton Bragg's thirty-eight-thousand-man Army of Tennessee.
The Federals sent troops across Stones River and occupied a ridge from which enfilading fire could threaten the Southern position.
As the Confederates pursued the enemy toward the river, however, they were met by massed Union artillery fire from a commanding position on the opposite side of the stream.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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