Stones River Murfreesboro

december 30 1862 - january 2 1863

In October 1862, General Rosecrans succeeded General JBuell as commander of the Department and Army of the Cumberland. Northern authorities demanded aggressive action against General Bragg's Army of Tennessee.

On December 26, Rosecrans's 44,000-man army left Nashville and moved southeast in three columns against Bragg's 34,000 men, who awaited attack astride the axis of rail and stage roads northwest of Murfreesboro. Despite heavy skirmishing, Rosecrans failed to assault, and Bragg seized the initiative, maneuvering his army to outflank the Federal right and cut their line of retreat north.

Shortly after dawn on December 31, General Hardee's corps launched a crushing assault on Rosecrans's right wing, throwing the surprised Federals onto the defensive. When resistance stiffened, Bragg ordered General Polk's corps to sustain the offensive. Fighting desperately to halt the relentless Confederate tide, Rosecrans was forced back several miles and pinned against Stones River. At mid-afternoon, unable to break Rosecrans's line, Bragg instructed Major General John C. Breckinridge's division to reinforce Polk on the right. However, Polk sent Breckinridge's brigades in piecemeal, in separate frontal attacks against the Union left, and they were slaughtered. The Confederate assaults continued into the evening, but Rosecrans's army refused to break. That night, Bragg entrenched; Rosecrans, after considering retreat, also remained on the field.

New Year's day was quiet; each side buried their dead and awaited a renewal of the struggle. On January 2, Bragg resolved to finally destroy Rosecrans; in an ill-conceived but savage assault, Breckinridge drove a division of Crittenden's corps from a commanding height northeast of Stones River. However, Union artillery, firing across the river into the Confederate left, halted Breckinridge's charge, inflicting murderous losses on the already crippled division. Fresh Union infantry counterattacked across the river, and by nightfall had driven Breckinridge back to his original position.

For the next 24 hours the armies remained poised on the battlefield, but lack of con-

Rosecrans's advance (right), in a broad front, was one of constant skirmish, as Confederate cavalry under Joseph Wheeler forced Union infantry to deploy repeatedly at every piece of strong defensive terrain. By December 30, Rosecrans's three corps converged on Murfreesboro and deployed in line of battle.

Stones river campaign

29 December, 1862

Union advance from Nashville gladeville

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