Afternoon Confederate Attack January 2, 1863


Stones River Campaign
December 1862 - January 1863

Stones River Campaign Morning December 31 Afternoon December 31 January 2 1863

After spending January 1, 1863 reorganizing and caring for the wounded, the two armies came to blows again on the afternoon of January 2nd. General Bragg ordered Breckinridge to attack General Horatio Van Cleve's Division (commanded by Colonel Samuel Beatty) occupying a hill overlooking McFadden's Ford on the east side of the river.

January 2, 1863 Morning


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Battle of Stones River - Civil War Panoramic Map
Battle of Stones River - Civil War Panoramic Map
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Stones River
No Better Place to Die
The Battle of Stones River

The forces of Braxton Bragg came very close to victory. But the star-crossed Confederate general ended up withdrawing, leaving Rosecrans' Union forces to claim victory by holding the field of battle

Breckinridge reluctantly launched the attack with all five of his brigades at 4 PM. The Confederate charge quickly took the hill and continued on pushing towards the ford. As the Confederates attacked, they came within range of fifty-seven Union cannon massed on the west side of the Stones River. General Crittenden watched as his guns went to work.

�Van Cleve's Division of my command was retiring down the opposite slope, before overwhelming numbers of the enemy, when the guns � opened upon the swarming enemy. The very forest seemed to fall � and not a Confederate reached the river.�

The cannon took a heavy toll. In forty-five minutes their concentrated fire killed or wounded more than 1,800 Confederates. A Union counterattack pushed the shattered remnants of Breckinridge's Division back to Wayne's Hill.

Faced with this disaster and the approach of Union reinforcements, General Bragg ordered the Army of Tennessee to retreat on January 3, 1863. Two days later, the battered Union army marched into Murfreesboro and declared victory.

January 2 Afternoon Attack Troop Positions

The Battle of Stones River was one of the bloodiest of the war. More than 3,000 men lay dead on the field. Nearly 16,000 more were wounded. Some of these men spent as much as seven agonizing days on the battlefield before help could reach them. The two armies sustained nearly 24,000 casualties, which was almost one-third of the 81,000 men engaged.

As the Army of Tennessee retreated they gave up a large chunk of Middle Tennessee. The rich farmland meant to feed the Confederates now supplied the Federals. General Rosecrans set his army and thousands of contraband slaves to constructing a massive fortification, Fortress Rosecrans that served as a supply depot and base of occupation for the Union for the duration of the war.

President Lincoln got the victory he wanted to boost morale and support the Emancipation Proclamation. How important was this victory to the Union? Lincoln himself said it best in a telegram to Rosecrans later in 1863.

�I can never forget, if I remember anything, that at the end of last year and the beginning of this, you gave us a hard earned victory, which had there been a defeat instead, the country scarcely could have lived over.�



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Sources:
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National Park Service

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