Battle of Stones River
The Fight for Murfreesboro

At dawn on December 31, 1862 the two armies clashed in a deadly struggle along the banks of Stones River.

Stones River
Civil War Tennessee

American Civil War

Stones River Campaign 1862 - 1863

Stones River
Winter Lightning: A Guide to the Battle of Stones River
Lincoln thanked Rosecrans saying that the nation could not have taken another defeat. Additionally, Lincoln said he would remember this victory as long as he lived

After General Braxton Bragg's defeat at Perryville, Kentucky, October 8, 1862, he and his Confederate Army of the Mississippi retreated, reorganized, and were redesignated as the Army of Tennessee. They then advanced to Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and prepared to go into winter quarters. 

Major General William S. Rosecrans's Union Army of the Cumberland followed Bragg from Kentucky to Nashville. Rosecrans left Nashville on December 26, with about 44,000 men, to defeat Bragg's army of more than 37,000.  He found Bragg's army on December 29 and went into camp that night, within hearing distance of the Rebels.

At dawn on the 31st, Bragg's men attacked the Union right flank. The Confederates had driven the Union line back to the Nashville Pike by 10:00 am but there it held. Union reinforcements arrived from Rosecrans's left in the late forenoon to bolster the stand, and before fighting stopped that day the Federals had established a new, strong line.

On New Years Day, both armies marked time. Bragg surmised that Rosecrans would now withdraw, but the next morning he was still in position. In late afternoon, Bragg hurled a division at a Union division that, on January 1, had crossed Stones River and had taken up a strong position on the bluff east of the river. The Confederates drove most of the Federals back across McFadden's Ford, but with the assistance of artillery, the Federals repulsed the attack, compelling the Rebels to retire to their original position.

Action on January 2, 1863

Bragg left the field on the January 4-5, retreating to Shelbyville and Tullahoma, Tennessee. Rosecrans did not pursue, but as the Confederates retired, he claimed the victory. Stones River boosted Union morale. 

The Confederates had been thrown back in the east, west, and in the Trans-Mississippi.

Result(s): Union victory

Location: Rutherford County

Campaign: Stones River Campaign (1862-63)

Date(s): December 31, 1862-January 2, 1863

Principal Commanders: Major General William S. Rosecrans [US]; General Braxton Bragg [CS]

Forces Engaged: Army of the Cumberland [US]; Army of Tennessee [CS]

Estimated Casualties: 23,515 total (US 13,249; CS 10,266)

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

Biography of General William S. Rosecrans
The Edge of Glory: A Biography of General William S. Rosecrans, U.S.A
The best biography on William Rosecrans despite having been published over 40 years ago. William Lamers, who was a school official and not a historian, was looking at a limited portion of his subject's career.

Kindle Available
Tennessee in the Civil War
Tennessee in the Civil War

Selected Contemporary Accounts of Military and Other Events, Month by Month
Battle of Stones River - Civil War Panoramic Map
Battle of Stones River - Civil War Panoramic Map
24 in. x 18 in.
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Battle Positions January 2 Afternoon

Stones River Campaign Map
Click to Enlarge Map

The night before the Battle of Stones River, after the bands had finished their usual evening serenade, Federal bands struck up slowly and softly “Home Sweet Home.” As the notes came through the stillness of the night, soldiers of both sides were wondering what tomorrow would bring: each soldier wondering if he would be wounded, or die, or if he would ever see home again. Then a Confederate band joined, and then another, until all the bands of each army were playing “Home Sweet Home.” This continued for some time until the bands one by one ceased playing and the sweet music faded away into the night.

National Park Service

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Six Armies in Tennessee: The Chickamauga and Chattanooga Campaigns
The Federal success along the river opened the way for advances into central and eastern Tennessee, which culminated in the bloody battle of Chickamauga and then a struggle for Chattanooga. Chickamauga is usually counted as a Confederate victory, albeit a costly one

  Confederate Infantry Preparing to Attack, Shiloh Battlefield, Tennessee
Confederate Infantry Preparing to Attack
Shiloh Battlefield, Tennessee Photographic Print

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