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Title: Stone's River - The Turning-Point of the Civil War
Author: Vance, Wilson J.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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  The Turning-Point of the Civil War


  New York
  The Neale Publishing Company

  (Copyright, 1914)
  By The Neale Publishing Company




  Preface                                           7

  Introduction                                      9


        I  North and South in 1862                 12

       II  Foreign Relations in 1862               21

      III  The Armies and Their Leaders            31

       IV  The First Day's Battle                  44

        V  The Night and the Next Day              55

       VI  The Second of January, 1863             59

      VII  What Might Have Been,--and What Was     63

  Appendix                                         67



While many authorities were consulted in the preparation of this work,
particular acknowledgment is due John Formby's "The American Civil War,"
wherein was suggested the proposition that is here laid down and expanded;
to Van Horne's "History of the Army of the Cumberland," which gives the
campaigns of that organization in minute detail; to several of the papers
and books of Charles Francis Adams,--documents that deal principally with
the diplomacy of the Civil War, and to the published and spoken words of
the author's father,--the late Wilson Vance,--orderly to the brigade
commander whose charge against orders turned defeat into victory in the
battle here described. The book grows out of a short article published in
the Newark _Sunday Call_, December 29, 1912,--an article that attracted
considerable attention, rather because of the novelty of the theory
advanced than because of other merit.

It may be permissible to add that few persons,--comparatively,--conceive
the bearing on the outcome of the Civil War, of the campaigns and battles
that took place beyond the Alleghanies. There is more than one pretentious
history, which would lead a reader to suppose that all of the events of
importance took place upon the Atlantic seaboard. It does not diminish in
the least either the merit or the renown of the armies that measured their
strength in that confined arena to suggest that the movements that
resulted in the transfer of the control over hundreds of thousands of
square miles of territory,--territory that teemed with the fruits of the
earth,--was, taken in connection with the naval blockade, a very
considerable factor in the wearing down and final collapse of the Southern


NEWARK, N. J., JULY 14, 1914.


On the banks of a shallow winding stream, traversing the region known as
Middle Tennessee, on the last day of December, 1862, and on the first and
second days of January, 1863, a great battle was fought,--a battle that
marked the turning point of the Civil War. Stone's River, as the North
designated it, or Murfreesboro,--to give it the Southern name,--has
hitherto not been estimated at its true importance. To the people of the
two sections it seemed at the time but another Shiloh,--horrifying,
saddening, and bitterly disappointing. Its significance, likewise, has
escaped almost all historians and military critics. But now the
perspective of half a century gives it its proper place in the panorama of
the great conflict.

Gettysburg, indeed, may have been the wound mortal of the Confederacy. But
Gettysburg was, in very truth, a counsel of desperation, undertaken when
the South was bleeding from many a vein. When Lee turned the faces of his
veterans toward the fruitful fields of Pennsylvania, a wall of steel and
fire encompassed his whole country. Warworn Virginia cried out for relief
from the marchings of armies, that her people might raise the crops that
would save them from starvation. Grant had at last established his lines
around the fortress that dominated the Mississippi, and only by such a
diversion, was there hope that his death-grip would be shaken. The day
after Pickett's shattered columns had drifted back to Seminary Ridge
Vicksburg was surrendered, and the control of the mighty river passed to
the forces of the North.

But it was at Stone's River that the South was at the very pinnacle of
confidence and warlike power; and it was here that she was halted and
beaten back,--never again to exhibit such strength and menace. It was here
that the tide of the Confederacy passed its flood, henceforth to recede;
here that its sun crossed the meridian and began its journey to the
twilight and the dark. Southern valor was manifested in splendid lustre on
many a field thereafter, but the capacity for sustained aggression was
gone. After Stone's River, the Southern soldier fought to repel rather
than to drive his foe.

Yet Stone's River was almost a tale of triumph for the Confederacy.

"God has granted us a happy New Year!" was the message flashed to Richmond
at the close of the first day's fighting by General Braxton Bragg,
Commander of the Army of the Tennessee. Two-thirds of the Army of the
Cumberland had been hurled out of line, and now lay clinging with
desperation to the only road from which it could secure supplies, or by
which it could retreat, and to lose which meant destruction. There was
reason, therefore, in the Southern general's exultation, as he waited for
the morrow to give him complete success. He could not know that the army
upon which had been inflicted so terrific a blow was to gather new
strength out of the very magnitude of its disaster and to return such a
counter-stroke as would give it the field and the victory. Neither could
he see that his failure here meant failure for his cause; that because at
Stone's River success had not crowned his efforts, his own magnificent
army was to be pressed further and further from the territory it claimed
as its own; that Fate had here entered the decree,--against which all
appeals would fail,--for the preservation of the Federal Union and the
death of the Confederate States of America.




Confederate enterprise, energy, and expectation were at the zenith in
1862. No other year saw the South with so promising prospects, with plans
of campaign so bold, with such resources, both latent and developed. Her
armies were at their fullest strength, for the flower of her youth had not
yet been destroyed in battle. Want and hunger had not yet begun to chill
the hearts of her people. Her political machinery, under the direction of
able leaders, had been skillfully adjusted to the needs of the new nation
and was now working smoothly and effectually. There had, indeed, come a
change of sentiment in the Southland. That boastful and flatulent
spirit,--the spirit that contemptuously slurred the strength and courage
of the foe and counted upon an easy victory,--was gone. In its place was a
temper far more formidable. The South realized now that before it was a
task of greatest magnitude, but her people rose to it in a spirit of
splendid sacrifice and with high, stern resolution.

The early part of the year, indeed, brought a series of reverses,
particularly in the West,--reverses that would have seemed fatal to a
cause, less resolutely supported. In January was fought the battle of Mill
Springs, where Thomas, in routing the Confederate forces, achieved the
first considerable Union success of the war. In February came Grant's
capture of Forts Henry and Donelson, which not only yielded thousands of
prisoners but left Middle Tennessee open to the invaders. The same month
witnessed the opening of operations in North Carolina by Burnside, which
resulted in the capture of Roanoke Island and (in March) of New Berne. Pea
Ridge, fought in March, dashed Confederate hopes of Missouri,--for a
season,--and the capture of New Madrid proved another heavy loss to the
South, in men, guns, and munitions. Early in April Fort Pulaski yielded to
Gillmore, and McClellan's great army began its progress up the Peninsula,
with Richmond as its announced goal. The siege-artillery of the Army of
the Potomac was still thundering at Williamsburg, when, on May 6 and 7,
was fought the bloody battle of Shiloh, in which the Confederates,--after
a striking initial success,--were driven from the field by Grant and
Buell, with the death of their loved commander, Albert Sidney Johnston, to
make more bitter their defeat. The echoes of Shiloh's guns had scarcely
ceased, before Island No. 10, with many prisoners and supplies, fell to
Pope, and the crowning Confederate disaster came on May 28, when Farragut
received the surrender of New Orleans,--the commercial metropolis, the
largest and wealthiest city, and the greatest seaport of the South.

But Confederate prestige, which had suffered sadly in these events, was
speedily restored in fullest measure. While McClellan was toiling slowly
up the Peninsula, Jackson was electrifying the whole South by his campaign
in the Shenandoah Valley, where, with a small force, he neutralized armies
aggregating 70,000 men, and terrorized the Federal capital. Kernstown,
Front Royal, Winchester, Cross Keys, and Port Republic, are names that
serve to recall some of the most brilliant exploits of the war.

His work in the valley accomplished, Jackson then slipped away in June to
aid Lee in the battles around Richmond,--battles that were to culminate
early in July in the retreat to Harrison's Landing and the reluctant and
humiliating withdrawal from the Peninsula of the Army of the Potomac.
While the withdrawal was still in progress, Lee fell upon the luckless
Pope, and in the second Battle of Bull Run all but crushed his
newly-constituted Army of Virginia. Then Lee gave the Northward road to
his victorious legions, and early in September began the invasion of

After the battle of Shiloh, the Confederate forces of the Middle
West,--under Beauregard,--had retired to Corinth, Miss., which Halleck,
at the head of more than 100,000 men,--having gathered together Grant's
army, Buell's and all the other forces under his command,--approached with
ridiculous caution. After a somewhat farcical siege, in which Beauregard
played successfully for time, Corinth was suddenly and expeditiously
evacuated, and the Confederate Army reappeared in a strong position at
Tupelo, when, Beauregard having fallen ill, Bragg assumed command.

Halleck now divided his forces again, Buell,--at the head of what was now
known as the Army of the Cumberland,--being sent into Middle Tennessee to
begin a campaign long urged by President Lincoln for the relief of the
Unionists in the eastern part of that State, and Grant being left in
Mississippi, with somewhat widely-separated detachments, which ultimately
he was to concentrate in the campaign for Vicksburg. The taking of Memphis
(June 6) had already given the Union forces a foothold on the great river
and domination over Western Tennessee. Halleck was summoned to Washington
in July, to take command of all the armies in the field.

The dispersion of the Union forces in his front did not pass unnoticed by
Bragg, who soon conceived and put into execution one of the boldest plans
of campaign of the war. Early in June he began the shifting of his Army of
the Tennessee to Chattanooga, where, in conjunction with Kirby
Smith,--commanding a Confederate Army in East Tennessee,--he perfected
his scheme of operation. The prelude of his campaign was exhibited in the
form of extensive raids by Forrest's Cavalry and Morgan's, in which the
Federal lines of communication were repeatedly cut, huge stores of
supplies taken or destroyed, and several important posts captured. Early
in August the heavy columns of Confederate infantry and artillery began
pouring through the mountain passes into the coveted territory of

Bragg's invasion of Kentucky was thus practically simultaneous with Lee's
invasion of Maryland; and the two movements caused the direst foreboding
and dismay in the North. The war was coming very close to the people of
that section when Confederate detachments appeared in the rear of
Covington, in sight of Cincinnati, and when the chief Confederate Army
crossed the Potomac into the Maryland that the Southern poets had already
immortalized in song. Not the least of the objects of these two campaigns
was the winning to the Confederate cause of the States invaded.

Nelson, with a small Union force, was badly beaten by Kirby Smith at
Richmond, Ky., August 23, and Louisville experienced the agonies of a
panic, for it was practically defenseless. Buell had been so mystified by
Bragg's movements that he did not start in pursuit until September 7, and
even then might not have reached Louisville in time, had not the
Confederate forces lost precious hours in taking Munfordville. But having
reached that city, Buell held the key to the situation, and Bragg was
forced to retire,--which he did slowly and carefully. At Perryville a
portion of Buell's army and some of Bragg's troops met on October 8 in a
fierce battle,--an engagement that will always be a source of mystery to
students, in that neither side took advantage of obvious opportunities.
Bragg, in this campaign, failed of a major object, which was to rouse
Kentucky for the Confederacy, though he went through the form of
inaugurating a Provisional Governor at the State capital, Frankfort; but
he did return South with long trains of fine horses and beeves, with
wagons richly laden with food and clothing, and with almost enough
recruits to offset the human wastage of his army on march and in battle.
Moreover, at the close of the campaign he was in the possession of some
territory heretofore held by Federal forces,--territory that was not
yielded up until almost a year later.

The disorganization in and near Washington,--consequent upon Pope's
defeat,--gave Lee an advantage which he improved by celerity of movement;
and he was well into Maryland before a Union army was got together to
oppose him. The command of this army was entrusted to McClellan, who
exercised his customary super-caution, one result of which was that
Harper's Ferry, with thousands of prisoners and great stores of military
supplies, fell,--with scarce a struggle,--into Lee's hands. This very
success might have been fatal to Lee,--for he had scattered his army to
accomplish this and other objects,--but McClellan, though fully aware of
the situation, moved too slowly, and the Southern general had time to
concentrate on the banks of Antietam Creek. Here, on September 17, was
fought one of the bloodiest battles of the war,--a battle in which the
Confederate Army stood off a foe twice as strong in numbers, and at length
retired at leisure, without further molestation. Like Bragg, Lee had
failed to win the State that he had invaded, but though he had suffered
tremendous losses, he had accomplished some important results.

The people of the North, it may be remarked without disparagement, were
better informed as to the events of the war than were the people of the
South. Their more thickly settled territory was abundantly supplied with
telegraph lines and railways, and their numerous populous cities boasted
many strong newspapers. Of these, not a few were hostile to the
administration, which also had to contend with a well-organized opposing
political party. To many persons in the North the campaigns of Lee and
Bragg seemed conclusive proof that the Confederacy, after almost two years
of fighting, was not only not weaker, but could at will practically carry
the war into Northern territory.

Lincoln, accepting the check at Antietam as a victory, had (September 22)
issued his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, but the first effect of
this was probably adverse, for the fall elections went almost uniformly
against the President's party. The Nation's credit fell to a low ebb, and
offerings of Government bonds found few takers, only $25,000,000 worth
being sold during the year. Gold mounted to high and higher premiums, and
general business,--despite the artificial stimulus incident to the
production of war materials,--was dishearteningly poor.

Buell, because of his failure to do more against Bragg, was relieved of
the command of the Army of the Cumberland, which fell to Rosecrans, who
had achieved success at Corinth, during the fall. McClellan, because of
his failure to follow Lee after Antietam, was ordered to turn over the
Command of the Army of the Potomac to Burnside. As the end of the year
drew nigh, Rosecrans was established with his army at Nashville, and Bragg
was at Murfreesboro, 30 miles south. The events of that season were well
calculated to enthuse the Confederate and to depress the Federal force. On
December 13 was fought the Battle of Fredericksburg, where the Army of the
Potomac was repulsed, with frightful slaughter, by the Army of Northern
Virginia, under Lee. A week later, the immense depot of supplies at Holly
Springs,--supplies that Grant had gathered to aid him in his campaign
against Vicksburg,--was captured. On December 29, Sherman, in a
preliminary movement of this campaign, was hurled back, stunned and
bleeding, from an assault upon Chickasaw Bluffs.

Two days later was to open the pivotal battle in Middle Tennessee.



The outbreak of hostilities between the North and the South was greeted
with obvious delight by the majority of public journals, and with thinly
veiled satisfaction by many of the public officials of the more important
nations of Europe. Russia, indeed, showed a substantial and potent
friendship for the United States, and Italy,--where the movement for
liberal institutions had already won important victories,--evinced a
sympathy both general and genuine. But these were the exceptions. In
Austria and the German States the hostile feeling for the American
Republic had little effect at the time. The attitude of France and Great
Britain was vastly more hurtful.

Napoleon III was then at the very height of his power, and his bizarre
performances and dreams of conquest had dazzled the imagination of his
countrymen to an extent that it is difficult to realize at this day. Nay,
more,--he had cast such a spell over the minds of Her Britannic Majesty's
ministers as to have led to a practical allience upon certain important
subjects. The French Emperor saw in the disruption of the United States a
vindication of his own usurpation and an opportunity to plant an Imperial
Government under his own guidance in Mexico. In addition, the shortage of
cotton, due to the blockade of Southern ports, was causing very serious
distress in the textile districts of France; so there was perhaps one real
reason for the Emperor to show some concern in trans-Atlantic affairs, and
repeatedly to proffer his unfriendly "friendly offices." However that may
be, his suggestion of mediation and intervention did not fall upon deaf
ears across the Channel, though, with characteristic caution, the British
Government deferred action until its opportunity had passed.

French ill-opinion could have been borne,--even if it had taken the form
of countenancing contracts for Confederate ships-of-war and winking at aid
and comfort given to the cruisers of that unrecognized power. But British
unfriendliness took a form that, short of actual war, could scarcely have
done more to harm and exasperate the government and people of the United
States. The recognition of the belligerency of the Confederates,--which
(candor compels the statement) had much in logic and reason to justify it,
however it may have savored of technical irregularity--was but the least
of the offendings.

In plain defiance of international law, splendid vessels were built in
British yards for the purpose of sweeping the commerce of the United
States from the seas; Confederate rifles and cannon were readily procured
from British dealers; Confederate loans were floated by British bankers,
and over-subscribed by the British public; the sale of shares in British
blockade-runners to Confederate ports was an easy matter, as it appealed
not only to the cupidity but to the prejudice of the purchaser. All grades
of publications,--from the newspapers to the stately reviews,--teemed with
abuse of Americans,--abuse written in almost inconceivable ferocity and
malice. The humorous organ, _Punch_, did not check its "scurrile jester"
in the drawing of most offensive cartoons of the President of the United
States; practically the whole of the aristocracy was hostile; in all
Parliament but one voice was raised for the North, and that was the voice
of John Bright.

While the rancor and venom were expended upon the North, and while that
section suffered solely from the violations of international law, it must
not be supposed that the British press, patricians, and politicians were
actuated by any genuine motives of good will to the South. Their hope and
prayer were for the disruption and destruction of the Republic, in which
the nobility recognized their most powerful,--however passive,--enemy; and
the trading classes thought they saw the ruin of their commercial rival.
There was, however, one great element in England that was stanchly on the
side of the North throughout the whole conflict; and though it did not
possess the franchise, this element was not without its influence. The
working classes of the kingdom were able to penetrate the mists that
blinded their superiors in station, and they saw from the beginning that,
whatever the ostensible purpose, the actual result of Northern triumph
would be the end of slavery. It is at once a pathetic and magnificent
fact, that no amount of specious argument, such as was frequently
addressed to him, that no reflection upon his own sufferings, could win
the Lancashire cottonspinner,--starving, because of the shortage in the
great staple of his industry,--from the cause of human freedom.

It is, perhaps, too much to say that the British Ministry had always
inclined to a recognition of the Confederacy. But as the war progressed
and its desperate and extensive character began to be revealed, the
project of some action tending to this end was frequently discussed in
Downing Street. The British premier at this time was Lord Palmerston, and
next in rank to him in the Cabinet was Lord John Russell, Secretary of
State for Foreign Affairs. Practised and polished politicians both, they
had been able to adjust their ambitions and predilections in this instance
to mutual satisfaction. But a third member of the Ministry, the Chancellor
of the Exchequer gave them both great concern. William Ewart
Gladstone,--whose genius was then being revealed in full proportion to
the English public,--was too able, too popular, and, above all, too
formidable to be left out of the Coalition Cabinet. But it is well
established that he was regarded with personal dislike and with
professional jealousy by his veteran colleagues. This feeling of animosity
was to lead to a most singular consequence,--one that had a grave bearing
on American affairs.

The stopping by a United States warship of the Royal Mail Steamer _Trent_
in November, 1861, and the removal therefrom of the Confederate envoys,
Mason and Slidell, brought the two countries to the brink of war. Only the
prompt, complete, and skillful disavowal of the American Government served
to avert hostilities, preparations for which had already begun on the part
of Great Britain. The temper and disposition of Her Majesty's Ministry
were plainly shown in the truculent tone of the demand framed by
Russell,--a paper that was adopted by the Cabinet, though Gladstone
suggested some modifications. However, it would have been sent as written,
had not the Queen, acting on the advice of the Prince Consort, insisted
upon a modification of some of the more offensive phrases. Had it not been
for this kindly and sagacious interposition of Queen Victoria, the
situation might have gone beyond the power of the Lincoln Government to

The smothering of the _Trent_ incident in the honey of diplomacy left the
Ministry without an immediate and direct pretext for unfriendly action,
but there remained a feeling of irritation and a tacit determination to do
something when a proper opportunity should occur.

The Confederate successes in the summer of 1862 were convincing proofs to
the British mind that the independence of the South was only a matter of
time, and discussions of the subject were frequent at the Cabinet
meetings. Those were anxious times for the American Minister, Charles
Francis Adams, whose personal luggage was kept packed in anticipation of a
sudden breach of diplomatic relations which would necessitate his
departure from the Court of St. James.

Near the close of the summer, Gladstone wrote to his wife: "Lord
Palmerston has come exactly to my mind about some early representations of
a friendly kind to America, if we can get France and Russia to join." At
about the same time he wrote to another correspondent: "My opinion is that
it is vain, and wholly unsustained by precedent, to say that nothing shall
be done until parties are desirous of it," and went on to repeat the
former suggestion.

About two months later Palmerston wrote to Gladstone saying that he and
Russell were agreed that an offer of mediation should be made by Britain,
France, and Russia, and that the Ambassador at Paris was to be instructed
to communicate with the French Government on the subject. "Of course," he
added, "no actual step would be taken without the sanction of the

Lord Russell had but a few days previously written a letter to Palmerston,
which had been shown to Gladstone, in which he said: "I agree with you
that the time is come for offering mediation to the United States
government with a view to the recognition of the independence of the
Confederates. I agree further that, in case of failure, we ought ourselves
to recognize the Confederate States as an independent State."

With the words of these two letters singing in his mind and mingling with
the mental harmonies he himself had conceived, Mr. Gladstone went to
Newcastle to partake of a banquet prepared for him by party admirers, and
to utter on October 7, 1862, in the course of a general speech, a comment
upon American affairs that was to vex him to the end of his life. Said he:

     "We know quite well that the people of the North have not yet drunk
     of the cup,--they are still trying to hold it far from their
     lips,--which, all the rest of the world see, they, nevertheless, must
     drink of. We may have our own opinions about slavery; we may be for
     or against the South; but there is no doubt that Jefferson Davis and
     other leaders of the South have made an army; they are making, it
     appears, a navy; and they have made,--what is more than either,--they
     have made a nation. We may anticipate with certainty the success of
     the Southern States, so far as their separation from the North is

It is difficult to exaggerate the profound sensation that this passage in
Gladstone's speech made in the United Kingdom, on the Continent, and in
the United States. There was no escaping its significance. It meant that
the British Government was on the point of recognizing the independence of
the South, and such an act must have led to war between Great Britain and
the United States. Aware of the sentiment that pervaded the Cabinet,
Minister Adams had sought explicit instructions from the United States
State Department, which instructions had come in unequivocal terms in a
letter from Secretary Seward. Mr. Seward wrote:

     "If contrary to our expectations, the British Government, either
     alone or in combination with any other Government, should acknowledge
     the insurgents, while you are remaining without further instructions
     from this Government concerning that event, you will immediately
     suspend the exercise of your functions.... I have now, in behalf of
     the United States, and by the authority of their Chief Executive
     Magistrate, performed an important duty. Its possible consequences
     have been weighed and its solemnity is therefore felt and freely
     acknowledged. This duty has brought us to meet and confront the
     danger of a war with Great Britain and other States allied with the
     insurgents who are in arms for the overthrow of the American Union.
     You will perceive that we have approached the contemplation of that
     crisis with the caution that great reluctance has inspired. But I
     trust that you will also have perceived that the crisis has not
     appalled us."

Mr. Adams must have perused this letter many times as he waited for the
meeting of the British Ministry,--which he learned had been called for
October 23,--to act upon the question of the Civil War in America. Indeed,
he had felt a strong impulse to call for his passports immediately after
the Gladstone speech at Newcastle, but had concluded to wait a few days
for formal action by the government to which he was accredited.

But now conditions and circumstances beyond the ken of diplomacy had
conspired to put the inevitable moment indefinitely forward. Whether, as
has been suggested, Gladstone, in his Newcastle speech, had intended to
force his colleagues into a position the only outlet of which was
recognition, or whether knowing their sentiments he had in mere exuberance
let the cat out of the bag, he had committed a grave breach of official
etiquette in thus speaking without express Cabinet sanction. It was a
false move, upon which Palmerston and Russell seized with eagerness
and,--it may be imagined,--private glee. Within a week Sir George
Cornewall Lewis, a member of the Cabinet, made, at Palmerston's express
direction, a public speech in which he adroitly gave the lie to Gladstone.
The fateful Cabinet meeting of the 23rd was postponed, and a new proposal
of Napoleon III that came at about this time,--a proposal looking to joint
mediation or intervention,--was rejected, on the ground that the time was
not yet ripe.

The British Ministry kept looking for the auspicious opportunity for
several months thereafter. Many thought it had come in the middle of
December, when the Fredericksburg disaster was described by the London
_Times_ correspondent as "a memorable day to the historian of the Decline
and Fall of the American Republic." But on the last day of the year was
begun the battle that was to show the British public,--what was sometimes
forgotten,--that there were armies outside of Virginia and territories
beyond the Alleghanies. Out of the mists which surrounded Stone's
River,--out of the uncertainty due to counter-claims of victory by the
rival commanders,--arose this definite fact: The Northern Army had
occupied the town that it set out to take, and the Southern Army had
retired almost to the borders of Tennessee and could not dispute the claim
of its enemy to the greater part of the area of that Commonwealth. Another
postponement seemed necessary. By this time also the leaven of Lincoln's
Emancipation Proclamation, which at first had been derided, was working in
England; and, in their turn and time, Gettysburg and Vicksburg aided to
produce a much-changed official atmosphere. The Foreign Minister who,
against the law of the Kingdom, had let the _Alabama_ and the _Florida_
slip away to prey upon American commerce, was to strain that law a few
months later to hold war-vessels that had been built for the South.

The danger to the Union from foreign sources had passed.



The armies that were soon to measure strength in Middle Tennessee were not
strangers. They had raced with each other to the banks of the Ohio in the
previous fall, they had confronted each other,--at times,--in fractional
strength upon a score of fields. It was the advance division of the Army
of the Ohio, which had checked the Confederate onset on the first day at
Shiloh, where Grant was all but overwhelmed, and that command, in full
strength, had done its share in driving the gray-clad battalions from the
field the next day. The guarding of Middle Tennessee and the taking of
East Tennessee had since then been its special charge and designed
function, and in token thereof it had been named anew "the Army of the
Cumberland," after the river that traverses those regions. The army was
composed principally of soldiers from the old Northwest Territory,--a
region dedicated to human freedom in the ordinance of 1787. But while
Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin furnished the bulk of the
troops, there were also regiments from Kentucky and several composed of
East Tennessee Unionists. Pennsylvania had sent a contingent, and Missouri
and Kansas were both represented. From the regular army of the United
States, there were a formidable force of artillery, a few troops of
cavalry, and a particularly fine brigade of infantry.

The Confederate Army of the Tennessee was composed largely of sons of the
Commonwealth from which it derived its name, but almost every other State
in the Confederacy was represented. A picturesque and romantic element was
the famous "Orphan Brigade" composed of Kentuckians who fought for the
South while their State adhered to the North, and who attested their
heroism on many occasions during the war. The two armies were
substantially equal in strength, for the Army of the Cumberland reported
an available present of 43,400 men, while the Army of the Tennessee, which
had the advantage of position, showed 37,700 ready for battle. The
Southern Army was greatly superior in cavalry, for this arm of the service
had not, as yet, received in the North the attention it warranted. On the
other hand, the Northern Army was greatly superior in artillery. While the
bulk of both armies was made up of veteran troops, each had considerable
percentages of raw levies.

Gen. Braxton Bragg had the advantage,--somewhat doubtful in his case,--of
long service with his Army of the Tennessee. He was a splendid organizer
and disciplinarian, thoroughly versed in the technique of his profession,
brave, honorable, devoted to his cause, and a strategist of no mean order.
But he united a high, imperious temper and a saturnine disposition with a
martinet's passion for the letter of military regulation and etiquette. As
a consequence, he was frequently embroiled with those near him in stations
of authority,--officers who did not hesitate to accuse him of finding
convenient scapegoats for his own errors. His controversies with those
under him form an interesting chapter of Confederate records. It is but
just to him to add that there were those that fought under him who
testified to warm admiration for his soldierly abilities and who
entertained high personal esteem for his qualities as a man.

Bragg's army was divided into two corps. One of these corps was commanded
by Lieutenant-General William J. Hardee, who had won a conspicuous
position in the Army of the United States before he had come to offer his
sword and talents to the Confederacy. He was the author of a book of
tactics employed in the United States Army long after the Civil War,--a
system said to have been founded on the drill regulations devised by
Napoleon. The other corps was commanded by Lieut.-Gen, Leonidas Polk, who
was Bragg's pet aversion, and who spent much of the next twelve months in
writing to Richmond about his superior and extricating himself from the
latter's orders of arrest.

General Polk had been educated at West Point, but had afterward entered
the Episcopal Ministry. When the war broke out he was Bishop of Louisiana;
but he speedily exchanged the surplice for the uniform, and attained high
rank in the Southern Army. He was a man of considerable warlike talent,
though perhaps short of first-grade.

One of Bragg's division commanders was Major-General John C. Breckinridge,
of Kentucky, who, as Vice-President of the United States, had declared the
count of the electoral vote whereby Lincoln was chosen President, and who
had left his seat in the United States Senate,--months after the outbreak
of hostilities,--to cast his fortunes with the South. Afterward, as
Confederate Secretary of War, he accompanied Jefferson Davis on his flight
from Richmond, and assisted Gen. Joseph E. Johnston in arranging the terms
for the surrender of the latter's army to William T. Sherman,--terms that
were repudiated by the Washington authorities.

Other notable figures in Bragg's army were the impetuous Gen. "Pat"
Cleburne, who was to lose his life in the wild charge on the
fortifications of Franklin two years later; Gen. John H. Morgan, the
Kentucky partisan raider, and Gen. Joseph Wheeler, the cavalry leader,
who had so managed the rear-guard in the retreat from Kentucky as to
preserve intact the rich booty of the "Blue Grass" region borne by the
retiring Confederates. Wheeler was one of the Southern generals who later
saw service under the "old flag" in the Spanish-American war, commanding a
division in Shafter's Army before Santiago.

Maj.-Gen. William S. Rosecrans was one of the contradictions of the war. A
graduate of West Point, he had resigned from the army and was practising
his profession of engineering, when the outbreak of hostilities called him
to arms again. He had achieved considerable success in 1861, when, having
taken up a work left unfinished by McClellan, he cleared the Confederates
out of West Virginia, thereby placing in temporary eclipse the military
reputation of Robert E. Lee. His assignment to the command of the Army of
the Cumberland was chiefly due to his defense of Corinth during the fall,
though he was criticised by Grant,--then his immediate superior,--for not
having achieved greater results in this engagement. As a strategist
Rosecrans was of the first order; indeed, one of his campaigns still
stands as a model for the study of professional soldiers. But brave,
warm-hearted, and impulsive, he was prone to lose his poise in battle, as
the melancholy outcome of Chickamauga was later to prove.

Rosecrans had divided his army into right wing, centre and left wing,--for
convenience designated as corps. The centre was commanded by Maj.-Gen.
George H. Thomas, the idol of the army, and probably the most complete
soldier that the Union produced. It was said of him that he never made a
mistake. At Mill Springs he had given the Union cause its first generous
beam of hope by his crushing defeat of Zollicoffer. In the recent campaign
in Kentucky it was his soldierly instinct that had penetrated the plans of
the enemy; his counsel, which followed, led to success,--which
disregarded, led to failure. It was he who below Chattanooga was to gather
around him the fragments of a broken army, the commander of which had fled
the field, and fighting on, was to win lasting fame as the "Rock of
Chickamauga." It was he who, at Nashville,--waiting amid a storm of
criticism, abuse, and threats from those higher in authority,--sallied
forth, when all was ready, to win the most complete victory of the four
years' struggle.

The right wing of the Army of the Cumberland was under command of
Maj.-Gen. Alexander McDowell McCook, a native of Ohio, and one of the
"Fighting McCooks," so-called, because so many of his family fought for
the Union. The left wing was commanded by Maj.-Gen. Thomas L. Crittenden,
scion of a noted Kentucky family, which, with great liberality and rare
impartiality, contributed stalwart representatives to both sides of the
war. Among the division commanders was Philip H. Sheridan, who later was
to defeat Early in the Valley of the Shenandoah, and, by throwing his
columns across the line of Lee's retreat from Richmond, was to furnish the
prelude for the final scenes of the war drama at Appamatox.

Nashville, the capital of Tennessee, had, after the Battle of Shiloh, been
occupied as a secondary base by the Army of the Cumberland, and had been
heavily fortified. Distant 150 miles from Louisville,--the primary
base,--with lines of communication frequently interrupted by the
ubiquitous Morgan and other Confederate raiders, it was difficult to
accumulate sufficient supplies for a campaigning army; but by December
ample stores were in hand. Murfreesboro, where the headquarters of the
Army of the Tennessee had been established, was an important military and
strategic place as it was the converging point of a large number of
unusually good wagon-roads and by reason of its location on the Nashville
and Chattanooga Railroad. Its facilities gave it dominance over a wide
stretch of country, rich in supplies and recruits for the Confederates,
and its possession was the first requisite in that movement for the relief
of East Tennessee and its harassed Unionists,--a movement that had been so
constantly urged by President Lincoln upon the Federal commanders in that

The hearts of those in authority in the Confederate Government never beat
so high with hope as during those December days of 1862. Mr. Davis and his
Cabinet, as they surveyed the situation, might well have felt that they
had reason for confidence. The principal army of the Northern foe had been
repeatedly and seriously defeated, and was about to suffer the awful
reverse of Fredericksburg. In Tennessee and Mississippi,--while fortune
had not been so uniformly kindly,--there were all the facilities,
resources, and spirit for successful aggressive work. While much ground
had been lost in the Trans-Mississippi Department, word had lately come
that Hindman had succeeded in raising a fresh army in Arkansas,--a force
that was expected to begin the task of redeeming that State and recovering
Missouri. Pemberton confronted Grant with temporarily superior forces near
Vicksburg. Confederate diplomatic efforts were at length promising to bear
fruit, and the _Alabama_ and other vessels were driving Northern commerce
from the high seas. New Orleans had fallen; but Mobile, Charleston,
Wilmington, and Savannah held out, to offer refuge for the blockade
runners, which brought the precious military stores into the South.

It was under the spell of sentiment, inspired by such conditions, that the
Confederate President paid a visit to his generals and their forces in
Tennessee and Mississippi. Bragg felt so certain of himself and his ground
that he readily fell in with the suggestion of Mr. Davis to detach some
10,000 troops to Pemberton, though Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, who was in
command of the whole department, advised against this course. The presence
of their President roused the enthusiasm of the soldiers at Murfreesboro
to a high pitch, and many official and social ceremonies served to vary
the festivities planned for the Christmas season. There were balls,
receptions, theatrical entertainments, and one evening, in the presence of
a brilliant throng, General Morgan took unto himself a wife,--the ceremony
being performed by Bishop-General Polk,--and immediately left for Kentucky
on another of the raids that did so much to harass, impede, and annoy the
Union armies.

Rosecrans had learned of the detachment to Pemberton, of Morgan's
departure, and also had been informed that Wheeler had been sent on a
raid. He rightly concluded that the time to strike Bragg was when the
Confederate cavalry was absent, and his three corps set out from Nashville
on separate roads the day after Christmas. It soon developed that, if
Wheeler had been ordered away, he had been recalled; for his troopers gave
ample notice of the advance of the Union Army, and Bragg had plenty of
opportunity to perfect a plan of resistance.

Thomas and Crittenden, however, encountered little difficulty on the
march. McCook found Hardee in his path, and had to do some heavy
skirmishing before he got up. But the evening of December 30 saw the Army
of the Cumberland in position about three miles from Murfreesboro. In some
way Rosecrans got the impression that Bragg had fallen back, and gave
orders for entering the town. In the darkness some of Crittenden's troops
began a movement,--a movement that must have resulted disastrously, if
pushed; and shots had already been exchanged with the Confederate pickets,
when the mistake was discovered and the order recalled. Though it had
rained for several days, and though the night was bitter cold, the men of
the left and centre were forbidden to light fires,--even for
cooking,--lest they might betray their whereabouts. But fires were kindled
all along the front of McCook's corps and far to the right thereof; for
Rosecrans hoped to deceive Bragg as to his exact position. It may be
conjectured that this hope was illusive, for Bragg had exceedingly
accurate sources of information.

Each commander decided to attack on the morrow. Rosecrans planned to
deliver battle from his left flank, crumpling up the right of his enemy,
and taking up the attack with his centre in such a way as to enfilade and
crush Bragg's entire army. McCook was instructed to resist strongly, but
not to attack, except by way of diversion.

The position taken by McCook's corps had given Rosecrans much concern, and
the night before the battle, at a conference with his principal officers,
he had made several suggestions about it to the Ohio warrior. In
conformity with the order of battle, McCook's right was strongly
refused,--that is, bent back,--but, in general it was too near where the
enemy were supposed to be to suit the commanding general. McCook, however,
evinced such reluctance about giving up ground for which his men had
already fought,--and which presented elements of natural strength that
were not to be found further back,--that the matter was at length left to
his own judgment. He, therefore, placed the bulk of his corps in
conformity with the rest of the army, which was aligned upon a
north-and-south line, threw back the right brigades of Willich and
Kirk,--of Johnson's division,--so that they, with their artillery
supports, faced almost directly south, and placed, as a reserve, in the
corner thus formed Baldwin's brigade of the same division. The rest of the
battle front, while presenting in general an eastern face on a
north-and-south line, was here advanced, here retired, as inequalities of
ground or patches of forest seemed to offer favorable position. The whole
Union Army was west of Stone's River, though the extreme left of
Crittenden's left wing touched that stream at a ford.

Bragg's plan of battle called for a heavy concentration of force on his
left flank, which was to take the initiative in an attack upon the Union
right, and by a grand wheel, with the centre as a base, would take the
invaders in flank and rear. Each unit was to take up the movement as the
battle reached it, and it was hoped that by a rapid, spirited, and
sustained attack it would be possible to force Rosecrans back of the
Nashville pike,--his sole line of supply and retreat,--and hurling his
commands one upon the other, accomplish the capture or destruction of the
whole Union Army. In furtherance of his plan, Bragg placed almost
two-fifths of his infantry at his left under Hardee, to whom was entrusted
the initiation of the movement. But one division was left, under
Breckenridge on the right, and separated from the rest of the army by the

The Confederate battle front,--could it have been viewed in its
entirety,--would have presented a much more symmetrical appearance than
that of its adversary; as the comparatively open and level country that it
momentarily occupied permitted a more orderly alignment. McCown's division
occupied the extreme left,--except for some cavalry,--and Cleburne's heavy
columns were massed almost immediately in the rear.

Thus, it will be observed, the rival commanders had, with practically
similar conditions to encounter, hit upon practically similar plans of
battle. Could each plan have been carried out, the two armies would have
presented the appearance of revolving upon a common axis, the right in
each case retiring before the attack of the enemy's left. As it was,
however, a great advantage,--as must be apparent,--was to attend that army
which should first strike the enemy with its heavy masses in battle array.
And the contingencies of the conflict ordained that that advantage should
be gained by the Confederates.



Crittenden's corps on the left of the Army of the Cumberland,--which had
been selected by Rosecrans to make the initial move in the fight,--was
separated from Breckenridge's entrenched division, on Bragg's right, by
two miles of distance and Stone's River, which in that immediate vicinity
could be crossed at only one ford. Between the heavily-massed regiments on
Bragg's left flank and McCook's corps, to the contrary, there were only a
few hundred yards. Therefore, though McCown,--who had moved in the
night,--found some difficulty in adjusting his line to suit Hardee's
taste, the Confederates had ample time to strike the first blow. A dense
fog shielded the movement from the Union pickets. McCown's troops swung
off in a semi-oblique direction, leaving an ever-widening interval between
him and Withers's division, of Polk's corps, into which at the proper
instant Cleburne slipped. In a few moments the crackling of rifle-fire
heralded the opening of the battle.

That the brigades on the extreme right of the Union Army were surprised
upon that fateful morning has been repeatedly denied; but it is certain
that they were not properly prepared for the storm that was about to burst
upon them. August Willich was actually away from his command, and his men
were at breakfast, with their arms stacked. The captain of the battery
that was posted at the left of the brigade had sent his horses off to
water, so little did he dream of impending danger. The men of the other
brigade were scarcely,--if any,--better prepared, and upon them fell the
brunt of the first assault.

Right on the heels of the pickets, whose shots were of little apparent
effect, appeared a long line of gray-clad infantry that extended far
beyond either flank of the hapless Union brigades. The advancing troops
fired as they came, and many Northern soldiers were shot down before they
could grasp their arms. General Kirk sent a vain summons to Willich for
aid, and fell mortally hurt in an heroic effort to form his men. Old
Willich himself, spurring in hot haste to rejoin his command, rode
straight into the enemy's line. This scion of a royal house,--for he was
reputed to be the natural son of William of Prussia,--had several months
in a Southern prison in which to reflect upon whatever error he may have
committed that morning. The two brigades did not flee without an effort at
resistance; indeed, both offered obstinate opposition for as long a time
as possible, but they could not hold out against two divisions, of four
brigades each.

Kirk lost 500 killed and wounded, and 350 captured; while Willich's loss
was more than 400 killed and wounded, and about 700 captured. They were
soon in headlong flight.

With the dispersion of these troops, but one brigade, of Johnson's
division,--the reserve under Baldwin,--was left intact; and now the next
division was threatened on the flank. With quick soldierly instinct the
commander, Jefferson C. Davis, drew back his right brigade, under Post,
and made other dispositions to coöperate with Baldwin. He had scarcely had
time to complete these preparations, ere both Baldwin and Post were
struck. At the same moment the Confederate grand wheel having got into
full swing, two brigades of Withers's division, of Polk's corps, hurled
themselves against Davis's two remaining brigades,--Carlin's and
Woodruff's,--and against Sill's brigade of Sheridan's division, adjoining
Davis on the left.

Here the Confederates met a check. Baldwin, it is true, had to retreat
shortly, to escape being taken in right and rear; but Post repulsed an
attack upon his front, and Carlin, Woodruff, and Sill threw back their
assailants so violently that Polk ordered up his reserves. A second attack
met the same fate, though General Sill was killed between the guns of a
battery that he was directing. For the third time the gray infantry
advanced to the fight, which now involved the whole of Sheridan's
division. In frontal attack they were held, but one Union command after
another had to retire, to avoid capture under flank attacks. Thus
Sheridan's division was dislodged, as had been Johnson's and Davis's.

Up to this juncture the working out of Bragg's plan had fully equalled, if
not exceeded, the expectations of the Southern commander. The whole right
wing of the Union army had been hurled from position, and some of the
commands composing it had been driven for miles. Thousands of Union
prisoners and great stores of small arms had been captured, together with
many pieces of artillery, which could not be hauled back in the headlong
retreat over the rough ground and through the clumps of cedar in which the
battlefield abounded. In its further development, or swing, the grand
wheel was now threatening the Union centre, and the exultant Confederates
entered with confidence upon another distinct stage of the fighting. If
the right could be driven still further, or the centre pierced, the
Nashville pike would fall into the possession of the Army of the
Tennessee, which would then have at its mercy practically the whole Army
of the Cumberland. But,--though the prize seemed so near,--it now became
evident that new conditions were to be encountered, and that the contest
was about to enter upon a new phase.

Confident in the belief that his right wing could and would resist any
movement against it, Rosecrans had gone early in the morning to
Crittenden's corps, to witness the initiation of his carefully conceived
plan. It was 8 o'clock before the leading brigade of Van Cleve's division
waded Stone's River at the near-by ford, and began climbing the hill on
the other side, with a view to attacking Breckinridge. For a couple of
hours firing had been heard on the right, but it gave no uneasiness to the
Union commander, who believed that the instructions of the night before
were being obeyed. Even when a message from McCook, asking aid in somewhat
formal terms, came, Rosecrans was not disturbed, but sent back word that
the right must be held.

It was not until two of Van Cleve's brigades had crossed the stream, and
the third was making ready, that a frantic message gave Rosecrans an idea
of the disaster that had befallen part of his army. And as he gave hurried
orders, the crowds of fugitives,--cowards, skulkers, the slightly wounded,
and brave men who had fought until beaten,--that began to stream through
the woods brought confirmation of the evil tidings.

Rosecrans instantly recalled Van Cleve's division. One
brigade,--Fyffe's,--that had not yet crossed, he hurried straight out on
the Nashville pike, where his instinct told him the greatest danger lay,
and where at that moment the enemy's cavalry was reaping rich spoil from
the long wagon trains. The men of Beatty's brigade were sent, dripping
with the water of Stone's River, right into the heart of the battle, which
now raged almost in the rear of the centre. The third brigade,--Price's,--
was held to guard the ford. The demonstration of this division against
Breckenridge, though so quickly abandoned, had important effects on that
general as well as on the fortunes of the day.

It was the supreme test for Rosecrans, and whatever his previous faults
may have been, he now bore himself well. He hurried up ammunition, which
was much needed at many points; directed the formation of new lines and
the posting of fresh batteries; and whenever the emergency permitted, he
took himself to the battle front, where his presence served to reanimate
his sorely-beset soldiers. In spurring from one part of the field to
another, his aide-de-camp and much-loved companion, Lieut.-Col. Julius P.
Garesche, was beheaded by a cannon ball, and his blood sprinkled the
uniform of his commander. But battles give scant time for mourning, and
Rosecrans, without delay, ordered the further disintegration of
Crittenden's corps, that reënforcements might be sent where needed.
Harker, of Wood's division, was hurried after Beatty,--to the right of
Rosecrans's division of Thomas's corps,--while Hascall's brigade was held
as a mobile body, under the eye of General Wood himself.

Upon Thomas now fell a burden of tremendous weight. He had early perceived
the displacement of Sheridan, and had sent two brigades of Rosseau's
division to reënforce that commander and support his right. Then he turned
to face one of the most dangerous and furious efforts made by the foe
during the whole day. Hardee, with his whole force, was moving to take
Sheridan in flank and in the rear; Cheatham, of Polk's corps, was
advancing against Sheridan in front, and Withers was preparing to leap
upon Negley. To give way here would be fatal, for back of Thomas and of
what was left of the right wing Rosecrans was hastily arranging a new
battle-line to hold the Nashville Pike.

The commander of the centre seemed ubiquitous. Though his charger never
broke out of the slow pace that had given its master the nickname of "Old
Trot," Thomas was apparently in all places at once,--now directing the
firing to repulse a charge, now placing a regiment in line, and again
marking a point to which his troops must retire and take up the fight

The Confederate infantry now pressed forward in a frenzy of enthusiasm.
The piercing "rebel yell" rose triumphantly above the roar of cannon and
the bark of musketry, and many regiments pressed clear to the borders of
the cedars in which the Union troops were posted, before they had to
retire from a merciless fire.

Again and again Hardee and Cheatham brought their men to the charge. The
exigencies of the battle twisted the Union line into strange shapes. Here
a brigade was in a half-circle with a concave side to the enemy; another
presented a convex front to attack. Miller's brigade of Negley's division
was like a triangle without the base, and, aided by splendid artillery
service, repulsed simultaneously assaults in front and on both sides. But
many trains having been captured or swept away, Sheridan's men found
themselves out of ammunition, and his division was withdrawn, leaving
Negley's right and Rosseau's left "in the air." Into the interval poured
the Confederate columns. Thomas was compelled to withdraw his two
divisions to an improvised line, and Negley and Rosseau reluctantly faced
the rear.

The firing had been so heavy in these divisions that the cartridge-boxes
of dead and wounded had been robbed for the precious ammunition. Rosseau
made the movement under fire, but, reaching Thomas's temporary line,
turned and delivered such a blast from rifles and artillery as threw back
the pursuing enemy and left the field covered with bodies.

Shepherd's brigade of regulars especially distinguished itself here; for,
firing by platoon from flank to flank,--as steadily as though at
drill,--it cut down the enemy in front as a scythe mows grain, and drove
away a greatly superior force, losing in a few minutes one-third of its
whole number. Negley's division was almost surrounded, and had to cut its
way,--sometimes at the point of the bayonet,--through the Confederates,
who had reached its rear. In the movement this division had to abandon six

Palmer's division, which was already fiercely engaged, was now in the
greatest peril, as Negley's retirement left an unprotected flank. On the
right Cruft's brigade was almost surrounded while repulsing a frontal
attack; but Grose's brigade, held in reserve, changed front to the rear
and cleared a way. Hazen, at the apex of what was known as the "Round
Forest," met repeated heavy attacks, but, owing to superior position and
artillery support, was able to hold his own, though losing heavily. As
Palmer retired, his division established connection with the right and
faced the enemy with renewed confidence.

The grand wheel had now traversed the full quarter of a circle. It had
been carried out with remarkable consistency and with remarkable speed and
power. Every command in Bragg's army, with the exception of his reserve,
had felt the impulse of the great maneuver, had taken a place therein, in
regular order, and, at first glance, it would have seemed with complete
success. For the entire Union army, with the exception of a small part of
the left wing, had been forced from position. Its battle-front, instead of
facing squarely east, now faced south, and its curving line was in place
behind the Nashville Pike,--its only avenue of safety,--which in some
instances was in plain sight of the enemy and within reach of his
artillery and musketry. But though Rosecrans had lost heavily in men,
guns, horses, and ammunition, Bragg had not escaped without cost. Some of
his splendid brigades mustered but half of the strength with which they
had begun the battle, and almost all the men were so exhausted as to be
unable to go further. Moreover, they faced an army of men,--men who
disliked being beaten, who occupied an elevated position of great
strength, who had secured fresh stores of ammunition, who, acutely
conscious of their danger, were resolved not to yield further, and who
actually, here and there, showed a disposition to make reprisals upon
their valiant foe.

But Bragg had not entirely exhausted his resources. The Union left lay
temptingly near him, and, if he could crush or turn it, the rest of
Rosecrans's army might still be his. Fresh troops were needed for such an
attempt, but the five brigades of Breckinridge's division were at hand and
they were summoned for the final effort. Breckenridge had been asked for
reënforcements early in the day, but he had seen Van Cleve's big division
start in his direction, and, apparently, had not seen it return when it
was sent flying to arrest the rout of McCook's corps. He had also been
ordered to meet some reënforcements, which Bragg had thought were coming
to Rosecrans, but which did not appear; and consequently, had kept his
division intact. Now he detached the brigades of Adams and Jackson, which,
dashing through the river, threw themselves impetuously upon the Union
forces in the "Round Forest." Upon Hazen's sorely-tried troops the brunt
of the assault fell, but, using the railroad embankment as a protection,
they managed to hold on. Soon Adams and Jackson turned back, shattered
beyond further use.

Now Breckinridge in person led to the assault the brigades of Preston and
Palmer; but Hazen was now aided by whatever regiments, battalions, and
odds and ends of troops could be spared to him. Preston and Palmer were
not only driven back, but they left some prisoners as a result of a
countercharge by a Union regiment.

Here ended the first day's battle.



The dusk of the short winter's day had already come on when the last
desperate charges of the Confederate hosts were repelled. As though by
common consent, the firing ceased almost simultaneously on both sides, and
a period of comparative calm succeeded the storm of battle.

Never was a cessation of strife more welcome than to the two armies. The
Army of the Cumberland had been so riven and torn during the struggle as
to bear scarcely any resemblance to the compact organization of the
morning. Divisions had been swept away from the rest of their corps,
brigades had been torn away from divisions, regiments from brigades, and
even battalions and companies from regiments. It was in very truth an
improvised battle-line,--the line that had clung to the Nashville Pike
during the closing hours of the engagement. A vast number of individual
soldiers,--not by any means all skulkers, but, in many cases, men who had
become separated from their own commands and had done valiant service
wherever opportunity offered, with or without orders,--were wandering
about back of the Union lines, seeking the camp-fires of their comrades.
To restore a semblance of order and alignment was the first task of
officers,--great and small,--and it was hours before this could be
accomplished in part. It was the intention of Rosecrans to forbid fires,
for fear of drawing attacks from the enemy; but before any order could be
issued, they were lighted all along the line, and the exhausted troops got
an opportunity to boil coffee and toast bacon before sinking down to

On the Confederate side there was less confusion. The Army of the
Tennessee,--though clearly fought out for the time being,--had preserved
far more of the autonomy of its several commands, and as the camp-fires
were kindled along its battle front, the impression was universal that the
fight would be renewed on the morrow. Bragg himself was in a state of
exultation, for though his cherished plan had not yet been carried out, he
felt that success had merely been deferred.

There was a council of the principal Federal officers during the night at
the commanding general's headquarters. Rosecrans, it is said, had in mind
a retirement of a few miles to Overall's Creek, but this was given up when
it was pointed out that the new position was scarcely as strong as the one
now held, and offered few advantages. Then somebody suggested the question
of retreat. There is a tradition to the effect that Thomas had fallen
into a doze during the talking, but that he woke up when this unpleasant
word was uttered.

"Retreat!" he exclaimed,--so the story goes,--"This army can't retreat!"

This assurance seemed to satisfy the timid ones, and the question was
dropped forthwith.

New Year's Day, 1863, dawned clear and cold. During the night every effort
had been made to strengthen the Union position, and to good effect; for
Bragg had a cloud of skirmishers out with the dawn, and all day they
searched the line in every part, at times being aided by the artillery.
But not a crevice could be found, and the Confederate maneuvers at no time
developed into movements of importance. But Wheeler's Cavalry found plenty
to do, and its capture of a wagon-train caused the liveliest rumors of
disaster among the garrison that had been left at Nashville.

Despite, however, the activity of the horsemen of the enemy, Rosecrans
managed to get through the lines a considerable store of rations,
ammunition, and other supplies. So the day ended with the situation much
as it had been when the day began, except that the soldiers on both sides
had had an opportunity to restore themselves after the intense fatigue of
the first day's fight, and that order had been evolved out of the chaos
into which the Army of the Cumberland had been thrown.

One change in the situation,--at the time regarded as of little account,
but which was to have momentous results,--had been made. During the day
Rosecrans gave some scrutiny to Breckinridge's division of the Army of the
Tennessee, which had retired to its original position on Bragg's right. As
this force was posted, it was too far away to be watched closely, and
Rosecrans, as a precautionary measure, directed Crittenden to throw Van
Cleve's division, now under Gen. Samuel Beatty (for its own white-haired
commander had been wounded), together with Grosse's brigade, across the
ford to a position in Breckenridge's front. The movement, which had for
its purpose little more than observation, was accomplished without
interference on the afternoon of January 1, 1863.



For the greater part of the next day the two armies, merely rested on
their arms. With food and rest, the feeling of confidence, which had been
somewhat shaken in the Union Army, began to revive, and the soldiers
exhibited a cheerful tone. The Confederate forces, however, showed a
contrary spirit. There was deep chagrin in all ranks, because the work
that had been so bravely begun was not resumed and carried to a triumphant
end; while criticisms of the general commanding began to be exchanged with
freedom among the officers highest in rank. There is no doubt that this
gossip reached Bragg's ears and that he was stung to the quick by it. It
is possible, too, that it led him to order the movement that resulted in
the final scene of the battle.

During his repeated examinations of the field, Bragg had noticed the Union
detachment that had been thrown across the river in Breckinridge's front,
and he now determined to dislodge it. In his official reports he lets it
be understood that he merely wanted to drive away a force that was posted
in an advantageous position for observation and that might, if
re-enforced, be able to make a dangerous attack upon his army,--for it
could enfilade his whole line. But, if dislodgement were all that was
intended, it is hard to understand why Bragg should have organized such a
heavy column for a slight task. It may well be suspected that the
Confederate Commander saw an opportunity to crush the Union left and, in
the confusion necessarily ensuing, to drive the whole Federal Army from
the field in rout.

Bragg gave to Breckinridge 10,000 of his best fighting men, including
2,000 cavalry and ample supports of artillery. At the head of this
formidable column, Breckenridge descended upon the Union troops in his
immediate front, at 4 p. m., January 2. The blow fell with the swiftness
and force of a hurricane. Both Van Cleve's division and Grosse's brigade
had lost heavily in the previous fighting, and their ranks were too thin
to offer effectual resistance. A few volleys of musketry and a few rounds
of artillery were fired, and then they broke and fled to the ford, closely
pursued by the yelling Confederate host.

By a singular chance, not a single Union general officer was near this
part of the field at the time. They were, in fact, around the centre and
right, against which Bragg, as a ruse, had opened a heavy artillery fire.
The brigade nearest the ford was under the command of John F. Miller, a
young Indiana colonel, who had not yet received his stars. It was apparent
to him that Breckenridge's charge, unless checked, would result
disastrously to the army; and he broached the subject of a countercharge
to an officer of like grade of another brigade. He was assured of support.
Miller sent an orderly to find some general officer to authorize the
movement, and drew up his men in readiness. He had barely 1,500 with which
he might hope to check 10,000, flushed with victory. In a few moments the
crisis was at hand, and Miller was still awaiting orders. His brigade
opened ranks to let through the fugitives, and then Miller, placing
himself at the head of his men, spurred his horse into the water. He was
in mid-stream, when the orderly returned with the news that General
Palmer, the only general officer to be found, had forbidden the movement.

"It is too late now," replied Miller, and drawing his sword, he gave the
order to charge.

The very audacity of this step was its success. It is probable that the
Confederates believed Miller to be leading an overwhelming force, for they
stopped, fired a few shots, and then began to retreat. With fixed
bayonets, Miller's men pursued, and now, with quick perception of the
opportunity, other Union commands joined in the charge. Perhaps a half
mile had been traversed when the Confederates showed signs of rallying.
But as their lines were halted and rearranged, the missiles of death from
half a hundred cannon,--drawn hastily together by Major Mendenhall,
Crittenden's chief of artillery, and posted on a hill which commanded the
whole field,--suddenly fell among them. They fled again, leaving on the
ground 2,000 dead and wounded,--the fruit of an action of less than an

This ended the battle of Stone's River. For another twenty-four hours the
two armies confronted each other with no fight of importance. During the
night of January 3, Bragg retreated unmolested. He reported having
received information that Rosecrans was being reënforced, but in this
again he may be suspected of a euphemism. As a matter of fact, the retreat
had been advised at a council of his principal generals, two of
whom,--Withers and Cheatham,--united in the blunt statement over their own
signatures that he had only three reliable divisions left and that these
were, to a certain extent, demoralized. Most of his officers also assured
him, with equal frankness, that he ought to give up the command of the
army,--advice that he did not heed; and Polk, for writing to this effect
to the Confederate President, was placed under arrest; but he was
afterward released.



The Battle of Stone's River produced profound disappointment both in the
North and in the South. Claimed as a victory by both sides, the first
fruits fell to the Army of the Cumberland, which had not only held the
field but had compelled the retirement of its adversary and the
relinquishment by the latter of strategic positions and domination over
considerable areas. But as the weeks passed without developments of other
striking results, the Northern people felt that the victory had been
little more than technical, and that the battle was another of the
practically indecisive contests so frequent at that period.

On the other hand, the Southern people were mortified and chagrined at a
defeat suffered when their cause was prospering in almost all other
quarters. They were not more given to analyzing strategic and tactical
features than their Northern enemies, but they were able to realize that
their second army in size and importance had lost thousands of soldiers,
and that it has been driven out of Middle Tennessee, and away from the
vicinity of the State capital, the recovery of which had always been a
cherished object of their hearts. The opposition to Bragg, both in and out
of the Army of the Tennessee, became intensified from the time the
retirement from Murfreesboro was ordered.

It was perhaps natural that the outcome was thus viewed in the two
sections, for it is in the light of what it might have been,--rather than
what it was,--that Stone's River must be judged. Union victory upon that
field did not, it is true, reveal results of transcendent importance, but
Confederate victory,--at one time so near,--would have been followed by
the weightiest and most far-reaching consequences. Had Bragg been able to
drive his infantry across the Nashville pike on the last day of 1862, or
had he been able to crush the Union left on the second of January, 1863,
the capture or destruction,--whole or partial,--of his enemy would have
been one of the least of these consequences. For the way to the Ohio would
then have been open, and Cincinnati and other opulent Northern cities
would have been at the mercy of Confederate arms. Vicksburg would not have
been an historic name, for overwhelming forces could have been turned
against Grant to crush him, or drive him from Mississippi.
Tennessee,--second State in population below Mason and Dixon's line, and
first in such food as armies consume,--would have been held to furnish the
vital recruits and supplies to the Confederacy. East Tennessee would have
waited in vain for the relieving Northern forces. Kentucky and Missouri
might have been wrested from Union control, and Arkansas freed from the
presence of the invader. Finally, Europe's recognition, with the manifold
complexities for the North that must have ensued therefrom, could have
been no longer logically denied to the Richmond government.

After Stone's River, Bragg's battered battalions retired 30 to 40 miles
away,--to the line of Duck Diver,--and there maintained an attitude of
defiance for 6 months. It took that period for Rosecrans to restore the
ravages of battle in his army. Wheeler, Morgan, and Forrest,--the cavalry
chieftans,--meanwhile, kept up a series of raids upon Rosecrans's long
line of communications,--raids that sorely tried that commander, pestered
as he was by constant injunctions from Washington to move forward. But in
June, 1863, having at length accumulated sufficient supplies, the Army of
the Cumberland started the campaign that was to drive the Army of the
Tennessee out of the State from which it took its name. Then came another
halt; but in September the Union forces again advanced and the
Confederates again retired.

At Chickamauga the Army of the Tennessee, reinforced by Longstreet and
Buckner, turned, and, inflicting a bloody defeat upon the Army of the
Cumberland, locked it up in the fastness of Chattanooga. But Bragg was
unable to gather substantial fruits from his victory. At Missionary Ridge,
in December, the Army of the Cumberland led in the movement that broke the
battle-front of its historic adversary. Thenceforth the Army of the
Tennessee,--fighting bravely at every turn,--was obliged by the weight of
opposing numbers to retire further and further into the South. At Resaca,
at Dalton, at Kenesaw Mountain, at Atlanta, and at a score of other places
it showed the qualities of valor and endurance that had already won it
deserved renown. But it never looked to the North again until the latter
days of 1864, when Hood summoned it for its last great adventure,--that
desperate leap past Sherman, which was to end in utter rout before the
ramparts of Nashville.

The Army of the Cumberland lost in the Stone's River campaign 1,730
killed, 7,802 wounded, 3,717 captured and missing; a total of 13,249.

The Army of the Tennessee lost 1,294 killed, 7,945 wounded, 1,027 captured
or missing; a total of 10,266.




"In the second half of this year (1862) the Confederates failed to gain
control of Maryland and Kentucky, but made head strongly and at the end of
it were at the height of their power, with the North badly defeated at all
points save one. The writer considers that the battle of Stone's River, or
Murfreesboro, on December 31st, was the military turning-point of the war,
though the Confederates made various strokes at different times for
political purposes, which, had they succeeded, might have attained their
end, the chief of which was the campaign of Gettysburg. From a purely
military point of view, however, nothing could save the Confederacy unless
the results of Stone's River were undone. The year 1863 opened with the
Confederates fought out; they had made their effort but could not maintain
it, and had failed to secure the centre of the strategical line which was
vital for both sides."--"The American Civil War," Formby; London, John
Murray, 1910.


"... That my opinion was founded upon a false estimate of the facts was
the very least part of my fault. I did not perceive the gross impropriety
of such an utterance from a cabinet minister, of a power united in blood
and language, and bound to loyal neutrality; the case being further
exaggerated by the fact that we were already, so to speak, under
indictment before the world, for not--as was alleged--having strictly
enforced the laws of neutrality in the matter of the cruisers. My offence
was indeed only a mistake, but one of incredible grossness, and with such
consequences of offence and alarm attached to it, that my failing to
perceive them justly exposed me to very severe blame...."--Gladstonian
fragment, "Life of Gladstone," Morley; New York. The Macmillan Company,


"Further to mislead the enemy as to the point from which the attack was to
be made, long lines of camp-fires were started on McCook's right and
commands given by staff-officers to imaginary regiments in tones loud
enough to be heard by the enemy's skirmishers, to induce the Confederates
to think that our line extended much further to the right than it actually
did. I have always doubted whether Bragg was misled or deceived by this
subterfuge; and not unlikely he considered it a confession of weakness on
our right and formed his own plans accordingly."--"The Murfreesboro
Campaign," Otis; Boston. Papers of the Military Historical Society of
Massachusetts, Vol. VII, 1908.


"At this juncture, Colonel John F. Miller, followed by a portion of
Stanley's brigade, charged with his brigade across the river.
Disregarding an order from a general officer, not his immediate commander,
to desist from so hazardous an adventure, he dashed over and fell
furiously upon the foe, already in rapid retreat. The right of Miller's
line was supported by the Eighteenth Ohio, and portions of the
Thirty-seventh Indiana and Seventy-eighth Pennsylvania, of Stanley's
Brigade. Moving on the opposite bank, his left, was Grose's brigade, which
had changed front and resisted the enemy, when Price and Grider gave
ground, and in his rear were Hazen's brigade and portions of Beatly's
division. Miller reached a battery in position and, charging with the
Seventy-eighth Pennsylvania, Sixty-ninth and Seventy-fourth Ohio, and
Nineteenth Illinois, the Twenty-first Ohio, striking opportunely on the
left, captured four guns and the colors of the Twenty-sixth Tennessee
Regiment...."--"History of the Army of the Cumberland," Van Home;
Cincinnati, Robert Clarke & Co., 1875.

"Miller sent his staff officers and orderlies, Lieutenant (afterward
Brigadier-General) Henry Chiney, Lieutenant Ayers, and Major A. B.
Bonnaffin (I repeat that I am writing now what I saw with my own eyes and
heard with my own ears) to scour the field and ask permission to cross the
stream to Van Cleve's relief. Only one such officer could be found,
General John M. Palmer (of Illinois) and from him came instead of the
desired permission a positive prohibition--an order not to cross. The
other two brigade commanders, belonging to the division, General Spear of
Tennessee and Colonel T. R. Stanley, of the Eighteenth Ohio, were not
present. General Negley, the division commander, was not to be found....

"Miller found himself the ranking officer present with the division and
realized that the decision fraught with so much importance lay with him.
He was surrounded by a group of regimental commanders who alternately
studied the field and his face.... He turned to the officers around him
saying quietly:

"'I will charge them.'

"'And I'll follow you,' exclaimed the gallant Scott, wheeling and plunging
his spurs into his steed to hasten back to his regiment (the Nineteenth
Illinois). Colonel Stoughton of the Eleventh Michigan and other regimental
commanders belonging to the Twenty-ninth brigade echoed Scott's
enthusiastic adherence and they, too, started for their troops."--"God's
War," Vance. London, New York. F. Tennyson Neely, 1899.

Transcriber's Notes:

Passages in italics are indicated by _underscore_.

The following misprints have been corrected:
  "Crittendon's" corrected to "Crittenden's" (page 44)
  "Rosecran's" corrected to "Rosecrans's" (page 53)

Other than the corrections listed above, printer's spelling
inconsistencies have been retained.

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