By: Katrina Fleener
We live in the City of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, home of the Stones River Civil War Battlefield. As we begin this new year and new decade take one brief minute to remember the trials and tribulations that make it possible for us to live the lives we do. We, as citizens of this great Country, may not always agree but may we always remember the price that must be paid for freedom.
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.
Murfreesboro, TN was an important strategic location for both sides. The city is situated on the railroad to Chattanooga, thirty miles southeast of Nashville. Extending from every direction from the town are numerous turnpikes. Stone’s River–named after an early settler flows through the city. The Nashville Railroad crosses the river as well as the Nashville turnpike. Open fields surrounded the town, fringed with dense cedar trees. These afforded excellent cover for approaching infantry.
Major General William S. Rosecrans’s Union Army of the Cumberland followed Bragg from Kentucky with about 45,000 men. On Dec. 31, 1862, the two armies faced each other just west of the Stones River (Murfreesboro, TN). At dawn on the 31st, Bragg’s men attacked the Union right flank and had the upper end of the battle until Union reinforcements arrived and pushed the Confederates back. On New Years Day, both armies marked time. Bragg surmised that Rosecrans would now withdraw, however, the next morning he was still in position. In late afternoon, Bragg hurled a division at a Union division that had crossed the Stones River. With the assistance of artillery, the Federals repulsed the attack. The Confederates claimed the Stones River as a tactical victory. However, from a strategic viewpoint, the campaign was a Confederate failure.
The Union had 41,400 troops engaged, of which they lost 12,906. The Confederates lost 11,739 out of 34,739 engaged ranking this battle #8 as one of the costliest battles of the Civil War. The Rebels retired to their original position. Bragg left the field on January 4-5, retreating to southern Tennessee (Shelbyville and Tullahoma). Rosecrans did not pursue, but as the Confederates retired, he claimed the victory. Stones River boosted Union morale and proved to be a turning point for the Union.
The Stones River Battlefield of Murfreesboro, TN is now a National Park preserving the sacred battlefield grounds and telling the story. Each year, actors recreate the camp for the Union and Confederates, fire off period correct artillery and tell the stories of the Battle of Stones River.