Whether it is a sports game or looking at an individual’s life, most have experienced a bleak time where success seemed out of reach. Fortunately, there exists a key play or event that occurs that can change the outlook from despair to hope. This type of scenario has played forth constantly throughout history especially during types of conflict. The Civil War is a perfect example of how one side reached a point of loss and despair until one victory changed the outlook of the war.
The Battle of Stones River was more than just your average skirmish of one side wins and one side is defeated. The battle end on January 2nd, 1863 as Union soldiers led by William Rosecrans defeat Braxton Bragg’s Confederates just south of Nashville at Murfreesboro, Tennessee. This battle was not only an important conquest in trying to acquire central Tennessee but this victory for the Union occurred as the North was experiencing a bleak period during the war.
Rosecrans’ Army of the Cumberland by the end of 1862 was in Nashville in which Bragg’s soldiers was 30 miles north of his location. Rosecrans had been given command of the army as recent as October knowing his mission was to battle Bragg in order to force the Confederates out of central Tennessee. Throughout the fall, this plan became put on hold as John Morgan’s cavalry bothered the Federals as well as endangering the supply line. Finally, Rosecrans made his move by taking his troops south to engage Bragg the day after Christmas.
New Year’s Eve marked the time that both armies engaged at Stones River where Bragg ordered an attack on a bitterly cold foggy morning against the right flank of the Yankee’s even though they had a larger force; the Union had 42,000 soldiers while the Confederates only had 35,000. Although the initial attack served its purpose in driving the Union back, the Yankees did not admit defeat. The day of severe battling produced many casualties plus the frigid elements compounded the suffering. The Confederates were very close in securing the victory; however, they were not successful in defeating the flank of the Union against Stones River. The New Year had arrived with both sides on the field of battle and ready to continue the conflict.
The fighting had come to a halt on January 2nd with the Confederates not being the victor. Against the advice from his generals, Bragg launched an attack which resulted in his army losing confidence in his leadership. Bragg was forced to retreat towards Chattanooga, Tennessee after his assault was repelled by the Union troops. Central Tennessee was now in the control of the North as their victory created a morale boost that was sorely needed from the aftermath of December of 1862 where the Yankees lost at the Battle of Fredericksburg, Virginia. Stones River was an engagement that was hard-fought and bloody as it produced some of the largest rates of casualties of the war. The Union lost 31 percent of their force from those who went missing, killed or wounded while the Confederates saw a loss of 33 percent; casualties from both sides combined to a total of roughly 25,000 individuals. Rosecrans received a letter from Lincoln who said, “…you gave us a hard victory which, had there been a defeat instead, the nation could scarcely have lived over.”