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#15145588
December 31, Wednesday

In Tennessee it is cold, damp, and misty in the early morning darkness of the last day of the year. The two armies, drawn up for battle along icy Stones River, wait for word to begin the day’s work. Some men sleep. Others huddle uncomfortably in the mud of their bivouacs.

The terrain and the position of the troops will prove crucial to the outcome of the battle. The Confederate line is split by the west fork of Stones River, an obstacle that will make lateral movement difficult. Despite the recent heavy rains the river is fordable, though the waters between its steep banks could turn into an impassable torrent should the rains return. Fields of corn and cotton on both sides of the river alternate with dense glades of red cedars, their limbs touching the ground. The trees offer shelter for infantry but make maneuver difficult. The Federals’ position appears to be considerably stronger. On the Union left, General Crittenden has firmly anchored his left flank on Stones River. His line runs through a four-acre clump of cedars known locally as the Round Forest. A deep and easily defended railroad cut runs through the woods about 100 yards west of the river. These features combine to make the Round Forest the strongest defensive position on the field. On the Federal right, General McCook has been given a tough assignment. His left-flank division, commanded by Brigadier General Philip H. Sheridan, extends from the Wilkinson Pike south. To Sheridan’s right are two more divisions, whose lines stretch to the Franklin Road, with one brigade straddling the road. McCook is supposed to hold his position while Crittenden attacks east of the river and General Thomas carries out a limited attack from the Federal center. This will be no easy matter, for the Confederate line along the Franklin Road is perilously close to McCook’s; in some places, the opposing pickets are only 100 yards apart, and bugle calls can be heard across the intervening space.

The commanders of both armies are counting on surprise. A powerful first blow is especially important to the Confederates, for Bragg doesn’t have the resources to wage a long fight. Rosecrans, who has a slight edge in numbers, can call in Federal reinforcements from Nashville and from even farther north along the railroad to Louisville. The Confederates will have to win a victory today, or they are in danger of being driven from the field. The two commanders will bring to the battle very different leadership styles. Rosecrans becomes excited in the heat of combat and tends to take personal charge wherever vital action is unfolding, thus risking losing control of the larger battle. Bragg, on the other hand, tends to let subordinates run the battle once he has done the planning. Though personally brave, he prefers to remain at his headquarters to receive reports and make decisions. But by staying to the rear, Bragg takes the risk of losing touch with events. Moreover, he is inflexible: He has never developed the ability to modify plans once they have been set in motion.

The battle could be decided at the outset if the Federal command acts on a report of suspicious Confederate troop movements. General Sheridan, whose division anchors McCook’s left, is sleeping behind a large fallen tree in the rear of his reserve brigade when he is roused at 2 am by Brigadier General Joshua W. Sill, a close friend since West Point and one of Sheridan’s brigade commanders. Sill reports that he has observed a large body of Confederate infantry, back-lighted by campfires, passing behind the Confederate line toward the Federal right, apparently marching to attack positions. Though Sill doesn’t know it, these are two divisions that Bragg has ordered at the last minute to cross the river and extend the Confederate left flank. Sheridan and Sills ride to McCook’s headquarters and awaken their corps commander, who is curled up in a fence corner. McCook sees no cause for concern in Sill’s observation; he says that Rosecrans is aware of the massing of the Confederates and that the plan will not be changed. Sheridan returns to his division still worried. He personally visits each of his twelve regiments and orders the men be roused quietly, east breakfast, and form in line of battle at once. The alert is passed to the two other division commanders in McCook’s corps, General Davis in McCook’s center and General Johnson on the far right. At this point, McCook acknowledges the threat and orders Davis and Johnson to brace their troops to receive an attack at daybreak. Both generals relay the orders to their brigade commanders. Brigadier General August Willich, whose brigade is holding Johnson’s extreme right flank, has anticipated the alert. During the night, he is so apprehensive about Confederate activity on his front that he orders a patrol to reconnoiter the enemy lines. But when the scouts report nothing of consequence, he relaxes and lets down his guard. At about 5:30 am, Willich’s brigade begins its normal morning routine. The men, huddled in their overcoats, fall in for roll call, then boil coffee and make breakfast, their arms stacked nearby. On their left, Brigadier General Edward N. Kirk’s men are better prepared to meet an attack. They are up and carrying arms, with a strong picket line in their front. At first light, however, some of their artillery horses are unhitched and taken to water.

At about 6 am, as the darkness begins to turn milky gray, an apparition appears to the south and southeast of McCook’s Federal positions. Blending in with the fog and mist, long gray lines of Confederates—11,000 men—form like shadows in front of the protective cedars and noiselessly begin to move toward the Federal lines. Their left extends far beyond the Federal right, so as to completely outflank them. Slowly at first, then faster, and finally at the double-quick, the Confederates attack across the cotton fields and cornfields. They hold their silence until they come within close range of Johnson’s Federals. Only then do the Confederates scream their wild Rebel yell. The seven Confederate brigades descend on the two Federal brigades with overwhelming force. To make matters worse for Willich’s brigade, Willich has just gone to the rear to look for General Johnson, leaving his troops leaderless. Kirk sends word of the assault to General Johnson and calls for help from Willich’s brigade, but the leaderless troops are confused and unable to respond. The fighting is brief but ferocious. Kirk’s troops fire several volleys point-blank into the massed gray infantry, but the Confederates keep driving ahead, their casualties littering the ground behind them. The Confederates reach Kirk’s line first. It holds for only a few minutes, then breaks as the men panic. Kirk himself sustains a wound that six months later will take his life. To Kirk’s right, the Confederates reach Willich’s line and smash into it just as Willich’s men are reaching their stacked arms. The Confederate onslaught and the pell-mell retreat of Kirk’s men prove too much for Willich’s regiments, and they also break and flee. Brigadier General James E. Rain’s brigade sweeps around the Federal right flank. In the assault Rains is shot from his horse, mortally wounded, but his men press on. To make matters worse for the beleaguered Federals, the Confederate cavalrymen of Brigadier General John Wharton round the Union flank at a gallop and wreak havoc in the enemy’s rear. Routed Federals become intermingled with the advancing Confederates. When Willich rides back through the chaos to find his brigade, he finds himself shouting orders to a group of soldiers he thought were his. He was mistaken, and the Confederates shoot his horse and take him prisoner. Within half an hour, the two Federal brigades cease to exist as effective fighting units. They have lost nearly all their artillery. Most of the survivors don’t stop retreating until they reach the Nashville Pike and the railroad cut, three miles to the rear.

The Federal flank has been turned. The flight of Johnson’s troops has exposed the right flank of General Davis’ division. Davis, hearing the commotion on his right, orders Colonel P. Sydney Post’s brigade to bend part of its line 90 degrees to face the enemy sweep. Meanwhile, Johnson’s reserve brigade, commanded by Colonel Philemon P. Baldwin, moves up from its bivouac a mile behind the original front. About a quarter of a mile to the right of Post, Baldwin’s men form a line of battle among the cedars and limestone outcroppings, load their muskets, and wait for the Confederates. Before long, Davis’s newly adjusted line—now forming an arc that faces from southeast to southwest—is hit hard by the four brigades of General Cleburne’s division. Davis’s troops, though greatly outnumbered, refuse to yield, and their stalwart defense robs the Confederate drive of its momentum. The Confederates cannot push through, and their attack begins to falter.

In the Confederate center, meanwhile, part of General Leonidas Polk’s corps has joined the assault. But Polk’s advance is proving haphazard. Last night, Polk reorganized his command in a way that is proving to be more confusing than effective. As a result, elements of two divisions are committed piecemeal. And the failure of command coordination causes the first Confederate setback of the day. Around 7 am, Polk throws the Alabama brigade of Colonel J.Q. Loomis against the point where Davis’ left flank and Sheridan’s right flank meet. Loomis drives the Federal line backward but exposes his right flank to enfilading artillery and musket fire. As a result, the Confederates are “mowed down as grass beneath the sickle.” Another brigade commanded by Colonel Arthur M. Manigault is supposed to move up in support on Loomis’ right, but fails to advance. Loomis’s men are forced to retreat across an open field dotted with their own dead and wounded. The misadventures of Loomis and Manigault are largely the fault of their divisional commander, General Cheatham, who will subsequently be alleged by some of his fellow officer to be drunk this morning. Cheatham allows Loomis to advance an hour late and then lets Manigault waste another hour before joining the assault. General Bragg does what he can to correct his lieutenants’ mistakes, but it is too late. For the moment, the opportunity to overwhelm the Union right wing has been lost.

Far to the north, on the Federal left flank, General Rosecrans is initiating his own attack. He has risen early, awakened his staff officers, and heard Mass with his chief of staff and fellow Catholic, Lieutenant Colonel Julius P. Garesché. Crittenden joins them on a knoll, and together they watch the men of Brigadier General Horatio Van Cleave’s division splash across Stones River and advance toward Major General John C. Breckinridge’s division, the only remaining Confederate force east of the river. Rosecrans appears unconcerned about the sounds of firing from the south. Ignoring the distant thud of artillery, he rides over to Brigadier General Thomas Wood, who is preparing to follow Van Cleve across the river, and gives the order to move out. He then returns to his headquarters, where he learns that Wharton’s cavalry has rounded the Federal right flank. Rosecrans is still unconcerned; he assumes McCook can handle the situation.

Around 7 am, the sound from the Federal right has become deeper and louder. Some compare it to the rumble of heavy wagons; others think it is more like a big wind preceding an intense storm. Fugitives from McCook’s units begin filtering back past the ranks of the Federals drawn up in reserve in the center, north of the Wilkinson Turnpike. The woods behind Major General James Negley’s division, on Sheridan’s left, begin to fill with teamsters, stragglers, mules, and the impedimenta of the rear echelons of Johnson’s routed division—cannon and caissons, the remnants of batteries, the horses of which have been killed, are being hurriedly dragged off by hand. There are men retiring with guns, and men without their guns; men limping, others holding up bloodstained arms and hands; men carrying off wounded comrades; and faces blackened with powder, and on some cases stained with blood. Riderless horses dash out of the woods which still partially hide the combat. Over all rises, near at hand or more faintly from the distance, the yells of victorious Rebels.

By now, Rosecrans is at last becoming anxious about his right flank. He sends the commander of his cavalry escort to find out what is happening to McCook, and is told that the Federal right wing has broken. But this is followed by a courier from McCook himself, saying only that McCook is hard pressed and needs assistance, an appraisal so understated that it misleads Rosecrans. He orders McCook “to dispose his troops to best advantage and hold his ground.” Rosecrans believes that if McCook holds, “we will sweep into Murfreesboro and cut them off.” The truth begins to become clear when Rosecrans learns of Willich’s flight and capture. Next comes an appeal from McCook for reinforcements. Now deeply concerned, Rosecrans directs George Thomas to send a division to Sheridan’s right rear. Rosecrans also orders Van Cleve to stop his advance, to recross the river and assemble near the railroad, leaving a brigade to guard the fords. Wood’s supporting division hasn’t yet begun its crossing, and two brigades quickly move toward a position on the Federal far right to reinforce McCook.

The Confederates, meanwhile, continue to batter the new Federal flank, formed by two brigades of Davis’s division and one of Sheridan’s division. Confederate losses are so severe that corps commander Polk has to commit additional troops, Texans and Tennesseans. Colonel Joshua Sill, commander of Sheridan’s brigade, is killed. (Sheridan will lose all three of his brigade commanders by midday.) The Confederate charge might have succeeded, but for a mistaken command. While approaching Sheridan’s lines, the Tennesseans are ordered to cease fire and hear Confederates nearby shouting that they are firing on their own men. At the same time, other Confederates are yelling, “Shoot, they’re Yankees!” Confused, the Confederates fall back. Soon after their repulse their division commander, Cheatham, re-forms his four brigades and makes another assault upon Sheridan and what is left of Davis’s division. Cleburne’s division has now outflanked Davis on his right, and at the moment of Cheatham’s renewed attack, Cleburne drives in on the Federals from their flank and rear. Davis’s brigades have fought fiercely, but now they give way and head for the rear—another disaster for the Federals.

The flight of Davis’s troops exposes Sheridan’s right flank, and Sheridan has to act quickly to save his division. To protect his flank, he swings his line to the right like a gate until it rests perpendicular to his original position. To Sheridan’s right lies Rousseau’s division, which is moving up alongside him; and strung out to Sheridan’s left are Negley’s division and that of Major General John Palmer. By 10 am, the Federal line has been hammered into a V shape, with the left side facing east and the right facing roughly west. Sheridan’s troops man the apex of the salient—and the Confederates give them no rest. One by one the officers of the Illinois brigade on his left are picked off as its regiments are hammered. Among the dead is the brigade commander, Colonel Roberts. Under such pressure, Sheridan is forced to conduct a fighting withdrawal northward. He is able to re-form his line just north of the Wilkinson Pike, keeping his right flank in contact with Rousseau. But the Confederate attacks remain relentless.

By midmorning, Bragg’s army has suffered casualties that it can ill afford. One third of Hardee’s corps has been killed or wounded, including six brigade and regimental commanders. Polk’s corps has suffered 30 percent losses, most of them in the assaults on Sheridan’s lines. Nevertheless, Bragg has reason to be pleased. The enemy’s right flank has been destroyed, and although Sheridan and Rousseau cling tenaciously to their new positions, their units have been badly mauled. The Confederates are continuing to attack with spirit, and one more great effort might roll up the Federal lines. At 10 am, Bragg receives a request for reinforcements from Hardee. The only Confederate reserves west of Stones River are some cavalry units. Bragg has to look to his right flank for help—to the unengaged troops of Breckinridge’s division. Bragg immediately tells Breckinridge to send two brigades to support Hardee. Breckinridge refuses, explaining that he is about to be attacked by a large Federal force. Breckinridge is under the mistaken impression that Van Cleve, who Rosecrans recalled at least two hours earlier, is still advancing toward the Confederate right wing. Lacking evidence to contradict Breckinridge, Bragg orders him to attack and drive the Federals back across Stones River. Breckinridge slowly advances and makes the startling discovery that there are no longer any enemy troops east of the river. About this time, however, Bragg receives a report from his cavalry patrolling far to the Confederate right that a large column is approaching from Lebanon. Accepting the scouts’ information without attempting to confirm it, Bragg cancels his order to Breckinridge to send the two brigades to reinforce Hardee. As it turns out no Union column is on its way.

While Bragg is sorting out his problems with Breckinridge, Rosecrans is dashing from place to place, shoring up his lines in the face of heavy fire. By now, elements of Crittenden’s corps are moving along the battlefront, extending the Federal right wing beyond the new lines begun by Rousseau and Sheridan. Cleburne and Cheatham continue to press the Federals, looking for weak spots to exploit. As this goes on, Rosecrans around 11 am rides up to Rousseau’s position. There he meets Sheridan, who is leading his men rearward. The bandy-legged little Sheridan is furious; he is retreating not because he has been defeated, but because his men are nearly out of ammunition. Earlier, Wharton’s Confederate troopers, rampaging in the Federal rear, almost captured McCook’s ammunition train; it had to be withdrawn to save it. Sheridan is forced to withdraw north to the Nashville Pike, and his retreat leaves a yawning gap in the Federal line, offering the Confederates an opportunity that they immediately try to exploit. Even without the reinforcements he requested, Hardee sends his troops plunging into the opening, but they are unable to take advantage of the breakthrough. On either side of the break, under intense fire, Rousseau’s and Negley’s Federal execute an artful withdrawal, pulling back and uniting on high ground along the Nashville Pike. Negley’s withdrawal, however, leaves Palmer’s division dangerously exposed in front of the densely wooded Round Forest. Palmer’s brigades form a salient, but the position seems weak—vulnerable to the crossfire of Confederate batteries. Seeing his chance General Polk acts quickly, committing his last two brigades, from Mississippi and Tennessee, in an effort to smash the salient. Unfortunately for the Confederates, the salient proves not to be as vulnerable as it appears and both brigades are repulsed with heavy losses—in one Tennessee company, all of the officers and noncommissioned officers are killed or wounded, and the shattered survivors are brought out under the command of a private.

By noon, the ever-changing hook-shaped Federal line has the Round Forest at its apex and its right flank pushed back almost to the Nashville Pike. Rosecrans, using the time between Confederate charges, has somehow managed to rebuild his right. Elements of Wood’s and Van Cleve’s divisions, which have been diverted from the cancelled attack on Breckinridge, are now in position on the right flank of Rousseau’s division and are repelling renewed attacks from Hardee’s tiring corps. The stand of these Federal units allow the shattered divisions of Davis and Johnson to reorganize along the Nashville Pike and the nearby railroad. Sheridan has replenished his ammunition from Crittenden’s train and is moving to bolster the Federal right flank. With Hardee’s exhausted troops stalled on the Federal right and Bragg learning that the Federals are strengthening their right, he reasons that now their left flank—which now runs from the Round Forest to Stones River—should be weakened and determines to smash it. He seems not to consider that the Federals, within their hook-shaped line, will be able to shift troops easily to defend any point of attack. And Bragg gives up any notion of reinforcing Hardee.

Thus far, repeated Confederate attacks against the Round Forest have gotten nowhere. This failure is largely the result of a rocklike defensive stand by a valiant Federal brigade commanded by Colonel William B. Hazen. Hazen’s troops have held the forest since early morning. Hazen’s brigade has had plenty of help. Improvising skillfully, Rosecrans has ordered regiments to Hazen’s salient without regard for their original organization or commanders. At various times in the long fight, Hazen has been supported by units from Sheridan, Negley, Wood, Palmer, Van Cleve, and Rousseau, and except for a slight shift to the left during Polk’s assaults just before noon they’ve maintained their position under almost constant attack while the Federal line changed around them. Now they are the forefront of the Federal defense. At 1 pm, Bragg sends an unequivocal order to Breckinridge to send him four brigades at once. Until the fresh units arrive, a lull descends upon the battlefield. Once more using the time to advantage, Rosecrans and Thomas strengthen the Federal left by gathering all available artillery on a rise behind Hazen in the Round Forest, while Hazen braces his men for yet another onslaught. Colonel William Hazen is a tough West Pointer, class of 1855. He served on the frontier until severely wounded by Comanche in 1859. His wounds kept him on sick leave for about two years, but in 1861 he returned to active duty, leading an Ohio regiment at Shiloh and Perryville. He is a strict disciplinarian and an unemotional, even cold leader; his troops dislike him but admire his ability. At one point in the morning attack, he was told that his old Ohio regiment and one from Illinois were running low on ammunition and ordered them to fix bayonets and hold their ground. On being informed by the Illinois troops that they had no bayonets, he told them to use their muskets as clubs but to give not an inch. They held. For an hour or more in the midafternoon, Confederate attacks on the Round Forest cease, although Hazen reports that “a murderous shower of shot and shell” continue to rain on his position from several directions. By 4 pm, the firing on the Federals’ right has stopped entirely. Looking out in that direction, the Federal troops in the Round Forest see long blue lines drawn up between dark patches of cedar; their comrades are standing to, alert to the Confederates who lie facing them at a distance. The gray lines of weary soldiers are almost indistinguishable from the clumps of Confederate dead and dying. East of the Round Forest, the Federals watch fresh Confederate troops crossing the river, which is still rising from the recent rains. Daylight is beginning to fade, but there is time enough for one last desperate Confederate charge.

The new Confederate units are the four brigades that Bragg demanded of Breckinridge and is sending to Polk for another attack on the Federal salient, two brigades arriving first. Polk has no illusions about the strength of the Federal position. He also realizes that the opportune moment for putting in these detachments has passed. But he goes ahead anyway, ordering a new assault on the Round Forest. In doing so, Polk makes a serious error—instead of waiting for all four brigades to come up, he sends in the first two with no support. The two brigades align themselves in perfect order and attack across a field littered with mangled grayclad bodies from the earlier charges. Hazen, watching with alarm from his position in the forest, calls on Rosecrans for more help, and he receives it. Reinforced, he orders his infantrymen to hold their fire. The Confederates advance under a heavy pounding from the Federals’ massed artillery. When they come into close range, a single scathing volley of fire is enough to disperse the grayclad line. Polk’s attack has been magnificent to see, but the results are dismal.

As the survivors of the two brigades fall back, they see Breckinridge arriving on the field at the head of the two remaining brigades. These brigades, too, will be sacrificed, for the Confederate command is by now obsessed with the Round Forest and determined to have it, no matter what the cost. Polk orders Breckinridge to attack immediately. Once more the Confederates form into battle line and charge across the fallow cotton field, cracking and breaking the brittle stalks, leaping over the hundreds of dead and wounded comrades who have come this way before. By now the Federals have emplaced fifty cannon on the rise behind the forest, and all of them are firing as fast as their crews can reload. Once more the Confederates fall back before the scythe-like Federal volleys, leaving behind another layer of bodies on the field.

On the crest of the hill behind the forest, Rosecrans and his commanders watch with elation as the Federal artillery chews holes in the Confederate formations. At one point, Rosecrans senses that Hazen’s men are beginning to falter. With his chief of staff Colonel Garesché and others riding close behind him, Rosecrans gallops recklessly down the slope, ignoring the heavy Confederate counterfire. A cannonball flashes past Rosecrans and strikes Garesché full in the face. The headless body, spouting blood, remains in the saddle for twenty paces before sliding to the ground. Confederate fire cuts down several others in Rosecrans’ party. Unaware of the deaths of staff members behind him, Rosecrans rides on into the midst of the Federal regiments in the Round Forest to encourage them and tell them to be more careful. When someone tells him of Garesché’s death, he shows no visible emotion. “Brave men die in battle,” he says. “Let us push on. This battle must be won!” In fact, Rosecrans is deeply affected by his friend’s death. After the battle, he will cut the buttons from his own uniform and save them in an envelope marked “Buttons I wore the day Garesché was killed.”

The repulse of Breckinridge’s brigades ends the fighting for the day. The merciful order to cease fire is given near sunset by General Hardee, who, unable to do any more with his own troops, rides up to see what is happening on Polk’s front. When he sees the proportions of the futile slaughter, he orders Breckinridge to call it quits. In spite of their terrible losses, the Confederates are generally convinced that victory is theirs—they have forced the Federals back three miles and the Confederate bivouac fires are lighted within 500 yards of the railroad embankment behind which they imagine their enemy’s disordered battalions seek shelter.

But Rosecrans’ Federal battalions are far from disordered; they simply collapse in place, exhausted by the day’s fighting. Rosecrans returns to his cramped log-cabin headquarters along the Nashville Turnpike and calls a conference of his corps commanders. The blustery winter night is cold, and the cabin offers welcome shelter. Rosecrans is by no means convinced that the day has been successful. He begins the meeting by discussing the possibility of retreat and then solicits the opinions of his senior officers. McCook and the cavalry commander General Stanley advise retreat. Thomas and Crittenden are noncommittal but vow to support Rosecrans in whatever decision he makes. George Thomas falls asleep during the meeting, but when the word “retreat” is mentioned he awakes with a start, looks about with a fierce gaze, and mutters, “This army does not retreat.” Rosecrans leaves the meeting and personally scouts a route of withdrawal as far northwest as Overall Creek, one mile behind his lines. Then, on his return, he announces that there will be no retreat. He has decided to stay where he is for at least tomorrow. He lacks rations and other supplies, but does have enough ammunition for one more day’s fighting, and he knows his army is willing to defend itself for at least that long. He sends off a wagon train protected by an escort of 1,000 men to Nashville to evacuate some of the wounded and to return with the essentials for the army’s existence.

Bragg, still in his headquarters, wants to believe he has won a major triumph. And he finds all the confirmation he needs in reports of the Federal wagons moving north toward Nashville. Convinced that he will catch the Army of the Cumberland strung out along the road to Nashville on New Year’s Day, he sends a telegram to Richmond: “The enemy has yielded his strong position and is falling back. God has granted us a happy New Year.” Then, without changing the disposition of his troops in any way, Bragg goes to bed.

Rosecrans, on the other hand, works through the night to bolster his shaken army against the renewed Confederate attacks that he is sure will come in the morning. He consolidates his battered formations west of the river, pulling his troops back from the Round Forest and strengthening his right flank. He orders his left-flank division, now led by Brigadier General Samuel Beatty in place of the wounded Van Cleve, to recross the river and occupy a ridge that commands two fords on the east bank. Rosecrans himself supervises the placement of units and reassures his men. He seems to be everywhere.

Rain falls, and cold creeps across the battlefield, into the cedar breaks, among the boulders, freezing bodies to the ground with their blood. Many soldiers are too stunned to comprehend and too cold to move. Others wander the field looking for friends, helping the wounded or removing the dead. There are acts of kindness among foes on the frozen field. With a few companions, Private J.T. Tunnell of the 14th Texas Dismounted Cavalry builds a fire in a sinkhole, where they are protected from the wind and enemy observation. Among the wounded is a Yank, quite young, shot through the breast. They divide rations with him, and the next morning their young Yank, with assistance, can sit up awhile. Other wounded in their thousands scattered across the field aren’t so fortunate. They call out for help, for a fire, for water, for God’s mercy—or beg to be shot to escape their agony. Soldiers do what they can, regardless of the color of their uniform.

When the fighting ends, chaos reigns in Murfreesboro. Ambulances push their way through crowds of soldiers, prisoners, and walking wounded. The streets are tangled with supply wagons and the carriages of those who have come to retrieve their husbands, sons, brothers, and friends. Captain Spurlock of the 16th Tennessee, who had visited his parents on the night of the 30th, is returned to them dead by men of his regiment. One woman comes to claim the bodies of four of her sons. Many of the Union wounded, included in the wagon train to Nashville that Bragg mistook for a retreat, endure the prolonged agony of the jolting 30-mile wagon ride. When the maimed soldiers finally arrive, they face the routine horrors of army hospitals. At the infamous Brickhouse Hospital three tables are in constant use for amputations; severed limbs and flesh are tossed through the windows into waiting carts. The floors are slick with gore.

The night passes slowly. Men on both sides, kept awake by the rain and the cold, wait miserably for the dawn.

Elsewhere, Sherman continues to explore various plans for assaulting the bluffs at Vicksburg, Mississippi, from Chickasaw Bayou. There is an affair at Muldraugh’s Hill in Kentucky and a skirmish at Ovarall’s Creek, Tennessee; as well as an affair at Planquemine, Louisiana, that will last until January 3. At Parker’s Store or Cross Roads, Tennessee, near Lexington, General Forrest, attempting to escape Federal pursuers after his successful raid on Grant’s lines, finds his way blocked. He manages to push forward, but then is hit from behind as well. Forrest is beaten, losing three hundred prisoners, guns, horses, and materiel of war he had captured. But his command manages to escape. Confederate John S. Marmaduke begins a month-long raid from Arkansas into Missouri.

In Washington, President Lincoln meets with his Cabinet to make final adjustments to the Emancipation Proclamation. Burnside, called for court martial testimony, meets with the President. Lincoln approves an act admitting West Virginia into the Union as the thirty-fifth state, and also signs an agreement with a promoter for a colony of free Blacks on Île à Vache, Haiti.

President Davis wires his Secretary of War from Mobile, “Guns and ammunition most effective against iron clads needed at Vicksburg and Port Hudson. Very much depends upon prompt supply.”
#15145713
January 1863

The new year opens with the sound of artillery and small arms in Tennessee, where the battle at Murfreesboro or Stone’s River remains to be decided. In the east the Confederacy can pause a little as Burnside’s Federal army is held on the hills beyond Fredericksburg, and Lee’s host lies between him and the southland. But elsewhere the Confederacy still sees the prongs of possible eventual defeat striking for its vitals. Threats continue on the Mississippi, where more assaults against Vicksburg will come soon, along the coastline, from New Orleans, and from Tennessee. For the North the defeat at Fredericksburg rankles, and there is criticism of the Army, of generals, of Washington. Lincoln has already announced emancipation. For the abolitionists it is not enough; for others it is far too much.

January 1, Thursday

“I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and parts of States, are, and henceforward shall be free.” Thus reads the final Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, putting into effect President Lincoln’s preliminary proclamation of September 22. Even this very morning discussions on the wording have continued, but shortly after noon the President signs the document that opens the door to the end of slavery in the United States. No slaves are freed specifically at this moment, for the Proclamation pertains only to areas “the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States.” These areas are indicated. However, as Federal armies advance into these areas, the slaves are to be free. Further, this final Proclamation provides that former slaves will be officially received into the armed services of the nation. In Tremont Temple, Boston, people meet in celebration; at Norfolk, Virginia, the Black population marches through the town, Union flag at their head, cheering; at Beaufort, South Carolina, the freedmen hear speeches, sing an “Ode for Emancipation Day,” and enjoy five roasted oxen.

In Tennessee at Murfreesboro, when General Bragg awakens on New Year’s Day, he is shocked to learn that the Federals are still in their lines. He has been so certain that Rosecrans would retreat that he has no plan for continuing the battle. And instead of going to work to devise a strategy, he sinks into a deep lethargy of the kind that has seized him before, at Shiloh and Perryville. He spends the day doing menial tasks and issuing inconsequential orders. He has his infantrymen salvage abandoned Federal equipment, and he sends cavalry units to reconnoiter the Federal rear. They report heavy traffic of Federal soldiers and wagon trains headed for Nashville, and for awhile Bragg is encouraged to believe the Federals are retreating after all. But it turns out that the wagons, strongly escorted to protect them from Confederate raiders, are simply more wounded being removed. Polk’s corps moves unopposed into the abandoned Round Forest, which now harbors pitiful masses of dead and wounded soldiers and animals. Bragg orders Breckinridge to recross Stones River and take up his original position on the right. Just before daybreak, Breckinridge sends a brigade under Colonel Joseph B. Palmer back across the river to join other troops that had remained on the Confederate far right. Throughout New Year’s Day, Palmer’s men keep up a series of skirmishes with the Federals. But Bragg does not order the general attack that his soldiers expect—and fear.

The Federals are also much relieved by the unforeseen respite. They are all in line expecting every moment a recommencement of the battle. General Rosecrans and Thomas ride over the field, now halting to speak words of encouragement to the troops, then going on to inspect portions of the line. A little before sundown, all hell seems to break loose again, but it is simply the evening salutation of the combatants. Most of the Federals get no supper this night. Yet despite their hunger, their spirits are rising as they “all glory in the obstinancy [sic] with which Rosecrans has clung to his position.”

Before dawn on the lowlands around Galveston, Texas, Confederate John B. Magruder, with troops and improvised gunboats, attack the Union-held city and its flotilla. After about four hours the city surrenders. Harriet Lane, her top officers killed, is captured, and Westfield is blown up by its crew. Other Federal ships escape, the blockade temporarily disrupted. One small Northern enclave in Southern land has been erased.

Sherman is about to abandon his efforts at Chickasaw Bayou north of Vicksburg; there is an affair near Helena, Arkansas; and a skirmish at Bath Springs, Mississippi.

General Burnside arrives at the White House in response to the telegram President Lincoln sent to him on December 30th. When Lincoln explains the gist of the complaints without naming the two generals, Burnside demands that the officers be dismissed from the service—whoever they are. Then Burnside unburdens himself of a greater worry. The disagreement between him and his subordinates over the projected operation is so deep, he says, that he is “not sustained in this by a single Grand Division commander.” Moreover, since he has lost his confidence, perhaps he “ought to retire to private life.” Burnside apparently goes on to hint that he should not be the only one to go. Secretary of War Stanton and General-in-Chief Halleck also lack the confidence of the army and the country, and Lincoln should think about replacing them.

The President is not prepared for all this, and he asks Burnside for time to think. Burnside goes back to his headquarters, and Lincoln turns to Halleck for advice as to the army’s next move. He writes the general-in-chief a letter, asking him to go down to Fredericksburg and evaluate Burnside’s new plan firsthand. Lincoln is aware that Halleck rarely comes down squarely on one side of an issue when he can avoid taking a stand. The President therefore accompanies his request with a blunt admonition: “If in such a difficulty as this you do not help, you fail me precisely in the point for which I sought your assistance. Your military skill is useless to me if you will not do this.” Halleck is offended and immediately threatens to resign. The beleaguered President officially withdraws the offending letter, and the ruffled general-in-chief stays on the job. But he doesn’t go to Fredericksburg.

Lincoln’s tiring day includes the usual New Year’s Day reception at the White House.

At Charleston, South Carolina, one Robert Yeadon offers a $10,000 (current ~$264,000) reward for the capture and delivery of Ben Butler, dead or alive.
#15145868
Happy New Year! A little late today, for obvious reasons....

January 2, Friday

At Murfreesboro, Tennessee, it looks as though today will be an uneventful repeat of New Year’s Day. Bragg, again hoping that Rosecrans has withdrawn during the night, sends skirmishers forward at dawn. But they retire immediately on finding the Federals still manning their positions. As an early rain turns to sleet, Bragg orders his artillery to probe the Federal center on the west side of the Round Forest. The 22 Confederate guns spread across the Nashville Pike blaze away for awhile. The Federal batteries respond with vigor, leaving Bragg in no doubt about his enemy’s determination to stand fast. Suddenly, it occurs to Bragg that if he can place some guns on the high ground east of the river, in front of Breckinridge, he can enfilade the Federal position on the west side of the river. He dispatches staff officers to reconnoiter the area. At noon, the officers return and report that the ridge Bragg wants for his guns is already occupied by Colonel Samuel Beatty’s Federal division and its artillery. This spawns a new worry in Bragg’s mind: If Beatty’s guns are in position as reported, they now threaten Polk’s troops, athwart the Nashville Pike, with enfilading fire from across the river. Suddenly—and belatedly—combative, Bragg decides that Breckinridge must take the high ground from Beatty; Bragg summons his general to headquarters.

On his own initiative, Breckinridge has spent the morning testing Beatty’s lines to find out what the Confederates are facing, probing Beatty’s left and right flanks. Breckinridge himself rides with a party along the river, then proceeds forward ahead of the Confederate main lines. Coming under sniper fire, the general orders his soldiers to drive in the Federal pickets so he can calculate the location and strength of Beatty’s forces. Breckinridge sees that Beatty’s brigade is strongly emplaced in two lines on the ridge, facing east. The Federals enjoy the advantages not only of high ground but also of abundant cover and a wide-open field of fire. In addition to Beatty’s artillery, six guns are placed on a hill just west of the river and command the open ground in front of the ridge that Beatty occupies. Thus, when he responds to Bragg’s summons to headquarters, Breckinridge is staggered by his general’s order to attack the formidable position. Bragg wants the assault launched at 4 pm so that darkness will interfere with any Federal counterattack. He promises the support of Polk’s artillery across the river to the southwest and of the cavalry brigades of Wharton and Pegram on Breckinridge’s right flank. But Bragg doesn’t offer any other reinforcements. Breckinridge protests vehemently. He sketches the enemy positions in the mud to show Bragg how the Federal artillery is deployed to devastate the planned attack. Bragg’s only response is to observe that Breckinridge’s Kentuckians have thus far suffered less than the others and that it is now their turn to show their mettle. When Breckinridge continues to object, Bragg gets angry—he always turns belligerent when his judgment is questioned. He dismisses Breckinridge, telling him, “Sir, my information is different. I have given an order to attack the enemy in your front and expect it to be obeyed.”

Bragg’s harsh discipline and uncertain leadership has been fostering resentment among his men ever since he took command of the army and now, in this poisonous atmosphere, his order very nearly touches off a mutiny. Bragg seems to have been particularly critical of Breckinridge’s Kentucky soldiers, perhaps because of the failure of Kentucky civilians to enlist in the army during Bragg’s invasion of that state. At any rate, Breckinridge’s Kentuckians believe themselves to be especially afflicted by Bragg’s truculent ways, none more so than Brigadier General Roger W. Hanson’s 1st Kentucky Brigade. The Orphan Brigade, as the unit has come to be called because its native state is in enemy hands, is a veteran outfit that fought well at Shiloh and Hartsville. But the men of the Orphan Brigade have somehow earned a reputation for self-pity and overconfidence; it is said that they are extremely touchy and see a slight in everything short of a tribute. Such tendencies do not mix well with Bragg’s penchant for blaming his men for any failure. The increasingly tense relationship almost came to a head with the execution of Private Asa Lewis, and now just six days later Bragg is sending Breckinridge and the Kentuckians to certain destruction. General Hanson is so enraged at what he considers to be a deliberately murderous order that he proposes to go to headquarters and kill Bragg.

But Breckinridge, a patriot and an obedient soldier, quiets his officers and sets to work deploying his 4,500 men, most of whom have just arrived from their positions across the river. While the infantry is moving into position, Breckinridge and Captain Felix Robertson, Bragg’s artillery chief, argue about the deployment of Robertson’s guns. Breckinridge wants Robertson’s artillery to move up with the attacking troops along with Breckinridge’s own guns, but Robertson says that Bragg has ordered him to stay to the rear until the high ground is taken. In the end, Robertson keeps his guns in the rear, while Breckinridge places his division artillery between the two lines of infantry. Another problem arises: Breckinridge is unable to coordinate his attack with the cavalry on his right flank. Two staff officers sent by Breckinridge to locate Wharton and Pegram are unsuccessful. Wharton first learns of the attack when he sees the infantry advancing into position. Pegram may learn of the attack, but he isn’t in position when it begins. At 3 pm, Bragg rides up to Polk’s headquarters, informs Polk of the imminent attack on the east bank, and orders him to prepare his artillery to support Breckinridge. Polk opposes the attack and tells Bragg that he doesn’t consider his line threatened by the Federals on the ridge. But his argument goes nowhere, and he breaks off the discussion to deploy his guns as ordered.

The Confederate preparations are clearly visible to the men of Beatty’s division on the ridge. General Rosecrans also is aware of the Confederate concentration; he and Crittenden begin calling reinforcements to the area about 3 pm, moving them up to Beatty’s left flank on the east bank of the river. Meanwhile, Crittenden’s chief of artillery, Major John Mendenhall, begins massing more guns on the hill across the river from Beatty’s troops; eventually, he will have 58 pieces there.

Polk’s artillerymen open fire at 4 pm. During the cannonading, the commanders on both sides move to good observation points to watch the battle unfold. Breckinridge takes position behind the center of his second line; Bragg and Polk watch from Polk’s headquarters near the Nashville Turnpike. Rosecrans, typically, is riding about inspecting his positions; at 4 pm, he is at McFadden’s Ford near Beatty’s right flank. Rain and sleet have been falling all day. Now the infantrymen have to fight in the miserable wet. Beatty orders the men on the exposed forward slope of the ridge to pull back behind the crest for protection from Confederate cannon fire. As the Federals scramble rearward, precisely at 4 pm, Breckinridge shouts, “Up, my men, and charge!” the order is repeated all along the half-mile length of the attack formation. And as soon as the Confederates step off, the guns of Beatty, and those of Mendenhall across the river, begin to pour down the lethal rain of shells on the attackers. Breckinridge’s Confederates advance at a quickstep across the 600 yards of open ground under the barrage. Ignoring their heavy casualties, the Confederates press forward, the first rank under orders to fire one volley and then use the bayonet. When his front line is halfway to the ridge, Breckinridge notices that the Federals overlap his right flank. He orders a halt while he brings up a battery of artillery and shifts units in the second line of infantry to extend his right. Then the Confederates resume their march across the field and up the slope. As the distance between the opposing troops narrows, an eerie silence falls; the gun crews cease fire for fear of hitting their own men, and the infantrymen are holding their fire.

The ridge angles away from the Confederate line, and the Orphan Brigade on Breckinridge’s left makes contact first. Taking advantage of a protecting fold in the terrain, Hanson’s men are able to advance under cover to within 150 yards of the Federal line. The moment they come into view, they draw a volley from Price’s men—from Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana—lying behind a rail fence. The Kentuckians let out “a most hideous yell,” level a volley, and charge with bayonets flashing. The Federals rise and fire again, but they cannot stop the charge. The Confederates on Breckinridge’s right also are unstoppable. One of Pillow’s Tennessean regiments rushes to a fence and levels volley after volley at the Federals before them. The slaughter is terrible, and the Tennesseans resume their charge. All along the line, Confederate troops storm to the top of the crest. The brigades of Hanson and Pillow crash into the ranks of Federal defenders, and savage hand-to-hand fighting commences. The Federals on the ridge falter and then give way, moving rearward. As their flight becomes a rout, they overrun the reserve brigade behind them. The reserve commander, Colonel Benjamin Grider, allows the retreating mass to pass through his lines, the enemy all the time pouring down fire. Grider’s Federals fight back fiercely, standing their ground. Just as Grider is demanding artillery support from Beatty, a Kentucky regiment of Hansen’s that has been pushed out of position in the Confederate charge arrives unexpectedly on Grider’s left flank and slams into the Ohio regiment there. the Ohioans give way; Grider is flanked, and he gives the order to fall back and rally at the foot of the ridge.

The Confederates race ahead in hot pursuit, sweeping Beatty’s entire line before them. In less than thirty minutes, Breckinridge’s division has achieved an objective thought impossible. It is time to stop, bring up the artillery, and dig in on the ridge for the night. But the sight of the fleeing Federals is too much for the victorious Confederates. They have suffered for six days without hot food or proper shelter; they have slept and fought in the rain and sleet and freezing weather, and now they want nothing more than to get the battle over with and get their hands on the abundant supplies they hope to find in the Federal camps. Disregarding their orders and the shouts of their officers, they chase the routed Federals all the way to the river. The Kentuckians of the Orphan Brigade, leading the charge, actually cross the river, expecting the rest of Breckinridge’s men to follow. But the Confederates are already paying dearly for their excess of zeal. The moment they crossed the crest of the ridge, they came into full view of Mendenhall’s batteries across the river. At this point, Mendenhall’s gunners go to work. Shells slam into the pursuers at a rate of 100 rounds per minute, cutting great swaths through the Confederate ranks. General Hanson, hit by a shell in the left knee, goes down, mortally wounded. The pursuit slows, and the disorganized survivors begin milling about in desperate clusters in the river and on both banks. There, unable to endure the slaughter, they begin to retreat back up the slope.

At that point, a Federal commander west of the river seizes the initiative. Acting on his own authority, Colonel John F. Miller orders his brigade to attack. While Rosecrans and Crittenden watch approvingly from the crest of a nearby hill, Miller’s brigade charges across the river and slams into the disorganized remnants of Hanson’s and Pillow’s brigades. Miller’s men are soon followed by regiments from Stanley’s brigade, which is ordered forward by Rosecrans, and then by units from Negley’s and Palmer’s divisions. The tide of battle is now reversed. The Confederate officers try desperately to halt the retreat on the crest of the hill they have just won. In the absence of Hanson, Colonel R.P. Trabue takes command of the Orphan Brigade and manages to stem the general retreat momentarily on the crest of the ridge, but try as he might, Trabue fails to rally the men.

By 4:45 pm, the rout of the Confederates is complete. On Bragg’s orders, Brigadier General J. Patton Anderson’s brigade moves across the river to help cover Breckinridge’s retreat to his original lines. By now it is almost dark, and the Federals are willing to call it quits for the day. Breckinridge is shattered by the pointless carnage. He watches numbly as his decimated and demoralized troops re-form their ranks. When he sees how much shorter the lines are, he turns livid with anger at Bragg, raging like a wounded lion as he passes the different commands. Tears break from his eyes when he beholds the remnants of his old Orphan Brigade.

The rain and sleet, which had stopped at dusk, resumes as darkness engulfs the battlefield. Then begins the usual ghastly task of clearing away the dead and trying to help the wounded. The meager medical facilities of both sides are swamped, especially the Confederate hospitals in Murfreesboro. War-hardened men, Federal and Confederate, are shocked by the casualties, and they show it in many ways, from tearful grief to sullen silence.

Rosecrans prepares for still more fighting. He orders his troops to build defenses. On his left flank, Rosecrans stages yet another of his deceptions to encourage Bragg to overestimate the Federal strength. Assembling three stentorian-voiced officers and a group of soldiers, he sets out with them to simulate massive troop movements in the fields east of the recaptured ridge. The general and his party spread out, bawling commands and lighting fires as they go, until they cover a front three quarters of a mile long. At about 9 pm, Rosecrans returns to his headquarters, dirty, tired, and caked with mud. But he cheerfully exclaims over and over again, “Things is workin’. Things is workin’.” He is even more relieved when Brigadier General James G. Spears arrives from Nashville in the early-morning hours leading his brigade and a train of 303 wagons crammed with ammunition and hospital supplies. More help comes later; Colonel Dan McCook arrives with a brigade of Tennesseans.

In the meantime, General Bragg orders Hardee’s corps to cross the river and move to the right flank to reinforce Breckinridge. At 10 pm, Bragg holds a meeting of his corps and division commanders to discuss their next move and in particular to ponder the disposition of Polk’s divisions under Withers and Cheatham. Only those Confederates remain west of the river, and they are in danger of being cut off. The river, swollen from the rain that continues to fall, will soon be too high to ford. The generals cannot decide on the best course of action, so they decide to adjourn. General Bragg goes to bed. A little past midnight, he is awakened by a courier with a report that the Federals are threatening on the right flank—the fruit of Rosecrans’ clever deception. Another discouraging message arrives: At 2 am, General Polk passes along to Bragg a note he has received from Cheatham and Withers, who are becoming extremely nervous about their situation. After their casualties, between them they now command only 7,000 men able to fight. Rosecrans, they write, still has the bulk of his army opposite their lines. They warn that Stones River will become unfordable very soon, making their withdrawal extremely difficult. And they advise Bragg to retreat. In forwarding the note, General Polk adds a message of his own of his fears of another engagement here and offering that they can retreat safely. Bragg barely glances at the notes. Then he tells Polk’s courier, “Say to the general we shall maintain our position at every hazard.” Polk sends Hardee copies of all the notes, including Bragg’s reply. Polk also writes Hardee that he thinks Bragg’s decision is “unwise, in a high degree.”

North of Vicksburg on the Yazoo, Sherman gives up his hopeless drive against the bluffs and withdraws to the Mississippi. In a letter to his wife, the disconsolate general provides a bleak summation of the recent events: “Well, we have been to Vicksburg, and it was too much for us, and we have backed out.” To make his draught more bitter, Sherman at last receives the message ordering that the command be turned over to General McClernand.

Both Morgan and Forrest complete their campaigns; Morgan recrosses the Cumberland River, while Forrest recrosses the Tennessee at Clifton, Tennessee. Another Confederate raider, John S. Marmaduke, skirmishes with Federals at White Springs and Boston Mountains in Arkansas in his advance on Missouri which started from Lewisburg, Arkansas, December 31. Other fighting includes a skirmish near Fort Donelson, Tennessee; a skirmish at Jonesville in Lee County, Virginia; an expedition to Moorefield and Petersburg, West Virginia, by Federals; and the reoccupation of New Madrid, Missouri, by Union troops.

Salutes, celebrations, and meetings follow the Emancipation Proclamation in many Northern cities. In Richmond, belt tightening and high prices are among the new year’s gifts to the Confederate people.
#15145983
January 3, Saturday

Nothing has changed by dawn at Murfreesboro. The armies are more or less in the same positions; the weather is still miserable; the river continues to rise; the wounded continue to suffer and die. But General Bragg begins to see things in a different light. During the night he received word from Wheeler’s cavalry of the arrival of Spear’s brigade to reinforce Rosecrans. Bragg has also read documents captured during the attack on December 31st. The information convinces him that Rosecrans now has an overwhelming numerical advantage—70,000 men to face the 20,000 Confederates still able to fight. Bragg now concedes that Withers and Cheatham could soon be isolated on the left. He even admits that his army is beginning to come apart after five days of exposure to the elements and enemy fire, with little rest and poor rations. At 10 am, Bragg calls in Generals Hardee and Polk for a conference. The two corps commanders are quick to agree with Bragg’s sudden assertion that retreat is necessary. It is finally over. During the afternoon, Bragg begins sending his ammunition and supply wagons south toward Shelbyville and Manchester. Polk is ordered to take his troops out during the evening and move to Shelbyville. Hardee is to follow in the morning and march to Tullahoma. Behind him, Bragg leaves 1,700 seriously wounded and sick scattered among the homes of Murfreesboro.

The struggle along Stones River has cost the Confederates desperately. Of the 34,732 troops Bragg commanded when the battle began, 1,294 have been killed, 7,945 wounded, and about 2,500 missing for a total of 11,739. General Rosecrans has lost 23 percent of the 41,400 Federals engaged, 1,677 killed, 7,543 wounded, and 3,686 missing for a total of 12,906. But Bragg’s losses are far more serious than the statistics indicate: The Federals can easily replace their casualties, but the thinly populated Confederacy is growing short of fighting men.

Although Rosecrans is astonished by Bragg’s withdrawal, it will not take him long to realize that the outcome represents a major victory for the North. It makes Kentucky safe for the Union and secures Nashville as a base for future Federal operations. It boosts the spirits of pro-Union East Tennesseans and dashes the hopes of Confederate sympathizers in central Tennessee and Kentucky. Moreover, for the Lincoln administration the triumph is a much-needed antidote to the recent Federal defeats at Fredericksburg and at Chickasaw Bayou, near Vicksburg. The President is elated, telegraphing Rosecrans, “God bless you.”

Confederates fail in an attack on Moorefield, West Virginia; and there is skirmishing at Burnsville, Mississippi; Somerville, and Insane Asylum, Cox’s Hill, or Blood’s, Tennessee.

Cesar J. Kaskel, Union loyalist and one of the Jews expelled from Paducah, Kentucky, leads a delegation to the White House. Lincoln receives the delegation and listens with growing concern to Kaskel’s complaint, studies Kaskel’s copies of General Order No. 11 and the specific order expelling Kaskel from Paducah, then in his presence writes a note to General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck instructing him to see that the order is cancelled forthwith. Halleck commands Grant to rescind his order, and Grant immediately does so—he may well be grateful for Halleck’s order, one of the strongest critics of General Order No. 11 is his beloved wife.
#15146097
January 4, Sunday

On the Mississippi, General Sherman hands over control of the troops to General McClernand without a protest. Then he confides to McClernand that he has been contemplating trying to redeem something from the Chickasaw Bluffs failure by making an attack on Fort Hindman, on the Arkansas River about 120 miles northwest of Vicksburg. Known to both Federals and Confederates simply as Arkansas Post, Fort Hindman poses a threat to Federal communications on the Mississippi; a Union courier boat on its way down the Mississippi has recently been captured by a force from the fort. Sherman suggests to McClernand that they proceed upstream and attack the Arkansas Post forthwith. McClernand, never one to pass up a chance for glory, quickly agrees. They begin their unauthorized move with 30,000 troops and fifty transports and gunboats.

There is skirmishing at Murfreesboro and on the Manchester Pike as Bragg continues to withdraw. There is other fighting at Monterey, Tennessee, and a scout January 4-6 by Federals from Ozark, Missouri, to Dubuque, Arkansas. Beginning in January and continuing until May, there will be continuous operations against Amerinds in New Mexico Territory by forces of the United States.

A blockade runner with important dispatches aboard is captured off Charleston by USS Quaker City.
#15146221
January 5, Monday

Federal troops enter Murfreesboro, although fighting on a minor scale continues at Lytle’s Creek, on the Manchester Pike, and on the Shelbyville Pike, Tennessee. Confederates raid near Moorefield, West Virginia, and there is a skirmish at Cub Run, Virginia.

President Lincoln tenders the thanks of the country to Rosecrans for his Tennessee victory.

In Richmond, President Davis, being welcomed home from his trip west, tells a serenading crowd that the Confederacy is the last hope “for the perpetuation of that system of government which our forefathers founded—the asylum of the oppressed and the home of true representative liberty.” He goes on, “Every crime which could characterize the course of demons has marked the course of the invader.” Davis also uses the occasion to salute the commander of the Army of Northern Virginia: “Our glorious Lee, the valued son, emulating the virtue of the heroic Light Horse Harry, his father, has achieved a victory at Fredericksburg, and driven the enemy back from his last and greatest effort to get to Richmond.” He concedes wryly that a few enemy soldiers have managed to reach Richmond—those taken prisoner at Fredericksburg. His quip draws appreciative laughter from the crowd.

Burnside, pinned down at Fredericksburg, writes President Lincoln that despite the opinion of his subordinate officers he still thinks a crossing of the Rappahannock should be attempted. Again he formally tenders his resignation, “to relieve you from all embarrassment in my case.”
#15146438
January 6, Tuesday

A day of light fighting along Linn Creek in Missouri, and at Fort Lawrence, Beaver Station, Missouri, part of the raid by Confederate John S. Marmaduke.

A British steamer is seized off Mobile by the blockaders, one of the numerous captures by the day-in, day-out blockade of the Confederate coast.

Southern troops capture a Northern riverboat, Jacob Musselman, near Memphis.
#15146763
January 7, Wednesday

Marmaduke’s Confederates capture Ozark, Missouri, and move on Springfield. There is a scout from Big Spring Creek to Rock Ford, Mississippi. January 7-9 a Federal army-navy expedition operates from Yorktown to West Point and White House, Virginia.

A group of 450 women and children leave Washington for Richmond, Virginia, and the South with permission of the Federal government.

The Richmond Enquirer calls the Emancipation Proclamation “the most startling political crime, the most stupid political blunder, yet known in American history.... Southern people have now only to choose between victory and death.”

General Halleck writes Burnside a letter, endorsed by Lincoln, emphasizing that “our first object was, not Richmond, but the defeat or scattering of Lee’s army.” He also strongly backs Burnside’s plan to attack across the Rappahannock.

President Davis writes Lee asking him to call upon the commander of US forces and “prevent the savage atrocities which are threatened.” If this meets a rebuff, Lee should tell the Federals that “measures will be taken by retaliation to repress the indulgence of such brutal passions.”
Last edited by Doug64 on 07 Jan 2021 05:21, edited 1 time in total.
#15147256
Doug64 wrote:January 7, Wednesday
The Richmond Enquirer calls the Emancipation Proclamation “the most startling political crime, the most stupid political blunder, yet known in American history.... Southern people have now only to choose between victory and death.”

Yet some people still insist that the American Civil War was not about slavery. The Confederates' own words, both before, during and immediately after the Civil War, tell us that it was.
#15147261
@Potemkin, while the upper South seceded because if they were going to have to fight somebody it wasn't going to be the ones they shared a culture with, certainly the elites of the deep South pushed secession through because of slavery--and as you say, no one tried to pretend otherwise until after the war, when Southerners and their sympathizers needed to turn their loss into a "noble but inevitably doomed crusade." The widespread acceptance of "scientific" racism helped.
#15147324
January 8, Thursday

The Federal garrison of Springfield, Missouri, successfully defends the important Ozark area city from Marmaduke’s Confederates. Other fighting includes a skirmish at Knob Creek near Ripley, Tennessee; an expedition by Federals from Suffolk toward the Blackwater River in Virginia; a Federal reconnaissance to Catlett’s and Rappahannock stations, Virginia; and a Federal scout from Elkhorn to Berryville, Arkansas; all three lasting until the tenth. Confederate Joseph Wheeler carries out a raid January 8-14, which includes affairs at Mill Creek, Harpeth Shoals, and Ashland, Tennessee.

The US Senate confirms the nomination of John P. Usher of Indiana as Secretary of the Interior. Usher replaces Caleb Smith, who resigned due to ill health.

Halleck still will not take a stand beyond agreeing with Burnside that the Army of the Potomac ought to make some kind of move against the Confederates before it finally goes into winter quarters. “As you yourself admit,” he writes Burnside, once again passing the buck, “it devolves on you to decide upon the time, place and character of the crossing which you may attempt.” Lincoln adds to Halleck’s letter a less-than-ringing endorsement of Burnside and his plans: “I deplore the want of concurrence with you in opinion by your general officers, but I do not see the remedy. Be cautious, and do not understand that the Government or country is driving you. I do not yet see how I could profit by changing the command of the Army of the Potomac, and if I did, I should not wish to do it by accepting the resignation of your commission.” Burnside cannot have found much comfort in his superiors’ instructions to do something, but to be cautious; or in the assurance that he is not to be relieved. But he resolves nevertheless to implement his delayed plan to march a few miles upstream, cross the Rappahannock, and outflank Lee. He admits frankly to Lincoln, “I have no other plan of campaign for this winter.”

Lincoln, defending his Emancipation Proclamation, writes to General McClernand, saying, “it must stand.... As to the States not included in it, of course they can have their rights in the Union as of old.”

President Davis writes his commander in the West, Joseph E. Johnston, “To hold the Mississippi is vital.”
#15147388
Halleck still will not take a stand beyond agreeing with Burnside that the Army of the Potomac ought to make some kind of move against the Confederates before it finally goes into winter quarters. “As you yourself admit,” he writes Burnside, once again passing the buck, “it devolves on you to decide upon the time, place and character of the crossing which you may attempt.” Lincoln adds to Halleck’s letter a less-than-ringing endorsement of Burnside and his plans: “I deplore the want of concurrence with you in opinion by your general officers, but I do not see the remedy. Be cautious, and do not understand that the Government or country is driving you. I do not yet see how I could profit by changing the command of the Army of the Potomac, and if I did, I should not wish to do it by accepting the resignation of your commission.” Burnside cannot have found much comfort in his superiors’ instructions to do something, but to be cautious; or in the assurance that he is not to be relieved. But he resolves nevertheless to implement his delayed plan to march a few miles upstream, cross the Rappahannock, and outflank Lee. He admits frankly to Lincoln, “I have no other plan of campaign for this winter.”

Cometh the hour, cometh the man.... or not.... :hmm:
#15147395
Potemkin wrote:Cometh the hour, cometh the man.... or not.... :hmm:

Yeah, there’s a reason Halleck is pushing papers in Washington while Grant is commanding the army on the Mississippi. Actually, Lincoln wanted Halleck to act as a sounding board and advisor on military matters, Halleck’s nickname of “Old Brains” didn’t start out derogatory. But Halleck’s unwillingness to take a stand on anything to the point that he’d threaten to resign first has relegated all that knowledge and rank to paper pusher and errand boy.
#15147422
Doug64 wrote:Yeah, there’s a reason Halleck is pushing papers in Washington while Grant is commanding the army on the Mississippi. Actually, Lincoln wanted Halleck to act as a sounding board and advisor on military matters, Halleck’s nickname of “Old Brains” didn’t start out derogatory. But Halleck’s unwillingness to take a stand on anything to the point that he’d threaten to resign first has relegated all that knowledge and rank to paper pusher and errand boy.

Lincoln, in general, seems not to have been particularly well-served by his subordinates. No wonder the Civil War aged him so badly.... :hmm:
#15147439
@Potemkin, Lincoln actually does have some brilliant men working for him (and don’t they know it), and some of them are even military—the Navy, unfortunately. It’s the Army where the real trouble lies. And yeah, you look at the photographs taken toward the end of the war, and Lincoln looks like with a little makeup he could be in the latest zombie movie.
#15147790
January 9, Friday

Federal forces under McClernand arrive this night near Arkansas Post or Fort Hindman, about fifty miles up the Arkansas River from its junction with the Mississippi.

There is skirmishing at Fairfax Court House, Virginia. The federal garrison at Hartville, Missouri, surrenders to Marmaduke; Holly Springs, Mississippi, is evacuated by Union forces. In Arkansas there is an expedition from Huntsville to Buffalo River.

Salt works near St. Joseph’s, Florida, are destroyed by boat crews from USS Ethan Allen.

The Federal Army of the Cumberland under Rosecrans is reorganized into three corps, the XIV under George H. Thomas, the XX under Alexander McD. McCook, and the XXI under Thomas L. Crittenden.
#15148269
January 10, Saturday

Late in the morning McClernand starts his envelopment of Arkansas Post, or Fort Hindman, and drives in upon the outer earthworks. Naval bombardment stops Confederate artillery. Land units are poised to attack the besieged Confederates under Brigadier General T.J. Churchill.

There is skirmishing at Carrollton, Arkansas, and Clifton, Tennessee.

Federal warships bombard Galveston, Texas.

President Lincoln writes to Major General Curtis in St. Louis of his concern with the slave problem in Missouri.

Major General Fitz John Porter is sentenced by court-martial to be cashiered from the Army for his alleged failure to obey orders at 2nd Bull Run.
#15148527
January 11, Sunday

At Arkansas Post, or Fort Hindman, there is never any question of the outcome. The Confederates face McClernand’s 30,000 men and thirteen gunboats with only 5,000. Even so, the Confederate garrison fights gamely. Under heavy shellfire from Porter’s gunboats and Federal land batteries, the Confederates defending Fort Hindman manage to stave off an attack on their left by four of Sherman’s brigades. Meanwhile, the soldiers of McClernand’s XIII Corps advance on the Confederate right flank and charge the fort. Although the lead brigade loses 349 men, two regiments—from Indiana and Ohio—succeed in gaining a foothold atop the parapet. About 5 pm, realizing that any further resistance would be pointless, General Churchill surrenders Fort Hindman.

Federal losses are 134 killed, 898 wounded, and 29 missing for a total of 1,061; Confederate losses are 29 killed, 81 wounded, for a total of 109, with missing (mainly captured) put at 4,791. The Federals also capture seventeen cannon, 46,000 rounds of small-arms ammunition, and several stands of colors. While the operation is successful, it fails to help the Vicksburg campaign materially. Grant orders McClernand to return from this unauthorized expedition and to join his Vicksburg forces.

The Federal officers and sailors on blockade duty off the port of Galveston, Texas, are more than a little anxious. Commodore Henry H. Bell, who flies his flag aboard the 21-gun steam sloop Brooklyn, has been assigned to capture Galveston. The port has already changed hands twice; a Union landing force seized it last October, and the Confederates recaptured it on the first day of the new year. Now Bell, just having failed in an attempt to bombard the city into surrender, has withdrawn his ships into the Gulf to get out of the range of the Confederate shore batteries.

Late in the afternoon, a lookout aboard the Brooklyn spies a three-masted ship approaching from the open Gulf. The vessel stops twelve miles offshore, arousing Commodore Bell’s suspicions. Since the Brooklyn is immobilized by engine repairs, the Hatteras, an iron side-wheeler that was built as an excursion boat, is sent to investigate the newcomer. The trim stranger moves away under topsails only, allowing the much slower Hatteras to draw closer. The captain of the Hatteras, Lieutenant Commander Homer C. Blake, senses that he is being lured away from the fleet, but he can only pursue and prepare for an attack. About twenty miles from the Federal squadron, the stranger lies to. By now night has fallen, but the vessel is still visible in the darkness. The Hatteras closes to within 100 yards. There Blake stops and hails the ship, demanding her identity. “This is Her Britannic Majesty’s steamer Petrel,” comes the reply. Reassured by this news, the Hatteras identifies herself and asks for permission to send an inspection party to confirm the Petrel’s registry, a belligerent’s right under international law. Permission is granted. Before the inspection boat has gone a length, a clear voice rings across the water, “This is the Confederate States steamer Alabama. Fire!”

Within thirteen minutes the Hatteras is sinking. Except for two Yankees killed in the fight, the Alabama rescues all hands, including five wounded men, then she runs out of harm’s way to Jamaica. The Alabama, under Captain Raphael Semmes, has deliberately picked a fight with a Union warship, albeit a weak one, and she has whipped the enemy with ease and aplomb. The Alabama and her crew now resume their real mission—to destroy or capture Union merchantmen. Hers will be a career of devastation with few equals in modern naval warfare.

There is fighting at Lowry’s Ferry, Tennessee; Wood Creek, Missouri; and an engagement at Hartville, Missouri, where Marmaduke’s Confederates retreat. Above Memphis on the Mississippi a small group of Confederates surprise, capture, and burn USS Grampus No. 2.
#15148844
January 12, Monday

The third session of the First Confederate Congress gathers at Richmond and receives a message on the state of the Confederacy from President Davis. He optimistically reviews the military situation, pointing out the halting of Federals in Virginia, at Vicksburg, and in Tennessee. He then goes into a long review of foreign relations and the hopes for recognition of the Confederacy. Speaking of the Emancipation Proclamation, Davis says it means the extermination of the Black race and encourages mass assassination of their masters. He calls it proof of the “true nature of the designs” of the Republican party. Davis asks for financial legislation, revision of the draft exemption laws, and relief to citizens suffering war damage.

There is a skirmish at Lick Creek near Helena, Arkansas.

Major General John E. Wool assumes command of the Federal Department of the East.
#15148847
Doug64 wrote:January 12, MondaySpeaking of the Emancipation Proclamation, Davis says it means the extermination of the Black race and encourages mass assassination of their masters.

"Every slave you own is an enemy you harbour under your roof." - Cato the Elder

He calls it proof of the “true nature of the designs” of the Republican party.

He was correct about that, but wrong about it being a bad thing. :)
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