Stones River (Murfreesboro)
December 31, 1862-January 2, 1863
Major General William S. Rosecrans was under pressure, like so many other generals before him, to plan and execute an offensive. Rosecrans responded that he would not move until his men were ready, but a couple of days later he was on his way southeast to the town of Murfreesboro. At Murfreesboro Rosecrans met up with Bragg who had moved into position to defend the town. That night both of the generals had an offensive planned and if both had executed them at the same time the two armies would have overrun each other. Bragg, however, planned his attack at the first break of light, while Rosecrans was going to wait until 7:00 A.M.
When the fighting started, Bragg's left flank, commanded by General Hardee, smashed into McCook who broke rather quickly. Within McCook's group was a brigade commanded by General Phillip Sheridan who stood his ground and even counterattacked once they had established a line northwest of their present position. The brigade continued to fight until they ran out of ammunition, at which point they folded back to safety of the Union artillery. While Hardee and Sheridan were going at in the south, Breckinridge and Polk crossed the river to try and hit the "hinge" of the Federal line. The "hinge" occurred where McCook and Thomas had folded back and met Crittenden's division. The area was to become known as "hell's half acre" due to the artillery gun placed in the bend making the line near impossible to break. After several Confederate unsuccessful attacks by Breckinridge, the battle was halted and the night brought the year to a close.
On January 1 there was no fighting, for neither side was really looking forward to the onslaught again. On January 2 Rosecrans attacked the severely wounded Confederates once more. Rosecrans split off a part of Crittenden's division and sent him north across Stones River to gain some high land. Bragg, in seeing the move, sent Breckinridge to beat them off the hill, which they did take. Once on top, the division was smothered from the fire of fifty-six Union guns from across the stream, and was forced to retreat. It was a Confederate victory but at high costs. Some 12,000 Rebels were lost and 13,000 Federals were killed, wounded, or were missing. After the battle Bragg retreated southward, while Rosecrans, happy to be alive, did not pursue him.