A HARD-EARNED VICTORY
Although Bragg was not yet ready to admit it, the battle was over.
Losses had been horrific. The Federals had lost 1,636 killed, 7,397
wounded, and suffered 3,673 prisoners takena total of 12,706 or
29% of those engaged. Bragg had lost 1,236 killed, 7,766 wounded, and
868 captureda total of 9,870 or 26% of his army.
Not until 10:00 A.M. on the morning of January 3 did Bragg decide to
withdraw. While not beaten tactically, he despaired of remaining before
an enemy that he mistakenly believed had been reinforced. And, he
feared, the rain that had been falling for twenty-four hours threatened
to turn Stones River into the sort of torrent Hardee had feared would
cut the army in two, subjecting it to defeat in detail.
The Confederate retreat, begun at 10:00 P.M., was a nightmare of
suffering. It rained mercilessly, the thermometer hovered near
freezing, and rations grew short. Compounding the misery of the soldiers
was the lack of a clearly defined destination. Bragg initially directed
a concentration along the Duck River, near Shelbyville. But on January
5, just as the army made camp outside of town, he shifted the line of
defense to the Elk River. When a reconnaissance revealed a lack of
adequate crossing sites, Bragg returned to the Duck River as the
objective of the withdrawal. Polk would occupy Shelbyville, and Hardee
would make camp south of the river at Tullahoma. Colonel George Brent of
the army staff was shaken by Bragg's irresolution. While he praised
Bragg's desire to hold as much of Tennessee as possible, he wished the
general had settled on the Duck River line before leaving Murfreesboro.
"The movement so far to the rear has had a bad effect on the troops and
the public mind," he admitted. "Spirits bad. Matters look gloomy."
FEDERAL TROOPS ATTACK A CONFEDERATE BATTERY AND CAPTURE THEIR BATTLE
FLAG. ILLUSTRATION BY HENRY LOVIE. (COURTESY NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY)|
Spirits were bad indeed. Most of Bragg's lieutenants, believing as he
did that Rosecrans had been reinforced, approved of the retreat. But the
common soldier, knowing only that he had fought well and had beaten
Billy Yank more often than not, was confused and angry. "I can't see for
my life why Bragg left Murfreesboro after whipping them so badly," one
private wrote his family from Tullahoma. "There is no doubt but that
the Yankees were badly whipped. General Bragg has lost the confidence of
the army and many think that there was no reason for the retreat from
Murfreesboro," another confided to his wife.
The Army of the Cumberland indeed had been hurt badly, so badly that
Rosecrans never seriously contemplated a pursuit. Not until January 5
did he occupy the town, and the ensuing days were spent burying the dead
and attending to the wounded. Although Rosecrans had fallen considerably
short of a decisive victory, at least he had avoided defeat at a time
when the Union scarcely could have borne another setback.
December had been nothing short of disastrous for the Lincoln
administration. Earlier that month two major Union offensives, launched
in concert, had ended in disaster. At Fredericksburg, in northern
Virginia, another Federal commander went down before Robert E. Lee when
Major General Ambrose Burnside lost over twelve thousand men in a series
of brutal and fruitless assaults. And in Mississippi, major generals U.
S. Grant and William T. Sherman floundered in the bayous and backcountry
above Vicksburg as what was to have been a two-pronged thrust against
the Mississippi River citadel degenerated into a comedy of errors.
Confederate cavalry under Earl Van Dorn descended on the huge Federal
supply depot at Holly Springs, destroying everything in sight and
forcing Grant to abort an already bankrupt offensive.
THE ARMY OF THE CUMBERLAND MARCHES INTO MURFREESBORO AFTER THE BATTLE.
DRAWING BY HORACE ROWDON. (COURTESY OF THE WEST POINT MUSEUM, US
MILITARY ACADEMY, WEST POINT, NY)|
UNION HOSPITAL CAMPS WERE ERECTED AROUND MURFREESBORO AFTER THE BATTLE.
The repeated humbling of Union arms that culminated in the defeats of
December 1862 deepened Northern war weariness, particularly in the Old
Northwest, home to most of the soldiers of the Army of the Cumberland.
Republican governors Oliver Morton of Indiana and Richard Yates of
Illinois feared open insurrection in their states when their
legislatures convened after the new year.
Then news of Rosecrans's victory, won largely by troops from the
Northwest, exploded in the headlines of the Union press. "Rosecrans Wins
a Complete Victory; the Enemy in Full Retreat," trumpeted the Chicago
Tribune as the first reports came in from the field. The overstated
claims of the Tribune and other pro-administration dailies were
effective. Pro-war mass meetings were held throughout the Northwest
surpassing antiwar gatherings in militancy. Public sentiment shifted
from antiwar Democrats. The General Assembly of Ohio offered a vote of
thanks to Rosecrans for his "glorious victory." The General Assembly of
Indiana passed a similar resolution.
None were more grateful for the defeat of Bragg than the beleaguered
president himself. "God bless you, and all with you," Lincoln wrote
Rosecrans. "Please tender to all, and accept for yourself, the
nation's gratitude for your and their skill, endurance, and dauntless
courage." Time and later reserves did not diminish Lincoln's gratitude.
Eight months later, on the verge of Rosecrans's thrashing at
Chickamauga, the president wrote him of his continued belief in the
importance of Stones River to the Union cause: "I can never forget,
whilst I remember anything, that about the end of last year and the
beginning of this, you gave us a hard-earned victory, which, had there
been a defeat instead, the nation could scarcely have lived over."
THE HAZEN BRIGADE MONUMENT
by Daniel A. Brown
Visit almost any historic site and somewhere there will be a monument
or marker. The desire to memorialize persons or events in stone is taken
as a matter of course by most Americans. Nowhere is this phenomenon more
evident than the battlefields of the Civil War.
It can be reasonably stated that in the post-Civil War period,
the desire of veterans to first memorialize and then preserve their
deeds did much to promote public acceptance of historic preservation in
America. The battlefields of Gettysburg and Chickamauga-Chattanooga
formed the nucleus of the military sites first administered by the War
Department and later by the National Park Service. The effort of
veterans' groups to preserve and mark the battlefields is usually viewed
as a post-war phenomenon. At Stones River National Battlefield, however,
a unique and extremely significant monument was constructed to
memorialize the deeds of one brigade. The uniqueness of this moment is
that it was constructed within six months of the battle while the issue
of the war was still in doubt.
While the question of whether or not the Hazen Brigade Monument is
the oldest Civil War monument may be debatable, the facts surrounding
its creation make it a significant landmark in American cultural and
historic preservation history.
The limited victory of the Federals at Stones River was far more
pivotal than most modern historians have recognized. Admittedly, the
strategic gains were minimal; the political consequences were
Northern fortunes had undergone serious reverses in the late summer
of 1862. The Confederates had mounted multiple offensives along a
thousand-mile front. Although they were beaten back, the fact that they
had occurred undermined public confidence in President Abraham Lincoln's
administration. As a result, the autumn elections were unfavorable to
the president and his war policy.
The setback at the ballot box was followed by disaster on the
battlefield. Major General Ambrose E. Burnsides's ineptitude slaughtered
the cream of the Army of the Potomac on the field of Fredericksburg.
Being the president's choice to lead that army, General Burnsides's
defeat was viewed as Lincoln's fault.
The success at Stones River could not have come at a more critical
time. Lincoln and his supporters were quick to grasp and exploit the
psychological impact of the battle and were perhaps guilty of
HAZEN BRIGADE MONUMENT AND CEMETERY. (NPS)|
In the camp of the 19th Brigade, Colonel William B. Hazen wrote out
his report. That the four regiments under his command had distinguished
themselves on December 31, 1862, was undisputed. They had occupied and
held the critical portion of the line between the Nashville Pike and the
Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad. It was there that the Union line
swung hack like a door on a hinge. They had held this "hinge" against
four desperate Confederate assaults.
By all accounts Colonel Hazen was a strict disciplinarian and a stern
drill master. His regiment and the brigade to which he was appointed to
command in January 1862 were widely known for their excellence of drill
and steadiness of discipline. Colonel Hazen's pursuit of excellence
brought him credit as well as criticism. His attention to detail,
however, had paid off on December 31. The brigade had held and held
well. Even at the end of his career Hazen proudly stated, "The best
service rendered by my command in the war was at the battle of Stones
On February 14, 1863, General Rosecrans published General Order #19,
proposing the creation of a "Roll of Honor" to "establish a method of
pointing out to this army and the nation those officers and soldiers of
this command who shall distinguish themselves by bravery in battle, by
courage, enterprise, and soldierly conduct." This roll was to be kept
from company to brigade level and compiled at each division's
headquarters. Additionally, a list of general, field, and staff officers
"who win especial distinction by noble and heroic conduct" was to be
The army, from commander on down, was obsessed with handing out
accolades and recognizing brave deeds. This was not confined to personal
awards within the command. The success of battle engendered equipment
and supplies, as well as honors and promotions. For the general morale
and well-being of the army, the various methods used for recognition of
the soldier were desirable. General Rosecrans was astute in his
actions, for an army that believes in itself fights that much better.
The idea for the Hazen Brigade Monument grew on this soil. The brigade
apparently felt that the critical position they held deserved more
tangible recognition than that meted out to the army as a whole.
With whom or how the idea of a brigade monument originated is not
known. But since the construction was accomplished by men specifically
detailed for the task, the idea must have been widely discussed. In all
events, the process had to he officially sanctioned, at least to the
brigade level. Colonel Isaac C. B. Suman, 9th Indiana Volunteers, stated
that he had discussed the monument with Hazen at the time it was
built. Further, he noted, Hazen suggested that the shaft be
surmounted by a bronze figure of an infantryman "in recognition of the
heroism of the rank and file of his brigade."
Whatever the circumstances surrounding its origin, the Hazen Brigade
Monument was built in the summer of 1863. The construction was
accomplished by a detail of men drawn from the regiments of the brigade.
The major work on the monument was accomplished from July to November
1863. The final work, including a dry stone wall, was finished by the
enlisted men. This is supported by the observation of a member of the
115th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. He gives confirmation that the
construction was finished before the end of the year. Thus far his
description is the earliest one of the monument.
On December 31, 1863, Private John B. Smith, Company A, 115th Ohio
Volunteer Infantry, was on a routine patrol toward Murfreesboro along
the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad line. Stopping at the monument
site, he took the dimensions "from the workmen engaged in putting up the
stone fence around the graves and monument." He also noted that there
were 45 soldiers buried in the lot.
by Gilbert J. Backlund
The citizens of Murfreesboro never dreamt "they would ever hear the
roar of cannon, the rattle of musketry, the groans of the dying." So
wrote John Spence, founder of the Red Cedar Bucket Factory in
Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and an opponent of secession at the start of
the war. The bloody Union victory at Stones River in 1863 brought
destruction and death to Murfreesboro. But the North gained a
much-needed boost to morale. General William Rosecrans planned to press
the Confederates south to Chattanooga, gain control of the vital rail
link, and drive a Union wedge through Tennessee.
The Union army was far from its supply base at Louisville. General
Rosecrans's troops constructed a depot, along with a fort to defend it,
at Murfreesboro to distribute arms, food, and equipment. From January to
June 1863, the soldiers labored to complete the 200-acre earthen fort.
It was named Fortress Rosecrans.
Military occupation drastically altered life in Murfreesboro. Houses
were torn down and the lumber hauled off to construct buildings for the
army. John Spence wrote that "the streets were crouded [sic] at
all times with wagons and soldiers, giving the place much the appearance
of a wagon yard. Soldiers camping thick in and round town." The officers
particularly loved milk, "making use of citizens cows."
When the Federals set off on the Tullahoma campaign, Spence noted
that Rosecrans was "scarcely leaving forces sufficient to man the
forts." The new recruits and convalescents who stayed behind reportedly
had orders to shell the town and burn it in the event of a Confederate
One gun at the fort was trained on the courthouse. This elegant
landmark was constructed shortly before the Civil War. During the war it
served as barracks and a prison. Half the roof was blown off by the
wind, windows and doors were broken, and plaster crumbled from the
ceiling. The courthouse, now restored, still stands at the center of the
Confederate cavalry threatened Murfreesboro and Fortress Rosecrans in
October 1863. Deterred by the fort's strength, the horsemen turned south
of town, burned a bridge, and tore up railroad track before moving
In late 1864, the Confederates hoped to recapture Tennessee and move
into Kentucky. After a desperate fight at Franklin in November, in which
six Confederate generals died, the Southern army followed the Federals'
retreat north toward Nashville. Meanwhile, Confederate General Nathan
Bedford Forrest rode southeast toward Murfreesboro to destroy the
railroad and blockhouses and to disrupt the supply depot. The Union
forces retreated to the fort.
The next day, December 7, 1864, Union General Robert H. Milroy with
two brigades faced the Confederates on the field about a mile from the
fort. After spirited fighting, the Confederates retreated and Milroy's
troops retired to the fortress. The Battle of the Cedars, as it is
called, was considered a Union victory. Fortress Rosecrans remained
The weakened Confederate army was crushed at Nashville. With their
hopes for recapturing Tennessee dashed, the army fled to
Five months later, the war was over and John Spence's sympathies had
changed: "The prospect was gloomy to those returning from war." Fortress
Rosecrans was no longer needed. During its two years' existence, the
fort had deteriorated despite the garrison's efforts to maintain the
works. The rains of winter and heat of summer conspired to wear away the
sod covering the earthworks. In April 1866, the Union army abandoned
Since then, most of the earthworks have been lost as Murfreesboro has
grown past the fort. Only 3,000 feet of an original 14,000 feet of
earthworks remain. In 1993, the city transferred remnants to the
National Park Service. Two lunettes which serve as independent forts and
an exterior wall called a curtain wall were included. Of the four
interior redoubts within Fortress Rosecrans, only Redoubt Brannan
Back cover: A. E. Mathews illustration of General Rosecrans
directing battle against a Confederate charge. (Courtesy of Tennessee
State Library and Archives)|