"A Hard Earned Victory"
The Battle of Stones River was one of the bloodiest of the war. More than 3,000 men lay dead on the field. Nearly 16,000 more were wounded. Some of these men spent as much as seven agonizing days on the battlefield before help could reach them. The two armies sustained nearly 24,000 casualties, which was almost one-third of the 81,000 men engaged.
As the Army of Tennessee retreated they gave up a large chunk of Middle Tennessee. The rich farmland meant to feed the Confederates now supplied the Federals. General Rosecrans set his army and thousands of contraband slaves to constructing a massive fortification, Fortress Rosecrans that served as a supply depot and base of occupation for the Union for the duration of the war.
President Lincoln got the victory he wanted to boost morale and support the Emancipation Proclamation. How important was this victory to the Union? Lincoln himself said it best in a telegram to Rosecrans later in 1863.
“I can never forget, if I remember anything, that at 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 country scarcely could have lived over.”