After spending January 1, 1863 reorganizing and caring for the wounded, the two armies came to blows again on the afternoon of January 2nd. General Bragg ordered Breckinridge to attack General Horatio Van Cleve’s Division (commanded by Colonel Samuel Beatty) occupying a hill overlooking McFadden’s Ford on the east side of the river.
Breckinridge reluctantly launched the attack with all five of his brigades at 4 PM. The Confederate charge quickly took the hill and continued on pushing towards the ford. As the Confederates attacked, they came within range of fifty-seven Union cannon massed on the west side of the Stones River. General Crittenden watched as his guns went to work.
“Van Cleve’s Division of my command was retiring down the opposite slope, before overwhelming numbers of the enemy, when the guns … opened upon the swarming enemy. The very forest seemed to fall … and not a Confederate reached the river.”
The cannon took a heavy toll. In forty-five minutes their concentrated fire killed or wounded more than 1,800 Confederates. A Union counterattack pushed the shattered remnants of Breckinridge’s Division back to Wayne’s Hill.
Faced with this disaster and the approach of Union reinforcements, General Bragg ordered the Army of Tennessee to retreat on January 3, 1863. Two days later, the battered Union army marched into Murfreesboro and declared victory.