December 31, 1862:
Battle of Stones River
Day 1: This is the most significant battle in the West during all of the winter of 1862-1863, and occurs right on the margin between the two years. Foiling Rosecrans’ plan to attack Bragg first, the Confederates attack before dawn, Gen. Hardee sending Cleburne’s and McCown’s divisions dashing forward into the Union line and the troops of Gen. McCook’s corps, sweeping away Johnson’s division (which suffers 50% casualties), which retreats in disorder to the rear.
Jefferson C. Davis’s division is pressured, but holds long enough for Gen. Sheridan, whose division is next in line, to deploy his division and brace for the Rebel attack. Hardee’s corps is spent, so Polk’s corps (divisions of Withers and Chalmers) goes forward to strike Sheridan’s line, Sheridan holds until 11:oo AM until he runs out of ammunition. As he withdraws in good order, Bragg’s Confederates push forward.
In the meantime, Rosecrans becomes convinced that the attack is serious, and cancels his plans for Crittenden to cross the river and attack Breckinridge. Rosecrans rides to the scene of action, and begins organizing the defensive line. Confederate attacks keep bending the Federal line back, nearly 90 degrees, at right angles to the original. Rosecrans builds a line that resembles an acute angle, like a thin letter “V”, with the reformed right flank in front of and parallel to the Nashville Turnpike and the Nashville and Chattanooga railroad, to protect them. By this point, Bragg’s men have captured 28 cannon and over 3,000 prisoners.
As the Rebels attack the apex of the new Union line, they encounter the brigade of William B. Hazen, whose defense of the Round Forest, and rocky and wooded area, turns into a heroic and unexpected stand. The Rebel attack are costly, as wave after wave is shredded by Union gunnery and rifle fire. As Rosecrans heads up the defense in the Round Forest, a cannonball takes off the head of Col. Garesche, whose brains and blood are spattered all over Gen. Rosecrans. But the general remains cool and collected as he directs the defense. The Union line holds, and the two exhausted armies collapse into inactivity by early evening. Bragg is frustrated that his plane to leak. Both armies settle on a frozen field and await the morrow.
---Battle of Parkers’ Crossroads, Tennessee: Nathan Bedford Forrest and his raiding Rebels encounter a Union cavalry brigade under Col. Dunham. After a battle of several hours’ duration, Union General Sullivan arrives with reinforcements in the form of Fuller’s brigade, and attacks Forrest’s men in the rear. Forrest orders his men to “charge ‘em both ways” by counterattacking Fuller first, and then counterattacking Dunham and breaking through to escape south. Union Victory.
Losses: Union – 237; Confederate – 500