"In all, 58 pieces of artillery played upon the enemy. Not less than 100 shots per minute were fired. As the mass of men swarmed down the slope they were mowed down by the score. Confederates were pinioned to the earth by falling branches." - G. C. Kniffin, aide to General Crittenden
Americans have long been fascinated by the Civil War and its biggest battles, particularly Gettysburg, Antietam, and Shiloh, all of which involved Robert E. Lee or Ulysses S. Grant. But one of the six biggest battles of the war, and the one that took the heaviest toll by percent on both armies was fought at the end of 1862 in Tennessee, and it involved neither of those generals.
In late December 1862, William Rosecrans' Union Army of the Cumberland was contesting Middle Tennessee against Braxton Bragg's Army of Tennessee, and for three days the two armies savaged each other as Bragg threw his army at Rosecrans in a series of desperate assaults. Bragg's army was unable to dislodge the Union army, and he eventually withdrew his army after learning that Rosecrans was on the verge of receiving reinforcements. Though the battle was stalemated, the fact that the Union army was left in possession of the field allowed Rosecrans to declare victory and embarrassed Bragg.
Though Stones River is mostly overlooked as a Civil War battle today, it had a decisive impact on the war. The two armies had both suffered nearly 33% casualties, an astounding number in 1862 that also ensured Rosecrans would not start another offensive campaign in Tennessee until the following June. The Union victory also ensured control of Nashville, Middle Tennessee, and Kentucky for the rest of the war.
©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors