Civil War Trust’s map of the Battle of Stones River
On December 31, 1862, advancing forces under Union general William Rosecrans fought a pitched battle with Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee on the outskirts of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Both generals formed plans of attack, but Bragg struck first, pulverizing the Union right flank with two veteran divisions. False reports indicating a Union retreat kept Bragg in place on January 1, but January 2 dawned with Rosecrans stubbornly holding his ground. Bragg ordered Gen. John Breckinridge and his division to charge the Union left late in the afternoon. Breckinridge’s men crossed an open field and nearly achieved a breakthrough, but massed artillery broke up the assault at the climactic moment. Although the battle to that point had been a tactical draw, the arrival of Union reinforcements made Bragg’s position untenable. He retreated on January 3, granting the North a valuable strategic victory in the middle of an otherwise dismal winter.