Wednesday, January 2, 2013

January 3, 1863 (Saturday): Retreat from Stones River

Hazen Brigade Marker Stones River (NPS)

HEADQUARTERS IN THE FIELD, Murfreesborough, Tenn., January 3, 1863-12.15 a. m.
General BRAGG, Commanding, &c.:
    GENERAL: We deem it our duty to say to you frankly that, in our judgment, this army should be promptly put in retreat. You have but three brigades [divisions*] that are at all reliable, and even some of these are more or less demoralized from having some brigade commanders who do not possess the confidence of their commands. Such is our opinion, and we deem it a solemn duty to express to it you. We do fear great disaster from the condition of things now existing, and think it should be averted if possible.
    Very respectfully, general, your obedient servant,

   Major-General, C. S. Army.


[Indorsement Numbers 1.]
JANUARY 3, 1863-1.30 a. m.
    MY DEAR GENERAL: I send you the inclosed paper, as requested, and I am compelled to add that after seeing the effect of the operations of to-day, added to that produced upon the troops by the battle of the 31st, I very greatly fear the consequences of another engagement at this place in the ensuing day. We could now, perhaps, get off with some safety and some credit, if the affair is well managed. Should we fail in the meditated attack, the consequences might be very disastrous.
     Hoping you may be guided aright in whatever determination you may reach, I am, very truly, yours,

    L. POLK,

[Indorsement Numbers 2.]
    I gave the inclosed note, with the above indorsement on it, to General Bragg in his bed at 2 a. m. After reading one-half of it, he said, "Say to the general we shall maintain our position at every hazard."

[Inclosure Numbers 3.]

HEADQUARTERS POLK'S CORPS, Murfreesborough, Tenn., January 3, 1863-3 a. m.
Lieutenant-General HARDEE,
Commanding Hardee's Corps:
MY DEAR GENERAL: After due reflection, I deemed it my duty to make the following indorsement [Numbers 1] upon the accompanying note, signed jointly by two division commanders, Major-Generals Cheatham and Withers, and addressed to General Bragg. I have sent the note and indorsement to General Bragg by a staff officer, who I instructed to await any reply the general might be pleased to make. After reading them, his reply was, "The position will be maintained at all hazards." I think the decision of the general unwise, and, am compelled to add, in a high degree. I shall, of course, obey his orders and endeavor to do my duty. I think it due to you to let you know the views of myself and my two division commanders, especially as we all believe the conflict will be renewed in the morning. To insure its safe conduct, I send this by a staff officer.
     Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

    L. POLK,
    Lieutenant-General, Commanding.

HEADQUARTERS, January 3, 1863-8.50 a.m.
Major-General THOMAS:
    The general commanding desires that your troops be massed so as to be used on either of the fronts; also to send word to General Crittenden to aid with his force, should it be necessary.
    Very respectfully, yours, &c.,

   Acting Aide-de-Camp.

In front of Murfreesborough, January 3, 1863-10.05 a.m.
General THOMAS:
    General Hascall sends report that the enemy are advancing between the pike and the river, three lines deep. Caution the batteries and infantry not to fire until the enemy are well exposed. You had better have the brush in the cedar grove crushed down to form a defense.
     By command of Major-General W. S. Rosecrans:

    Captain and Aide-de-Camp.

January [3], 1863.
Assistant Adjutant-General JACK:
    Issue orders immediately to General Withers to return to Shelbyville with his division, and take up his former position, or such other position as may be assigned him. Send a duplicate of the order by way of Allisona; thence, via Vaugh's, to Hurricane Church, on to Shelbyville road, and another, by the route we came, across Elk River, to Vaughn's, and so on back. Also say to Withers that his transportation will be sent back to him immediately. Issue orders also to Major Mason to remove the whole of the general train back to Shelbyville, taking that of McCown, Cheatham, and Withers, and pursuing such routes as are the best. Also order Major Botts to return with Wharton's wagon train back to Duck River at the place we crossed, Shaufner's [?] Bridge.
    Let these instructions be put into the hands of the best couriers you have, and get them off as soon as practicable.

    L. POLK,
   Lieutenant-General, Commanding

[January 3] -11.40 a. m.
    The enemy's cavalry are 4 miles this side of Murfreesborough. Please inform me where I must order my brigade wagons to . Wheeler dispatches me that this morning he is on the Manchester pike, 3 miles from Murfreesborough.
    Most respectfully,

   JNumbers A. WHARTON,

HEADQUARTERS, January 3, 1863-11.40 a.m.
Major-General THOMAS:
    Major-General Crittenden has been directed, should there be an attack made on our right or an attempt to outflank us, to place Colonel Beatty's command at your disposal, and Colonel Beatty has been notified to hold himself in readiness, and to have an orderly at all times at your headquarters.
     By command of Major-General W. S. Rosecrans:

   Acting Aide-de-Camp.

INDIANAPOLIS, IND., January 3,[1863]-9.20 p.m.
Honorable E. M. STANTON,
Secretary of War:
I am advised that it is contemplated when the Legislature meets in this State to pass a joint resolution acknowledging the Southern Confederacy, and urging the States of the Northwest to dissolve all constitutional relations with the New England States. The same thing is on foot in Illinois.

    O. P. MORTON,
    Governor of Indiana.

Acting Assistant Adjutant-General:
    MAJOR:Immediately upon receiving your last note I summoned the division commanders to a consultation. All thought the danger of a sudden rise in the river imminent. I therefore immediately ordered the troops to cross over. [Two] batteries have already crossed, and all the troops are moving [without] confusion. I hope to have all over by daylight. My only difficulty [is to] know what disposition to make of the troops after they are over. I do not [know] the present position of the other troops of the command. As soon as the batteries are over, I will ride up and see you upon the subject. The men must be located where they can build fires and dry their clothes and get some rest.
    Most respectfully, your obedient servant,

    Major-General, Commanding.

HEADQUARTERS LEFT WING, January 3, 1863-10 p.m.
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General"
    MAJOR:The river has risen not to exceed 6 inches since yesterday, and not more than 2 inches of that 6 since dark to-night. It has not yet risen sufficiently to wash out the timbers that were laid for the men to cross on. Was any bridge built across the river? What was the result of the firing this evening? I will report again in an hour about the river.
    Most respectfully, your obedient servant,

    Major-General, Commanding.

*See Cheatham and Withers to Polk, March 21, 1863, p. 702. 

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 20, Part 1, Pages 294, 295, 297, 482, 701, 702.

During the night of January 3-4 Bragg withdrew through Murfreesboro toward Shelbyville and Rosecrans did not pursue. Stones River was a tactical victory for Bragg, but he lacked the strength to destroy Rosecrans and drive him from the field.    The Federals lost 12,906 of 41,400 troops and the Confederates lost 11,739 out of 34,739.  Although dwarfed by casualties in other more well known battles, the percentage of soldiers on both sides put out of action is a reflection on the carnage of the battle.  Both sides fought admirably and were far advanced from the organized mobs of 1861.

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