Historic Markers Across Tennessee

Battle at Stones River ~ Fateful Decisions at Stones River

Marker ID:  
Location: Trailhead of the Greenway Trail Park System on West College Street, Murfreesboro, TN
County: Rutherford
Coordinates: N 35° 52.174    W 086° 25.185
  35.86956666    -86.41975
Waymark: None


Union Gen. William S. Rosecrans led the Army of the Cumberland from Nashville toward Murfreesboro in December 1862, while Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg and the Army of the Tennessee occupied the town to protect the approaches to Chattanooga. The armies clashed on December 31, and a flank attack almost swept the Federals from the field. Rosecrans fended off attacks on January 2 and prepared to take the offensive. Bragg, his army exhausted, evacuated Murfreesboro the next day. There were 81,000 soldiers engaged - one of the bloodiest battles of the war.

Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg was troubled as he watched the tents go up here at his new headquarters on January 1, 1863. Before moving his headquarters to this place, he had telegraphed Richmond the previous evening and declared, "God has granted us a happy New Year." He had expected the Union army to be retreating by now. Instead, the Federals were digging trenches and preparing to renew the fight. That night, thousands of Union soldiers - a division under Col. Samuel Beatty - crossed Stones River north of here and positioned themselves on a high hill.

The next day, Bragg called Gen. John C. Breckinridge here and ordered him to push the Federals off the hill. Breckinridge here and ordered him to push the Federals off the hil. Breckinridge argued against the attack, knowing that his men would be exposed to fire of more than fifty Union cannons on a ridge across the river behind Beatty's position. Bragg refused to change the order. He knew that his only chance to get the victory he had already claimed was to keep Union cannon off Beatty's hill.

Although Breckinridge attacked and successfully pushed Beatty back, the Union guns cut the Confederates up badly. The result was a bloody defeat that left more than 1,900 Confederate soldiers laying dead or wounded along the banks of the river. Bragg's subordinates finally persuaded him that the battle was over, and he withdrew from Murfreesboro toward Shelbyville on January 3, 1863.

"General Preston, this attack is made against my judgment and by the special orders of General Bragg. Of course we all must try to do our duty and fight the best we can. But if it should result in disaster and I be among the slain, I want you to do justice to my memory and tell the people that I believed this attack to be very unwise and tried to prevent it." - Gen. John C. Breckinridge.


More information:
Wikipedia - Battle of Stones River
NPS - The Battle of Stones River