Stones River Campaign (December, 1862 – January, 1863)
After Confederate General Braxton Bragg’s defeat at Perryville, Kentucky on October 8, 1862, he and his Confederate Army of the Mississippi retreated, reorganized, and were re-designated as the Army of Tennessee. They then advanced to Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and prepared to go into winter quarters. However, the Union had different ideas.
Hartsville (December 7, 1862) – Taking place in Trousdale County, Tennessee, the 39th Brigade of the 14th Army Corps was guarding the Cumberland River Crossing at Hartsville to prevent the Confederate Cavalry from raiding. However, under the cover of darkness, Confederate Brigadier General John H. Morgan crossed the river in the early morning of December 7, 1862. Morgan’s advance wore Union blue uniforms which got them passed the mounted sentinels. When Morgan and his troops approached the Union camp, the pickets sounded the alarm, and held the Rebels until the brigade was in battle line. Under the command of colonel Absalom B. Moore, the Union forces began fighting the Confederates 6:45 am and continued until about 8:30 am. One of Moore’s units ran, which caused confusion and helped to force the Federals to fall back. By 8:30 am, the Confederates had surrounded the Federals, convincing them to surrender. A Confederate victory, estimated casualties were 1,855 Union and 149 Confederate. This action at Hartsville, located north of Murfreesboro, Tennessee was a preliminary to the Confederate cavalry raids by General Nathan B. Forrest into West Tennessee in December, 1862-January, 1863, and General John Morgan’s into Kentucky in December, 1862 – January, 1863.
Stone’s River (December 31, 1862-January 2, 1863) – Also referred to as the Battle of Murfreesboro or the Second Battle of Murfreesboro, this major battle of the Civil War took place in Rutherford County, Tennessee. After Confederate General Braxton Bragg’s defeat at Perryville, Kentucky on October 8, 1862, he and his Confederate Army of the Mississippi retreated, reorganized, and were re-designated as the Army of Tennessee. They then advanced to Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and prepared to go into winter quarters. Major General William Rosecrans’ Union Army of the Cumberland followed Bragg from Kentucky to Nashville, Tennessee, leaving there on December 26, with about 44,000 men, with plants to defeat Bragg’s army of more than 37,000. The Union forces came upon Bragg’s army on December 29th and went into camp that night, within hearing distance of the Rebels.
At dawn on the 31st, Bragg’s men attacked the Union’s right flank and by 10:00 a.m. had driven the Union line back to the Nashville Pike but, there it held. Union reinforcements arrived in the late forenoon to bolster the stand, and before fighting stopped that day the Federals had established a new, strong line. On New Years Day, both armies marked time and Bragg surmised that Rosecrans would withdraw. However, the next morning he and his troops were still in position. In the late afternoon, Bragg sent a division of Confederate troops who had earlier taken up a strong position on the bluff east of the river, to attack the Union troops. The Confederates drove most of the Federals back across McFadden’s Ford, but with the assistance of artillery, the Federals repulsed the attack, compelling the Rebels to retire to their original position. Bragg left the field on January 4-5, retreating to Shelbyville and Tullahoma, Tennessee. Rosecrans did not pursue, but as the Confederates retired, he claimed the victory. Of the major battles of the Civil War, Stones River had the highest percentage of casualties on both sides, 13,249 U.S. and 10,266 Confederates. Although the battle itself was inconclusive, the Union Army’s repulse of two Confederate attacks and the subsequent Confederate withdrawal were a much-needed boost to Union morale after the defeat at the Battle of Fredericksburg, and it dashed Confederate aspirations for control of Middle Tennessee.
Forrest’s Expedition into West Tennessee (December 1862-January 1863)
Wanting to interrupt the rail supply line to Major General Ulysses S. Grant’s army, General Nathan Bedford Forrest made his way down the Mississippi Central Railroad. Additionally, if he could destroy the Mobile & Ohio Railroad running south from Columbus, Kentucky, through Jackson, Grant would have to curtail or halt his operations.
Lexington (December 18, 1862) – General Nathan B. Forrest’s 2,100-man cavalry brigade crossed the Tennessee River from December 15 to December 17, heading west. In the meantime, Major General Ulysses S. Grant ordered troops at Jackson under Brigadier General Jeremiah C. Sullivan and a cavalry force under Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll, to confront Forrest. As both armies marched towards Jackson, Union troops sighted Forrest’s advance troops. Ingersoll pulled back his troops about a half a mile from Lexington and prepared to fight. The next morning, Union Major Otto Funke led his troops in an attack on the Confederates, beginning a fight that would last several hours. But, the Union troops were far outnumbered and were soon overrun. Ingersoll became a prisoner along with 149 of his men and both his cannon were captured. The number of casualties is unknown. The Union prisoners were held 2-3 days, then paroled at Trenton, Tennessee. Those Federals who had escaped alarmed General Sullivan at Jackson, informing him that Forrest commanded a force as large as 10,000 men.