Stones River is a forgotten battle of the Civil War… The battle raged along the banks of the Stones River near Murfreesboro, Tennessee from December 31, 1862-January 2, 1863. Union Army of the Cumberland under William S. Rosecrans repulsed Confederate Army of Tennessee commanded by Braxton Bragg, over three days of bloody fighting. The Union victory secured Kentucky and Middle Tennessee from Confederate invasion.
The fighting on December 31 was some of the worst of the war… Union lines were hard pressed all day by rolling waves of the Confederate onslaught. Rosecrans rallied his troops in the thick of the fighting at several key locations. The fiercest fighting took place on Hell’s Half Acre, defended by the brigade of William B. Hazen. Hazen’s men were the only Union troops not to give ground that day. Rosecrans held a council of war that evening and several of his generals proposed retreat. Rosecrans was opposed, and so was his trusted subordinate, George H. Thomas. Thomas responded that “There’s no better place to die.” The fighting resumed on January 2, where Union forces bloodily repulsed another Confederate attack. Thomas’ men sealed the victory with a successful counterattack.
Stones River had the highest casualty rate of the Civil War… there were 76, 500 men engaged–Rosecrans’ army suffered 12,906 casualties, Bragg’s 11,739–32% of the combatants were casualties. There were larger battles with more casualties in the Civil War, but none as concentrated as this bloody winter fighting in middle Tennessee.