Touring Civil War Battlefields is one of our favorite things to do when traveling. However, in the last few years our travel routes have limited our opportunities to do so. So we were happy when at lunch time on June 8 we were able to stop and do a quick tour of this battlefield.
The following is a very brief synopsis of the battle.
As 1862 drew to a close, President Abraham Lincoln was desperate for a military victory. His armies were stalled, and the terrible defeat at Fredericksburg spread a pall of defeat across the nation. There was also the Emancipation Proclamation to consider. The nation needed a victory to bolster morale and support the proclamation when it went into effect on January 1, 1863. To this end, on December 26, 1862, the Union Army of the Cumberland left Nashville to engage The Army of Tennessee.
On the night of January 30, 1862 while the generals planned, the men lay down in the mud and rocks in the area of Stones River trying to get some sleep. The bands of both armies played tunes to raise the men’s spirits. It was during this "battle of the bands" that one of the most poignant moments of the war occurred. Sam Seay of the First Tennessee Infantry described what happened that evening.
“Just before ‘tattoo’ the military bands on each side began their evening music. The still winter night carried their strains to great distance. At every pause on our side, far away could be heard the military bands of the other. Finally one of them struck up ‘Home Sweet Home.’ As if by common consent, all other airs ceased, and the bands of both armies as far as the ear could reach, joined in the refrain. Who knows how many hearts were bold next day by reason of that air?”
In the days that followed the battle raged at places aptly named “The Slaughter Pen” and “Hell's Half Acre”. Eventually the Army of Tennessee retreated and they gave up a large chunk of Middle Tennessee. The rich farmland meant to feed the Confederates now supplied the Federals. General Rosecrans set his army and thousands of contraband slaves to constructing a massive fortification, Fort Rosecrans that served as a supply depot and base of occupation for the Union for the duration of the war.
President Lincoln got the victory he wanted to boost morale and support the Emancipation Proclamation (remember that the Proclamation only freed slaves in states that had seceded from the Union.)
The Battle of Stones River was one of the bloodiest of the war. More than 3,000 men lay dead on the field. Nearly 16,000 more were wounded. Some of these men spent as much as seven agonizing days on the battlefield before help could reach them. The two armies sustained nearly 24,000 casualties, which was almost one-third of the 81,000 men engaged.