Major C.S. victory at the Battle of Stones River

Rhea Cole

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
He will certainly attempt to do so, but with the Turnpike cut off, he'll have to take the longer, more circuitous right over the Stones River itself, which means Bragg can and will beat him to Nashville given the latter has the most direct route. This is why I think Stones River could have been an annihilation battle for the Army of the Cumberland; if it isn't destroyed there, Bragg can get it before Nashville.
I take it that you have never walked through a cedar break in the winter.
 

Rhea Cole

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
I'm not sure I follow?
The major physical feature of Stones River Battlefield are the cedar forests & Stones River. There are limestone outcroppings & the trees are very close together. It was the cedar breaks, as they are called that prevented Bragg from deploying his artillery during the three day battle. It isn’t obvious, looking at a map, but the cedars were an impenetrable barrier, in places to men on foot. Wheeled vehicles could only pass through on roads. The only practical way for Bragg to advance on Nashville was through Rosecrans. He lost 1/3rd of his army on the 31st trying to do that.
Another factor that is ignored in this scenario is that the Confed cavalry was armed with shotguns & the like. They were incapable of making a determined stand against infantry.
When Bragg sent Forrest & Morgan raiding into Kentucky, 2/3rds of his cavalry, he negated the possibility of cutting Rosecrans off from Nashville. Far more effective than any cavalry, Stones River was rising in Bragg’s rear. Due to Middle Tennessee being a karst area, the river goes from a placid wading stream to a raging torrent in a matter of hours. It was Bragg, not Rosecrans that would have been cut off. Had he stayed on the north side of the river, his army would have been in an impossible logistical position.
Between the cedars & the Stones River & its tributaries, had Bragg attempted to get around Rosecrans from Murfreesboro, he would have literally starved to death.
 

Generic Username

Corporal
Joined
May 12, 2019
Location
Yes
The major physical feature of Stones River Battlefield are the cedar forests & Stones River. There are limestone outcroppings & the trees are very close together. It was the cedar breaks, as they are called that prevented Bragg from deploying his artillery during the three day battle. It isn’t obvious, looking at a map, but the cedars were an impenetrable barrier, in places to men on foot. Wheeled vehicles could only pass through on roads. The only practical way for Bragg to advance on Nashville was through Rosecrans. He lost 1/3rd of his army on the 31st trying to do that.
Another factor that is ignored in this scenario is that the Confed cavalry was armed with shotguns & the like. They were incapable of making a determined stand against infantry.
When Bragg sent Forrest & Morgan raiding into Kentucky, 2/3rds of his cavalry, he negated the possibility of cutting Rosecrans off from Nashville. Far more effective than any cavalry, Stones River was rising in Bragg’s rear. Due to Middle Tennessee being a karst area, the river goes from a placid wading stream to a raging torrent in a matter of hours. It was Bragg, not Rosecrans that would have been cut off. Had he stayed on the north side of the river, his army would have been in an impossible logistical position.
Between the cedars & the Stones River & its tributaries, had Bragg attempted to get around Rosecrans from Murfreesboro, he would have literally starved to death.

McDonough lays out two possible scenarios:

1) Breckinridge reinforces Hardee
2) Wheeler supports Wharton with the entirety of his brigade

If one, I can see the Cedars being an issue given the layout of the terrain, but two doesn't feature such, given Wharton and Wheeler both either attacked the Turnpike or crossed it in the case of Wheeler. If Rosecrans attempts to dislodge them, that weakens him somewhere else nor does it address the fact that the Confederate cavalry has seized the ammunition train, leaving him short 18,000 men to battle with; such gives Bragg the numbers advantage.

Bragg, driven in part by the rising river, finally retreated on January 3rd, but McCook and his 18,000 men are out of ammunition on December 31st. How is Rosecrans supposed to hold out with only 25,000 armed men against 35,000 for three days?
 

Rhea Cole

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
McDonough lays out two possible scenarios:

1) Breckinridge reinforces Hardee
2) Wheeler supports Wharton with the entirety of his brigade

If one, I can see the Cedars being an issue given the layout of the terrain, but two doesn't feature such, given Wharton and Wheeler both either attacked the Turnpike or crossed it in the case of Wheeler. If Rosecrans attempts to dislodge them, that weakens him somewhere else nor does it address the fact that the Confederate cavalry has seized the ammunition train, leaving him short 18,000 men to battle with; such gives Bragg the numbers advantage.

Bragg, driven in part by the rising river, finally retreated on January 3rd, but McCook and his 18,000 men are out of ammunition on December 31st. How is Rosecrans supposed to hold out with only 25,000 armed men against 35,000 for three days?
These troopers & horses you lay across the Nashville Pike have to eat. There is nothing to eat in a Cedar Break. They are often called Cedar Barrens. Had Breckenridge been ordered to support Wheeler at Stewart's Creek, the logical place to block the Pike, they would have arrived without support as well. The weather was foul, sleet; freezing, rain, dry creeks roaring torrents etc. If you don't live here, the bottomless goo that passes for soil when it is soaked is hard to comprehend.

The conditions are not theoritical, on the retreat to Shelbyville men were literally walking in mud up to their crotches. On the other hand, the macadamized Nashville Pike was an all weather road. Wheeler would have found himself caught between the Cedars, Stewart's Creek & fresh troops coming from Nashville along the pike & RR tracks. Bragg had no ability to resupply a company of infantry, let alone regiments of cavalry requiring 26 pounds of fodder per horse per day. The Yankees would not have had to attack, Wheeler's force would have been starved, frozen & their horses breaking down beyond recovery. That was the description of them at Shelbyville, so the Stewart's Creek line would only have been worse.

I post this not just to be argumentative. I have been a living history volunteer at Stones River N.B. for over 25 years. I know the ground over which the armies fought intimately. What is difficult to grasp is that Bragg's dispositions on the night of the 30th made it impossible for him to win the battle. It was physically impossible for him to deploy his artillery. He fell for Rosecrans' ruse of lighting fires out beyond his right flank. The far left flank of Bragg's line charged off to the west & did not participate in the battle.

On the morning of New Year's Day, Bragg had no idea where his troops were or where they were. That is the reason he issued no orders at dawn to continue the battle. Cleburne's men, who had not had a meal for going on two days at that point, had lost about 40% of their strength. Hunkered down in the limestone outcroppings & dripping cedars, they were fought out. There were no reserves to release or reinforce them. Bragg did not order any new attacks for the simple reason that he had no force capable of carrying out an attack.

Bragg had missed his chance. In the morning, Rosecrans would hold the high ground on the south side of Stones River the next morning. In your scenario, the only force capable of confronting that game winning move would have been far away. Bragg's entire army would have been trapped on the north bank of Stones River, entirely cut off from their supplies. Hardee's corps had marched all night long to be in position on the 31st. They had been issued a canteen of whisky, the last ration they received during the battle. It was all they could do to drag themselves away from the battlefield.

The sweep of Rosecrans' right flank is not what it is often depicted. It took Hardee's corps out of the battle for the Pike & N&CRR. Wheeler rode himself out of the battle, frittering away his force. The Battle of Stones River could have been won at the Round Forrest, not by dangling an isolated cavalry force between Nashville & Murfreesboro.
 

Saphroneth

Captain
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Okay, so looking at Aggregate Present strengths on December 31 1862...

The Confederate report for Bragg's army is fom before the battle, but otherwise this should largely reflect the situation at the time. In AP:

Northern Virginia: 91,000.
Western Virginia: 5,000
Henrico: 2,000.
North Carolina and Southern Virginia: 40,500.
East Tennessee: 9,500.
South Carolina, Georgia and Florida: 25,000.
West: 68,500 (so about 56,500 after Stones River)
Mississippi and East Louisiana: 48,000
Valley: 1,500
Trans Mississippi: 13,000

(numbers rounded to nearest 500)

The Union report claims to be from December 31 1862 and as such should be from after the battle.

Cumberland 74,500 (72,500 once post forces at Bowling Green removed as they were also reported in Dept. of Ohio)
East (Wool) 3,500
Gulf 36,500
Middle Dept. (Baltimore etc.) 13,500
Missouri 59,000
New Mexico 3,000
North Carolina 22,000
Northwest 6,000
Ohio 70,000
Pacific 5,500
Potomac 185,500
South (i.e. South Carolina) 13,500
Tennessee (Grant) 53,500
Virginia (Fort Monroe and environs) 23,000
Washington Defences 66,500
West Virginia 28,500 (plus 2,500 en route to Grant and not born on any returns)


The forces that are in the West for both sides assuming the complete deletion of Rosecrans' entire department for no further Confederate loss than historical are (exclusive of New Mexico, Pacific and Northwest forces for the Union):
127,000 AP Confederate
221,500 AP Union

It's harder to make that work out than the historical 294,000:127,000 U:C, but it's still a significant Union position of numerical strength.
 

Saphroneth

Captain
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
A next step would be to plot the centre of gravity of each of those forces.

There's:

Ohio
Tennessee
Missouri
Gulf

for the Union and

East Tennessee
Mississippi/East Louisiana
Trans Mississippi
West

for the Confederacy.


Grant's force has just been forced to pull back by the raid on Holly Springs and Sherman has just raided at Chickasaw Bayou, which means the Dept. of the Tennessee is heavily involved to the west near the Mississippi river.; the Gulf is facing the southern flank of the Mississippi/East Louisiana forces, while the Missouri forces are obviously across the Mississippi.

The biggest question to my mind is where the Dept. of the Ohio is largely concentrated, might look into that later.
 

Rhea Cole

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Okay, so looking at Aggregate Present strengths on December 31 1862...

The Confederate report for Bragg's army is fom before the battle, but otherwise this should largely reflect the situation at the time. In AP:

Northern Virginia: 91,000.
Western Virginia: 5,000
Henrico: 2,000.
North Carolina and Southern Virginia: 40,500.
East Tennessee: 9,500.
South Carolina, Georgia and Florida: 25,000.
West: 68,500 (so about 56,500 after Stones River)
Mississippi and East Louisiana: 48,000
Valley: 1,500
Trans Mississippi: 13,000

(numbers rounded to nearest 500)

The Union report claims to be from December 31 1862 and as such should be from after the battle.

Cumberland 74,500 (72,500 once post forces at Bowling Green removed as they were also reported in Dept. of Ohio)
East (Wool) 3,500
Gulf 36,500
Middle Dept. (Baltimore etc.) 13,500
Missouri 59,000
New Mexico 3,000
North Carolina 22,000
Northwest 6,000
Ohio 70,000
Pacific 5,500
Potomac 185,500
South (i.e. South Carolina) 13,500
Tennessee (Grant) 53,500
Virginia (Fort Monroe and environs) 23,000
Washington Defences 66,500
West Virginia 28,500 (plus 2,500 en route to Grant and not born on any returns)


The forces that are in the West for both sides assuming the complete deletion of Rosecrans' entire department for no further Confederate loss than historical are (exclusive of New Mexico, Pacific and Northwest forces for the Union):
127,000 AP Confederate
221,500 AP Union

It's harder to make that work out than the historical 294,000:127,000 U:C, but it's still a significant Union position of numerical strength.
Another factor is that Bragg’s army would have starved like they did on the a Shelbyville line even had they taken a Nashville. As CS AG & others who inspected Bragg’s logistics, there was nothing left to forage in Middle Tennessee. QM’s from the Atlanta depot had already bought out the available meat to support the AoNV. Both armies had scoured the region for forage. The Northern Alabama region Bragg drew on was simply too far away. The vast logistical system that supplied Rosecrans Army in Nashville simply did not exist south of the Cumberland River. As has been pointed out, not only did the North have numbers, they could feed them.
 

Saphroneth

Captain
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Another factor is that Bragg’s army would have starved like they did on the a Shelbyville line even had they taken a Nashville. As CS AG & others who inspected Bragg’s logistics, there was nothing left to forage in Middle Tennessee. QM’s from the Atlanta depot had already bought out the available meat to support the AoNV. Both armies had scoured the region for forage. The Northern Alabama region Bragg drew on was simply too far away. The vast logistical system that supplied Rosecrans Army in Nashville simply did not exist south of the Cumberland River. As has been pointed out, not only did the North have numbers, they could feed them.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't there railway access to Nashville from both Chattanooga and Decatur? That should allow for supporting an army so long as the army can be supported anywhere.
 

Rhea Cole

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't there railway access to Nashville from both Chattanooga and Decatur? That should allow for supporting an army so long as the army can be supported anywhere.
The Nashville & Chattanooga RR connected with North Georgia, which was exclusively reserved for the AoNV. When the AoT ran out of meat in the spring of 1863, one day’s ration, 60,000 pounds was released from Atlanta. The Decatur RR had been destroyed by both man & nature to the point where Bragg did not even attempt to rebuild it.
The wild swings of temperature & flash floods that typify winter in Middle Tennessee bring traffic to a halt today.

The El Niño weather pattern of the winter of 1863 brought extremes that all but destroyed any hope for Bragg’s supply line. He had fled Kentucky ahead of the earliest freeze in living memory. What passed for roads were axle deep bogs. Ice storms & flash floods halted all movements for days at a time.

The Supply for Tomorrow Must Go Through that is a first person account of an Army Quartermaster in Nashville & Connolly’s very detailed footnotes & notes concerning the collapse of Bragg’s logistics in Army of the Heartland exemplify the night & day difference between the Union & CSA supply situation.
 

OldReliable1862

Sergeant
Joined
Jul 2, 2017
Location
Georgia
Assuming the XIV Corps is dealt a serious defeat at Murfreesboro and is forced to withdraw to Nashville, could we perhaps see Grant dispatched to deal with Bragg?
 

Saphroneth

Captain
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Assuming the XIV Corps is dealt a serious defeat at Murfreesboro and is forced to withdraw to Nashville, could we perhaps see Grant dispatched to deal with Bragg?

I don't believe at that point Grant had a particularly strong reputation, as his most recent endeavours had been Shiloh (which hadn't gone well on his end) and his first advance on Vicksburg (neutralized by a cavalry raid). If he was sent it'd be because the AoT forces were getting involved, but there's the Department of the Ohio forces to draw upon first (and which were presumably closer).

The Nashville & Chattanooga RR connected with North Georgia, which was exclusively reserved for the AoNV.
I'm not sure I follow. Are you arguing that there wasn't the supplies anywhere in the CSA, or that the N&C can't have supplies flow through it from outside?
 

Generic Username

Corporal
Joined
May 12, 2019
Location
Yes
These troopers & horses you lay across the Nashville Pike have to eat. There is nothing to eat in a Cedar Break. They are often called Cedar Barrens. Had Breckenridge been ordered to support Wheeler at Stewart's Creek, the logical place to block the Pike, they would have arrived without support as well. The weather was foul, sleet; freezing, rain, dry creeks roaring torrents etc. If you don't live here, the bottomless goo that passes for soil when it is soaked is hard to comprehend.

The conditions are not theoritical, on the retreat to Shelbyville men were literally walking in mud up to their crotches. On the other hand, the macadamized Nashville Pike was an all weather road. Wheeler would have found himself caught between the Cedars, Stewart's Creek & fresh troops coming from Nashville along the pike & RR tracks. Bragg had no ability to resupply a company of infantry, let alone regiments of cavalry requiring 26 pounds of fodder per horse per day. The Yankees would not have had to attack, Wheeler's force would have been starved, frozen & their horses breaking down beyond recovery. That was the description of them at Shelbyville, so the Stewart's Creek line would only have been worse.

I post this not just to be argumentative. I have been a living history volunteer at Stones River N.B. for over 25 years. I know the ground over which the armies fought intimately. What is difficult to grasp is that Bragg's dispositions on the night of the 30th made it impossible for him to win the battle. It was physically impossible for him to deploy his artillery. He fell for Rosecrans' ruse of lighting fires out beyond his right flank. The far left flank of Bragg's line charged off to the west & did not participate in the battle.

On the morning of New Year's Day, Bragg had no idea where his troops were or where they were. That is the reason he issued no orders at dawn to continue the battle. Cleburne's men, who had not had a meal for going on two days at that point, had lost about 40% of their strength. Hunkered down in the limestone outcroppings & dripping cedars, they were fought out. There were no reserves to release or reinforce them. Bragg did not order any new attacks for the simple reason that he had no force capable of carrying out an attack.

Bragg had missed his chance. In the morning, Rosecrans would hold the high ground on the south side of Stones River the next morning. In your scenario, the only force capable of confronting that game winning move would have been far away. Bragg's entire army would have been trapped on the north bank of Stones River, entirely cut off from their supplies. Hardee's corps had marched all night long to be in position on the 31st. They had been issued a canteen of whisky, the last ration they received during the battle. It was all they could do to drag themselves away from the battlefield.

The sweep of Rosecrans' right flank is not what it is often depicted. It took Hardee's corps out of the battle for the Pike & N&CRR. Wheeler rode himself out of the battle, frittering away his force. The Battle of Stones River could have been won at the Round Forrest, not by dangling an isolated cavalry force between Nashville & Murfreesboro.

That Wheeler does not got out on his wild ride is the suggestion, and cutting the all weather Nashville Pike was the suggested PoD proposed by the author cited; how exactly did Wheeler feed his command during the battle? Wheeler's Cav Corps had three brigades to use, against which arriving Federals amounted to a handful of regiments, meaning they would be gravely outnumbered and thus unable to re-supply Rosecrans.

The Confederates launched probing attacks on New Years Day and again on the 2nd; how exactly is Rosecrans supposed to stop them with McCook out of ammunition?
 

limberbox

Private
Joined
Apr 25, 2020
Bragg ordered Polk to attack the Round Forrest because it was the key to Rosecrans' line on the afternoon of Dec. 31, 1862. Parson's Battery fired almost 2,000 rounds in the repulse of repeated attacks. The banks of Stones River between the fords are sheer limestone bluffs except for the fords. The tactical bind the attackers were in is obvious. Numerous letters & journals state that it was possible to walk from a swale where the attackers went to ground back to the RR crossing stepping on bodies. Regiments that took part in the assault lost 50% & more of their strength. On January 2nd, Polk ordered an abortive attack on the Round Forrest that accomplished nothing.

Had the leadership of the 14th Army Corps (This battle predated the Army of the Cumberland designation.) been like that of the McClellan led Army of the Potomac, a retreat to Nashville would have been put in motion during the night of the 31st. That is exactly what Bragg expected. These were Western men, retreating & surrendering was not what they did.

Just to clarify, Bragg did not plan the sweeping flank maneuver by Cleburne & McCowen of Hardee's Corps. Because he did not actually know where Rosecrans' line was, the assault followed an entirely unanticipated axis. The roll back of Rosecrans' right was, in fact, a fruitless victory because it did not take the Pike & RR. It was like football drive stopped on the 5 yard line. It looks good in the highlights, but scored no points.

As the sun set, Cleburne made a final attempt to take the Nashville Pike & the Nashville & Chattanooga RR. His men were fought out. A panicked retreat caused by cast off great coats in a field on their flank attests to their exhaustion. Nearly trampled by his stampeding men, Cleburne called off any further attacks. There were no forces available to support Cleburne because every available unit was beating itself to death on the point Bragg had meant to be the focus of his attack. Like all military plans, Bragg's did not survive the first shot.
Very well put
 

limberbox

Private
Joined
Apr 25, 2020
Posted this elsewhere and the response I got made me do further research. Of note is the OR of Rosecrans:

We had lost heavily in killed and wounded, and a considerable number in stragglers and prisoners; also twenty-eight pieces of artillery, the horses having been slain, and our troops being unable to with draw them by hand over the rough ground; but the enemy had been thoroughly handled and badly damaged at all points, having had no success where we had open ground and our troops were properly posted: none which did not depend on the original crushing in of our right and the superior masses which were in consequence brought to bear upon the narrow front of Sheridan's and Negley's divisions, and a part of Palmer's, coupled with the scarcity of ammunition, caused by the circuitous road which the train had taken, and the inconvenience of getting it from a remote distance through the cedars. Orders were given for the issue of all the spare ammunition, and we found that we had enough for another battle, the only question being where that battle was to be fought.​
“Personal Recollections of the Battle in the Rear at Stone’s River, Tennessee” in Sketches of War History 1861-1865: Papers Prepared for the Commandery of the State of Ohio, Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States., Volume VI -

As aide to General McCook, assigned to duty as ordnance officer of the right wing, I had charge of some seventy six or seventy seven heavily laden ammunition wagons, as I remember, each drawn by four horses or mules. General McCook had the largest corps in the army, and his ammunition trains were relatively large. But a single infantry company of about seventy five men and two mounted orderlies had been assigned to me as train guards. I was proud of this new command, but these ordnance treasures carried with them grave responsibilities…Danger already threatened, and it was soon prepared for movement…I decided to direct my train toward the center of the infantry line, keeping well to the front. At the very start a detachment of Confederate cavalry charged wildly upon the train, attacking and endeavoring to stampede our teamsters and animals, but with the aid of the plucky train guards and some help from Captain Pease, of General Davis’ staff, we repulsed the attack and moved on…​
While in the open ground, moving our ammunition train rapidly to the left, it was discovered by the enemy. In my anxiety for its safety, I had already reported the importance of the train to every cavalry officer within reach, and appealed for protection. Colonel Zahm, of the Second Ohio Cavalry…promised me all possible help, and promptly formed his regiment in line for that purpose. Major Pugh, of the Fourth Ohio Cavalry, at my request also placed his regiment on our flank, facing the enemy. The First Ohio, Second East Tennessee, and a battalion of the Third Ohio Cavalry were near at hand.​
Alas, when the crisis came, a few minutes later, they were not in position to successfully withstand the shock. They were unprepared, and not in brigade line. Wharton’s Confederates unexpectedly appeared in great force. His artillery opened fire furiously upon the Fourth Ohio Cavalry, and threw the regiment into some confusion…​
Soon apparently his entire command charged down upon us like a tempest, his troopers yelling like a lot of devils. They first struck the Fourth Ohio, which could make but little resistance. Colonel Minor Millikin, the gallant commander of the First Ohio, led a portion of his regiment in a most brilliant counter charge, but it had to retire with fearful losses. In the onslaught the dear, fearless colonel, my intimate college friend, engaged in single combat with a Texas ranger, and was slain.​
There was no staying the Confederates. They outnumbered and outflanked us, and to tell the melancholy truth, our defending cavalry retired in confusion to the rear and left the ammunition train to its fate–high and dry in a cornfield. As may be imagined, our teamsters, the train guards and the ordnance officer (yes, I must admit it) were not left far behind in the general stampede. We fired one volley from behind the protection of our wagons, and then hunted cover in rear of a friendly fence and in the nearest thicket…The Confederates began to collect and lead away our teams and wagons, and our condition seemed desperate–indeed, hopeless.​
Happily this appalling state of affairs did not last long. Some of our cavalry rallied, other Union detachments came to the rescue. Wharton had soon to look to his own flanks, and was kept too busy to carry off our train. The conflict fortunately shifted. Captain Elmer Otis, with six companies of the Fourth Regular Cavalry [4th U.S. Cavalry] , attacked Wharton’s command with great vigor and success. Soon two battalions of the Third Ohio Cavalry came up from the rear…and nearly every wagon was finally recovered…and we were soon moving toward the Murfreesboro pike and the left of our army at double quick speed.
The enemy, still bent on destroying our train, followed us like sleuth hounds. Pat Cleburne’s artillery fired some hot shots at us from a hill on the main battlefield, and just as we reached the Murfreesboro pike General Wheeler’s troopers charged furiously upon escort and train and captured several wagons, but with the aid of our infantry they were soon repulsed, and the wagons recaptured.​
Thus ended for the day the campaign of the ammunition train. Our army front on the new right, was finally established, and for the first time in many hours train guards and animals breathed freely and rested in safety.​

In essence, if Wheeler had supported Wharton, as McDonough proposes as a missed opportunity, not only is the Nashville Pike cut but McCook's 18,000 men are out of ammunition by 12 PM on the 31st. Rosecrans would only have 25,400 equipped men to Bragg's 35,000 and basically his entire right flank would collapse.
That saber charge by the highly disciplined, hard-hitting 4th U.S. is frequently underappreciated. Wharton could not stand up to their sabers.
 

Rhea Cole

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
That Wheeler does not got out on his wild ride is the suggestion, and cutting the all weather Nashville Pike was the suggested PoD proposed by the author cited; how exactly did Wheeler feed his command during the battle? Wheeler's Cav Corps had three brigades to use, against which arriving Federals amounted to a handful of regiments, meaning they would be gravely outnumbered and thus unable to re-supply Rosecrans.

The Confederates launched probing attacks on New Years Day and again on the 2nd; how exactly is Rosecrans supposed to stop them with McCook out of ammunition?
Good question, there is every indication that Wheeler was wearing his force down w/o adequate care of his animals. On Jan 1, Wheeler did try to block the Nashville Pike at Stewartsboro. He was defeated & forced to return to Brag’s lines. Wheeler’s fevered imagination did what it always did & turned some broken down wagons into 500 destroyed. Whenever Wheeler was confronted by anything but unarmed wagoners, he was defeated. A large number of his men were still armed with sawed off shotguns in June 1863, so had no ability to make a stand up fight.

So, to answer your question directly, Wheeler attempted to do exactly what you propose & was soundly defeated by Union Cavalry coming out of Nashville. Your proposed scenario was what was actually attempted & did not work.

As to ammunition, it was the very real fear of being cut off from his base of supply that made Bragg retreat on Jan 3rd. Hardee’s brigades were worse off or even more worse than McCookwas. They were fought out. Polk’s regiments that had attacked the Round Forrest had suffered ip to 50-80% casualties. They had neither the morale nor the ammunition to press home another attack.

The simple fact is that Bragg’s attack plan was fatally flawed from the beginning. The odds of the misdirected, disastrous losses of the initial hour of the battle all but assured failure. The only hope of a Confederate victory was to declare a Mulligan & start from scratch.
 
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