Discussion Stones River VS Gettysburg...Errily The Same.

atlantis

Sergeant Major
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Nov 12, 2016
It did not have to be a defeat for Bragg, his withdrawal made it a defeat. His army wasn't destroyed and was capable of holding a defensive position. Lee on the other could not stay at Gettysburg and since the northern foray was an offensive campaign failure to achieve solid results made it difficult if not impossible to paint the campaign in a positive light.
 

Rhea Cole

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Murfreesboro, Tennessee
It did not have to be a defeat for Bragg, his withdrawal made it a defeat. His army wasn't destroyed and was capable of holding a defensive position. Lee on the other could not stay at Gettysburg and since the northern foray was an offensive campaign failure to achieve solid results made it difficult if not impossible to paint the campaign in a positive light.
Take it from someone who has volunteered at Stones River for over 20 years, Bragg was out of options. Stones River was riding & about to isolate 1/2 his army on the wrong side of the river. In a matter of hours, the river goes from wadeable to a raging torrent. After loosing about 1/2 of Breckenridge’s division, no infantry regiment was at more than 1/2 strength. Rosecrans had fresh troops in Nashville & Lebanon, Bragg had no reserves of any kind.

Typical of Bragg, he ordered the withdrawal without stating were the rally point was. When he decided on Shelbyville, units were scattered all over Southern Middle Tennessee. From that point until June, when Rosecrans began the Tullahoma Campaign, none of Bragg’s commanders had any idea of what he wanted them to do.
 

Piedone

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Oct 8, 2020
I am not really familiar with the battle but from what I read the Union forces were just as mauled as the Confederates were.

And that early in the war the Confederates were able to replace losses (just like the Union), something they couldn't´t do later in the war
(hence Joe Johnston´s absolutely defensive stance in the West wasn't´t maybe that unreasonable - as the Confederates needed the bigger part of their reinforcements to support Leeds more offensive strategy in the East and just couldn't´t support two offensive armies...)

Because of that I wouldn't detect in that battle a decisive victory of the Union - it just reminds me of a brawl in a pub after the lights went out with everybody punching wildly into the dark, smashing furniture and bleeding noses whose owners were vaguely discerned or just guessed....
 
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Rhea Cole

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Murfreesboro, Tennessee
I am not really familiar with the battle but from what I read the Union forces were just as mauled as the Confederates were.

And that early in the war the Confederates were able to replace losses (just like the Union), something they couldn't´t do later in the war
(hence Joe Johnston´s absolutely defensive stance in the East wasn't´t maybe that unreasonable - as the Confederates needed the bigger part of their reinforcements to support Leeds more offensive strategy in the East and just couldn't´t support two offensive armies...)

Because of that I wouldn't detect in that battle a decisive victory of the Union - it just reminds me of a brawl in a pub after the lights went out with everybody punching wildly into the dark, smashing furniture and bleeding noses whose owners were vaguely discerned or just guessed....
Murfreesboro, should you consult a contemporary map, is the center of a Spider’s web of roads that includes the Nashville & Chattanooga RR. Taking that key junction allowed Rosecrans to establish a line 45 miles long from Readyville in the east to Franklin to the west. An all weather “pike” (toll road) ran directly from flank to flank. Enormous earthen fortifications & smaller works secured the southern side of a triangle roughly 45 miles on a side with Nashville at its peak.

By taking Murfreesboro, Rosecrans secured his base at Nashville. Because of the lay of the land, the only approach to Nashville led through Murfreesboro. 20 miles south of there was Bragg’s HQ at Shelbyville. Due to topography, communication from one flank to the other was a disjointed 70 miles. There are only three practical gaps through the face of the Highland Plateau. This forced Bragg to concentrate his forces into three groups that could not support one another.

The Murfreesboro position, due to topography, cut the Army of Tennessee off from its sources of remounts. During the six months from the Battle of Stones River & the Tullahoma Campaign, the quality & number of draft animals & cavalry mounts went into a steep decline. From that point onward, Union cavalry only got better & CSA cavalry got worse.

There were 72,000 slaves in the counties surrounding Nashville. One of the little understood benefits of Stone River was harnessing that labor pool. The Tullahoma Campaign, taking Chattanooga, & the Atlanta Campaign could not have happened without holding Murfreesboro. Topography demanded it.

My point here is that battles are not sporting events where casualty figures are the scores. It is who holds the blood soaked ground & how they exploit it that matters. Sadly, in military logic, lost lives are a means to an end. At Stones River, the loss of life was roughly equal. The strategic impact of the victory was enormous.
 

Piedone

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Oct 8, 2020
I do understand your point very well - and of course you are right with the battle having a great impact.
But I´d doubt if the Confederates would have been able to take Nashville - as the Cumberland was under Union control and the town was fortified - even if Bragg had been victorious (and as long as the Union army was not completely routed).
I think Bragg´s house of cards in Tennessee was doomed to fall - one way or the other and sooner or later.
But as I told once before: I am just wildly guessing without any real knowledge and of course you are much more well-informed here.
 

James N.

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What did Grant say about this battle? "More victories like that and we'll be ruined." ?
Grant was in the position of a "hostile witness"; his long-held resentment of Rosecrans colored his thinking to such a point that his opinion on the matter is worthless. Far more correct to the Union viewpoint overall was Lincoln's assessment Grant was attempting to refute.
 

James N.

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Do I understand correctly that a corresponding important gain for the Union was its establishment of Fortress Rosecrans, the gigantic federal supply base at Murfreesboro?
That would almost be a bone of contention; Rosecrans had been ordered to secure Murfreesboro as his supply base before moving on Bragg's army and chose to comply literally by building Fortress Rosecrans, much to the displeasure of Lincoln and Stanton because of his resulting inertia throughout the Chancellorsville and Vicksburg campaigns. This problem is well and fully discussed in Bearss and Hills' book Receding Tide - Vicksburg and Gettysburg, the Campaigns That Changed the Civil War."
 

19thGeorgia

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There were 72,000 slaves in the counties surrounding Nashville. One of the little understood benefits of Stone River was harnessing that labor pool.
They didn't harness much of it (less than 5,000) and then didn't pay them to boot.

"The number of colored refugees employed [at Nashville] by Captain Morton, and who have died without receiving their pay, is estimated at from six to eight hundred. This would be twenty-five per cent of the entire number employed by him; surely a most extraordinary mortality, the predicate for which we could not ascertain."

"...a very large proportion of them never will or can be paid."


#Laborers....#Paid
4151......…..697 Nashville
..227...........128 Clarksville
..110.............71 Murfreesboro
..395.......….....2 Fort Donaldson
4883....…...898

-Information from the "Report of Thomas Hood and S. W. Bostwick" (December 28, 1864)
"Of colored refugees who have performed work for the government and their pay."
 

Rhea Cole

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Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Do I understand correctly that a corresponding important gain for the Union was its establishment of Fortress Rosecrans, the gigantic federal supply base at Murfreesboro?
Good question. What is not often understood because Fortress Rosecrans was so enormous is that it was just one link in the chain. To the east, ten miles away, was Fort Transit atop a hill called Pilot Knob that commanded a 360 degree vista. You can see until your eyes quit working from up there. The Fort Transit Signal Station was 60 feet up an enormous tree. On cold, still nights it was possible to send turpentine torch signals directly to the Fort Negley Station 41 miles away. It was the longest distance visual signal of the war.

Fifteen miles eastward from the signal station in the cupola of the Rutherford CO courthouse, were the works at Triune. Seven miles of earthworks, stone faced artillery bastions still encircle a ridge. It is like climbing up to a Mayan ruin except for the murderous honey locusts. The 10,000 man Reserve Corps of the Army of the Cumberland was based there.

An earthwork surrounded (s) the Daddy Knob signal station between Triune & Franklin. Fort Grainger sits atop a bluff overlooking downtown. It is remarkably intact & is a city park. The Fort Grainger Signal Station was
up in the twin “signal trees” alongside the fort.

Rosecrans harnessed the labor of self-liberating slaves to move millions of cubic yards of red Tennessee clay. Square miles of timberland were reduced to stumps. A forty five mile wide fortress complex was created in less than six months. Sixty days rations for 80,000 men was piled high at Fortress Rosecrans.

The triangular fortress complex, about 45 miles on a side, not only secured Nashville, it was the springboard for the capture of Chattanooga & all that followed.
 
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Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
They didn't harness much of it (less than 5,000) and then didn't pay them to boot.

"The number of colored refugees employed [at Nashville] by Captain Morton, and who have died without receiving their pay, is estimated at from six to eight hundred. This would be twenty-five per cent of the entire number employed by him; surely a most extraordinary mortality, the predicate for which we could not ascertain."

"...a very large proportion of them never will or can be paid."


#Laborers....#Paid
4151......…..697 Nashville
..227...........128 Clarksville
..110.............71 Murfreesboro
..395.......….....2 Fort Donaldson
4883....…...898

-Information from the "Report of Thomas Hood and S. W. Bostwick" (December 28, 1864)
"Of colored refugees who have performed work for the government and their pay."
The payrolls of blacks that built the Nashville & Northwestern RR, for example, are available online. As usual, citing one small element of the enormous logistical system & construction work around Nashville does not present an accurate depiction of the scale of the 1862-1865 operations.

I mean nothing about anyone posting here, but ever since I started studying the contribution of self-liberated people’s children contribution in middle Tennessee individuals have repeatedly attempted to minimize their impact. Bottom line, the war in the West depended on tapping the labor pool of self-liberated people in order to succeed.
 
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atlantis

Sergeant Major
Joined
Nov 12, 2016
The payrolls of blacks that built the Nashville & Northwestern RR, for example, are available online. As usual, citing one small element of the enormous logistical system & construction work around Nashville does not present an accurate depiction of the scale of the 1862-1865 operations.

I mean nothing about anyone posting here, but ever since I started studying the contribution of self-liberated people’s children contribution in middle Tennessee individuals have repeatedly attempted to minimize their impact. Bottom line, the war in the West depended on tapping the labor pool of self-liberated people in order to succeed.
Rhea I don't see why Bragg couldn't have repositioned his army with the river in front and impressed area slaves to build fieldworks in quick order. It was the winter season usually combat operations pace slowed. Rosecrans may have withdrawn if he saw Bragg was going nowhere.
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Rhea I don't see why Bragg couldn't have repositioned his army with the river in front and impressed area slaves to build fieldworks in quick order. It was the winter season usually combat operations pace slowed. Rosecrans may have withdrawn if he saw Bragg was going nowhere.
Good question. On January 2, Bragg did not have a single infantry regiment that was not fought out. Losses were from 40 to 80%. When Rosecrans secured the high ground after the disaster of Breckenridge’s Charge, artillery infaladed Bragg’s entire position. Bragg was in real danger of having 2/3rds of his army trapped on the wrong side of the Stones River.

As Bragg’s engineer had reported, from Nashville to Shelbyville, 20 miles to the south, there are no defensive positions that could not be flanked. The rise of the Highland plateau is a natural rampart.

The consensus of the professional military men that I have discussed Stones River with over the years is that Bragg should have fought at Stewart’s Creek or from the Shelbyville line. Murfreesboro is impossible to defend against an attack from Nashville. There is no position that cannot be flanked. On the other hand, it is almost ideally positioned to repulse an attack from the south. The road network becomes almost ideal internal lines of communication.

Bragg was in Murfreesboro in large part because his cavalry, commanded by Wheeler had grossly misrepresented the status of Rosecrans’ army. Rather than preparing for an attack, Bragg was planning the victory parade into Nashville when Rosecrans retreated due to starvation.

Because Bragg had absolutely no planning on the event of an Attack by Rosecrans, there was no agreed upon rally point. Many units had slogged south of Shelbyville before Bragg settled on it for his destination.

Typical of the state of the retreating regiments, one reported that when they finally halted, the men piled up cut brush & gathered leaves into piles. They then crawled into the piles & went to sleep. That was all the camp equipment they had. Bragg’s army was in no condition to fight anybody but Mother Nature.
 
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