Battle of Stones River

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Battle of Stones River
Stones River Civil War History

Battle of Stones River

Other Names: Battle of Murfreesboro, Stones River Campaign, Second Murfreesboro

Location: Rutherford County, Tennessee 

Campaign: Stones River Campaign (1862-63)

Date(s): December 31, 1862-January 2, 1863

Principal Commanders: Maj. Gen. William S. Rosecrans [US]; Gen. Braxton Bragg [CS]

Forces Engaged: Army of the Cumberland [US]; Army of Tennessee [CS]

Estimated Casualties: 23,515 total (US 13,249; CS 10,266)

Result(s): Union victory

Stones River National Battlefield Map
Civil War Battle of Stones River.gif
Civil War Stones River Battlefield

Battle of Stones River : A History

Description: After Gen. Braxton Bragg’s defeat at the Battle of Perryville, Kentucky, October 8, 1862, he and his Confederate Army of the Mississippi retreated, reorganized, and were redesignated as the Army of Tennessee. They then advanced to Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and prepared to go into winter quarters. Maj. Gen. William S. Rosecrans’s Union Army of the Cumberland followed Bragg from Kentucky to Nashville. Rosecrans left Nashville on December 26, with about 44,000 men, to defeat Bragg’s army of more than 37,000. 

He found Bragg’s army on December 29 and went into camp that night, within hearing distance of the Rebels. At dawn on the 31st, Bragg’s men attacked the Union right flank. The Confederates had driven the Union line back to the Nashville Pike by 10:00 am but there it held. Union reinforcements arrived from Rosecrans’s left 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. Bragg surmised that Rosecrans would now withdraw, but the next morning he was still in position. In late afternoon, Bragg hurled a division at a Union division that, on January 1, had crossed Stones River and had taken up a strong position on the bluff east of the river.

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 the January 4-5, retreating to Shelbyville and Tullahoma, Tennessee. Rosecrans did not pursue, but as the Confederates retired, he claimed the victory. Stones River boosted Union morale. The Confederates had been thrown back in the east, west, and in the Trans-Mississippi.

Recommended Reading: No Better Place to Die: THE BATTLE OF STONES RIVER (Civil War Trilogy). Review from Library Journal: Until now only three book-length studies of the bloody Tennessee battle near Stone's River existed, all old and none satisfactory by current historical standards. This important book covers the late 1862 campaign and battle in detail. Though adjudged a tactical draw, Cozzens shows how damaging it was to the South. Continued below.

Not only did it effectively lose Tennessee, but it completely rent the upper command structure of the Confederacy's major western army. Valuable for its attention to the eccentric personalities of army commanders Bragg and Rosecrans, to the overall campaign, and to tactical fine points, the book is solidly based on extensive and broad research. Essential for period scholars but quite accessible for general readers.

Why Stones River?

 

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.

Tennessee Civil War Battle Map
Battle of Stones River Map.gif
Battle of Stones River History

The Confederate Army of Tennessee was camped in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, only 30 miles away from General William S. Rosecrans’ army in Nashville. General Braxton Bragg chose this area in order to position himself to stop any Union advances towards Chattanooga and to protect the rich farms of Middle Tennessee that were feeding his men.

Union General-In-Chief Henry Halleck telegraphed Rosecrans telling him that, “… the Government demands action, and if you cannot respond to that demand some one else will be tried.”

On December 26, 1862, the Union Army of the Cumberland left Nashville to meet the Confederates. This was the beginning of the Stones River Campaign.

Battle of Stones River and Summary of Principal Events

Dec. 26, 1862 Skirmish at Franklin, Tenn.
  Skirmish at Nolensville, Tenn.
  Skirmish at Knob Gap, Tenn.
Dec. 26-27, 1862 Skirmish at La Vergne, Tenn.
Dec. 27, 1862 Skirmish on the Jefferson Pike, at Stewart's Creek Bridge, Tenn.
  Skirmish at Triune, Tenn.
  Skirmish at Franklin, Tenn.
  Skirmish on the Murfreesborough pike, at Stewart's Creek Bridge, Tenn.
Dec. 29, 1862 Skirmish at Lizzard's, between Triune and Murfreesborough, Tenn.
  Skirmish at Wilkinson's Cross-Roads, Tenn.
Dec. 29-30, 1862 Skirmishes near Murfreesborough, Tenn.
Dec. 30, 1862 Skirmish at Jefferson, Tenn
  Skirmish at La Vergne, Tenn.
  Skirmish at Rock Spring, Tenn
  Skirmish at Nolensville. Tenn.
Dec. 31, 1862 Skirmish at Overall's Creek, Tenn.
Dec. 31, 1862-Jan. 3, 1863 Battle of Stone's River, or Murfreesborough, Tenn.
Jan. 1, 1863 Skirmishes at Stewart's Creek and La Vergne, Tenn
Jan 3, 1863 Skirmish at the Insane Asylum, or Cox's Hill, Tenn.
Jan 4, 1863 Skirmish on the Manchester pike, Tenn
  Skirmish at Murfreesborough, Tenn
Jan. 5, 1863 Murfreesborough occupied by Union forces.
  Skirmish at Lytle's Creek, on the Manchester pike, Tenn.
  Skirmish on the Shelbyville pike, Tenn.

Union Approach

General William S. Rosecrans
General William S. Rosecrans.jpg
(Sept. 6, 1819 - Mar. 11, 1898)

On December 26, 1862, the Union Army of the Cumberland left Nashville to engage Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee. General William S. Rosecrans sent the three wings of his army on different routes in search of the Rebel army.

Rain, sleet and fog combined with spirited resistance from Confederate cavalry slowed the Federal advance. By the evening of December 30, 1862, both armies faced each other in the fields and forests west and south of Murfreesboro.

During the night, Bragg and Rosecrans planned their attacks. Both chose to attack the right flank of the enemy and cut off their supply line and escape route. Bragg extended his lines to the south using all but General John Cabell Breckinridge's Division of General William Hardee’s Corps. This movement of troops left only Breckinridge’s men to face Rosecrans’s planned onslaught on the east bank of the Stones River with General Thomas J. Crittenden’s Left Wing.

While the generals planned, the men lay down in the mud and rocks 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?”

Union and Confederate Armies on Dec.. 31, 1862
Battle of Stones River Battlefield Map.jpg
Authentic Battle of Stones River battlefield map

(New Year's Eve at the Battle of Stones River Map)

Turning the Union Right

(L) Gen. Rosecrans; (R) Gen. Bragg
Gen. Rosecrans and Gen. Bragg.jpg
Opposing Commanding Generals

(Right) Opposing commanding generals Rosecrans and Bragg would meet and clash again at the Battle of Chickamauga (also includes biography for each general), the second bloodiest engagement of the Civil War, which was surpassed only by the carnage at the place known as Gettysburg.

At dawn on December 31, 1862, General J. P. McCown’s Division with General Patrick Cleburne’s men in support stormed across the frosted fields to attack the Federal right flank. Their plan was to swing around the Union line in a right wheel and drive their enemy back to the Stones River while cutting off their main supply routes at the Nashville Pike and the Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad. (See Battle of Stones River Maps.)

The men of General Richard Johnson’s Division were cooking their meager breakfasts when the sudden crackle of the pickets’ fire raised the alarm. The Confederate tide swept regiment after regiment from the field.

Lieutenant Tunnel of the Fourteenth Texas Infantry described the confusion.

“Many of the Yanks were either killed or retreated in their nightclothes … We found a caisson with the horses still attached lodged against a tree and other evidences of their confusion. The Yanks tried to make a stand whenever they could find shelter of any kind. All along our route we captured prisoners, who would take refuge behind houses, fences, logs, cedar bushes and in ravines.”

Union artillery tried to hold its ground, but the butternut and gray wave swept over them. Federal commanders tried to halt and resist at every fence and tree line, but the Confederate attack was too powerful to stop against such a piecemeal defense. (Battle of Stones River: Union Report.)

Soon General Jefferson C. Davis's Division found itself caught between attacks from the front and the right. By 8:30 AM those units also began to fray and retreat to the north.

The ground itself helped stave off disaster. The rocky ground and cedar forests blunted the Confederate assault, and Rebel units began to come apart. Confederate artillery struggled to keep pace with the infantry. Still, the Army of the Cumberland’s right flank was shattered beyond repair.

The Slaughter Pen

Slaughter Pen (present-day) Battle of Stones River
Battle of Stones River.jpg
Battle of Stones River Battlefield

Gen. "Phil" Sheridan
Union General Philip Sheridan.jpg
(March 6, 1831 - August 5, 1888)

After McCown’s dawn assault, Confederate units to the north began attacking the enemy in their front. These attacks were not meant to break through, but to hold Union units in place as the flanking attack swept up behind them General Philip Sheridan had his men rise early and form a line of battle. His men were able to repulse the first enemy attack, but the loss of the divisions to his right forced Sheridan’s commanders to reposition their lines to keep Cleburne’s Division from cutting off their escape route. Sheridan’s lines pivoted to the north, anchored by General James Negley’s Division in the trees and rocks along McFadden Lane.

Confederate brigades assaulted Sheridan’s and Negley’s Divisions without coordination. The terrain made communication and cooperation between units nearly impossible. For more than two hours, the Union forces fell back step by bloody step slowing the Confederate assault.

By noon, the Confederate Brigades of A.P. Stewart, J. Patton Anderson, George Maney, A.M. Manigault, and A.J. Vaughn assaulted the Union salient from three sides. With their ammunition nearly spent, Negley’s and Sheridan’s lines shattered and their men made their way north and west through the cedars towards the Nashville Pike.

The cost of this delaying action was enormous. Sam Watkins of the First Tennessee Infantry, CS was amazed at the bloodshed.

“I cannot remember now of ever seeing more dead men and horses and captured cannon all jumbled together, than that scene of blood and carnage … on the (Wilkinson) … Turnpike; the ground was literally covered with blue coats dead.”

All three of Sheridan’s brigade commanders were killed or mortally wounded and many Federal units lost more than one-third of their men. Many Confederate units fared little better. Union soldiers recalled the carnage as looking like the slaughter pens in the stockyards of Chicago. The name stuck.

Defending the Nashville Pike

General Rosecrans Battle of Stones River.jpg

(Right) General Rosecrans (left) rallies his troops at Stones River Battlefield. Illustration by Kurz and Allison, 1891.

While the fighting raged in the Slaughter Pen, General Rosecrans was busy trying to save his army. He cancelled the attack across the river and funneled his reserve troops into the fight hoping to stem the bleeding on his right. Rosecrans and General George Thomas rallied fleeing troops as they approached the Nashville Pike and a new line began to form along that vital lifeline backed up by massed artillery.

The new horseshoe shaped line gave the Army of the Cumberland solid interior lines and better communication than their attackers. The Union cannon covered the long open fields between the cedars and the road. Most of the troops in this line had full cartridge boxes and knew that they must hold here or the battle would be lost.

Again the woods and rocky ground helped the Union. Confederate organization fell apart as they struggled through the cedars. Most of Confederate artillery was unable to penetrate the dense forests strewn with limestone outcroppings. Each wave of enemy attack along the pike was repulsed in bloody fashion by the Federal artillery that commanded the field.

Lieutenant Alfred Pirtle (Ordnance Officer, Rousseau’s Division) watched the cannon do their deadly work that afternoon.

“… then our batteries opened on them with a deafening unceasing fire, throwing twenty-four pounds of iron from each piece, across that small space. … But men were not born who could longer face that storm of canister. … They broke, they fled, and some took refuge in the clump of trees and weeds.”

As night approached, the Union army was bloody and battered, but it retained control of the pike and its vital lifeline to Nashville. Although Confederate cavalry would wreak havoc on Union wagon trains, enough supplies got through to give General Rosecrans the option to continue the fight.

Hell's Half Acre

Fort Bragg, North Carolina
Fort Bragg.jpg
Named in honor of General Bragg

The Round Forest was a crucial position for the Army of the Cumberland. Poised between the Nashville Pike and the Stones River, the forest anchored the left of the Union line. Colonel William B. Hazen’s Brigade was assigned this crucial sector.

General John C. Breckinridge
General John C. Breckinridge.jpg
(January 16, 1821 - May 17, 1875)

At 10 AM, General James Chalmers’ Mississippians advanced across the fields in front of Hazen’s men. The partially burned Cowan house forced Chalmers’ men to split just before they came a within range of the Union muskets. Artillery batteries guarded Hazen’s flanks with deadly fire while the infantry poured volley after volley into the Confederate ranks. General Chalmers was wounded as his men wavered then broke.

Chalmers’ attack was followed by General Daniel Donelson’s Brigade as General Bragg sought to tie up Rosecrans’ reserves pressing the Union left. Donelson’s men crashed through Cruft’s Brigade south of the pike. Hazen’s men held firm to the north and Union reinforcements were able to seal the breach.

During the afternoon of December 31st, Bragg called on General Breckinridge’s troops to hammer the anchor point of the Union line guarding the Nashville Pike. Two brigades went in first suffering the same fate as those that went before. Two more of Breckinridge’s Brigades made a final assault as daylight began to fail. Hazen’s men, reinforced now by Harker’s Brigade, clung to their positions.

The carnage as described by J. Morgan Smith of the Thirty-second Alabama Infantry prompted soldiers to name the field Hell’s Half Acre.

“We charged in fifty yards of them and had not the timely order of retreat been given — none of us would now be left to tell the tale. … Our regiment carries two hundred and eighty into action and came out with fifty eight.”

Colonel Hazen’s Brigade was the only Union unit not to retreat on the 31st. Their stand against four Confederate attacks gave Rosecrans a solid anchor for his Nashville Pike line that finally stopped the Confederate tide.

Civil War cannon firing.gif

Hazen’s men were so proud of their efforts in this area that they erected a monument there after the battle. The Hazen Brigade Monument is the oldest intact Civil War monument in the nation.
 
Breckinridge's Charge

After spending January 1, 1863, reorganizing and caring for the wounded, the two armies came to blows again on the afternoon of January 2nd. General Bragg ordered Breckinridge to attack General Horatio Van Cleve’s Division (commanded by Colonel Samuel Beatty) occupying a hill overlooking McFadden’s Ford on the east side of the river.

Battle of Stones River
Battle of Murfreesboro Stones River.jpg
(Historical Marker)

Breckinridge, a U.S. Vice President, the most senior ranking public official to commit treason, cousin to First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln, presidential candidate (ran against Abraham Lincoln), and prominent Confederate general, has witnessed only one full-length biography written about him. On the other hand, President Abraham Lincoln has been honored with more than 14,000 biographies.

Breckinridge reluctantly launched the attack with all five of his brigades at 4 PM. The Confederate charge quickly took the hill and continued on pushing towards the ford. As the Confederates attacked, they came within range of fifty-seven Union cannon massed on the west side of the Stones River. General Crittenden watched as his guns went to work.

“Van Cleve’s Division of my command was retiring down the opposite slope, before overwhelming numbers of the enemy, when the guns … opened upon the swarming enemy. The very forest seemed to fall … and not a Confederate reached the river.”

The cannon took a heavy toll. In forty-five minutes their concentrated fire killed or wounded more than 1,800 Confederates. A Union counterattack pushed the shattered remnants of Breckinridge’s Division back to Wayne’s Hill.

Faced with this disaster and the approach of Union reinforcements, General Bragg ordered the Army of Tennessee to retreat on January 3, 1863. Two days later, the battered Union army marched into Murfreesboro and declared victory.

"A Hard Earned Victory"

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.

Fortress Rosecrans at Stones River Battlefield
Fortress Rosecrans Battle of Stones River.jpg
Civil War Battle of Stones River, Tennessee

As the Army of Tennessee retreated 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, Fortress Rosecrans as a supply depot and base of occupation for the Union for the duration of the war.

President Lincoln received the victory he desired to boost morale and support the Emancipation Proclamation. How important was this victory to the Union? Lincoln himself said it best in a telegram to Rosecrans later in 1863.

“I can never forget, if I remember anything, that at the end of last year and the beginning of this, you gave us a hard earned victory, which had there been a defeat instead, the country scarcely could have lived over.”

Stones River National Cemetery  

Stones River National Cemetery
Stones River National Cemetery.jpg
Battle of Stones River

"[These were] men who had given their lives for the country ..., and now sleep beneath the green sod of our beautiful cemetery, on the immortal field of Stone's River."
 
When Chaplain William Earnshaw, the first Superintendent of Stones River National Cemetery, wrote these words, he and the 111th United States Colored Infantry were nearing the end of nearly a year of locating and reburying Union soldiers from the battlefield, Murfreesboro, and the surrounding area. They began the work in October 1865.
 
Today, more than 6,100 Union soldiers are buried in Stones River National Cemetery. Of these, 2,562 are unknown. Nearly 1,000 veterans, and some family members, who served in the century since the Civil War are also interred there. See also Tennessee Civil War History.

(Sources and related reading below.)

Editor's Choice: CIVIL WAR IN WEST SLIP CASES: From Stones River to Chattanooga [BOX SET], by Peter Cozzens (1528 pages) (University of Illinois Press). Description: This trilogy very competently fills in much needed analysis and detail on the critical Civil War battles of Stones River, Chickamauga and Chattanooga. "Cozzens comprehensive study of these three great battles has set a new standard in Civil War studies....the research, detail and accuracy are first-rate." Continued below.

Mr. Cozzens' has delivered a very valuable, enjoyable work deserving of attention. The art work by Keith Rocco is also a nice touch, effecting, without sentimentality...historical art which contributes to the whole.

Site search Web search

Advance to:
 

Battle of Stones River: Union Report

Stones River Campaign, Tennessee

Civil War Battle of Stones River History: Park Guide

Battle of Stones River Maps

Battle of Stones River: Union Army Order of Battle

Battle of Stones River: Confederate Army Order of Battle

29th North Carolina Infantry at the Battle of Stones River, by Colonel Vance (brother to Gov. Zeb Vance)

60th North Carolina Infantry Regiment at the Battle of Stones River, by Colonel McDowell

60th North Carolina Infantry Regiment at the Battle of Stones River, by Captain Weaver

Recommended Reading: Six Armies in Tennessee: The Chickamauga and Chattanooga Campaigns (Great Campaigns of the Civil War). Description: When Vicksburg fell to Union forces under General Grant in July 1863, the balance turned against the Confederacy in the trans-Appalachian theater. The Federal success along the river opened the way for advances into central and eastern Tennessee, which culminated in the bloody battle of Chickamauga and then a struggle for Chattanooga. Chickamauga is usually counted as a Confederate victory, albeit a costly one. Continued below...

That battle—indeed the entire campaign—is marked by muddle and blunders occasionally relieved by strokes of brilliant generalship and high courage. The campaign ended significant Confederate presence in Tennessee and left the Union poised to advance upon Atlanta and the Confederacy on the brink of defeat in the western theater.
 

Recommended Reading: The Shipwreck of Their Hopes: THE BATTLES FOR CHATTANOOGA (Civil War Trilogy) (536 pages) (University of Illinois Press). Review (Booklist): Cozzens delivers another authoritative study with the Chattanooga campaign. Braxton Bragg (who sometimes seems unfit to have been at large on the public streets, let alone commanding armies) failed to either destroy or starve out the Union Army of the Cumberland. In due course, superior Northern resources and strategy--not tactics; few generals on either side come out looking like good tacticians--progressively loosened the Confederate cordon around the city. Continued below...

Finally, the Union drove off Bragg's army entirely in the famous Battle of Missionary Ridge, which was a much more complex affair than previous, heroic accounts make it. Like its predecessor on Chickamauga, this is such a good book on Chattanooga that it's hard to believe any Civil War collection will need another book on the subject for at least a generation. Roland Green
 

Recommended Reading: Shiloh and the Western Campaign of 1862. Review: The bloody and decisive two-day battle of Shiloh (April 6-7, 1862) changed the entire course of the American Civil War. The stunning Northern victory thrust Union commander Ulysses S. Grant into the national spotlight, claimed the life of Confederate commander Albert S. Johnston, and forever buried the notion that the Civil War would be a short conflict. The conflagration at Shiloh had its roots in the strong Union advance during the winter of 1861-1862 that resulted in the capture of Forts Henry and Donelson in Tennessee. Continued below.

The offensive collapsed General Albert S. Johnston advanced line in Kentucky and forced him to withdraw all the way to northern Mississippi. Anxious to attack the enemy, Johnston began concentrating Southern forces at Corinth, a major railroad center just below the Tennessee border. His bold plan called for his Army of the Mississippi to march north and destroy General Grant's Army of the Tennessee before it could link up with another Union army on the way to join him. On the morning of April 6, Johnston boasted to his subordinates, "Tonight we will water our horses in the Tennessee!" They nearly did so. Johnston's sweeping attack hit the unsuspecting Federal camps at Pittsburg Landing and routed the enemy from position after position as they fell back toward the Tennessee River. Johnston's sudden death in the Peach Orchard, however, coupled with stubborn Federal resistance, widespread confusion, and Grant's dogged determination to hold the field, saved the Union army from destruction. The arrival of General Don C. Buell's reinforcements that night turned the tide of battle. The next day, Grant seized the initiative and attacked the Confederates, driving them from the field. Shiloh was one of the bloodiest battles of the entire war, with nearly 24,000 men killed, wounded, and missing. Edward Cunningham, a young Ph.D. candidate studying under the legendary T. Harry Williams at Louisiana State University, researched and wrote Shiloh and the Western Campaign of 1862 in 1966. Although it remained unpublished, many Shiloh experts and park rangers consider it to be the best overall examination of the battle ever written. Indeed, Shiloh historiography is just now catching up with Cunningham, who was decades ahead of modern scholarship. Western Civil War historians Gary D. Joiner and Timothy B. Smith have resurrected Cunningham's beautifully written and deeply researched manuscript from its undeserved obscurity. Fully edited and richly annotated with updated citations and observations, original maps, and a complete order of battle and table of losses, Shiloh and the Western Campaign of 1862 will be welcomed by everyone who enjoys battle history at its finest. Edward Cunningham, Ph.D., studied under T. Harry Williams at Louisiana State University. He was the author of The Port Hudson Campaign: 1862-1863 (LSU, 1963). Dr. Cunningham died in 1997. Gary D. Joiner, Ph.D. is the author of One Damn Blunder from Beginning to End: The Red River Campaign of 1864, winner of the 2004 Albert Castel Award and the 2005 A. M. Pate, Jr., Award, and Through the Howling Wilderness: The 1864 Red River Campaign and Union Failure in the West. He lives in Shreveport, Louisiana. About the Author: Timothy B. Smith, Ph.D., is author of Champion Hill: Decisive Battle for Vicksburg (winner of the 2004 Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Non-fiction Award), The Untold Story of Shiloh: The Battle and the Battlefield, and This Great Battlefield of Shiloh: History, Memory, and the Establishment of a Civil War National Military Park. A former ranger at Shiloh, Tim teaches history at the University of Tennessee.

 
Editor's Choice: The Civil War - A Film by Ken Burns. Review: The Civil War - A Film by Ken Burns is the most successful public-television miniseries in American history. The 11-hour Civil War didn't just captivate a nation, reteaching to us our history in narrative terms; it actually also invented a new film language taken from its creator. When people describe documentaries using the "Ken Burns approach," its style is understood: voice-over narrators reading letters and documents dramatically and stating the writer's name at their conclusion, fresh live footage of places juxtaposed with still images (photographs, paintings, maps, prints), anecdotal interviews, and romantic musical scores taken from the era he depicts. Continued below...
The Civil War uses all of these devices to evoke atmosphere and resurrect an event that many knew only from stale history books. While Burns is a historian, a researcher, and a documentarian, he's above all a gifted storyteller, and it's his narrative powers that give this chronicle its beauty, overwhelming emotion, and devastating horror. Using the words of old letters, eloquently read by a variety of celebrities, the stories of historians like Shelby Foote and rare, stained photos, Burns allows us not only to relearn and finally understand our history, but also to feel and experience it. "Hailed as a film masterpiece and landmark in historical storytelling." "[S]hould be a requirement for every student."

Sources: National Park Service; Stones River National Battlefield; Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies; National Archives and Records Administration; Cozzens, Peter, No Better Place to Die: The Battle of Stones River, University of Illinois Press, 1990; Davis, William C., The Battlefields of the Civil War, Salamander Books, 1990; Eicher, David J., The Longest Night: A Military History of the Civil War, Simon & Schuster, 2001; Esposito, Vincent J., West Point Atlas of American Wars, Frederick A. Praeger, 1959. (Source for map data.); Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fredericksburg to Meridian, Random House, 1958; Hattaway, Herman, and Jones, Archer, How the North Won: A Military History of the Civil War, University of Illinois Press, 1983; McWhiney, Grady, Braxton Bragg and Confederate Defeat, Volume I, Columbia University Press, 1969 (additional material, University of Alabama Press, 1991); McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States), Oxford University Press, 1988; Rosecrans, William S., Official Report from the Battle of Stones River, February 12, 1863; civilwarhome.com.

Battle of Stones River Murfreesboro Stones River Campaign History, General William Rosecrans General Braxton Bragg Army of the Cumberland Army of Tennessee Confederate Army of the Trans Mississippi

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