Are you among the many who wish that the Trust would save some more Civil War battlefield land in the Western Theater? If you are a fan of the Wester Theater – or even just a fan of making your preservation gift go as far as possible – I’ve got important news for you. Today, we have the opportunity to save significant, crucial acres of hallowed ground at two of the most important battlefields of the entire Civil War, Perryville and Stones River. And in each case, we are building on amazing success we had at both battlefields last year.
We now have the opportunity to build on previous progress with two transactions that have a combined total of $1,235,000, and as of today, we fully expect to receive $839,000 of that from federal and state matching grants, leaving us with a need of $277,500. That means we are able to multiply your generosity by a factor of $5.82-to-$1 to save these two tracts!
"I was in every battle, skirmish and march that was made by the First Tennessee Regiment during the war, and I do not remember of a harder contest and more evenly fought battle than that of Perryville." – Excerpt from "Co. Aytch: A Side Show of the Big Show", a memoir written by Private Sam Watkins of his experiences serving in the First Tennessee Regiment, Company H.
The autumn of 1862, as the Civil War dragged late into its second year, was a season of Confederate invasions into the border states. In the west, General Braxton Bragg’s Army of Mississippi and General Edmund Kirby Smith’s Army of Kentucky moved into the Bluegrass State to support pro-Confederate sympathies there. Three weeks after Lee’s defeat at Antietam, Bragg’s campaign in Kentucky ended in failure at the Battle of Perryville. Perryville was the largest and bloodiest battle fought in Kentucky. It suffered more casualties (7,600) than many other well-known battles – far bloodier than Champion Hill (6,700), Resaca (5,600) or Kennesaw Mountain (4,000).
Lacking supplies and with winter approaching, Bragg had abandoned Kentucky and retreated into central Tennessee, halting his army near the town of Murfreesboro on November 20 where he deployed his forces in defensive positions along Stones River and hoped for a chance to reorganize his army. However, President Jefferson Davis visited Bragg on December 16 and ordered him to send a division of 7,500 men to assist in the defense of Vicksburg. This left Bragg with a weakened force to confront Federal advances in the area.
Finally resupplied, Rosecrans pressed south toward Murfreesboro on December 26. Opposing cavalry forces skirmished as the Federals drew closer to Bragg’s position. On December 29, Rosecrans reached the north bank of Stones River two miles northwest of the town and prepared to confront Bragg. On December 31, Bragg launched an attack upon Rosecrans’ right flank opening the Battle of Stones River. Following the final repulse of Southern attacks on January 2, Bragg retreated south across the Duck River towards Chattanooga, the last Confederate stronghold in the Volunteer State. Rosecrans advanced after Bragg, building a large forward supply base at Murfreesboro.
The casualty percentage at the Battle of Stones River was second only to the Battle of Gettysburg in all the major engagements of the Civil War. Throughout five days of battle, nearly 24,000 men on both sides became casualties out of 81,000 engaged – a 29% casualty rate. Gettysburg had a casualty rate of 31%, Chickamauga 29%, and Shiloh 26%. The staggering losses at Stones River compelled both armies to spend months trying to regain their strength and come to terms with the causes of the winter bloodshed.
The Union three-part offensive had failed in the east (at Fredericksburg) and in the west (at Chickasaw Bayou), but Rosecrans's success along the banks of Stones River reassured the war-weary Northern public and helped legitimize the Emancipation Proclamation, which had gone into effect that January 1st. Bragg’s retreat ended Confederate control of middle Tennessee.
"Just as at Perryville, Bragg seemed to change under stress from a bold and aggressive attacker to a hesitant and cautious retreater. He had, of course, sound reasons for withdrawing from Murfreesboro. His principal subordinates advised him to retreat. He had lost nearly 30% of his men in the recent battles; if forced to fight again without some rest, his army might disintegrate. But his decision to retreat allowed his enemies to charge that once again Bragg had lost his nerve." – Bragg's biographer, Grady McWhiney.
Please consider making your most generous gift now to help raise the $277,500 we need to preserve these two tracts of precious American history forever.
As a Token of our Appreciation...
If you could help with a gift of $62 or more today – helping to save these two crucial 1862 battlefields – it will be my honor to send you a free book that is part of the “Command Decisions of the Civil War” series published by the University of Tennessee Press. This book, Decisions at Stones River: The Sixteen Critical Decisions That Defined the Battle, is more than just a history of the battle. Author (and American Battlefield Trust member) Matt Spruill focuses on the critical decisions confronting commanders on both sides of the clash. Complete with maps by Tim Kissel (also a fellow Trust member) and a guided tour, Decisions at Stones River will give you key insights into the campaign and a deeper understanding of the Civil War itself. I hope you will claim your copy today with a gift of $62 or more.