by Larry J. Daniel
Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2012. Pp. xviii, 314.
Illus., maps, appends., notes., biblio., index. $38.50. ISBN: 0807145165
An account of one of the largest, most interesting, and least remembered battles of the Civil War, Stones River, also known as Murfreesboro.
Daniel, who has written extensively on the war in the West, opens the book by observing that Stones River was one of the few battles fought in the dead of winter, was both unusually long (Dec. 31, 1862-Jan. 2, 1863) and very bloody, with about a 30 percent casualty rate, and arguably was a tactical victory for the Confederacy, but a strategic one for the Union. He follows this with an often amusing chapter titled “A War of Egos,” which takes a look at the leaders of the armies, Braxton Bragg, Leonidas Polk, and Joe Wheeler, among others, in Gray, and William Rosecrans, George Thomas, Phil Sheridan, Alexander McCook, and others in Blue, a more contentious bunch than usual in a war of many egos. Daniel then uses two chapters to set the battle within the framework of the war and the campaign for Kentucky and Tennessee. He devotes eight full chapters to the battle, which is well told. There are many useful glimpses of the action from the perspective of the ordinary officers and men who fought the battle, which help carry the story along. Daniel ends with a discussion of why Braxton Bragg chose to break off the battle when he did, despite having arguably “won”, and goes on to discuss how the battle helped shape subsequent events.
Daniel has made a useful contribution to the literature of the war, and the book will prove particularly valuable for those unfamiliar with this largely overlooked battle.