From Antietam to Chancellorsville: September 1862 to May 1863

Battles For the West

What was Braxton Bragg’s plan?

Rosecrans had the greater numbers and the initiative, but Bragg had the better plan. Late in December 1862, as Rosecrans advanced into central Tennessee, Bragg planned to meet him at Murfreesboro.

The Federals had about 55,000 men, the Confederates about 40,000. The Union men were also much better fed and supplied, leading to a higher level of morale. Numbers never reveal the entire story, but regarding December 31, 1862, two numbers, or digits, reveal the difference between victory and defeat. Rosecrans had the Army of the Cumberland scheduled to attack at 7 A.M. Bragg had the Army of Tennessee ready and scheduled to attack at first light. As a result, the Confederates attacked at 6:22 A.M.

They came with thundering force, the kind of massive endeavor that is fueled by a feeling of despair. They overran the first few regiments they encountered, then drove a massive wedge between the left and center of the federal position. For an hour or two, it seemed as if the Confederates would reach the river and utterly thrash the Union force.


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