Book Chat
No Better Place To Die
The Battle of Stones River
Peter Cozzen's

This chat took place in the Civil War Home Chatroom on 04/15/07 and covered Chapters 4, 5, & 6

4/15/2007 8:07 pm (et) Basecat: Welcome to the Sunday Night Book Chat. Tonight we will be discussing Chapters 4,5, and 6 of No Better Place To Die: The Battle of Stones River" by Peter Cozzen's. As Chapter 4 begins, I was taken with the feeling of dread and unease on both sides as a battle was obvious looming. Stones River is one battle where each army were in essence right on top of the other. I also tend to believe this is one of the most important battles of the war, and wondered your thoughts on that?

4/15/2007 8:09 pm (et) Babs: I had that feeling of foreboding often shown in CW movies. All the wedding and Christmas parties before the battle begins.

4/15/2007 8:09 pm (et) amhistoryguy: I was a bit surprised to read that the Confederates seemed to have been well fed and supplied at that point. Not their usual condition prior to a battle.

4/15/2007 8:10 pm (et) ks: Huh. That's interesting. I wasn't at all struck with dread and unease in Chapter Four More amused with the descriptions of the dances and Christmas. Must be my reluctance to look at the FFF. :) Got into that quite soon enough, thank you.

4/15/2007 8:11 pm (et) ks: Babs, you put it well. Focus for me was on those things. The ugly reality that loomed was in the background.

4/15/2007 8:13 pm (et) Basecat: ks...The domesticity of the those events were in the background for me. Mostly I was thinking about the dread of the positions in the area, and the moroseness that was felt that a battle would go on at that supposedly special time of the year.

4/15/2007 8:14 pm (et) Basecat: amhg...Surprised me as well. You always get the perception of the AoT being woefully supplied throughout the entire war.

4/15/2007 8:15 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Interesting position for both commanders, being so close to one another. My 11th Battery boys were in Nashville, and wrote about a number of forage parties crossing paths with Confederate forage parties, and trading shots now and then.

4/15/2007 8:16 pm (et) mobile_96: But up until just a couple days before the battle, almost all considered the campaign season at an end.

4/15/2007 8:16 pm (et) Babs: Had the armies been in the area long? Maybe supplies were good because it hadn't been over foraged yet.

4/15/2007 8:17 pm (et) Basecat: Mobile...That they did...From the reading, I guess the Kentuckians were the ones who were having a tough time of it morale wise.

4/15/2007 8:18 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Murfreesboro was also the Confederate supply depot, so most of their supply was not from forage.

4/15/2007 8:18 pm (et) Basecat: In the Orphan Brigade, I should make mention.

4/15/2007 8:19 pm (et) mobile_96: Base, because of the way Bragg treated them, I'd be demoralized also.

4/15/2007 8:20 pm (et) Basecat: Mobile very true...He sorta put the blame of not more folks from Kentucky joining up on those loyal Kentuckians who did fight for him. He's a hard nut to crack IMHO.

4/15/2007 8:21 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Bragg was another case of the professional soldier not recognizing that he was leading mostly citizen soldiers.

4/15/2007 8:22 pm (et) ks: It seems to me the book may have mentioned ages. If so, I'm failing to find it at this time. How old were Rosecrans and Bragg at this point?

4/15/2007 8:24 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Rosecrans was born in 1819

4/15/2007 8:25 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Bragg was born in 1817

4/15/2007 8:25 pm (et) Basecat: Bragg was born in 1817, so I guess that would make him 45.

4/15/2007 8:29 pm (et) Basecat: Wish Coy was here, as he knows Rosecrans better than I do, but I found it odd that he would even consider an advance this late in the season. He says he had enough supplies to do so, and would be a surprise, but for Rosey that's showing more gumption than he usually did.

4/15/2007 8:29 pm (et) mobile_96: Or considerable demands from Washington.

4/15/2007 8:29 pm (et) amhistoryguy: I think he felt some pressure to produce.

4/15/2007 8:30 pm (et) Babs: Little Mac would have held off.

4/15/2007 8:31 pm (et) Basecat: True in both cases...and I tend to think he felt he was in a better position to do so. The map of 12-26 shows just how spread out Bragg's army was, and how compact Rosey was.

4/15/2007 8:31 pm (et) Basecat: Babs...That he would..:)

4/15/2007 8:32 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Don't want to get ahead, but I was surprised at the amount of movement needed to get the Confederate army into defendable positions. Bragg knew how close he was to the Union army. If you are going into winter camp, the army should be where it can still defend what it holds.

4/15/2007 8:34 pm (et) Basecat: amhg.. Hard for me to understand why he was that spread out...and the rather lackluster way he treid to gleam any information about the advance...Took him a while to truly get the gist of the pickle he found himself in.

4/15/2007 8:35 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Not to mention that it appears he had little knowledge of the land he was about to fight in.

4/15/2007 8:36 pm (et) Basecat: The other thing I find interesting about the Advance...Thomas who was supposedly slow, sure did not act it that day. Know he really had no opposition in his way, but that said he followed the orders well.

4/15/2007 8:36 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Both sides seemed to be lacking in the intel gathering area.

4/15/2007 8:37 pm (et) Basecat: True amhg...Know he spent a lot of time in Nashville, but not to truly know what was in the Murfreesboro area, is another of those bad decisions. He was never one to utilize his cavalry as well as he should have IMHO.

4/15/2007 8:38 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Surprised that the cavalry screen was botched from the get go. Seems like those details were Rosey's strength.

4/15/2007 8:39 pm (et) Basecat: To me I see a lack of coordination in getting information on just what the Union was doing. Wheeler was "astonished" when he heard news that they were advancing. Clearly shows a lack of preparation.

4/15/2007 8:40 pm (et) Basecat: Makes no sense either, as this was supposed to surprise Bragg...Main reason why he moved in the first place.

4/15/2007 8:40 pm (et) amhistoryguy: True enough that the use of cavalry was not strong on Rosey's part. But the plan broke down before they even moved.

4/15/2007 8:41 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Both sides seemed to be waiting to react to the other. Odd, IMO, for the offense to let the defense dictate movements.

4/15/2007 8:41 pm (et) Basecat: And the time wasted cost him his surprise, and gave Bragg enough time to figure out how he would handle it.

4/15/2007 8:43 pm (et) Basecat: I'll give this much to Bragg, he did send out a detailed order on what he wanted done...Took him 2 days to do so, but he did. Still don't like the way he set up his lines though.

4/15/2007 8:44 pm (et) Basecat: Weather plays a big part in this as well. The Fog delayed movements and such.

4/15/2007 8:45 pm (et) mobile_96: I didn't like the lines either.

4/15/2007 8:46 pm (et) Basecat: Hard to imagine he had part of his army above the river, and the other below...

4/15/2007 8:47 pm (et) Basecat: It reminded me of what Little Mac did on the Peninsula...and we all know how well that worked out.

4/15/2007 8:47 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Yet Rosecrans takes a day of good weather off - even if it was Sunday.

4/15/2007 8:47 pm (et) Basecat: But it was Sunday..:) Typical Rosey.:)

4/15/2007 8:49 pm (et) Babs: I like that there are maps, but I need them more labeled. Many names mentioned in the text were not on the maps. Guess it just assumed that I can remember which units are under whose command.

4/15/2007 8:49 pm (et) ole: Specifically, gentlemen, how would you improve Bragg's line?

4/15/2007 8:50 pm (et) Basecat: Babs...The best map in the book thus far in on page 74...The others are way too small.

4/15/2007 8:50 pm (et) Basecat: Ole..if me...would consolidate my command below the river and force Rosecrans to cross it to do battle...

4/15/2007 8:51 pm (et) mobile_96: Another issue with name, page 52, Negley was ordered to Stewartsboro, and on my Atlas, plate XXX, No. 2, I can only locate Stewartsburg,

4/15/2007 8:51 pm (et) Basecat: Babs, and I agree with you...hard to remember just who all fought with who, especially when looking at the maps.

4/15/2007 8:52 pm (et) ks: I too fumbled with the maps, Babs. Frustrated me trying to figure it out based upon names provided which were not on the maps. Probably also assumed that the reader knew more about the commanders than yours truly.

4/15/2007 8:52 pm (et) ole: My understanding is that you could walk across the river pretty much anywhere, and it would appear that there are better defensive positions on the west of the river.

4/15/2007 8:53 pm (et) Basecat: ks..That is a problem...and a bad assumption to make...there has to be a better way to list who's who on a map..

4/15/2007 8:53 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Condensed the command to Murfreesboro, dug in, not having sent my cavalry off I would have forced Rosecrans to lengthen his supply line to get to me, and have been able to harass him with cavalry raids. Rosey still needed to defend Nashville.

4/15/2007 8:54 pm (et) Basecat: Ole...I would not want to have forded those places in that cold weather...If me...I would have made the other guy do it...

4/15/2007 8:54 pm (et) Babs: KS, This theater is not as well known (to me) as the east. I need all the help I can get.

4/15/2007 8:54 pm (et) mobile_96: ole, but it was also mentioned that any sudden rise in the river, something possible considering all the recent rain, would completely separate the 2 sections of the line.

4/15/2007 8:55 pm (et) Basecat: Especially if I was the one doing the shooting as they tried to cross the river...Big advantage, IMHO.

4/15/2007 8:55 pm (et) amhistoryguy: If the banks were anything then like they are now, four to five feet of muddy embankment to get over in most places.

4/15/2007 8:55 pm (et) ole: Would guess that Bragg knew better than to divide his forces with a river. Can we say he had a better idea?

4/15/2007 8:58 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Bragg did divide his force on both sides of the river.

4/15/2007 8:58 pm (et) ole: If the banks were as high as amhg said. River crossers would be out of sight while crossing.

4/15/2007 9:00 pm (et) amhistoryguy: but, those waiting to cross, and the bottleneck created by those who could not get out of the river bed create problems.

4/15/2007 9:01 pm (et) ole: Why would they all be crossing at the same points

4/15/2007 9:01 pm (et) Basecat: Especially in those conditions...they'd be sitting ducks. I know the plans change, but that is getting too ahead. We are still focusing on the advance and the setting up of the lines.

4/15/2007 9:02 pm (et) ole: We are discussing the lines.

4/15/2007 9:03 pm (et) ole: Who was Bragg mad at when he assigned positions?

4/15/2007 9:03 pm (et) Basecat: Ole...You asked what we would have done if in Bragg's shoes...not what really happened..

4/15/2007 9:04 pm (et) ole: Goes to the motive, your honor.

4/15/2007 9:05 pm (et) Basecat: Not trying to be contrary Ole...Your points are valid...As to who he was mad guessing he was not thrilled with Hardee at this stage of the event.

4/15/2007 9:05 pm (et) ole: Della, fetch some coffee.

4/15/2007 9:06 pm (et) Basecat: Main problem with Bragg, his lack of knowledge as to just where Hardee was...which is his own fault.

4/15/2007 9:08 pm (et) amhistoryguy: That seemed to be an overall problem, his lack of knowledge as to what he actually faced where.

4/15/2007 9:09 pm (et) Basecat: And he did not take into consideration what some of his officers felt about the ground they had to defend on their part of the line...

4/15/2007 9:09 pm (et) amhistoryguy: I can't help but think he would have been better off accepting the defensive role, even though he felt he had an opportunity to be aggressive in meeting Rosecrans.

4/15/2007 9:10 pm (et) ole: Isn't that pretty much the story of Bragg's Civil War life? He didn't know where anyone was?

4/15/2007 9:11 pm (et) amhistoryguy: I think that there were also those who didn't mind seeing Bragg fail.

4/15/2007 9:12 pm (et) ole: Do you think they hated him that much?

4/15/2007 9:13 pm (et) ole: Before it gets later, is next week's discussion going to avoid conflict with Sherman's March?

4/15/2007 9:13 pm (et) amhistoryguy: A combination of hating him that much, and ruthless drive for their own advancement, politically as well as militarily.

4/15/2007 9:14 pm (et) ole: I've seen it happen, so I guess it's not that surprising what children educated men can be.

4/15/2007 9:14 pm (et) Basecat: Ole...?? Oh you mean the TV show...Am taping it. Chat will go on as scheduled.

4/15/2007 9:15 pm (et) ole: Am not taping it. Will watch it live.

4/15/2007 9:15 pm (et) Basecat: I loved the conversation at the end of chapter 5...and am sure it was one of many instances that shows just how close the lines were.

4/15/2007 9:17 pm (et) amhistoryguy: I enjoyed that conversation too - Wonder how Bragg & Rosey would have felt about it : )

4/15/2007 9:18 pm (et) ole: It's always a wonder that they could talk to each other, swap stuff, and then start shooting at each other.

4/15/2007 9:19 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Maybe those encounters are what resulted in such poor marksmanship in many cases.

4/15/2007 9:20 pm (et) ole: Could very well be.

4/15/2007 9:20 pm (et) Basecat: I know we have spent some time on Bragg, but any thoughts or comments on Rosey's performance during this time??

4/15/2007 9:20 pm (et) ole: Better than Bragg's.

4/15/2007 9:21 pm (et) ole: Or luckier.

4/15/2007 9:21 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Kind of un Rosecrans at times - aggressive, but not too.

4/15/2007 9:21 pm (et) ole: He was blessed with some superior subordinates.

4/15/2007 9:22 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Offensive initiative taken, but dependant upon Bragg's reaction.

4/15/2007 9:22 pm (et) Basecat: Ole...Tend to go with the book points out he was at one point facing Bragg's entire army with just a third of his men in place...

4/15/2007 9:22 pm (et) amhistoryguy: I think that you have hit on an important point ole - Rosey's subordinates.

4/15/2007 9:25 pm (et) Basecat: That march those men of Rosecran's made is a wonder as well, especially at this time of the Civil War. They were not used to such a grueling such a short time table, but it shows that they were getting more used to having to do such things as time passed.

4/15/2007 9:26 pm (et) amhistoryguy: They were learning to be soldiers.

4/15/2007 9:26 pm (et) mobile_96: some may have been very happy they were finally doing something beside sit in Nashville

4/15/2007 9:33 pm (et) Basecat: Interesting character in what is about to happen is General Palmer. He's one of the few political Generals in the war that actually did become a fine soldier. You can also see from the reading just how McCook's actions were a major detriment to the Union side.

4/15/2007 9:34 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Would have loved to see McCook work with Bragg : )

4/15/2007 9:34 pm (et) ole: Bragg didn't have enough brothers to tangle with McCook.

4/15/2007 9:39 pm (et) ole: Kinda nice, isn't it Dave, to know that we had a nice day and those Yankees are miserable.

4/15/2007 9:39 pm (et) Basecat: Guess I should post homework for next week...Chapters 7, 8, and 9.

4/15/2007 9:40 pm (et) Basecat: and ks has already posted it on the YODB.

4/15/2007 9:41 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Just looking at a map I have, interesting how little of the Battlefield Park includes Confederate movement or positions.

4/15/2007 9:42 pm (et) Babs: Is it privately owned? developed?

4/15/2007 9:42 pm (et) Basecat: Babs...Way developed...Last time I was there was 1999, and have heard it is even worse now...and it was very bad back then.

4/15/2007 9:43 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Most seems to be privately owned. It has been a while since I've been there last.

4/15/2007 9:44 pm (et) Basecat: IIRC...Part of the later stages of the battle that includes the charge of the Kentucky Orphan Brigade a school is now occupying that ground.

4/15/2007 9:44 pm (et) ole: Looks like the park itself barely covers the original position.

4/15/2007 9:45 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Between the growth of Nashville and the towns and cities between Murfreesboro and Nashville. Time swallows history.

4/15/2007 9:45 pm (et) ole: mobile: call or drop by this week. We'll hammer out a schedule.

4/15/2007 9:46 pm (et) Basecat: Main reason why it was chosen to be a Muster site this year amhg...because of the progress down there.

4/15/2007 9:46 pm (et) ole: Like a lot of eastern battlefields -- unfortunately juxtaposed to areas that grew.

4/15/2007 9:47 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Makes sense to pay respects while we can.

4/15/2007 9:48 pm (et) ks: Areas that grew and continue to grow.

4/15/2007 9:48 pm (et) Basecat: amhg...Exactly...and am glad we are going there...

4/15/2007 9:48 pm (et) Babs: I pity the fool operating a backhoe near that gang in June, Perhaps MAP will chain herself to a fence

4/15/2007 9:48 pm (et) Vickie: I agree amh good thing to go there now

4/15/2007 9:49 pm (et) Basecat: Ole..IMHO..only place that got it right in terms of preservation is Antietam...

4/15/2007 9:49 pm (et) Basecat: Thanks all for the chat tonight...I enjoyed it.