Banners to the Breeze: The Kentucky Campaign, Corinth, and Stones River

By Earl J. Hess | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWELVE Fight or Die

It had been a day of terrible fighting for the men of both armies, and the night of December 31 would be remembered forever by the survivors. The temperature plummeted as soon as the sun went down. Everyone in the two opposing armies was tired. Thousands of Federals had just experienced their first battle, and commanders had to deal with the chaotic conditions that always resulted from a major engagement. On the Union side, many units were still jumbled and disorganized, haversacks and cartridge boxes were empty, and everyone wondered if the army's supply line to Nashville would be cut. On the Confederate side, losses had been so heavy that all survivors had to deal with the death of friends, comrades, and respected officers. Despite their exhaustion, the Rebels spent part of the night fortifying their line. Across the vast track of cedars west of the Nashville Pike, each brigade gathered fallen logs, brush, and rocks to build a breastwork. They wanted to keep the ground they had spent so many lives taking from the enemy.

The most poignant episodes of that night were the many attempts to help the wounded. Roughly fourteen thousand dead and wounded men of both armies were scattered over an area of six square miles. The walking wounded were already mostly gone, and those who still lived were too badly injured to help themselves. They feared for their lives, not only endangered by wounds but threatened by the dropping temperature and the wet atmosphere. Rescuers scoured the woods and fields well into the night, sometimes finding men frozen to the ground in their own blood. No one fully controlled most of this area, and there were many instances of kindness between enemies as roaming Rebels left food, water, or blankets behind for wounded Yankees they happened to see. Even when burial squads or groups of stretcher bear-

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Banners to the Breeze: The Kentucky Campaign, Corinth, and Stones River
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations viii
  • Maps ix
  • Series Editors' Introduction xi
  • Preface xiii
  • Chapter One - Banners to the Breeze 1
  • Chapter Two - Bold Strike into the Bluegrass 30
  • Chapter Three - Bragg, Buell, and Kentucky 56
  • Chapter Four - Give Him Battle 77
  • Chapter Five - Perryville 92
  • Chapter Six - Good-Bye, Kentucky 106
  • Chapter Seven - the Road to Iuka 121
  • Chapter Eight Corinth 141
  • Chapter Nine Bloody October 154
  • Chapter Ten on to Murfreesboro 177
  • Chapter Eleven Stones River 197
  • Chapter Twelve Fight or Die 216
  • Notes 235
  • Bibliographical Essay 243
  • Index 245
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