Book Review – The Stones River and Tullahoma Campaigns
Author: Christopher L. Kolakowski
Publisher: The History Press; Charleston, SC; 2011
List Price: $17.99
Best Price/s: Amazon.com – $11.80 (paperback)
The Stones River and Tullahoma Campaigns… by Christopher L. Kolakowski and edited by Douglas Bostick is a very good introduction to campaigns in Kentucky and Tennessee with which many Civil War history buffs are unfamiliar. It is part of the Civil War Sesquicentennial Series by the publisher to introduce readers to battles and campaigns in volumes of about 150 pages.
That said, this little book does an excellent job of giving the details of this campaign and demonstrating the importance it had to the winning of the war for the Union. Lincoln is quoted as once saying, “I hope God is on our side, but I must have Kentucky.” The control of Kentucky and eastern Tennessee was critical for victory.
Here is a short synopsis of the book’s contents:
After the Battle of Perryville in October 1862, the primary focus of the Civil War in the West shifted back to Tennessee. The Union Army of the Cumberland reorganized and regrouped in Nashville. Meanwhile, the Confederate Army of Tennessee camped 30 miles away in Murfreesboro.
On December 26 the Federals marched southward and fought a three-day brawl at Stones River with their Confederate counterparts. Though Bragg’s Confederates almost won on the first day, he managed to snatch defeat out of the mouth of victory. The critical engagement at Stones River was the Civil War’s bloodiest battle by percentage of loss – 28% & 27% of each army.
The Confederates withdrew, and both armies spent the winter and spring harassing each other and regrouping for the next round. In the Union camp, Rosecrans rested and refitted his army in preparation for the next push. In the Confederate camp, dissension between Bragg and his commanding generals corroded the army’s high command so that trust and cooperation were missing.
The masterful Tullahoma operation receives detailed attention so that the reader can understand the progressive chess moves of this campaign. When it was over, Bragg retreated to Chattanooga and the Union controlled Kentucky, middle and eastern Tennessee.
The book uses letters, reports, memoirs, and other primary sources to tell the story of the battles for Middle Tennessee in late 1862 and 1863. One of the pluses of this book are the numerous photos of the various officers who participated and the excellent maps of each part of the campaign. Several of the maps were drawn by Edwin Bearss in 1958 and are very detailed, but I do wish they were larger.