The Battle of Stones River: “Oh, my Orphans!”

StonesRiver-BreckenridgeChargeBreckenridge’s Charge
Stones River National Battlefield

“My Orphans!” John Breckenridge cried as his Kentuckians were shredded by Federal canister. “Oh, my Orphans!”

Breckenridge’s Orphan Brigade—men of Kentucky who found themselves unable to return to their home state following the failed Confederate invasion of the fall—had been ordered to make a late-day charge against the Federal left flank on Jan. 2. First, they had to get across Stones River and then ascend the slope on the far bank.

At first, their numbers appeared overwhelming, and Federal infantry fell back. But then the artillery opened. In less than an hour, Breckenridge lost more than 1,800 men—a third of the soldiers under his command.

Said a Union officer: “[N]ot a Confederate reached the river.”

2 Responses to The Battle of Stones River: “Oh, my Orphans!”

  1. A couple of things about Murfreesboro/Stones River.

    Of the 10 Bloodiest Battles SR is the least well known, and has littlr Monumentage.

    The only Union Victoty in the Lincoln’s bleak Winter of ’62/63, old Abe was always greatful to William Rosecrans. So grateful in fact, that in the summer of 1864 he offered Rosecrans the VP slot on the Republican ticket.

    A delay on the General’s part cost him the Presidency. He would have been America’s first Catholic President, 96 years before John Kennedy!

  2. The Union officer was mistaken. Portions of the 2nd and 6th Kentucky regiments of the Orphan Brigade and some men of Gibson’s Louisiana Brigade not only reached the river, but crossed it during the charge (they were then driven back). More of Breckinridge’s (correct spelling) quote – “My poor Orphan Brigade – they have cut it to pieces!”

Please leave a comment and join the discussion!