“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.”