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Battle of Clarksville (The First Stone)

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Battle of Clarksville
Clarksville Battle
ConflictAmerican Civil War (The First Stone)
DateJanuary 18, 1863
PlaceClarksville, Tennessee
ResultBraxton Bragg is forced to retire to Clarksville, which Thomas then besieges
Combatants
United States of America Confederate States of America
Commanders
George H. Thomas

William Rosecrans

Braxton Bragg
Strength
Army of the Ohio (38,000) Army of Tennessee (32,00)
Casualties
912 killed
775 captured
332 missing
1,118 killed
983 captured
413 missing


Prelude

The Battle of Cedar Grove had dealt horrendous losses to the Northern Army of the Ohio. As a result, William Rosecrans was relieved of command and placed in a divisional position, and George H. Thomas took command of the army. Still, things were incredibly grim for the Northern army. For four days the army had retreated through upper Tennessee, following the Cumberland River. On the seventeenth, Thomas took a platform and gave a long and powerful speech to encourage his troops to fight hard. Thomas still needed a successful battle to turn the tide of the war, and he expected to get one in the morning.


Battle

At approximately 9:30 a.m. on the eighteenth, Thomas attacked his pursuers. He sent a brigade under General McCook as well as one under General Van Cleve, and attacked the salient on the Confederate left. Early in the battle Thomas was wounded, and Rosecrans took up temporary command. Both brigades punched through, routing the Confederate troops. Only the brigade under General Benjamin Cheatham managed to pull up in time and slow the breakthrough. Still, his division would not hold for long. Reinforcements trickled in to aid him, but Bragg also had to contend with an attack on his right. A division under General Crittenden had slammed into the Confederate lines, the two sides seesawing back and forth over a creek for much of the battle. By the time it had seemed that General Van Cleeve had broken the lines of Cheatham's division, night had fallen.


Aftermath

The Battle of Clarksville was a bloody and confused mess. With almost five thousand casualties total, the battle was not the bloodiest, but in improving the morale of northern troops it was decisive. Although Bragg retreated first, theoretically making him the loser, by nightfall no one had achieved the upper hand, and battle lines were almost as they were preceding the battle. Thomas would ride on this victory and besiege Bragg and his forces in Clarksville, not knowing that this encounter would be the bloodiest he ever endured.

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