January 1st

“Every preparation is being made to fasten the yoke of bondage upon the beautiful & chivalrous Southern country, but our people are determined to be forever free & independent of the Northern fanatics & tho the war may be long & bloody we will never submit.” [William L.B. Lawrence Diary]

Battle of Murfreesboro (Stones River) begins. Bragg’s army pushes Federals back to the Nashville Turnpike. Skirmish at Overall’s Creek.

“This has been a most eventful day. At daylight this morning very heavy cannonading was heard in the direction of Murfreesboro…. About 1 P.M. it was less frequent and seemed fainter—could it be that our [gallant] fellows were driving the Vandal before them?… Darlin’ [her pet name for her husband John] went into town [McMinnville] and came home about 11 o’clock with glorious news…. [Our troops] had whipped the enemy—loss heavy on both sides…. I could scarcely keep from crying for joy when Darlin’ told me the news…. I could not sleep for thinking of the poor fellows who were lying on the battlefield— some cold in death —others shivering with cold and writhing in pain…. [But] who was there with a warm glance to cheer their last agonizing hours?… The surgeons are busy tonight—the little city of Murfreesboro is full of the wounded. God help them!” [Lucy Virginia French, journal]

December 31-Jan 2

Battle of Stones River (also known as the Second Battle of Murfreesboro). Of the major battles, Stones River has the highest percentage of casualties on both sides. Although there is no clear victor, the Union Army’s defense against two Confederate attacks and the subsequent Confederate withdrawal gives a much-needed boost to Union morale after their loss at Fredericksburg, and dashes Confederate hopes for control of Middle Tennessee.

Jan 1st
President Abraham Lincoln signs the Emancipation Proclamation. It frees all slaves in regions under Confederate control and authorizes the enlistment of black soldiers. Note that it does not outlaw slavery in all areas of the country. Tennessee, which is under Union control (and whose constitution will be among the first to ban slavery); Southern Louisiana, which has remained loyal to the Union; and the border states of Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri are exempt from the Emancipation Proclamation, even though slavery exists in its cruelest forms in all six states. [See September 5, 1864]

Lucy Virginia French of McMinnville writes in her journal: “A New Year commenced today—heaven grant that ere it ends peace may reign among us once more…. I rose with new thanksgivings for the victory of yesterday [Stones River]….Old Abe is said to have revoked his Emancipation Proclamation—his message is a ‘funny’ document—the butt and laughing stock of all Europe—in it he recommends ‘gradual’ emancipation.”

Skirmishes near Clifton as Nathan Bedford Forrest crosses the Tennessee River there, On his way out of West Tennessee; skirmishes at and near LaVergne and at Stewart’s Creek.

Skirmish at Dandridge.

“[Still] we are under the clouds—as dull and gloomy as ever—perhaps even more so. There seems but little to live for—yet we live on…. Life to us is devoid of pleasures—and is made up of endurances…. To look back is most saddening— to look forward, even more disheartening for it seems we have nothing for which to hope…. I feel discouraged in every way—our cause seems to be sinking day by day…. [As] a family we merely get along, as agents for any good anywhere—we are powerless.” [Lucy Virginia French journal]

Letter > “…I feel that the thanks of every Union loving heart, are due to you this bright New Year’s morning, that the ‘Stars & Stripes’ now float over Tennessee, instead of the piratical banner of Secession. I have never felt deeper interest in our cause, nor greater confidence that a triumph more signal, and glorious even than that before Nashville will soon crown the Union arms, and redeem our beloved South from the filthy pool of Secession in which she has been so long plunging – and clad in clean Union garments she will soon forget the stained and dishonored rags which her leaders for a time have compelled her sons to wear! War is a…terrible school in which we all share – all suffer – the innocent and the guilt but with you Gen’l to wield our armies I shall look soon for a peace – a conquered peace….” – John A. Jackson letter to Gen George Thomas.