December 25, 1862 (Thursday – Christmas Day)
To soldiers of the Army of the Cumberland, Nashville was not home on this Christmas Day. To a man, they wished to be somewhere else; to be home with loved ones; to be at church; at the dinner table; anywhere but here, in the cold Tennessee muck, where rumors overshaddowed Gospel and Rebel tidings were anything but merry.
But they tried. The entire bleak day was spent trying to imagine some sense of the season. For the officers, Christmas parties were held in local houses and schools. In camp, the soldiers gathered around campfires well into the night. Some attempted to lift spirits, but mostly it was somber. More than the yuletide sentiment, the pall of the coming battle hung heavy.
For General William Rosecrans, commanding this army of 80,000, today was little different from any other. He, no doubt, attended a party or two, but for the most part, he readied himself for the evening council of war.
They met in a converted bedroom at 13 High Street, a mansion Rosecrans had commandeered for his headquarters. At midnight, all three of his wing commanders, Alexander McCook, George Thomas, and Thomas L. Crittenden were present. As were several of his division commanders, including Philip Sheridan.
Maps had been tacked up upon the door and spread across the bed, still occupying its original space.
He explained to his gathered officers that now was the most opportune time to advance upon the Confederate Army of Tennessee, under Braxton Bragg. The Rebels had sent out nearly all of their cavalry. Rumors of another Confederate column to the east turned out to be untrue. It was looking more and more like the Federals greatly outnumbered Bragg’s army.
It was an odd meeting, each officer and staff member coming, going and talking amongst themselves. Under the murmurs, Crittenden mused, “if the Rebels stand at all there’ll be damned hard fighting.”
Rosecrans had shuffled his chair next to Thomas’s and together they hammered out the details of the advance. The plan was to move along three routes in an attempt to turn the Confederate left flank suspected to be at Triune, thirty miles south.
All of a sudden, Rosecrans stood up and proclaimed: “We move tomorrow, gentlemen. We shall begin to skirmish, probably as soon as we pass the outposts. Press them hard! Drive them out of their nests! Make them fight of run! Strike hard and fast! Give them no rest! Fight them! Fight them! Fight, I say!”
((Sources: Days of Glory by Larry J. Daniel; No Better Place to Die by Peter Cozzens.))