of his left, to face much more nearly south, with Johnson's division in reserve, but that this matter must be confided to him, who knew the ground over which he had fought.
A meeting of the corps commanders was called at the headquarters of the commanding general for this evening. General Thomas arrived early, received his instructions, and retired. General Crittenden, with whom the commanding general had talked freely during the afternoon, was sent for, but was excused at the request of his chief of staff, who sent word that he was very much fatigued and was asleep. Generals McCook and Stanley arrived about 9 o'clock, to whom was explained the following.
PLAN OF BATTLE.
McCook was to occupy the most advantageous position, refusing his right as much as practicable and necessary to secure it, to receive the attack of the enemy; or, if that did not come, to attack himself, sufficient to hold all the force on his front; Thomas and Palmer to open with skirmishing and engage the enemy's center and left as far as the river; Crittenden to cross Van Cleve's division at the lower ford, covered and supported by the sappers and miners, and to advance on Breckinridge; Wood's division to follow by brigades, crossing at the upper ford and moving on Van Cleve's right, to carry everything before them into Murfreesborough. This would have given us two divisions against one, and, as soon as Breckinridge had been dislodged from his position, the batteries of Wood's division, taking position on the heights east of Stone's River, in advance, would see the enemy's works in reverse, would dislodge them, and enable Palmer's division to press them back, and drive them westward across the river or through the woods, while Thomas, sustaining the movement on the center, would advance on the right of Palmer, crushing their right, and Crittenden's corps, advancing, would take Murfreesborough, and then, moving westward on the Franklin road, get in their flank and rear and drive them into the country toward Salem, with the prospect of cutting off their retreat and probably destroying their army.
It was explained to them that this combination, insuring us a vast superiority on our left, required for its success that General McCook should be able to hold his position for three hours; that, if necessary to recede at all, he should recede, as he had advanced on the preceding day, slowly and steadily, refusing his right, thereby rendering our success certain.
Having thus explained the plan, the general commanding addressed General McCook as follows: "You know the ground; you have fought over it; you know its difficulties. Can you hold your present position for three hours?" To which General McCook responded, "Yes, I think I can." The general commanding then said, "I don't like the facing so much to the east, but must confide that to you, who know the ground. If you don't think your present the best position, change it. It is only necessary for you to make things sure." And the officers then returned to their commands.
At daylight on the morning of the 31st the troops breakfasted and stood to their arms, and by 7 o'clock were preparing for the
The movement began on the left by Van Cleve, who crossed at the lower fords. Wood prepared to sustain and follow him. The enemy, meanwhile, had prepared to attack General McCook, and by 6.30 o'clock