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[505] near the Franklin road, facing south and en potence on the line occupied by Negley. The ground he had to traverse was difficult, the roads scarce and in bad condition; of this the Confederates took advantage to delay his march as much as possible. Toward evening the musketry firing among the outposts in the vicinity of the Wilkinson road actually assumed the proportion of a positive engagement between Woodruff's Federal brigade and the left of the Confederate division of Withers. This affair, which was soon interrupted by darkness, cost McCook about one hundred and thirty-five men in killed and wounded, but did not prevent him from getting into line before sunset. A brigade of cavalry which had been left at Triune joined him during the night. The Federal army, therefore, was at last united and ready to assume the offensive.

On the evening of the 30th, Rosecrans explained his plan of attack to his corps commanders. He had ascertained that the Confederate army lay across Stone River. The hillocks on the right side, beyond which stands Murfreesborough, were only occupied by Breckenridge's division, whose encampments could be distinguished at a distance, for Cleburne had crossed over to the other side of the river during the day of the 30th. Rosecrans had determined to concentrate as large a force as possible in front of this division. While his right would hold the enemy in check in case of his assuming the offensive, his left was to cross Stone River and take possession of the heights occupied by Breckenridge; from this point his artillery was to attack the rest of Bragg's positions in the rear, whilst the whole of this wing, bearing toward the south, would proceed along the river to drive back the right wing of the Confederates and place itself between the latter and Murfreesborough. The conception of this plan was all the bolder because Rosecrans had overrated the strength of his adversary, estimating his forces at fifty thousand men. Still, he had a chance of success, for the density of the forest, which gave the assailant an advantage by enabling him secretly to concentrate his forces upon a given point, also rendered the defence of the right wing of the Federals easier, resting as it did upon impenetrable thickets, while the bare hills occupied by Breckenridge were exposed to all the power of their artillery.

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