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[506] In order to execute this movement, the two divisions of Wood and Van Cleve were to cross the fords, which had been rendered passable by the engineers. The centre, formed by the divisions of Palmer and Negley, and reinforced in second line by Rosecrans' two brigades, was ordered to remain motionless until the attack from the left had put the enemy in motion in front.

The right wing was the weakest part of the Federal line. In fact, McCook, with his corps alone, occupied more than one-half of this line, say nearly three thousand metres, across the Wilkinson road, and extending as far as the Franklin road. Each of his three divisions had two brigades in front and one in reserve. That of Sheridan was on the left, that of Davis in the centre, and that of Johnson on the right. It was probable that, the battle once engaged, the enemy, whose main forces were on the south side of Stone River, would attack the right of the Federals in order to make a diversion in favor of their left. Rosecrans' success, therefore, depended upon the resistance which this portion of his army would be able to make; but he had reason to hope that Bragg, taken by surprise, would not have time to devote a large force to this diversion, but be soon obliged to defend his own positions. Unfortunately for the Union troops, their topographical officers had neglected to make drawings of this region of country during the four or five months that Buell had occupied it, so that the Confederates, who were perfectly familiar with it, had thus great advantage over them. The Federal right, formed in the centre of the woods, was absolutely ignorant of the nature of the ground which lay before it, and could not imagine what was passing behind the curtain of trees which intercepted its view. Rosecrans, full of anxiety respecting this danger, recommended to McCook to bring to the rear his extreme right, which extended as far as the Franklin road, as it was only protected by a single brigade of Johnson's division placed en potence. He desired that Davis should face south-east instead of east, and that the whole of Johnson's division should be held in reserve. McCook, however, availed himself of the latitude that had been granted him, and did not rectify his position. He felt certain of being able to maintain himself in it, and promised his chief to defend it for at least three hours.

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