Stones River National Battlefield
One of the most historically significant places in Murfreesboro is Stones River National Battlefield. In 1927, the U. S. Congress established Stones River National Battlefield as a national military park. These 728 acres were witness to some of the bloodiest and most intense fighting in the Civil War. This location also includes a national cemetery containing 6,850 internments, including 2,562 unidentified soldiers.
The beginning of this great Civil War battle started in Kentucky. After his defeat in Perryville, Kentucky, on October 8, 1862, General Braxton Bragg retreated with his Confederate Army of the Mississippi to Tennessee where the army was reorganized into the Confederate Army of Tennessee. With this new army, Bragg advanced to Murfreesboro to prepare for winter quarters.
Following Bragg from Kentucky was Union Major General William S. Rosecrans and his 45,000 strong Army of the Cumberland. Rosecrans’ goal was to defeat Bragg and the newly formed Army of the Tennessee. On December 29, 1862, Rosecrans discovered his target and decided to camp within hearing distance of Bragg’s Army.
At dawn on December 31, 1862, Bragg’s army surprised the Union General’s right flank near the east bend in the Stones River. So quick and unexpected was Bragg’s attack that many of the Union troops did not even have time to finish their breakfast. By 10:00 a.m. the Confederates had pushed the Union army back to the Nashville Pike. On New Year’s Day, 1863, Bragg assumed Rosecrans would withdraw his army; however, Rosecrans held his position.
Bragg launched one of his divisions against a Union division that had crossed Stones River on January 1, 1863, and had taken a position on a bluff east of the river. With the assistance of artillery, the Union was able to suppress the Confederate attack, forcing Bragg’s Army into its original position.
Bragg pulled his army from the field and retreated toward Shelbyville and Tullahoma January 4-5, 1863. This Confederate defeat boosted the Union’s morale for both soldiers and citizens. This gave the Union hope that the Confederacy could be defeated in their home states. The Confederates had previously won various battles, such as the Battles of Fredericksburg and Chickasaw. Thus, victory was important for overall morale.
The cemetery portion of the battlefield was established in 1864 under the orders of Major General George H. Thomas. Soldiers were disinterred from battlefields around the middle Tennessee area and reburied in the national cemetery by the 111th Regiment United States Colored Troops. These battlefields included Murfreesboro, Franklin, Shelbyville, Tullahoma, and Cowan as well as Stones River. Reburials began in 1865 and were completed by 1867. Just outside of the cemetery is the Hazen Brigade Monument which was erected in 1863. This monument is the one of the oldest surviving American Civil War monument that still stands in its original location.
As you walk to the GPS location you have been provided, picture the 80, 717 men who battled here. Picture the lives that they must have led at home and the families they left behind to fight. Young men on both sides braved the bitter cold of a Tennessee winter and the fear and confusion of battle. Imagine the 23,517 soldiers who were killed or wounded during the battle. Take a moment to reflect on their sacrifice and their bravery.
Today the Stones River National Battlefield can be visited in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. In fact, this year all over the country, national parks will be celebrating their hundred-year anniversary. Stones River, among other sites in Tennessee, will also be having its sesquicentennial of the Civil War.
For more information about the park, one can visit the battlefield’s website at http://www.nps.gov/stri/learn/index.htm.
Stones River National Battlefield
3501 Old Nashville Highway, Murfreesboro, TN 37129
- Stones River National Battlefield, established March 3, 1927, is a fee free national park available to the public. The park and Fortress Rosecrans’s hours are from sunrise to sunset. The Visitor’s Center, Tour Road, McFadden Farm, and Redoubt Brannan are open from 8 AM to 5PM.
- The Stones River National Battlefield visitor center is located at 3501 Old Nashville Highway, Murfreesboro, TN 37129; however, the simplest way to enter the park and reach the visitor center is through the main entrance gate at 1563 North Thompson Lane, Murfreesboro, TN 37129.
- You can enjoy the park through: Visitor Center & Museum, Outdoor Exhibits, Self-Guiding Tours, Ranger Programs, Living Histories and the Jr. Ranger Program.
- There are 6 trails covering 11 miles.
- There are several sites to see beyond the main park area including: Stones River National Cemetery, Fortress Rosecrans, Redoubt Brannan, General Bragg’s Headquarters Site, and General Rosecrans’s Headquarters Site.