Corbitt's National Parks
     Stones River
               National Battlefield


1927: National Military Park

1960: National Battlefield

Size: 709 acres

2008 visitors: 198,918

Stamp: ?

Rating (1-5): Unrated

About the Site

December 1862 was a bleak month for President Abraham Lincoln. The country was bogged down in the Civil War, the Union had suffered a devastating loss at Fredericksburg, and Lincoln was prepared to issue the bound-to-be controversial Emancipation Proclamation. The North needed a victory. Armies of the Union and the Confederacy met in bloody battle between December 31, 1862 and January 2, 1863 near Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

On the first day of battle, the Confederate forces took the Union armies by surprise and pushed them back, with the Union suffering severe casualties. The Union right flank was shattered, but the terrain is hilly, rocky, and forested, and the Confederates couldn't bring up artillery fast enough to consolidate their gains. Next, the Confederates attacked the Union center lines in a fierce assault. The North was forced back, step by step, and the carnage was terrible. The terrain kept the Confederates from mounting a coordinated attack, and this saved the Union. Union soldiers recalled the carnage reminded them of the stockyards in Chicago. Other Union armies repulsed Confederate attacks that would have cut off the North's supply lines to Nashville.

New Year's Day was without battle, as both sides stopped to regroup. But on the second day of January, a Confederate division charged up a hill, seeking to dislodge the Union troops. The Union artillery was well-placed, however, and wave after wave of iron destroyed the Southern assault. More than 1,800 men were killed or wounded in 45 minutes. Faced with this disaster, the Confederate army retreated, and two days later the Federals tiredly marched into Murfreesboro, declaring victory.

The Battle of Stones River was one of the bloodiest of the Civil War. More than 3,000 men died, and over 16,000 were wounded. Nearly a third of the troops of both sides were casualties. As the Confederate army retreated, they gave up the fertile valleys of Tennessee, which meant Confederate crops were now feeding Union soldiers. President Lincoln got the victory that he and the Union so desperately needed.

What You're Going to See

Visitors can see the Hazen Brigade Monument, believed to be the oldest intact Civil War monument still in its original place. Portions of Fort Rosecrans, built after the battle, are still in place. Visitors should note that much of the 4,000 acre battlefield is in private hands. There is a visitor center which has a small museum and a slide show. The battlefield may be toured by car or on foot; there are several spots with short foot trails. There is a Junior Ranger program for the kids. Stones River National Cemetary adjoins the Battlefield. It has 6,831 internments, of which 2,562 are unidentified.

Personal Observations

I haven't been to Tennessee. I know someone who lives there, though. Hi, Andy!

Getting There

From Nashville, take US 41/70 southeast toward Murfreesboro for about 27 miles. Turn south (right) on Van Cleven Lane, cross the railroad tracks, and take a hard right onto the Old Nashville Highway. The Battlefield is on your left, and 300 feet down the road the Cemetary is on your right. Turn left onto Park Road to enter the Battlefield.

Nearby Attractions

About 80 miles to the west is Fort Donelson National Battlefield. 80 miles to the north in Kentucky is Mammoth Cave National Park. About 90 miles to the east is Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, and Obed Wild & Scenic River. To the south, in Georgia, is Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, and to the south in Alabama is Russell Caves National Monument.