Three Points About Stones River

Federal artillery is shown in action at the Battle of Stones River in this illustration. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Many of our readers get the preservation mailings from the American Battlefield Trust, asking to save land at various sites. The most recent one covers the Battle of Stones River (Murfreesboro) and seeks to save some land on the Federal center-left. Many may not be familiar with the battle or why this ground is so important. Here are three points to think about as you read the appeal.

First, the battle itself was a major clash in the Civil War. Fought between William S. Rosecrans’ Army of the Cumberland and Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee between December 31, 1862 and January 2, 1863, it was the war’s bloodiest battle by percentage of loss. It was also critical to the outcome; Lincoln called Stones River “a hard-earned victory, which, had it been a defeat instead, the nation could have scarcely lived over.”

Second, note the dates above – Stones River was a three-day battle. Most studies focus on the major days, December 31 and January 2, and the park lands preserve portions of both actions. This land saw fighting on December 31 in support of the Round Forest stand, and skirmishing for the next two days. Skirmishing on this land and elsewhere showed Bragg that in fact Rosecrans was still there on New Year’s Day ready to fight. Reports from troops on this parcel, noting that Federal cannon across the river were dominating their position, compelled Bragg to attack on January 2. This tract is thus one of the few undeveloped parcels at Stones River that saw fighting and activity on all three days.

Third, from a park management standpoint, it is important to link all lands of a park if possible. Acquiring this ground will do so. Also, given the way Murfreesboro is growing and developing, this is quite possibly the last major preservation opportunity at Stones River. (Those familiar with Fredericksburg will appreciate how a growing city can overrun a battlefield outside town.)

In short, this is a critical opportunity to save ground at one of the Civil War’s most important battles. Please consider helping.

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5 Responses to Three Points About Stones River

  1. Rhea Cole says:

    Chris could not be more right. This is a major preservation opportunity. In our wildest dreams, the volunteers & NPS staff ever imagined that this large parcel of land would become part of the park. Your contribution will greatly facilitate our ability to walk the ground & enlighten visitors about the battle.

  2. Glen Robertson says:

    Chris: I will be making my first visit to Stones River this Sunday ( on my way back to VB from my first visit to Shiloh). I have the Trust solicitation on my coffee table in my den. I suspect the visit will prompt me to make this contribution. —Glen

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