The Stones River Battlefield is located in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. The battle was a two day battle with one day of rest between them. The battle started December 31, 1862. Two opposing armies of 81,000 men, fighting for control of Middle Tennessee. It would be one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War.
The address is 3501 Old Nashville Highway, Murfreesboro, TN 37129. It is open daily from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. For more information please call 615-893-9501.
You will arrive at the Stones River Battlefield Visitors Center. Inside there is a museum, and gift shop. Be sure to go inside the museum and watch the video in the theater. It will give you the story of the battle. After you are done with the Visitors Center, be sure to take the driving tour of the battlefield. Pick up a pamphlet that has a map about the tour and tells about each point of interest.
Stones River Battlefield is a 650-acre national park and cemetery dedicated to preserving the memory of those who fought and died in this crucial Civil War battle. Living history demonstrations are presented on the weekends during the summer months with a special encampment featured in July.
The Confederate Commanders were General Braxton Braggs, the commander of the army, Lt General William J. Hardee, and Lt. General Leonidas Polk.
The Union Commanders of the 14th Army Corps were Major General William S. Rosecrans the Commander of the army, Major General Thomas L. Crittenden, Major General Alexander M. McCook and Major General George H. Thomas.
On December 26, 1862, the Union Army of the Cumberland, with 43,000 men, left Nashville towards Murfreesboro looking for the Confederate Army. The advance was slowed by rain, sleet and fog. The Confederate Calvary was playing hit and run, which also slowed down the Union Army.
The Confederate Army of Tennessee with 38,000 troops were wintering in Murfreesboro. After four days the Union Army was camped half a mile from the Confederate Army's camp south west of Murfreesboro in the fields and forests soon to be the Stones River Battlefield.
It was the night before the big battle on Dec 30, 1862. Both armies had bands and they started playing, trying to drown out the other. Then one band started playing "Home Sweet Home", everyone went silent, and then the bands of both armies joined in. Together, the soldiers joined in remembering home and family and then it was bed time.
First Battle Dec 31, 1862, the Union army was just waking up and getting breakfast when the Confederate Army began its attack. The Union Army was in chaos and men began to run in every direction. The Union Army was pushed back three miles with brief attempts to dig in and push back. The Union was trying to give the cannons time to reposition and other units to dig in to a new line of defense.
The Union having setup a new line of defense drew about 40 cannons on the Confederate assault. The Cannon fire of grape and canister beat back several attacks.
The Round Forest had some of the strongest fighting. This was where Union Soldiers were defending the Nashville Pike. This was a main supply route. A battery of cannons was hurriedly placed there to help drive back the repeated Confederate charge.
Those that made it through the pike were met with a volley of grape and canister, which drove them back. This was the only position that held the line throughout the day. The Confederates had gained so much ground that Confederate General Bragg thought he had won the battle.
The next day, January 1, 1863, was spent taking care of the dead and wounded and creating make shift hospitals.
2nd Battle Jan 2, 1863, the fighting resumed at 4pm near the banks of the Stones River. The Confederates attacked and successfully drove the union Troops back. The Union troops were in retreat across the Stones River at McFadden's Ford with the Confederate troops after them.
The Union had assembled cannons on a rise behind the river and as soon as the Union Forces were clear began firing shot, shell, and canister. For more than 10 minutes the cannons roared shooting more than 100 rounds a minute at close range. The ground shook under the soldiers' feet, and in less than an hour 1,800 Confederates fell dead or wounded turning their charge into a retreat.
Two days later with a weary heart Confederate General Bragg's withdrew his Army south from the Stones River Battlefield. General Rosecrans claimed victory and remained in Murfreesboro building the most extensive fortification yet erected during the war. This 200 acre fortification would be a supply depot for the Union Army to penetrate the Deep South. This would create the opportunity for Union Major General William T. Sherman to march to the sea.
Both armies would lose almost a third of their men totaling 23,525. The Union Army would lose approximately 13,200 soldiers. About 1,700 men were killed, 7,800 were wounded and 3,700 were missing from an army of 41,400.
The Confederates’ casualties included 1,300 killed, 7,900 wounded, and about 1,000 missing for a total of 10,200 out of an estimated army of 35,000.
A lot of the wounded would die from their wounds later, bringing the death toll even higher.
After the battle, the Union soldiers buried the dead from both armies on the Stones River Battlefield. Late in 1865, the 111th US Colored Troops began reburying the Union Soldiers in Stones River National Cemetery.
A local ladies memorial group raised money for a Confederate cemetery south of town, and moved the bodies there. Later they were reburied in Evergreen Cemetery.