Stones River National Battlefield and National Cemetery are in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. The battlefield is part of the National Park Service within the Department of the Interior. The 680-acre battlefield is 30 miles southeast of Nashville in middle Tennessee. The park, established in 1927, preserves the site of one of the most significant battles of the American Civil War. Each year, thousands of visitors come to enjoy the unique experience of Stones River National Battlefield.
We invite you to listen to the battle description and explore key locations that played a significant role in the battle.
For those seeking to learn more about the park during their visit, there is a three gallery museum in the park’s visitor center and a nine-minute film played in the museum theater.
To learn more about available resources or to contact the park directly, listen to the “Accessibility” and “More Information” sections at the end of the audio-described brochure.
Welcome to the audio described version of Stones River National Battlefield’s official printed brochure. Through text and audio descriptions of photos, illustrations, and maps, this version interprets the two-sided color brochure that visitors receive.
The brochure explores the history of the park, some of its highlights, and information for planning your visit. This audio version lasts about 52 minutes and is divided into twenty three sections.
The painting depicts a key moment in time during the last day of battle. A war-torn, horizontal landscape reveals the harrowing scene of Union cannons opening fire from in front of a battle damaged house on a hill, in the upper left of the image. The cannons fire toward the right, aiming at retreating Confederate soldiers. It is dusk. The Stones River divides the painting and the soldiers from both sides. Union troops in blue uniforms carry muskets fixed with bayonets and move to the right into the river in two lines, one in the foreground and one in the distance. American flags and blue regimental flags rise from the formations. Officers ride horses with swords drawn, urging the men forward. Bodies of fallen soldiers dot the landscape on both sides of the river, while wounded soldiers are carried away from the front. Heavy plumes of smoke and flame erupt from the front of cannons, with cannon shells exploding overhead. Union officers on horseback, with raised sabers, order foot soldiers forward. On the right side, Confederate soldiers, wearing brown and gray uniforms, are running from Union troops. Several troops are standing over the bodies of fallen comrades as they fire their muskets. Smoke and fire rise from behind them on the horizon. There are two small cabins in the background on the right side of the river.
Near the end of the war, William Travis painted "Hard Earned Victory" to honor Union Major General Rosecrans and the battle at Stones River
QUOTE: "I can never forget ... that about the end of last year and the beginning of this, you gave us a hard-earned victory."
— President Abraham Lincoln to Major General William Rosecrans, August 1863
Lincoln was worried as 1862 came to a close. Confederate attacks in Maryland and Kentucky had shaken Northern confidence. Generals McClellan and Buell wasted victories at Antietam and Perryville by refusing to advance on the Confederates. The Emancipation Proclamation was to take effect on January 1, but military success to enforce it seemed impossible. The Union war effort was stalled.
Lincoln needed a victory soon, and he pushed his generals to strike a blow. In December Gen. Ambrose Burnside’s Army of the Potomac met with disaster at Fredericksburg, Virginia. General Grant’s Army of the Tennessee proved unable to crack defenses north of Vicksburg, Mississippi. Lincoln’s only hope lay with Gen. William S. Rosecrans’s Army of the Cumberland.
On December 26, 1862, Rosecrans led his army out of Nashville to seek the victory Lincoln demanded. Their target: Murfreesboro and Gen. Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee. From December 31, 1862, through January 2, 1863, the armies ravaged each other. Each side lost nearly one-third of its men. The Confederates limped away from the battlefield. Rosecrans marched his battered Union army into Murfreesboro and declared victory.
Union forces held Murfreesboro and much of Middle Tennessee in an iron grip. Soon the earthen walls of Fortress Rosecrans protecting a vast supply base loomed over the town. Murfreesboro became a launching point for campaigns that slashed through the heart of the South and dealt a deathblow to the Confederacy.
The success at Stones River bolstered Northern spirits. Victory, and the Emancipation Proclamation, crushed Confederate hopes for international assistance and shifted the war’s aims from restoring the Union to remaking the nation.
A relieved and grateful Lincoln thanked Rosecrans and his men for a “hard-earned victory which, had there been a defeat instead, the nation could scarcely have lived over.”
This map depicts the eastern portion of the United States. The northernmost states visible along the top (north) portion are from left to right: Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, and Maryland. The remaining states depicted to the south are from left to right: Kentucky, Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Louisiana, and Florida.
Washington, D.C., at the border of Maryland and Virginia, is labeled with blue text, and Richmond, Va., is in red text. Other cities or towns noted, in black text, are:
Wilmington, North Carolina
Charleston, South Carolina
New Orleans, Louisiana
Red hatched lines on this map denote major railroads connecting major cities and ports across the map. Several major rivers are labeled in blue letters, including the: Missouri, Mississippi, Ohio, Cumberland, Tennessee, Alabama, Chattahoochee, and Savannah rivers.
Two wide, curved blue lines with arrows pointing to Vicksburg follow the Mississippi River on the left side of map, from New Orleans at the bottom to Cairo near the top. A third arrow line starts to the right of Cairo and curves downward with its arrow in central Mississippi also pointing toward Vicksburg, indicating the planned Union advance.
Another advance is shown by a line that begins in Nashville and runs diagonally down and to the right through Murfreesboro and Chattanooga with an arrow pointing to Atlanta. Another line begins in Atlanta running right through Georgia with an arrow pointing to Savannah. The last line starts at Savannah and runs up and diagonally to the right with an arrow pointed at Wilmington.
The bottom and right portions of the map are blue symbolizing the Gulf of Mexico (toward the bottom of the map) and the Atlantic Ocean (toward the right). Blue curved lines are positioned along the Gulf and Atlantic coastlines labeled Union Blockade.
Union strategy was three-pronged: gain control of the Mississippi River, drive a wedge through the Confederacy along rivers and railroads across Tennessee and Georgia, and blockade major ports.
Victory at Stones River opened the way into the Confederate heartland. Union advances to Chattanooga, Atlanta, and Savannah crippled the South’s ability to supply its armies and sapped civilian support for the war.
A historic sepia toned oval photograph captures Bragg from the shoulders up. His dark eyes gaze off into the distance to the viewer’s right. Wavy dark hair speckled with gray and white, curls away from his face. Thick wiry brows rest heavily over deep inset eyes. His expression shows hints of age and stress. Wrinkles surround his eyes and down-turned mouth. A full beard covers the lower half of his long face. Large ears and a long nose lend to his strong features. He wears a dark military officer’s uniform with a light collar and piping along the edge. Decorative embroidery adorns the collar. Four large buttons are visible.
Library of Congress
Braxton Bragg, Confederate Commander, was “a puzzling mixture of competence and ineptness.” He gained distinction in the U.S. Mexican War. Bragg stayed in command despite his subordinates’ criticism of his withdrawal from Murfreesboro. He defeated Rosecrans at Chickamauga but was routed at Chattanooga, a loss that cost him his command.
A historic black and white oval photograph depicts Rosecrans from the shoulders up. The portrait captures the left side of his face. His head and body are turned to the viewer’s left. His eyes gaze away from the camera. He has soft-angled brows, a well groomed mustache, and a short beard. His dark hair is combed over to his left. A receding hairline is visible on his high forehead to the viewer’s right. His wavy hair covers the top half of his left ear. He wears a dark double-breasted officer’s coat showing three double rows of buttons. He wears a stiff white shirt collar and an epaulette is visible on his left shoulder.
Library of Congress
William Rosecrans, Union Commander, left the Army to work as an architect, mining engineer, and inventor. He rejoined at the outbreak of the war. Rosecrans was popular with his troops, who called him Old Rosy. His “impulsive excitable personality” served him well at Murfreesboro but caused problems that led to his defeat at Chickamauga.
Nov. 1860–Apr. 1861
Lincoln elected; seven states secede, Fort Sumter, SC, attacked; Civil War begins.
Confederate victory at First Battle of Manassas (Bull Run), VA; shows war won’t end quickly.
Union armies take Fort Donelson and state capital, Nashville, TN.
Union victory at Antietam, MD, war’s bloodiest single day: 23,000 casualties.
Battle of Stones River; Emancipation Proclamation issued; US Colored Troops recruited.
Union victories at Gettysburg, PA, and Vicksburg, MS; New York City draft riots.
Battles of Chickamauga, GA, and Chattanooga, TN; Gettysburg Address.
Union armies capture and burn Atlanta, GA; Sherman begins March to the Sea.
Lincoln reelected; Union victories at Battles of Franklin and Nashville, TN.
Lee surrenders at Appomattox, VA; Lincoln assassinated.
13th Amendment ends slavery; 14th defines citizenship, protects civil rights; 15th allows male citizens the right to vote regardless of race or color.
US Army finally ends occupation of Tennessee.
A map of the Stones River battlefield showing transportation routes, natural features, and troop positions. The map is oriented so the top is north. The base map has a tan background depicting open spaces. Dark green areas denote forested areas and are scattered throughout with the heaviest concentration in the center. A light blue line shows the curving course of the Stones River running generally from top to bottom on the right side of the map. A thinner light blue line marks the course of Overall Creek on the left edge of the map running from top to bottom.
Darker tan lines mark roads. The Franklin Pike runs from left to right through the bottom third of the map. The Wilkinson Pike runs from left to right through the center of the map with a slight diagonal trend downward from the left. The Nashville Pike runs on a diagonal from the upper left of the map to the lower right. Two unnamed roads are in the upper left quadrant of the map forming a perpendicular intersection about halfway between the Nashville and Wilkinson Pikes. A gray, cross hatched line represents the Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad that runs nearly parallel to the Nashville Pike, intersecting that road near the center of the map.
Troop positions are marked by blue lines for the Union and red lines for the Confederates. ROSECRANS is written in dark blue at the top, center. BRAGG is written in dark red at the lower right. A light blue line denoting the Union positions at 8 a.m. on December 31, 1862, runs from the top of the map at the Stones River through the center to the bottom curving to the viewer’s left at the Franklin Pike. A light red or pink line denoting the Confederate positions at 8 a.m. on December 31, 1862, is located slightly to the viewer’s right of the Union line running diagonally from the Stones River located center, to an area in the lower-left below the Franklin Pike.
A thin, dark blue line labeled Union retreat and a thin, dark red line labeled Confederate advance curve on the left side of the map, bowing out to the left. Each line has an arrow on its upper portion. The arrows point to thicker dark blue and red lines marking the positions of the armies at noon on December 31, 1862. The dark blue Union line starts just to the left of the lighter morning line running downwards until it turns left at a position marked as the Round Forest. The line then runs diagonally up and to the left, parallel to the Nashville Pike, until it curves back toward the road at the position marked as Rosecrans Headquarters. The dark-red Confederate line starts from a point on the railroad just below the Union line and runs diagonally up and left, parallel to the Union line and Nashville Pike. A second dark-red line sits to the upper left of the Stones River making a slight arc. A spot marked as Bragg 1st Headquarters sits slightly below the second line.
"We were building fires and making coffee, for such permission had been granted just before daylight. ... Suddenly a succession of long lines of Gray were swarming over the Confederate breastworks and sweeping toward us ..." — Sergeant Major Widney, 34th Illinois, USA, 1862.
Confederates struck first, assaulting the Union right wing at dawn. By 10 a.m., they had driven the Union through the cedar woods to the Wilkinson Pike. Only stubborn fighting in the Slaughter Pen prevented a Union rout.
Rosecrans rushed his troops into position along the Nashville Pike and the Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad. Ordered to “contest every inch of ground,” they beat back the Confederates, inflicting heavy casualties. Bragg tried to revive his offensive by striking the Union left in the Round Forest. Soldiers from Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio stood their ground and left hundreds of Confederates lying dead or wounded on Hell’s Half Acre.
Wounded began filling field hospitals. A soldier from Ohio saw surgeons amputate limbs “then throw the quivering flesh into a pile.” The battle ended at dusk, but few felt like celebrating New Year’s Eve. On January 1, both armies rested and prepared for the next onslaught.
A map of the Stones River battlefield showing transportation routes, natural features and troop positions. This shows the same basic area as the Dec. 31, 1862, map, only from a slightly different angle. The map is oriented so that the top is north. The base map has a tan background depicting open spaces. Dark green areas denote forested areas and are scattered throughout with the heaviest concentration in the center. A light blue line shows the curving course of the Stones River running generally from top to bottom on the right side of the map. A thinner light blue lines marks the course of Overall Creek on the left edge of the map running from top to bottom.
Darker tan lines mark roads. The Franklin Pike runs from left to right through the bottom third of the map. The Wilkinson Pike runs from left to right through the center of the map with a slight diagonal trend downward from the left. The Nashville Pike runs on a diagonal from the upper left of the map to the lower right. Two unnamed roads are in the upper left quadrant of the map forming a perpendicular intersection about halfway between the Nashville and Wilkinson Pikes. A gray, cross-hatched line represents the Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad that runs nearly parallel to the Nashville Pike, intersecting that road near the center of the map.
Troop positions are marked by blue lines for the Union and red lines for the Confederates. ROSECRANS is written in dark blue at the top, center. BRAGG is written in dark red at the lower right. On the left side of the river, a dark-blue line starts at the railroad near a point marked Rosecrans Headquarters, in the upper left, then runs in an elongated C-shape that crosses and re-crosses the Nashville Pike and railroad ending in the center of the upper third of the map. Two dark-red lines make an arc in an area marked a forest that lies between the Nashville and Wilkinson Pikes. These sets of lines represent the bulk of both armies that face each other quietly on January 2,1863.
A short blue line on the right side of the river runs from left to right in the upper right portion of the map. The left side of the line is near the Stones River at a point marked as McFadden’s Ford. The red Confederate line runs parallel and below the blue line with its right side close to the river. A thin red line runs up toward the Union position and curves back to the right, ending with an arrow pointing back to the Confederate position. A short blue cross-hatched line on the left side of the river near McFadden’s Ford is marked Mendenhall’s Artillery. Four dotted lines run diagonally from left to lower right spreading out and ending in arrows touching locations along the length of the Confederate line.
"There was a hill ... on the left flank of the Federal army, which, could it be taken and held by Confederate forces, would necessitate the evacuation of the Federal position." — Major Pickett, Asst. Inspector General, CSA, 1863.
Bragg, confident that Rosecrans would withdraw, was surprised to find Union troops on a hill east of Stones River, threatening his right flank. Bragg ordered 4,500 men to seize the high ground and drive the enemy across the river.
The assault began in late afternoon, the Confederates gaining the crest. Union soldiers retreated down the back slope to a river crossing at McFadden’s Ford. There, pursuing Confederates encountered a deadly surprise.
Captain Mendenhall, supporting Union troops across the river, had 57 cannon aimed at the Confederates’ approach.
Union gunners fired as enemy soldiers came into range, wounding or killing 1,800 in minutes. Confederates withdrew as Union troops crossed the river to reclaim the heights. Mendenhall’s artillery turned a dashing charge into a deadly retreat.
The Battle of Stones River cost 13,249 Union casualties and 10,266 Confederate. Bragg left Murfreesboro and Rosecrans claimed victory, boosting northern morale. President Lincoln thanked Rosecrans and his soldiers for their “skill, endurance, and dauntless courage.”
IMAGE 1 of 4: Murfreesboro Scene 1
A horizontal sepia toned photograph of a town scene. A gold and white paper frame with a curved left edge surrounds the photo. The scene depicts three attached brick buildings. The buildings on the left and right are two story with pitched roofs. The center one story building has a pitched roof with three windows and three doors. The windows and doors all have whitecaps above them and shutters on the sides. A sign is unreadable above the door to the viewer’s right. The partial view of the building to the viewer’s left has two chimneys and six long white framed vertical windows on the second floor. The first floor has four vertical windows with six panes each. A door is centered between the four windows. There are illegible signs above both doors. The building to the viewer’s right has four chimneys and one attic window on the left. There are six long vertical windows on the second floor with white tops. An illegible banner hangs over a window second from the left. The first floor has three door-length windows on the viewer’s left and two windows with a door in the center on the right. All windows are surrounded by white trim. In front of the buildings are several horse-drawn carriages and wagons. The three wagons in the forefront show one or two men sitting in a seat wearing dark hats and facing towards the buildings.
Middle Tennessee State University
IMAGE 2 of 4: Murfreesboro Scene 2
A horizontal black and white photograph in a silver and white paper frame with a curved edge on the viewer’s right. The background on the viewer’s left is a three story building with three long vertical windows on each floor. On the viewer’s right in the background are three buildings. Two adjoined buildings with flat roofs have doors facing the viewer. The other building has a sloped roof facing North or to the viewer’s left. Each building has two floors. Each top floor has two long vertical windows with curved tops. The first floors have a center door with a window on either side. Slightly in front of these buildings is an open awning with people, horses, and wagons nearby. In the center middle ground of the photo is a large tree and to the viewer’s right is a square platform with four hitching posts in various heights. In front of the tree and to the viewer’s left is a camp with a log cabin with a canvas roof and several A-frame canvas tents of various shapes and sizes, with a few small trees between them. To the right of the camp is a horse with a rider in dark clothing and an empty wagon without a horse.
Middle Tennessee State University
IMAGE 3 of 4: Murfreesboro Scene 3
A horizontal sepia toned photograph in a gold and white paper frame with a rounded left edge. This is an aerial view from the courthouse. A street goes through the center of the photograph. The most visible building on the viewers left has a window, slanted roof, and a tall pointed church steeple. On the viewer’s right, there is a large building with a steeple that has rectangular windows going around it and a larger circular window underneath. The building has a slanted roof with windows along its side. The foreground shows a building that has one window and a sloped roof. There are a few dark trees between the buildings. On the viewer’s left in the far distance, there is a large light colored building. The sky is clear with a tree line in the far distance.
Middle Tennessee State University
IMAGE 4 of 4: Courthouse
A historic black and white vertical photograph displays the Rutherford County Courthouse in downtown Murfreesboro during the Civil War. It is a large two story brick building with a two story porch entrance, with four tall Ionic columns holding up the pediment porch roof. A large vertical window is centered above the front door. To the viewer’s left, there is a three pane vertical window with white trim on both the first and second floors. All other windows are blocked by trees. Rising from the center of the building is a three-story cupola tower. The lower two levels of the cupola are squared, while the top level is round with a domed roof and flagpole. Each story has narrow vertical windows, while the windows of the top two floors have curved caps. A platform extends toward the viewer from beneath the lower set of windows. The top level of the tower has a large clock. In front of the courthouse is a camp scene. Two canvas tents are erected behind a stone wall. To the viewer’s left, four soldiers stand outside the camp. To the viewer’s right, a large canvas covered wagon sits without a horse or driver. A single dark horse wearing a saddle is tied to a wall. Two men are in the foreground.
CREDIT: Library of Congress
Murfreesboro – Tennessee’s state capital from 1818 to 1826 – was a proud town. Early legislators included Sam Houston, Davy Crockett, and future Presidents Andrew Jackson and James Polk. By the 1850s, Murfreesboro boasted schools, stores, churches, a railroad, nearby estates, and over 2,000 white residents. Many owned enslaved workers.
Spirits were high in December 1862. Local soldiers reunited with their families. Confederate President Jefferson Davis visited Murfreesboro with the hopeful, but incorrect, news that the Union army was starving in Nashville. Residents and soldiers celebrated the holidays with parties and dances, not realizing that the hard hand of war was about to strike their town.
Union forces occupied Murfreesboro after the battle. Soldiers tore down houses for lumber, destroyed churches, desecrated cemeteries, and confiscated supplies. Slaves flocked to Union camps to seize their freedom, leaving hundreds of farms untended. The Union occupation lasted beyond the war’s end to 1877.
IMAGE 1 of 2: Farmworkers
A historic black and white horizontal photograph of enslaved African American men and women in a field. To the viewer’s right are five women and two men sitting under the shade of a large tree. There is a large wooden bowl between two of the workers and a pile of seed pods is to the right of the group. The women are in long sleeve dresses, and three have scarfs tied around their heads. The men are in dark pants, long sleeve shirts, and suspenders. Behind them is a horse drawn two wheel cart with a driver wearing a long sleeve and light color shirt. Behind the cart is a partial view of a man standing under the same large tree wearing dark pants and a long sleeve light shirt. In the middle ground, to the viewer’s left, is a man walking behind a horse drawn plow. Many plowed rows are behind three men and a woman using a hoe. The men are wearing dark clothing and caps. The woman is wearing a dark long sleeve dress with a long white apron and white bonnet. In the far distance is a tree line, and smaller structures are visible in open fields on the viewer’s right. The photograph has a stained yellowed border with illegible cursive writing in the lower right-hand corner.
Library of Congress
IMAGE 2 of 2: Cotton
An inset and cut out image of four stalks of cotton, placed between text columns. Each pod of white fluffy fiber remains attached to the boll. The stems and leaves holding the cotton balls are brown and dry.
"The noise of battle was terrible, Southern boys advancing through a cotton field stuffed their ears with the white fibers as ear protection. ... cannon fire, shells bursting, men yelling, horses neighing, and wounded screaming made an awful crescendo." Oscar Pinney, 5th Wisconsin Light Artillery, USA, 1863.
Murfreesboro’s rich agricultural district was the breadbasket of Middle Tennessee. Turnpikes and a railroad branching out from town carried goods to markets. Family farms worked by whites and enslaved blacks produced hogs, horses, corn, wheat, and cotton.
IMAGE 1 of 2: Union University
A historic black and white horizontal photograph shows a large three story brick building. White paint covers the foundation. There are two doors with three windows between them. Two windows are on either side of both doors. The top two floors have ten vertical, rectangular windows. Several windows have pulled shades, and some are partially raised, exposing a dark interior. There is a large pediment centered on the top floor. Two brick chimneys rise from both sides of the roof. A small tree stands in front of the building to the viewer’s right. A post and wire fence cuts diagonally in front of the building. Trees behind the building are partially visible on both sides.
IMAGE 2 of 2: Tintype of Young Woman
A vertical tintype photograph of a young woman holding a tintype photo of a soldier in her left hand. The woman has a long braid draped over her right shoulder. Her face has a sad expression. She wears a light-colored dress with a white lace collar. A dark shawl covers her shoulders and arms. An unidentifiable object is held in her right hand. The ornate gold frame has a filigreed texture with an inner scalloped border.
Uliljenquist Family Collection, Library of Congress
During the war, women worked in factories, hospitals, and schools. They struggled to keep their families together while husbands and sons fought and died.
In Murfreesboro, women formed a soldier’s relief society to support the hospital at Union University.
Women took food, clothing, medicine, and other supplies to the front lines. They improved cleanliness in the camps and hospitals, saving thousands of lives.
The war separated families, many for the first time. Traveling photographers provided quick, inexpensive tintype photos as mementos. This woman holds a photo of a Confederate soldier; both unidentified.
The back of the brochure displays a large map of the park’s self guided driving tour and trails, an illustration, historic photographs, and pictures of artifacts.
This map depicts the Murfreesboro area, including the main body of the Stones River battlefield. The map background color is tan. Major roads are denoted by red lines. Secondary roads are marked by black lines and neighborhood roads are white lines. Primary and secondary roads are labeled with black text. Historic road names, if they are different from modern names, appear in gray. The West Fork of the Stones River is marked by a wide light-blue line that meanders from top to bottom through the center and right portions of the map. A brown dotted line along the river marks the Stones River Greenway. The map is oriented so the top is north.
A kidney shaped dark tan area covers nearly half of the map, from bottom left to the center top, showing the boundaries of the Battle of Stones River. Blue- and red-shaded text marks key areas on the map, highlighting key Confederate (red) and Union (blue) actions during the battle. Historic houses within the battle area are marked by black squares and text. Sites of houses that no longer exist are marked with gray boxes and text.
National Park Service-owned sites appear as light green areas. The largest National Park Service area is located just to the left of the map’s center. It is bordered at the bottom (south) by the Wilkinson Pike and on the right (east) by Thompson Lane. The Old Nashville Highway, known as the Nashville Pike in 1862, runs diagonally through the top portion of this area. Labeled locations include the visitor center, national cemetery, and Hazen Brigade Monument. The tour road appears as a black line and a number of dashed lines denote trails. Tour stops 1 through 5 are marked with white numbers in green circles.
Just above the largest green area is a second area that is about half its size. This area is labeled McFadden Farm and as tour stop 6. The road providing access to this site is labeled Van Cleve Lane (Historic Name: McFadden’s Lane). Labeled sites in this area include: Artillery Monument, McFadden’s Ford, and Union artillery position. The General Rosecrans Headquarters Site lies above and to the left of the largest park area. The General Bragg Headquarters site is located to the left of the largest park area.
In the lower left quadrant, the historic earthworks of Fortress Rosecrans are marked with thick black lines. The interior of the historic area is shaded in gray. Two national park areas shaded in light green are the sites of Redoubt Brannan and the outer earthworks of Fortress Rosecrans, labeled as Lunettes Palmer and Thomas and Curtain Wall No. 2.
The historic center of Murfreesboro is in the lower left of the map. Historic sites labeled in this area include: Rutherford County Courthouse, Key United Methodist Church (site of the Earnshaw Freedmen’s School), Oaklands Historic House Museum, and Evergreen Cemetery (Confederate burial site).
Stones River National Battlefield preserves a small part of the original battlefield. You can reach points of interest on the self-guiding auto tour. Numbered markers identify stops. Events are explained along short trails and on exhibits. Please use caution when crossing highways. Cell phone tour: 585 797 0076.
Go out the back door of the visitor center. Across the field are where Union and Confederate soldiers fought. Imagine opposing armies totaling 81,000 men battling to control Middle Tennessee in one of the Civil War’s bloodiest encounters.
Union troops made their final stand here, defending the Nashville Pike and railroad—both vital lines of supply. Today’s scene differs little from 1862. The railroad and pike are in the same place, and fields are now planted with native grasses between cedar thickets.
1. Eve of battle On December 30, after Rosecrans’s Union army arrived at Murfreesboro, troops occupied this area along McFadden’s Lane. Soldiers struggled to sleep in the freezing mud without campfires, knowing a major battle was imminent. For thousands, that night would be their last.
2. Slaughter Pen Union soldiers fiercely defended their position here. Confederates launched attack after failed attack, causing heavy losses to both sides. Bodies piled up in the rocks, and blood soaked the ground. Union soldiers retreated, but the delay gave their army time to form a new line along the Nashville Pike.
3. Cotton Field On December 31, Union troops established a defensive line along the Nashville Pike. Pursuing Confederates entering the cotton field were greeted by cannon fire. A Texan recalled, “the artillery opened up on us . . . and it seemed that the heavens and the earth were coming together.” At dark, both sides dug in for the night. Rosecrans’s army had been pushed back three miles, but the Confederates had failed to capture the pike.
4. Defending Nashville Pike Thousands of retreating Union troops burst from the cedars in front of these cannon, followed by Confederates. The Chicago Board of Trade Battery sprang to action as the Pioneer Brigade poured volley after volley into the gray ranks. Canister charges forced the Confederates back to the cedars.
5. Round Forest This was the only Union position that held throughout the first day. Artillery and infantry halted the first attack at 10 a.m. and beat back three more as the day wore on. By dusk, the fields of Hell’s Half Acre were covered with Confederate dead and wounded.
6. McFadden Farm Union soldiers hid behind stone and rail breastworks as men fled across the river chased by Confederates. Union cannon firing from above McFadden’s Ford halted the Confederates with shot, shell, and canister, killing and wounding over 1,800 men in less than an hour. This was the battle’s final action.
The colored illustration shows an aerial view of Fortress Rosecrans. Nine angular crescent shaped walls, called lunettes, create the perimeter along with two straight walls known as curtain walls. The two lunettes on the viewer’s left are labeled Lunette Palmer and Lunette Thomas. There are gaps between each of the structures. Some gaps are covered with brush and trees. Four rectangular shaped enclosures, called redoubts, are on raised ground inside the fortress perimeter. Each redoubt has a cross-shaped structure in the center. The redoubt in the upper right portion of the fortress is labeled Redoubt Brannan. Railroad tracks bisect the image from top to bottom. A steam train is moving from the bottom to top passing through a gap in the lower curtain wall. A road passes through the image from top to bottom on the viewer’s right. Waterways pass through the image on the viewer’s left and across the top.
NPS / Steven Patricia
In 1863, Rosecrans’s army and hundreds of formerly enslaved men built a depot and fort at Murfreesboro to distribute weapons, food, and supplies. Fortress Rosecrans had three miles of earthworks enclosing storehouses, powder magazines, and four interior redoubts (small forts), including Redoubt Brannan.
The 200-acre fort could shelter 15,000 troops, and its stores could supply an army of 65,000 men for months. Its strategic location allowed the Union army to attack the Confederate rail center in Chattanooga and split the Confederacy along transportation routes in Tennessee. This fort was the largest enclosed earthen fortification built during the war.
IMAGE 1 of 2: Union belt buckle
Oval metal belt buckle with U.S. in relief on the front. It has a raised edge all around. The buckle is well worn and discolored. The right and left damaged edges are slightly folded inward.
IMAGE 2 of 2: Soldiers
A historic black-and-white horizontal photograph of a large group of Union African American soldiers. Several white officers are holding sabers. The soldiers are standing at attention facing the viewer’s left. Some soldiers hold their rifles upright in front of them. Patches of grass are visible in the foreground. The roof of a building is visible beyond the soldiers. A few trees are in the distance.
"Once let the black man get upon his person the brass letters U-S, let him get an eagle on his button . . . and there is no power on earth which can deny that he has earned the right to citizenship in the United States." — Frederick Douglass
By war’s end United States Colored Troops made up 10 percent of the Union Army. Over 20,000 formerly enslaved men from Tennessee chose to fight for their freedom. Several units formed or served at Murfreesboro.
IMAGE 1 of 7: Hazen Brigade Monument
A historic black and white horizontal photograph. Two sides of the four sided cubical stone monument are shown. The larger bottom tapers up to a square cap. Illegible carved writing is visible on two sides. There are white vertical headstones on the right and left sides of the monument. A stone wall surrounds the monument and small cemetery. One tree stands within the cemetery walls to the viewer’s right. In front of the wall stand three women in long light-colored bustled dresses. Three men are dressed in dark suits. To the viewer’s far left a man wearing a hat sits atop a dark horse. Dark grass covers the ground in front of the monument wall. To the viewer’s left a tall tree stands outside the cemetery back wall. The sky is clear, and trees line the background of the photo.
Colonel William Hazen’s men were the only Union soldiers who didn’t retreat during the fighting on December 31. They repelled attacks so horrible that soldiers named the place Hell’s Half Acre. Over 400 of Hazen’s troops fell in the battle, and the survivors didn’t want the world to forget. Hazen’s men built this monument in 1863. It is one of the oldest Civil War memorials.
IMAGE 2 of 7: Stones River National Cemetery
A historic black and white horizontal photograph taken during cemetery construction. A wide dirt road runs through the center of the image to a center island surrounded by a circular drive. In front of the island are many fresh dirt mounds from recently reburied soldiers. Graves are laid out in precise rows and sections. Each section is divided by a narrow dirt road. Amongst the rows are several men. In the center of the road are three men. To the viewer’s right stands a man and a horse drawn covered wagon with several riders. In the foreground are two empty sections of dirt. Small newly planted trees are scattered around the cemetery. Trees line the far distance of the photograph.
National Archives and Records Administration.
After the battle, most Union and Confederate dead were quickly buried on the field. In 1865, soldiers of the 111th US Colored Infantry began the grim job of reburying Union dead in the new Stones River National Cemetery. Each mound in the 1866 photo is the grave of a newly buried soldier. Over 6,100 Union soldiers are buried here, 2,500 of them unknown.
IMAGE 3 of 7: Evergreen Cemetery
A black and white vertical photograph of a light-colored stone monument. The tall, square, and tapered column rests on two square platforms. A sphere rests at the top of the monument cap. On the front of the monument column, which is turned slightly toward the viewer’s right, is a carved flag and the words: "Our Unknown Dead." On the base of the monument are the dates 1861 to 1865 in relief. Several rows of white, curved, top headstones are behind the monument. To the viewer's left are leafless tree branches. To the viewer’s right are two trees behind the monument. Trees line the back of the photograph.
About 2,000 Confederates are buried in Confederate Circle at Evergreen Cemetery in Murfreesboro. For many, first buried on the battlefield, this was their third resting place. In 1867, their remains were moved to a cemetery south of Murfreesboro. In the 1890s, they were moved again, this time to Evergreen Cemetery.
IMAGE 4 of 7: The Community of Cemetery
A historic black and white horizontal photograph shows five African American people outdoors. They stand in front of a post and split rail fence. From the viewer’s left to right the individuals are:
A young preteen boy wearing a bowler hat, white long sleeve shirt, suspenders, and dark pants.
An older man with a short beard and a large brimmed hat, wearing a dark shirt, light-colored pants, and suspenders. His bare feet are slightly visible through the grass.
A woman sits on the fence wearing a large light colored hat with her dark long sleeve shirt rolled up to her elbows. She wears a long white apron over a long dark skirt. One hand crosses the other on her lap.
A young man standing in military style attention with his hands to his side, wearing a dark brimmed hat, a light long sleeve shirt, and dark pants with suspenders.
A younger boy sitting on the fence with a scowling facial expression. His arms are crossed in front of his stomach. He wears a dark hat, a light long sleeve shirt, and dark pants that are rolled up to his knees showing his bare legs and feet.
Right behind them are a few trees and clear sky. In the distance to the viewer’s right is a small building with a sloped roof and wood siding. Trees surround the house and partially block the view of the building. A plowed field surrounds the structure with trees dotting the landscape.
Dayton History / Albert Kern
IMAGE 5 of 7: Memorials to the U.S. Colored Infantry
A color photograph of William Holland’s headstone. The vertical white headstone has a rounded top with a Union shield carved into the upper two thirds of the stone. The letters inside the shield are in relief and read from top to bottom: William Holland, Sergeant, Company I, 111 Regiment, US Colored Infantry. Under the shield are engraved dates 1834 to 1909. The headstone is surrounded by grass and trees devoid of vegetation are in the background.
NPS / Melinda Schmitt
After the war, 111th US Colored Infantry soldiers, including William Holland and other formerly enslaved people, started a new life in the area around the national cemetery. They built homes, a school, churches, and a store. Their community, named Cemetery, endured until 1927 when creation of the national battlefield park uprooted many residents, beginning a period of decline.
IMAGE 6 of 7: Touring by Rail
A color vertical photograph of an illustration that overlaps the corners of two other photos. The booklet cover appears well worn with a light border with gold lines. There are thick red letters in the skyline that read, "Southern Battlefields." The letters are outlined in black and create a wavy banner effect. The image has smoke in the background covering rugged terrain and hills. In the foreground are many Union soldiers wearing blue and charging toward the left. The solider leading the way is on horseback with his right hand raised in the air. On the viewer’s left is another line of soldiers in blue marching straight ahead. There is a solider in the lead with an arm in the air and another holding a flag. There are a few soldiers off in the distance. In the foreground, a gold scroll with fancy lettering reads: "On and Near the Lines of the Nashville, Chattanooga,and St Louis R.Y. and Western and Atlantic R.R."
Middle Tennessee State University
Battle sites became tourist attractions after the war. Nashville, Chattanooga, and St. Louis Railway excursions to Stones River brought tourists and much needed dollars to Murfreesboro. Signs along the tracks helped passengers imagine the bloody actions. In 1890, the railway published Southern Battlefields with battle accounts and maps showing rail lines near battlefields.
IMAGE 7 of 7: Artillery Monument
A square color photograph of a tall, white, pointed obelisk monument. The four-sided monument has two square platforms with a bronze plaque on the side to the viewer’s right. A tall thick tree line is behind the monument with a clear blue sky. A paved road runs diagonally through yellow grass in front of the monument.
Artillery Monument marks the battle’s final attack on January 2. Here 57 Union cannon fired upon the approaching Confederates, killing or wounding 1,800 men in a short time. In 1906, the railway built this 34-foot-tall monument so that passengers could see it from their train windows and offered special fares for Confederate veterans.
The visitor center has information, museum exhibits, a film, and bookstore. It is open daily except Thanksgiving Day and December 25. For details about activities, special events, and hours, contact park staff or visit www.nps.gov/stri.
Part of Fortress Rosecrans is in Old Fort Park on Highway 96. Redoubt Brannan is on West College Street. Paved trails lead to the earthworks. Stones River and Lytle Creek greenways offer places for activities and the chance to explore important battle sites. Don’t miss the Hazen
Brigade and Artillery monuments, the National Cemetery (Union), or Evergreen Cemetery (Confederate). Ask at the visitor center about historic sites and places in Murfreesboro.
Please be careful. Remember, your safety is your responsibility.
• Stay on marked trails. Watch for exposed roots, uneven ground, poison ivy, ticks, and slippery rocks.
• Pets must be attended and leashed.
• Do not climb or sit on cannon.
• Relic hunting and climbing on earthworks are strictly prohibited.
• All natural and cultural features are protected by federal law.
• For firearms and other regulations check the park website or ask a ranger.
Emergencies call 911
We strive to make our visitor center, services, and programs accessible to all. For more information visit our website, www.nps.gov/stri/planyourvisit/accessibility or call 6158939501.
Stones River National Battlefield
3501 Old Nashville Highway
Murfreesboro, TN 37129
615 893 9501
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Stones River National Battlefield is one of over 400 parks in the National Park System. To learn more about national parks visit www.nps.gov.