Tennessee’s Stones River Battlefield Marks 150th Anniversary
On a freezing winter’s night near Murfreesboro, Tennessee 150 years ago, Union and Confederate forces faced each other in a battle to control the Confederate heartland. The men slept uneasily on their muskets while the opposing generals planned their attack. Fortified with whiskey on the morning of December 31, 1862, the Confederates surprised their opponents on the banks of the Stones River in a dawn assault that shattered the Union lines – but victory was short lived.
The roads were littered with shattered wagons, the countryside bloody heaps of horses and long rows of corpses, mile after mile of the fallen dead. The wounded and dying covered every acre of ground and overflowed every available home and makeshift hospital.
The Union army had waged a three-pronged offensive against the South. While General Ambrose Burnside advanced in Virginia and Ulysses S. Grant marched through Mississippi, the strategic central position of Tennessee was General William Rosecrans’ responsibility. His opponent was the hard and often unpopular Confederate General Braxton Bragg, who hoped to reclaim Nashville from the invaders and protect the heart of the Confederacy, but the tides of fortune were turning.
The Battle of Stones River secured Union control of Middle Tennessee for the remainder of the war at a very high price. The staggering losses in percentage were second only to the Battle of Gettysburg in all the major engagements of the Civil War.
This December marks the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Stones River in a 24-acre site that has been preserved by the Civil War Trust. A full reenactment program will run December 26-January 3 where you will hear canon and musket fire and feel the power of Union artillery in the battle’s bloody climax.
Hear stories told by rangers as you walk the battlefield and relive the harrowing fight in the Slaughter Pen and Hell’s Half Acre where Rebel forces tried to push back the Union army and regain control of Nashville.
Throughout the week-long anniversary there are different activities or demonstrations almost every hour, including book signings, talks and tours. Living history demonstrations offer interpretive camps and family activities and young visitors can earn special 150th anniversary Junior Ranger badges.
The Stones River National Battlefield stands today as a reminder of those who lost their lives there in a war that changed the face of America.