Stones River (a.k.a. Murfreesboro) may not be the best-known battle of the Civil War, but that doesn’t make it any less consequential. Over three days of fighting, nearly 25,000 men fell as casualties, ranking Stones River in the top ten of the costliest battles of the Civil War.
Stones River was also a strategic victory for the Union at a time when, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, “had there been a defeat instead, the nation could scarcely have lived over.”
Today, we have an unexpected and incredibly welcome opportunity to preserve 42 acres of hallowed Tennessee ground where this critical battle was fought.
O’Reilly Auto Parts has generously agreed to sell 42 acres of land at Stones River battlefield for $4.0 million. And thanks to federal funding and a state matching-grant, the Trust needs to raise just $170,000 of the total cost to secure this tract. That’s a $33.94-to-$1 match of your donation dollar.
This is what could happen on this part of the Stones River battlefield if the American Battlefield Trust does not save it. Please help save this crucial part of our nation’s history with your generosity today!
With much of the Stones River battlefield already swallowed up by development, these 42 acres qualify as the largest unprotected tract still available for preservation. We’ve had our eye on this land for years, but there was never a realistic chance to save it – until now! This tract also connects two widely separated wings of already-preserved battleground, helping tell a more complete story of the fateful battle that ushered in the third year of the Civil War.
Fought during miserable weather that included bitterly cold rain and sleet, the three-day Battle of Stones River involved more than 80,000 soldiers, almost 25,000 of whom would be killed, wounded, or missing by the battle’s end. In fact, the casualty percentage was second only to the Battle of Gettysburg in all of the major engagements of the Civil War. The staggering losses at Stones River compelled both armies to spend months afterward trying to regain their strength.
The brutal battle marked the end of a year full of twists and turns for both armies. On the Union side, General William Rosecrans was charged by his superiors in Washington “[f]irst, to drive the enemy from Kentucky and Middle Tennessee; second, to take and hold East Tennessee.” On the Confederate side, General Braxton Bragg was under enormous pressure to mount a successful winter offensive with only 40,000 men against Rosecrans’ 80,000.
Leaving nearly one half of his army in-and-around Nashville, Rosecrans set out to do battle with Bragg’s forces. The two armies met on a battlefield outside of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, on December 30. Both generals formed plans of attack for the next morning while their soldiers uneasily slept on their arms - in some places the opposing lines were less than four hundred yards apart. On December 31, Bragg's dawn assault struck home before the Union Army could form for its own attack. After six hours of savage fighting, the Confederates bent the Union line nearly in half, but General Philip Sheridan organized a determined defense in a cedar thicket and prevented disaster.
Having inflicted severe damage on the Union army, Bragg spent January 1 waiting for Rosecrans to retreat. When January 2 dawned with Rosecrans still in position, Bragg realized that his own situation was becoming untenable. The Federals had managed to reform into a strong defensive line and would soon receive reinforcements. That afternoon, Bragg ordered General John Breckinridge's division to seize a hill that could function as a deadly artillery platform in the Union rear. Breckinridge objected on the grounds that his men would be advancing across an open field under cannon fire towards a numerically superior foe, but Bragg overruled him. While Breckinridge's Kentuckians amazingly managed to drive their foes from the favorable ground, their division was shattered by Union artillery fire when they attempted to pursue the fleeing Yankees.
Finally, on the morning of January 3, Bragg ordered a withdrawal. His army would spend months afterward paralyzed by an officers' revolt that sought to remove Bragg from command as punishment for his failure at Stones River. When Rosecrans advanced in the summer of 1863, he took the bickering Confederates by surprise and forced them into Georgia. The Battle of Stones River secured Union control of Middle Tennessee for the remainder of the war.
Please consider making your most generous gift today to help raise the $170,000 we need to preserve this precious American history forever.