Saved: 48 Acres at Stones River
We declare a preservation victory at the very heart of the Stones River Battlefield, as the American Battlefield Trust has miraculously preserved 48 acres of hallowed ground once considered lost to development. The 42-acre and 6-acre properties, which connect two wings of the already-preserved battleground, had long been on the Trust’s priority list. But thanks to federal and state agencies, a generous corporate entity, and the humbling dedication of the Trust’s members, the largest remaining portion of the Stones River Battlefield will now be forever free from industrial threat.
The Battle of Stones River was an enduring three-day struggle set amidst bitterly cold rain and sleet, that resulted in 23,500 casualties and a much-needed, strategic Union victory. Abraham Lincoln even said that “had there been a defeat instead, the nation could scarcely have lived over.”
And the property we’ve worked so diligently to save, was witness to some of the fiercest fighting to take place during the battle. It was there on December 31, 1862, that the final Confederate assault against the Union left spilled out of the famous Hell’s Half Acre and gave rise to a deadly contest. Despite the lethal conditions, Chaplain John Whitehead of the 15th Indiana seized the opportunity to provide spiritual and physical aid to his brethren in battle — a brave and selfless act that earned him the Medal of Honor.
The 42-acre tract had been owned by O’Reilly Auto Parts, but with peaked interest in the site’s historical significance and an abundance of generosity, they came to a gracious deal with the Trust. In response, the Trust went to work to secure matching grants from the American Battlefield Protection Program and the Tennessee Civil War Sites Preservation Fund — the latter awarding the single largest grant in the history of the fund. With grants in place, donors stepped in to finish the job, with their contributions matched $33.94-to-$1.
Additionally, the Trust’s ardent work to protect this 48 acres will open doors to other preservation opportunities at Stone’s River.
And now, 157 years since the Battle of Stone’s River, we reflect on the past and acknowledge the weight that it carries. The land where men, like Chaplain Whitehead, acted selflessly — for a cause that he and countless others believed greater than themselves — has been saved by the selfless acts of those operating in the present. The addition of these 48 acres amounts to 80 acres that the Trust has now protected at Stones River and 3,652 total acres across Tennessee.