I drive by the Stones River Battlefield every day, and I finally decided to check it out on a cold but sunny Saturday. The Battle of Stones River took place from 31 December 1862 to 3 January 1863. The battle featured the highest percentage of causalities for both the Union and the Confederates in any major battle of the Civil War and resulted in a Union victory. General Rosecrans marched his Army of the Cumberland south from Nashville – the first Southern capital to fall – in order to face off against General Bragg’s Army of Tennessee smack dab in the middle of Murfreesboro. After several bloody days of battle – part of the battlefield was nicknamed the “Slaughter Pit” and another was nicknamed “Hell’s Half Acre” – the Union army prevailed, giving them a strategic advantage along the Nashville-Chattanooga railroad and the Stones River. The Union used Fortress Rosecrans to protect both the river and railroad and supply troops deep in Confederate territory.
This was my first battlefield visit, and to stand and look at the quiet landscape and think about the horrors that happened there is an overwhelming and emotional experience. Part of the national park is a cemetery for the union soldiers who not only died at Stones River but around Middle Tennessee. Of the 6,000 soldiers buried there, 2,562 are unknown. The battlefield is located along Old Nashville Highway, which was part of the original Trail of Tears. So much pain and suffering happened in such a small and picturesque place.
The first picture is of a trench Union soldiers dug during the battle. The flag pole stands in the middle of the Stones River National Cemetery. I saw this rock and thought a soldier could have sat on that all those many years ago and thought about his family, his far away lover, or just looked up at the sky and contemplated the infinite.
You can see all the photos I took of the battlefield on my Flickr account.