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In the northwest corner of Murfreesboro on Old Nashville Highway, the 650-acre Stones River National Battlefield occupies a portion of the actual battlefield site. The fiercest fighting during one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War took place at the Battle of Stones River, fought Dec. 31, 1862, to Jan. 2, 1863. It marked the Union offensive that trisected Confederate territory.
After the Battle of Shiloh and the fall of Corinth, Miss., the Union army's plan to drive a wedge through Tennessee and Georgia from Nashville was postponed by Confederate general Braxton Bragg's invasion of Kentucky. Following the Battle of Perryville, Bragg withdrew to Chattanooga and moved northwestward to Murfreesboro.
By Dec. 30, Gen. William Rosecrans' Union forces from Nashville faced the Confederates near Stones River. At dawn on the 31st the Confederates struck and, with staggering losses, forced the main Union army back to the Nashville Pike. Jan. 1 was quiet, but the next day the Confederates again made a costly attack; Union artillery stopped their drive. The following day the Confederates withdrew to Tullahoma.
The Battle of Stones River placed Union forces in control of another section of middle Tennessee. One of the nation's oldest intact Civil War monuments and a landmark of the battlefield, the Hazen Brigade Monument, was constructed in 1863 by the survivors of the fight for Hell's Half Acre in the Round Forest, a significant location of the battlefield so named because of the intense fighting there.
Visitors can follow a 45-minute auto tour route or the 4.5-mile paved scenic Stones River Greenway hiking trail, which runs from the McFadden Farm Unit to Fortress Rosecrans. A visitor center offers exhibits as well as an orientation program, a museum and an audio or cellphone tour. Interpretive programs are offered daily, May through October. Battlefield open daily dawn-dusk. Museum and visitor center open daily 8-5; closed Thanksgiving and Christmas. Free. Phone (615) 893-9501.
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