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Stones River National Battlefield

Murfreesboro, Tennessee

Stones River National Battlefield, established in 1927, commemorates the battle that set the stage for the  devastating 1863-1864 Union campaign through Tennessee and Georgia, and produced a military victory to support the Emancipation Proclamation as it went into effect on January 1, 1863. The Union occupation of Murfreesboro also provided local enslaved African Americans the opportunity to seize their freedom and begin defining their roles in a changing society. For some, this process included taking up arms to fight for their freedom in the United States Colored Troops (USCT). Thousands of enslaved African Americans who lived on nearby plantations desperately sought protection behind Union lines once the federal army defeated the Confederate forces at Stones River, and immediately occupied Murfreesboro in 1863. Union officers hired these "contrabands" to help construct Fortress Rosecrans and other fortifications in the region. Most freedmen served as teamsters, blacksmiths, and warehouse laborers within the fort. Union soldiers moreover employed African American women to cook, clean and sew for them in the camp. The Union occupation further saw the beginning of efforts to educate former slaves and integrate them into a post-war society. The Freedmen's Bureau and relief aid organizations offered the newly freed slaves education and other institutions that would help improve their lives. Hundreds of former bondsmen volunteered their services to the Union army thereby creating six USCT units that were assigned to protect Fort Rosecrans and perform other military duties.