View of soldiers graves near City Point General Hospital, circa 1865; historic cemetery ID shield; Lithograph of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument at Hampton National Cemetery
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Civil War Era National Cemeteries: Honoring Those Who Served

Stones River National Cemetery

Murfreesboro, Tennessee

Stones River National Cemetery
U.S. Regulars Monument, Stones River National Cemetery
Courtesy of the National Park Service.
The graves of more than 6,000 Union soldiers lie in the Stones River National Cemetery.  Beginning on New Year’s Eve of 1862 and ending on January 2, 1863, Union and Confederate forces brutally clashed near the town of Murfreesboro, Tennessee located on the Stones River.  The Federal Government established a national cemetery in 1865 close to the location of some of the heaviest fighting took place. Today, the Stones River Battlefield and National Cemetery form the Stones River National Battlefield, a unit of the National Park Service dedicated to preserving the battlefield and interpreting the battle and its effects on the Civil War. A visitors center and museum on the grounds offer tours, cycling and hiking paths. The Stones River National Cemetery is today one of 14 national cemeteries managed by the National Park Service.

Located at the geographic center of Tennessee, the town of Murfreesboro straddles both sides of the Stones River.  Union and Confederate forces fought over the town for three days, spanning December 31, 1862 and January 2, 1863.  The Confederate Army of Tennessee, under the command of General Paxton Bragg, held a defensive position in the town beginning in November 1862.  Union forces under the command of General William Rosecrans marched toward Murfreesboro from the west and took positions for an offensive on December 30.  Confederate troops struck first in the early morning of December 31, initially pushing back the Union lines.  Over three days, brutal fighting resulted in 23,000 casualties, with roughly 3,000 killed.  In the end, Union soldiers forced Confederate troops to retreat. 

After the battle, General Rosecrans and his troops worked to reinforce the town’s defenses and established a supply depot at Murfreesboro.  In 1865, work began on the creation of a national cemetery near the Stones River Battlefield. For two years, remains of 6,100 Union soldiers were disinterred from locations around Stones River and middle Tennessee and transferred to the national cemetery. 

Stones River National Cemetery
Stones River National Cemetery
Courtesy of the National Park Service.
U.S. Army Assistant Quartermaster Captain John Means selected the site and designed the cemetery layout.  The cemetery is roughly rectangular in shape, bordered on the east by the lines of the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad (now CSX) and to the west by the Nashville Pike (now the Old Nashville Highway).  A stone wall dating from the late 1860s lines the perimeter.  Tree-lined paths radiate both diagonally and perpendicularly from the central flagpole; additional paths create sections of squares, rectangles, trapezoids, and triangles.

Two monuments stand in the cemetery.  The U.S. Regulars Monument, erected in 1882, is a sandstone cylindrical shaft crowned with a bronze eagle.  The monument honors the men of the Union’s Western Regular Brigade killed during the Battle of Stones River. A second memorial is dedicated to the soldiers of the 43rd Wisconsin and the 108th Ohio who protected the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad line during the Union occupation of Murfreesboro.

The Hazen Brigade Monument is located one-third of a mile south of the cemetery along Old Nashville Highway. The monument, erected in 1863, is thought to be one of the oldest existing Civil War memorials.  The faces of the 10-foot cube, constructed of limestone blocks, carry inscriptions honoring and listing the men who fought under the command of Union Colonel W. B. Hazen.  The brigade is notable as being the only Union unit in the Battle of Stones River to hold its ground and not retreat.  The graves of 55 members of the brigade surround the monument.
Plan your visit

The visitor center for the Stones River National Battlefield and the Stones River National Cemetery is located in the 2700 block of Old Nashville Hwy. in Murfreesboro, TN.  The cemetery is located within the national battlefield, a unit of the National Park Service.  The cemetery is open daily from 8am to 5pm, and is closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. For more information, visit the National Park Service Stones River National Battlefield website or call the park’s visitors center at 615-893-9501.  While visiting, please be mindful that our national cemeteries are hallowed ground and be respectful to all of our nation’s fallen soldiers and their families.  Additional cemetery policies may be posted on site.

The National Park Service’s American Battlefield Protection Program provides a summary of the battle at Stones River. Additional information on the battle is available from the Civil War Preservation Trust. The Hazen Brigade Monument, believed to the one of the oldest memorials erected to honor the Civil War dead, is the subject of a National Park Service Historic Structures Survey.

The Battle of Stones River is the subject of an online lesson plan, The Battle of Stones River: The Soldiers' Story.  The lesson plan examines the impact of this battle on the participants and explores the battle’s significance in the course of the Civil War.  The lesson plan has been produced by the National Park Service’s Teaching with Historic Places program, which offers a series of online classroom-ready lesson plans on registered historic places. To learn more, visit the Teaching with Historic Places home page.

Stones River National Cemetery lies within the Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area.

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