Tour Stop 5 - Hell's Half Acre

A grey stone wall and iron gate in front of a rectangular stone structure. A tree is in the foreground.

NPS

This was the only Union position that held throughout the first day. Artillery and infantry halted the first attack at 10 am and beat back three more as the day wore on. By dusk the Confederate dead and wounded covered the fields of Hell’s Half Acre.


 
A line of living historians portraying Confederate soldiers holding their muskets.
Confederates units attacked Hazen's Brigade one after the other. Without a coordinated assault, however, they only succeeded in incurring massive casualties.

NPS / Gillis

On December 31, 1862, the men of Colonel William B. Hazen’s brigade found themselves at a crucial point. They held the Union line between the Nashville Pike and Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad, in an area known as the Round Forest. The Confederates attacked four times that day, and after each attack their casualties only grew.

J. Morgan Smith, of the 32nd Alabama, described the Confederate loses:

We charged in fifty yards of them and had not the timely order of retreat been given — none of us would now be left to tell the tale…Our regiment carries two hundred and eighty into action and came out with fifty eight.

The carnage left in the wake of the Hazen Brigade's defiant stand lent the place a new name: Hell's Half Acre.

Colonel Hazen’s Brigade was the only Union unit not to retreat on December 31. Their stand served as the anchor point in the line that held the Nashville Pike and secured a Union victory.

 
A cube shaped monument and grave markers inside a limestone wall.

After the battle, General William S. Rosecrans set his soldiers to work building fortifications on the outskirts of Murfreesboro. This new fort, named Fortress Rosecrans, served as a vital supply base. It supplied Union forces as they pushed towards Tullahoma and eventually Chattanooga.

While working on the fortifications, some of Hazen’s men decided to build a monument to honor their fallen comrades. They chose their brigade cemetery as the site, located at the edge of the Round Forest. Construction began in June of 1863 and took about six months to complete. In 1864 two skilled stonecutters, Sgt. Daniel C. Miller and Pvt. Christian Bauhoff of the 115th Ohio Infantry, carved inscriptions into the four faces of the monument.

 
Learn more about the deadly events in Hell's Half acre by watching this video from our friends at the American Battlefield Trust.
 
Painting viewing Confederates attacking across a field from behind a line of Union soldiers.

Anchoring the Union Line

Read the wayside exhibit about the stubborn defense of Hanzen's Brigade.

Exhibit featuring charcoal sketch of a Union cannon and infantry line fighting.

Remembering Sacrifices-in Stone

Read the wayside about the oldest intact monument from the American Civil War.

 

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Last updated: July 23, 2022

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