Stones River: Creating A Battlefield Park, 1863-1932

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George, John Riley
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Middle Tennessee State University
Congress did not designate Stones River National Military Park until 1927, although soldiers erected the first commemorative monument on the battlefield in 1863. This dissertation addresses those years between the end of the battle and the dedication of the park in 1932, documenting the individuals and groups involved in the long process of preserving the site.
One of the largest battles of the American Civil War, Stones River took place December 31, 1862 through January 2, 1863 near Murfreesboro, Tennessee. The battlefield became an early site of commemoration. Union soldiers erected the Hazen Brigade Monument soon after the battle. The U.S. Army created Stones River National Cemetery at the close of the war, one of the first cemeteries of its kind. These sites were the focal points of commemoration and battlefield tourism in the late nineteenth century.
The first unsuccessful attempts to create a military park at Stones River coincided with the "golden age" of battlefield preservation in the 1890s, when Congress reserved the battlefields of Chickamauga-Chattanooga, Shiloh, Gettysburg, Antietam, and Vicksburg. Individual commissions were responsible for preservation activities at those parks, influenced heavily by national veterans' groups. Though there was some national support for a park at Stones River, local Confederate and Union veterans were the primary sponsors of that effort in this period.
Battlefield preservation lagged in the early twentieth century due to congressional concerns over cost and the necessity of more military parks. Commemorating the Stones River battlefield in this era was the work of the Nashville, Chattanooga, and St. Louis Railway. Other attempts by local leaders, individuals, and interested organizations were not successful.
Stones River was part of the "second wave" of battlefield preservation in the 1920s. By that time, the number of veterans had dwindled to a few very old men. The federal government, via the War Department, exerted more control over preservation decisions, following a limited site model instead of encompassing thousands of acres and extensive monumentation.
Battlefield preservation, Historic preservation, Murfreesboro, National military park, Stones river