Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Stones River Battlefield - Murfreesboro, TN
It was an unseasonably cool, but sunny day Sunday during our early May visit to Stones River. We found ourselves with a morning to kill following my son's college graduation so decided to visit this Civil War landmark. Located off Old Nashville Hwy northeast of Murfreesboro, Stones River was the site of a major battle that started on New Year's Eve 1863 (Dec 31, 1862-Jan 2, 1863), pitting 80,000 Americans against one another. After visiting the visitor’s center and viewing the display of battle memorabilia, we enjoyed the 3.5-mile Boundary Trail loop. This hike is on flat terrain, through cedar forest and over rocky paths, dotted with informative postings on the battle. As you walk the trail there are stops where using your cell phone, you can listen to an audio tour of the battlefield.
The most interesting terrain was found at a spot called The Slaughter Pen, where Union and Confederate troops fought on the first day of the battle. This is a wooded area with large flat limestone that is heavily weathered; erosion has cut three-foot deep fissures in the rock, large enough to shelter soldiers from enemy fire, but so large as to hinder the movement of artillery.
A side trip to McFadden’s Ford, a rise overlooking Stones River, and the site of the final battle of the campaign, was the most scenic and pastoral spot at the national park. Here cannon held the Confederate forces at bay. Today, this grassy knoll is a relaxing spot to view the river a 100-yards away. A tree-lined dirt road, lined with split rail fence and cedar trees, guide you to the river and the ford and also serves as the terminus for the Stones River Greenway. Though separated from the main park, it was my favorite part of the battlefield tour.