Although it can be a somber experience, visiting the Stones River National Battlefield at Murfreesboro, Tennessee is visiting a living piece of American history. Guests of all ages should plan to spend a few hours on the grounds and take advantage of the many park ranger based tour options.
The Battle of Stones River occurred on New Year’s Eve 1862 through January 2nd, 1863 and is considered one of the bloodiest conflicts of the Civil War, as it had the largest number of casualties (percentage wise) on both the Union and Confederate sides. It remains one of the more important battles of that war, mostly due to the incredibly important gains that came out of it for the Union, both politically and for the military. The grounds were declared a national historic landmark as well as historical military park in 1927.
Visitors who come to the battlefield say it takes around two hours to fully see the visitor center as well as the battlefield.
Visitor Center: The battlefield is home to a visitor center, which is open from 9am to 5pm every day with the exception of Thanksgiving and Christmas. Located at the museum is a museum with artifacts and relics from the Civil War, a movie about the Stones River battle, and a gift shop/bookstore.
Bicycle tours: Park rangers lead visitors on a bicycle tour of the battlefield every second Saturday of the month (between April and October), heading out at 9am. This is a great, environmentally, and physically healthy way to explore the area and learn about the history of the battle and the Civil War. Bicycle tours are limited to the first 15 guests and no bicycles are provided. Children under 16 must wear helmets. The tour lasts about 90 minutes and will be around seven miles total in length. Bicycles are welcome on all paved trails as well, even without being involved in a guided tour.
Living History: Guests planning to travel to the battlefield should check the website to see if any Living History programs will be going on during their visit. These programs focus on re-enactments, demonstrations of weapons and equipment from the Civil War, and other history lessons. Generally, there is at least one of these programs offered a month. It is a great, fun way to really watch history come alive!
Hiking: For visitors who prefer to see the grounds on their own, the park and battlefield offer over seven miles of hiking and walking trails. It also connects directly to another four miles of paved trails managed by Murfreesboro. There are variety of different difficulty levels to choose from, so guests can decide which one is right for their skill level.
Cemetery: One of the more somber areas on the battlefield grounds is the national cemetery for Stones River, which is the final resting place for almost 7,000 people (with over 2,500 of those people still being unidentified). There is a monument outside the grounds that is currently the oldest Civil War statue surviving in its original location, called Hazen’s Brigade (1863).
The park and battleground encourage students to visit and participate in a variety of educational opportunities on-site.
Field trips: There are a variety of field trip options for students at the battlefield. They are categorized by grade level of the students, as well as topic type. Park rangers lead the field trips. Teachers should contact the staff to schedule as well as to discuss the lesson plan that the curriculum will hit.
Curriculum: The website is also home to tons of curriculum materials for teachers to use inside the classroom as well, all searchable by keyword. They are offered free of charge.
Junior Ranger: Children who come to the park without a class can participate in the junior ranger program. They should stop by the visitor center to pick up the booklet, which can be completed and turned in for a badge (completing six or more activities) or a patch (completing ten or more activities).
Dining and Shopping
While no dining options are available, picnicking is welcome. However, all picnics must be held in the designated areas, located across from the visitor center. Guests should make sure to clean up after themselves, especially taking care to throw away all garbage. For guests wanting to take home a souvenir, the visitor center offers a bookstore and small gift shop with apparel. Purchases go back into supporting the park’s system as well. The store also offers online ordering.
Stones River National Battlefield, 3501 Old Nashville Highway, Murfreesboro, TN, 37129, Phone: 615-893-9501