The Civil War remains one of the most significant events in US history. Across the states, countless monuments were erected to honor the people whose lives were tragically lost during the period.
This is especially the case with the Old South. Among other cities, historical sites in Murfreesboro, a city in Tennessee, still remain the ones that tell the story of the war in the most unique of ways.
Best Historical Sites in Murfreesboro, TN
Stones River National Battlefield
On December 31, President Abraham Lincoln’s army started fighting one of the fiercest battles in the Civil War. The battle took place at Stones River and lasted until January 2, 1863. During the battle, more than 3,000 Union soldiers lay their lives in order to fend off General Bragg’s Confederates. Despite major losses, the Union army was victorious and General Rosecrans along with his comrades started building Fortress Rosecrans. Not only did this victory at Murfreesboro bolster the morale for the battles that were ahead but it also reinforced the Emancipation Proclamation which had gone into effect the day before the battle was over.
Today, the 570-acre battlefield is turned into a park of national significance receiving funds from the American Battlefield Trust. On March 1, 2019, the park was granted an additional 42 acres of land which will aid historic preservation in Tennessee and the land associated with the battle of Stones River. Visitors can participate in a variety of talks and tours given by park rangers and volunteers or they can see demonstrations of Civil War weapons and equipment during special events organized in the park.
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Stones River National Cemetery
On the same ground where the battle was fought near the Stones River Battlefield, thousands of soldiers were buried. Out of 6,100 honorable men who lay buried here, 2,562 are unknown. Even those that survived the battle and became the veterans of the war were laid to rest at this cemetery.
There are two monuments on the cemetery’s locality – the U.S. Regulars Monument honoring the soldiers of the Union’s Western Regular Brigade and the second memorial dedicated to the men who protected the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad.
General William S. Rosecrans bravely led the US army to its victory during the battle against Confederates. Shortly after the Battle was over, the Army of the Cumberland began constructing this gigantic fortress under his guidance. It was constructed between January and June 1863 and designed by Brig. Gen. James St. Clair Morton. The fortress played a pivotal role in supplying the Federals as they fought to seize the rail junction near Chattanooga, providing them with all the necessary logistical support.
It was a century later, in 1993 that it was transferred to the National Park Service and became a part of Stones River National Battlefield. The National Register of Historic Places lists the fortress as one of the nation’s most significant monuments.
Hazen Brigade Monument
What separates Hazen Brigade Monument from other memorials is the fact that it was built by the soldiers while the battle was still raging around Murfreesboro. The monument was named after Colonel William Hazen whose brigade persevered the attacks even though they were outnumbered by enemy forces. Hazen’s men suffered terrible losses although they won in the end. In order to pay due respect and honor their departed comrades, they selected the defensive line between Chattanooga railroad and Nashville Pike as an area to erect the memorial. This monument is also the final resting place of the soldiers who lost their lives in the battle. It has sustained the ravages of time and remains at its initial location within Stones River National Battlefield.
First United Methodist Church
Not much is known about the Methodists in Murfreesboro before the 19th century. Still, the first records testify that there Methodist Societies were forming rather quickly as early as 1814. The Methodists were scattered throughout Rutherford County so the preaching and services were usually held in campgrounds. Little by little, fretful about their future in the light of natural disasters and the war on the way, many people joined the church and induced a surge in the number of preachers and clergy.
John Windrow donated four acres of the land to be used as a campground in 1812. The ground was the place of the most notable meetings among the Methodist community. It was on one of those meetings that the preachers and believers laid the foundations for erecting the church in Murfreesboro in 1821.
Sam Davis Home And Plantation
The most tragic part of the Civil War was the painful fact that “brother fought against brother”. The Union and Confederate soldiers were mostly very young and died harrowing deaths. Sam Davis was one of those young men who laid down his life for the victory of the Confederates. Working as a courier for the Confederate Army, he was captured by the Union during one of the campaigns in 1863. On the account of being a southern sympathizer and having been caught with papers that contained critical information on Union troop movements, the 21-year-old boy was sentenced to gallows because he refused to reveal the source of the papers.
The Hero Boy became a legend in his own time. The Davis family house with its 168 acres of land is now a museum and one of the most significant historic attractions in Middle Tennessee. There, visitors can view over a hundred original family pieces, watch the film about Sam Davis, tour the historic home and outbuildings, and visit the final resting place of the Hero Boy.
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Rutherford County Courthouse
Back in the 1800s, a courthouse was much needed in order for the law to be passed on in the county. At first, the building that was to become Rutherford County Courthouse served as a jail and as the seat of the state legislature. The building we know today has kept its state since 1860, with some minor alterations.
It’s a true miracle that the Courthouse remained more or less intact throughout the decades, especially during the Civil War. Despite the turmoils and natural disasters that befell Murfreesboro and the Courthouse, it never ceased to represent the bedrock of Murfreesboro’s local history and heritage.
Middle Tennessee Museum of Natural History
Being the only natural history in this part of Tennessee, the Middle Tennessee Museum of Natural History is a really a remarkable place to visit. Also called the Earth Experience, the museum is home to a large collection of dinosaurs, fossils, minerals, and gems, from other parts of the world but also from the territory of Tennessee. Visitors can participate in various activities and ongoing research projects, take part in interactive presentations or witness the reparation and cleaning of real dinosaur bones in the paleontology laboratory.
The highlight of the museum is definitely the Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton. Not only is it the third most completed skeleton in the world but it’s also one of the rare T-rex skeletons that have the full three fingers (unlike others that were found with only two). The museum is currently seeking ways to move location and base itself into a more spacious building that can store all the exceptional specimens it possesses. They are actively seeking sponsors, donations, and volunteers to help them on their journey towards this noble goal.
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Oaklands Historic House Museum
This historic landmark not only reflects the time of prosperity in the South but it also remembers the hardships that Murfreesboro suffered during the Civil War. The elegant mansion we know today has undergone dramatic changes over the century since its initial shape in 1819. Back then, it was only a two-room house – the residence of Dr. James Maney and his wife. It was only a decade later that the mansion’s appearance was enhanced greatly. After Dr. Maney’s death, the building was passed on to the next generation, circa 1860. The extensive renovations followed soon after, with Italianate-styled additions, arches and columns, magnificent spiral staircase, and hooded moldings.
The Civil War affected the poor and the wealthy alike. Economic hardships forced the Maneys to leave or sell parts of their plantations and move to Mississipi delta. The mansion changed hands several times over the course of 80 years until the last residents, the Jetton family, abandoned the property altogether. Being vacant, the building suffered vandalism and neglect, until 1959 when ten ladies of the Murfreesboro community took the matter into their own hands. Through joined efforts, they managed to fundraise enough money to rehabilitate the house and in 1963, it was opened to the public as a museum, welcoming thousands of visitors every year.
Cannonsburgh was Murfreesboro’s original name. Historic Cannonsburgh Village is a reconstructed complex that reflects a century of early life in Tennessee. It is within the village that visitors can see how life was like during the 19th century in the Old South.
The village contains amenities and items that were once a part of the daily lives of the local people. A working blacksmith’s shop, town hall, a one-room schoolhouse, gristmill, a telephone operator’s house, a doctor’s office, and many other recreated resources and appliances characteristic of the pioneer times. The community organizes annual Pioneer Days Celebration, followed by various activities in the village – from clogging and live music to blacksmith and pottery demonstrations.
Bradley Academy Museum
At the dawn of the 19th century, the Congressional Land Grant Act stipulated that each of the Counties of Tennessee had to establish an academy. Though only a small log cabin back in 1811 when it was opened, Bradley Academy soon rose to fame and became one of the leading institutions of learning in Middle Tennessee. The reconstruction and expansion followed soon after until it evolved enough to house elementary and high school students alike.
What makes the Academy so special and deeply rooted in the history of the South is the fact that it was the first institution in the county that swung its door open for African American students. Today, Bradley Academy Museum and Cultural Center hold a Civil War exhibit, an original classroom, and an underground railroad section.
The Geographic Center of Tennessee
Back in 1834, Professor James Hamilton was endowed with a task by the State of Tennessee in order to determine the geographic center of the state. This responsibility had one goal – to decide where the state’s capital should be. For some reason, Nashville was dubbed the capital despite numerous efforts to make Murfreesboro the central city.
Rutherford County Historical Society erected an obelisk in 1976 at the intersection of Greenland Drive and Lascassas Avenue, marking the exact geographic center.
Steeped in history, Murfreesboro holds a special place in the hearts of the Americans. Not only does it preserve the rememberings of the days long gone but it also stands as a bastion of the nation’s freedom.