Epic Guide to Stones River National Battlefield in Tennessee including things to do, Civil War history, nearby lodging, hiking trails, and so much more.
Stones River Battlefield
The battle that took place along Stones River was one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. More than 23,500 of the soldiers died or were injured in the battle. The highest percentage of casualties in a major battle.
About Stones River
Today Stones River National Battlefield gives you the opportunity to see where this battle occurred, watch the park film, learn more about Civil War history and more.
From December 31 to January 2, 1862, more than 80,700 troops battled. The battle started on December 26, 1862, when Union forces set out from Nashville, Tennessee to attack Confederate Troops stationed at Murfreesboro.
The Union commander General William S. Rosencrans knew that the North needed a victory after the important Confederate win at Fredericksburg, Virginia less than two weeks before.
81,000 men battled to control Middle Tennessee in what would become one of the Civil War's bloodiest battles.
The Confederates withdrew from the strategically important city of Murfreesboro to end this battle.
Is Stones River worth visiting?
Stones River National Battlefield is definitely worth visiting, offering visitors a unique blend of history, natural beauty, and outdoor recreation.
As a significant site of the American Civil War, the park provides an immersive experience, complete with exhibits, ranger-led tours, and educational programs, allowing visitors to understand the impact of the Battle of Stones River on the conflict.
The park also features several hiking trails, stunning landscapes, and diverse wildlife, making it an excellent destination for nature enthusiasts. Stones River's combination of historical and natural attractions provides something for everyone, making it an unforgettable destination for all ages.
History of Stones River National Battlefield
Stones River National Battlefield Park preserves the site of one of the bloodiest battles not only of the Civil War, but of American history. Over 23,000 men lost their lives during the battle - including six generals from each side.
The Battle of Stones River, or the Second Battle of Murfreesboro, was an important battle for the Union.
The battle took place near Murfreesboro, Tennessee, on December 31st, 1862, and January 2nd, 1863. The Union army, led by General William Rosecrans, held off numerous Confederate attacks led by General Braxton Bragg.
The Stones River National Battlefield Park is where in the first few days of 1863, the Union Army managed to turn the tide of the war in their favor. The battle resulted in a Union victory that helped secure their control over central Tennessee.
Battle in Context
Before meeting on the banks of the Stones River, the Union Army of the Cumberland and Braxton Braggs Army of Tennessee had fought one another at Perryville, Kentucky, just three months before.
When the two forces fought for the control of Kentucky, the Union Army of the Cumberland was the Army of the Ohio, under the leadership of Major General Buell. U.S
President Abraham Lincoln replaced Buell with General Rosecrans. Rosecrans was charged with the task of defeating Braxton Bragg and the Army of Tennessee in order to bring Tennessee under Union control.
After the Battle of Perryville, the Confederates retreated to Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
Rosecrans had hoped that Bragg would move his forces closer to Nashville, and he waited to see if Bragg would.
But the pressure was mounting from President Abraham Lincoln for Rosecrans to make a move against Bragg. Rosecrans reluctantly began his march towards Braxton Bragg from Nashville on the day after Christmas 1862.
The Night Before
By December 30th the two armies were encamped on the banks of the Stones River. Rosecrans had 41,000 men and the Confederates had 35,000. Rosecrans split his army into three wings, with three divisions each, and Bragg into two infantry divisions.
The Confederates were spread out along the banks of Stones River, with Gen. Polk's division on the Western side. This meant that the Union would have to cross the river to attack Braggs right flank as Rosecrans planned.
Both generals had drawn up similar attack plans, as they both planned to attack their enemy's right flank, move around to the rear, and cut off the army from behind.
The main difference in their plans was the timing of the attack. Bragg planned to attack at dawn and Rosecrans after breakfast.
The Battle of Stones River
In the freezing temperatures on the morning of the 31st of December, Bragg beat Rosecrans to the attack. The Confederates attacked the Union right flank before the Union had even finished breakfast, similar to the Confederate surprise attack on the Union at Shiloh.
The Confederate attack succeeded initially, and they managed to push the Union forces back from their position by two miles to the Nashville Turnpike.
The fighting was fierce and particularly difficult in a wooded area later referred to as ‘Hells Half Acre”. The first day of battle concluded with the Union lines holding their new position at the Nashville Turnpike.
The fighting continued on January 2nd, 1863. Rosecrans used the lull in fighting on New Year's Day to move one of his divisions across the Stones River and establish a strong defensive line on the hilltop.
Bragg ordered a Confederate attack on the Union soldiers positioned on the hilltop on the afternoon of the 2nd, against his general's advice.
When Bragg ordered an attack on the Union position on the 2nd of January, he did so, believing that the Union was retreating. The Confederate's charge across the open field between their position, and the Union's position on the hilltop, was met with heavy artillery fire.
The clever positioning of 50 Artillery Guns helped the Union hold its position against the Confederate attack. The Union countered the Confederate attack, which forced the Confederates back across the field, having lost nearly two thousand men in the charge alone.
On the 3rd of January, Bragg pulled his men from Stones River and withdrew to Tullahoma, Tennessee.
The Union occupied Murfreesboro and central Tennessee was now firmly in Union hands and would remain so for the rest of the war.
The Union victory at the site that the Stones River National Battlefield Park preserves was the morale boost the North needed. After suffering consecutive losses, the win at Stones River turned the tide, and the Union effort gained more momentum.
Things to know before your visit
$0.00 - There is no entrance fee or park pass required for visiting the park.
Planning a National Park vacation? America the Beautiful/National Park Pass covers entrance fees for an entire year to all US National Park Sites and over 2,000 Federal Recreation Fee Sites.
The park pass covers everyone in the car for per vehicle sites and for up to 4 adults for per-person sites.
Buy on REI.com and REI will donate 10% of pass proceeds to the National Forest Foundation, National Park Foundation and the U.S. Endowment for Forestry & Communities.
Free Entrance Days -Mark your calendars with the five free entrance days the National Park Service offers annually.
Murfreesboro, TN is in the Central Standard Time (CST) zone. During daylight saving time, it observes Central Daylight Time (CDT).
Pets on a physical leash no longer than 6 feet are welcome in the park, but not inside of the visitor center or within the National Cemetery, with the exception of service animals.
Cell service is generally available throughout the park.
The park is open daily from 8 AM to 5 PM, except during Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
Public Wi-Fi is available in the visitor center.
Insect repellent is always a great idea when outdoors, especially if you are around any body of water.
We use Permethrin Spray on our clothes before our park trips.
Make sure to bring your own water bottle and plenty of water with you. Plastic water bottles are not sold in the park.
There is a nice size parking area in front of the visitor center.
There are no restaurants within the park.
There are no gas stations within the park.
Drones are not permitted within National Park Sites.
National Park Passport Stamps
National Park Passport stamps can be found in the visitor center.
Stones River NB is part of the 2002 Passport Stamp Set
Electric Vehicle Charging
There are plenty of EV charging stations near the park.
Details about Stones River Battlefield
Size - 670 acres
Check out how the park compares to other National Parks by Size.
Stones River National Military Park was established by an act of Congress on March 3, 1927.
Its designation was changed to National Battlefield on April 22, 1960.
In 2022, Stones River National Battlefield had 417,791 park visitors.
In 2021, Stones River National Battlefield had 365,833 park visitors.
In 2020, Stones River National Battlefield had 301,270 park visitors.
In 2019, Stones River National Battlefield had 284,516 park visitors.
National Park Address
1563 North Thompson Lane, Murfreesboro, TN 37129
Phone Number: 615-893-9501
National Park Map
Where is Stones River Battlefield?
Stones River National Battlefield is a historical site situated on the northwest side of the city of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, USA.
Estimated distance from major cities nearby
Nashville, TN - 32 miles
Birmingham, AL - 194 miles
Louisville, KY - 203 miles
Atlanta, GA - 219 miles
Lexington-Fayette, KY - 242 miles
Memphis, TN - 238 miles
Cincinnati, OH - 300 miles
Indianapolis, IN - 316 miles
Saint Louis, MO - 337 miles
Columbus, OH - 408 miles
Estimated Distance from nearby National Park
Great Smoky Mountains National Park - 192 miles
Mammoth Cave National Park - 122 miles
New River Gorge National Park - 438 miles
Gateway Arch National Park - 338 miles
Hot Springs National Park - 427 miles
Congaree National Park - 450 miles
Where is the National Park Visitor Center?
The National Park Visitor Center at Stones River National Battlefield is located at 3501 Old Nashville Highway in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
Getting to Stones River Battlefield
Nashville International Airport (BNA / KBNA)
Huntsville International Airport (HSV / KHSV)
Northwest Alabama Regional Airport (MSL / KMSL)
Owensboro-Daviess County Regional Airport (OWB / KOWB)
McKellar-Sipes Regional Airport (MKL / KMKL)
From Nashville (Interstate 24 East) - Take Exit 76 and turn left onto Medical Center Parkway. Turn left onto Thompson Lane. Turn left at the park entrance at 1563 N. Thompson Lane. Follow the tour road to the visitor center.
From Chattanooga (Interstate 24 West) - Take Exit 76 and turn right onto Medical Center Parkway. Turn left onto Thompson Lane. Turn left at the park entrance at 1563 N. Thompson Lane. Follow the tour road to the visitor center.
From Knoxville (Interstate 40) - Take Exit 235 onto TN 840. Take Exit 55 onto US 41/TN 70 and follow the signs for Murfreesboro. Turn right onto Thompson Lane at the first traffic light. Turn right at the park entrance at 1563 N. Thompson Lane. Follow the tour road to the visitor center.
Best time to visit
Stones River National Battlefield is a great place to visit year-round, but the best time to go is during the spring and fall seasons.
During the spring, the park is abloom with colorful wildflowers and trees that create a beautiful, picturesque landscape.
In the fall, the leaves turn a variety of stunning colors, providing a breathtaking backdrop for the park's historic structures and monuments. Additionally, visiting during these seasons means avoiding the summer heat and humidity and the crowds that come with it.
Spring and fall also offer cooler temperatures that are perfect for hiking the park's trails and enjoying outdoor activities. Regardless of when you go, you'll have the opportunity to learn about the rich history of the Battle of Stones River and the brave soldiers who fought there.
Weather and Seasons
The hottest weather is from May 26th to September 19th, with an average daily high temperature above 81 degrees.
The coldest weather is from November 28th to February 26th, with an average daily high temperature below 56 degrees.
The snowiest weather is from December 21th to March 3rd, with snowfall of at least 1 inch a month. It snows the most in January, with an average of 1.9 inches.
Best Things to do in Stones River Battlefield
We suggest planning a minimum of a couple of hours to visit the park.
The visitors center is filled with information, park movie, and rangers to answer any questions.
The park movie does have the battle in it so if you are traveling with young kids be prepared.
The Stones River Battlefield Junior Ranger program is set up for any age. The book is divided by age group so participants can complete sections and earn their badge.
The park ranger at the front desk did check all of our answers so make sure you complete the book properly and are ready to answer their questions.
The auto tour has multiple stops that correspond to the cell phone tour. This is a great way to learn more about the battlefield and the battle that occurred here.
Cell phone tour - 585-797-0076
Stop 1 - Eve of Battle
Stop 2 - Slaughter Pen
Stop 3 - Cotton Field
Stop 4 - Defending Nashville Pike
Stop 5 - Round Forest
Stop 6 - McFaddenFarm
Visit the National Cemetery
This is one of the nation's oldest National Cemeteries. More than 6,100 Civil War Union soldiers are buried in Stones River National Cemetery. 2,562 are unknown soldiers.
Alphabetical listing of soldiers and civilians buried in Stones River National Cemetery.
We were so excited to see a ton of birds while exploring the park. We saw an Indigo Bunting, Gold Finches, Blue Jays, and more!
There were birds all over the place! We could have spent hours just looking at birds.
The park has nearly 7 miles of trails perfect for exploring. The park's trail system connects to the City of Murfreesboro's Greenways which has 4.5 miles of paved trails along Stones River and Lytle Creek.
Always carry the 10 essentials for outdoor survival when exploring.
How to beat the crowds
We did not experience any crowds during our visit.
Where to stay when visiting
There are no National Park Lodges within the park.
Nearby lodging includes:
Home2 Suites by Hilton - 3-star hotel. Take advantage of free continental breakfast, dry cleaning/laundry services, and a 24-hour gym at Home2 Suites by Hilton Murfreesboro. Stay connected with free in-room Wi-Fi, and guests can find other amenities such as a business center.
Tru by Hilton - Take advantage of free continental breakfast, a terrace, and dry cleaning/laundry services at Tru by Hilton Murfreesboro. In addition to a 24-hour gym and a business center, guests can connect to free in-room Wi-Fi.
Hilton Garden Inn - 3-star hotel. You can look forward to a grocery/convenience store, dry cleaning/laundry services, and a bar at Hilton Garden Inn Murfreesboro. The onsite restaurant, Garden Grille, features American cuisine. Free in-room Wi-Fi is available to all guests, along with a 24-hour gym and a 24-hour business center.
Residence Inn Nashville - 3-star hotel in the business district. You can look forward to a free breakfast buffet, a free grocery shopping service, and dry cleaning/laundry services at Residence Inn Nashville SE/Murfreesboro. Stay connected with free in-room Wi-Fi, and guests can find other amenities such as a fireplace in the lobby and a gym.
Click on the map below to see additional lodging and vacation rentals in the area.
National Park Camping
There are no National Park Campgrounds within the park.
For a fun adventure check out Escape Campervans. These campervans have built in beds, kitchen area with refrigerators, and more. You can have them fully set up with kitchen supplies, bedding, and other fun extras. They are painted with epic designs you can't miss!
Parks Near Stones River National Battlefield
Manhattan Project National Historical Park - Oak Ridge, Tennessee
Check out all of the National Parks in Tennessee along with neighboring Alabama National Parks, Georgia National Parks, South Carolina National Parks, North Carolina National Parks, and Kentucky National Parks.