This week in History: The Battle of Murfreesboro


It’s been said that someone is never an hour away from something historic in Tennessee. Looking at the role our state played in the Civil War, that statement stands true. The rivers and railroads Tennessee affected not only the outcome of the Civil War but also the people near them. All of the rivers in Tennessee acted like daggers, helping to lead to the defeat of the Confederacy. There are eight states that border Tennessee and three major rivers that cut through it. The railroads, however, were the lifelines of this short-lived nation. The rails moved troops and supplies, so when they were lost the movement of the Confederates were as well. With the loss of the railroads to the Union, Tennessee became occupied. This meant the consequences of the war were really starting to affect Tennesseans and Tennessee in general.

Before the Battle of Murfreesboro, in February of that year, Ulysses S. Grant came down the Cumberland River and took Fort Henry and Fort Donelson. The fall of these two forts pushed the Confederate troops back leaving Nashville unprotected. This lack of protection caused Nashvillians to also leave in a mass exodus. The troops that had been in Clarksville and Nashville made their way South. Brigadier General Nathan Bedford Forrest was sent to Chattanooga to organize a cavalry brigade. In July, he and his cavalry made their way to Murfreesboro. The battle of Murfreesboro took place on July 13th, 1862. Forrest’s goal was to strike out at the major railroads in the city to decimate Union supply lines. Confederate troops attacked a hospital, jail, and courthouse overrunning Union troops. By late afternoon the Union surrendered.

This defeat diverted the Unions drive to Chattanooga. It also disrupted the Union control of Middle Tennessee setting back their drive further into the Confederate occupied territories. It ultimately led to the Battle of Perryville, Kentucky in October. From December 31st, 1962 to January 2nd, 1863, the Second Battle of Murfreesboro took place, also known as the Battle of Stones River. This is where the Union took back the control they lost in July. This battle is considered to be a turning point in the Civil War because of how positively it affected the Union troops moral.

Although the Civil War was a dark period in American history, we dare not forget the lessons learned from it. As Abraham Lincoln once said "America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves."