Murfreesboro's History

Remembering the Rail

During the decades following the Civil War, the Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Railroad was the primary way that people traveled to the Stones River battlefield.

The railroad had a platform at Stones River National Cemetery. It also purchased and cared for property near the Stones River and Redoubt Brannan, one of the interior earthworks of Fortress Rosecrans.

The railroad publicized special Civil War tours that included Stones River. In 1906, a monument designed by Major John W. Thomas, the president of the company and former Master of Transportation for the Confederate Army of Tennessee, was erected near the Stones River to commemorate the final attack of the battle.

Source: National Park Service

Rails a Plenty

Railroads transported tons of supplies and thousands of soldiers and animals during the Civil War.

During the Army of the Cumberland's campaigns from Murfreesboro to Chattanooga, hundreds of rail cars brought food, weapons, clothing, and other supplies to Fortress Rosecrans and other depots in middle Tennessee and northern Alabama. Wagon trains and railroad trains then moved the supplies from the depots to the army.

The Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad remained an important artery in the federal supply system during the Atlanta Campaign and the March to the Sea.

Source: National Park Service

The Railroad at Stones River

Completed in January 1854, the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad played a crucial role in shaping the landscapes of Stones River National Battlefield.

The raised track bed was the scene of some of the most important fighting of the Battle of Stones River. Union cannons massed on the high ground along the railroad turned back the Confederate tide before it reached the Nashville Pike and the tracks.

After the battle, the railroad served as a vital artery of supply for Union forces advancing into the Deep South. Years after the war, the company took a leading role in preserving and interpreting the battlefield.

Source: National Park Service

The Battle At Stones River

As 1862 drew to a close, President Abraham Lincoln was desperate for a military victory. His armies were stalled, and the terrible defeat at Fredericksburg spread a pall of defeat across the nation. There was also the Emancipation Proclamation to consider. The nation needed a victory to bolster morale and support the proclamation when it went into effect on January 1, 1863.

The Confederate Army of Tennessee was camped in Murfreesboro, Tennessee only 30 miles away from General William S. Rosecrans’ army in Nashville. General Braxton Bragg chose this area in order to position himself to stop any Union advances towards Chattanooga and to protect the rich farms of Middle Tennessee that were feeding his men.

Union General-In-Chief Henry Halleck telegraphed Rosecrans telling him that, “… the Government demands action, and if you cannot respond to that demand some one else will be tried.”

On December 26, 1862, the Union Army of the Cumberland left Nashville to meet the Confederates. This was the beginning of the Stones River Campaign.

Source: National Park Services

How It All Began...

In 1811, the Tennessee State Legislature appointed a committee to select a new site for the Rutherford County seat. The site eventually chosen was 60 acres of land belonging to Captain William Lytle. The General Assembly named the new town "Cannonsburgh," honoring Newton Cannon, a young politician in Williamson County, but upon Captain Lytle's request, changed the name to "Murfreesborough" one month later. The naming was in memory of Lytle's friend, Colonel Hardy Murfree. In 1817, "Murfreesboro" was recognized as an official city by the State Legislature and, in 1818, was named the capital of Tennessee because of its central location. However, Nashville regained title as the State capital in 1826.

In the early years of Murfreesboro, it was mainly an agricultural community, with corn, cotton, and tobacco being the main crops. By 1853, the Murfreesboro area was home to three colleges and several academies, prompting it to be called the "Athens of Tennessee" by a visiting religious reporter. Although education suffered from the military occupation and the trauma of the Civil War, by the early 1900's it began to regain momentum. In 1911, Middle Tennessee State Normal School, for the training of teachers, was opened in Murfreesboro, joining Tennessee College for Women, which had opened in 1907. Today, Middle Tennessee State University is the home of 23,000 students and has the highest undergraduate enrollment in the state.

After WWII, Murfreesboro and Rutherford County began to change from an agricultural based economy to industrial and manufacturing. Industrial growth has been steady since that time, contributing to a stable economy and phenomenal growth. In the past decade, Murfreesboro has enjoyed substantial residential and commercial growth. The City's population has increased 53.2 percent from 44,922 in 1990 to 68,816 in 2000. Murfreesboro now has, by special census, a population of 81,393.

Named the Most Livable Town in Tennessee, Murfreesboro is the fastest growing city in the state - and it's not hard to see why. Murfreesboro provides the quality of life that attracts growth-plentiful housing, excellent schools, employment opportunities, outstanding services, recreational programs and regional medical facilities.