Stones River National Battlefield wasn’t only important to the course of the Civil War, it’s also important to the course of Rutherford County.
According to a new National Park Service report, more than 187,000 visitors in 2010 spent $9.3 million in Stones River National Battlefield and in communities near the park. That spending supported 133 jobs in the local area.
“The people and the business owners in communities near national parks have always known their economic value,” park superintendent Stuart Johnson said. “Stones River National Battlefield is significant not only for the major Civil War battle here, but it also brings visitors, jobs and dollars to the local area and the state.”
Most of the spending and jobs are related to lodging, food and beverage service (52 percent), followed by other retail (29 percent), entertainment and amusements (10 percent), gas and local transportation (7 percent) and groceries (2 percent).
The battlefield’s economic impact is based mainly on its historical significance.
Out of about 10,500 major and minor battles fought in the Civil War, Stones River is ranked in the top 45 in national significance and is one of 32 that was turned into a national park.
The Battle of Stones River was especially significant as it was the first battle fought after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing slaves in Union-held Confederate territory, such as Tennessee.
Without a Union victory in Murfreesboro, the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation would have seemed “like the last gasp of a dying war effort and perhaps brought England and France into the war on the side of the Confederacy,” wrote author Peter Cossens in his book, “No Better Place to Die, the Battle of Stones River.”
Originally, Lincoln favored a gradual emancipation of slaves, stating that opinion as early as 1849. Once elected president, he continued to advocate that same policy.
In September 1862, following Union victory at Antietam, Lincoln issued a preliminary proclamation saying freedom would be granted to slaves within Confederate states, unless those states returned to the Union by Jan. 1.
No rebel states took Lincoln’s offer, and on Jan. 1, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring, “all persons held as slaves within any States, or designated part of the State, the people whereof shall be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.”
Lincoln and the Union couldn’t have imagined the far-reaching effects of the victory at Stones River.
According to a New York Times report, “the New Year of 1863 will long be remembered for the blows that were struck and the blood which flowed on the ground of Murfreesboro ... The battle of Murfreesboro or Stones River, is the most remarkable of the war.”
Thanks to the Emancipation Proclamation and their victory in Murfreesboro, Union troops became liberators and slaves began to flee in larger numbers seeking safety in the shelter of Federal armies.
Southern agricultural production was disrupted, England and France ended their support for the Confederacy, and the United States took the first step to fulfilling the term “justice and freedom for all.”
March: Our Military Events
Daily throughout March at Stones River National Battlefield
A temporary exhibit will be on display at the battlefield about the Confederate raid on Murfreesboro.
Civil War Artifact Display
Tuesday-Sunday throughout March at Oaklands Historic House Museum
In honor of the bicentennial anniversary of Murfreesboro, Oaklands is placing artifacts on display in Maney Hall. The exhibit is free and open to the public.
Women’s History Month Ranger Talk
Saturdays and Sundays through March 31 at Stones River National Battlefield
Women in Occupied Murfreesboro – Civil War Brown Bag Lunch Lecture
Noon-1 p.m. Wednesday, March 14 at Heritage Center of Murfreesboro and Rutherford County
Antoinette van Zelm brings the Civil War’s home front to life through the words of three young Confederate women who kept diaries during the Civil War.
March into Spring Luncheon and Fashion Show
11 a.m. Saturday, March 17 at the Stones River Country Club, 1830 N.W. Broad St.
The luncheon benefits the Fisher House at the Alvin C. York VA Medical Center. Cost: $25 per ticket
The Fight for Murfreesboro’s Square – Civil War Brown Bag Lunch Lecture
Noon-1 p.m. Wednesday, March 21 at the Heritage Center of Murfreesboro and Rutherford County
Carroll Van West tells the story of how Federal troops occupied the Rutherford County Courthouse until July when Nathan Bedford Forrest attacked and forced a surrender.
Murfreesboro’s Civil War
March 24-25 at Stones River National Battlefield
There will reenactments of the battles in Murfreesboro.
Historic Postcards of Murfreesboro Exhibit – Grand Opening
4:30-6 p.m. Tuesday, March 27 at the Heritage Center of Murfreesboro and Rutherford County
Sara Beth Gideon presents her exhibit, “Wish You Were Here: Historic Cards of Murfreesboro.” The exhibit will be on display through October.
The Most Overlooked Battle – Civil War Brown Bag Lunch Lecture
Noon-1 p.m. Wednesday, March 28 at the Heritage Center of Murfreesboro and Rutherford County
Jim Lewis, park ranger at Stones River National Battlefield, will share important details about the Battle of Stones River.