Following the fall of Confederate-held Murfreesboro to the Union, many citizens discovered themselves to be on the “wrong side” of the proceedings.
Like businessman John Cedic Spence, they found their plight to be one that really wouldn’t change for the rest of their lives.
“News reached Murfreesboro of the surrender of Genl. Lee and his army on April 9th to Gen. Grant. This news caused great rejoicing with the union men. Every thing was life and animation with them. Minute guns were fired at the forts the whole day. The church bells rang during the day. Steam whistles blowing and any thing else calculated to make a noise in the way of rejoicing. At night a great demonstration of fire works. These were an overflowing of the Yankee feeling generally. Beside this bonfires, torch light procession after night. Also speaking by many of the officers. Many witty remarks at the expense of 'Sesesh,’ ” wrote eyewitness Spence.
Spence operated a successful hardware and grocery store on the downtown square and built the Cedar Bucket Manufactory, Rutherford County’s first mechanized industry, in 1854.
But his two-volume book, “Annals of Rutherford County: 1799-1870” remains the most important book about Murfreesboro during the Civil War era.
His books tell of the gloom that hit Murfreesboro following the end of the war.
“About the 15th July, 1865, the Confederate soldiers are daily arriving in small squads. They had been scattered over all parts of the country. Some coming from prisons of the north, all generally a thread-bare appearance.
“All were glad the war had closed, still regretted they were compelled to surrender the cause. The feeling of some were inclined to leave the country,” Spence wrote.
“A marked difference between the two classes of soldiers Yankee and Rebel on their return home. One loaded down to the ground with plunder, relicts and dogs, homeward bound ... while the other freighted light ... Also, a number of citizens arriving by two and three at a time who had been off refugeeing in the south. They are dumping their trunks, looking round for some familiar place, once a home. But how disappointed, scarcely a vestige or stick to mark the spot, while other crammed with Negros to overflowing, windows stoped with cast off soldier cloths,” he said.
Spence’s stories of the Civil War are just part of a two-day session set for Stones River Battlefield where visitors will hear multiple “living history” viewpoints from soldiers and civilians on June 6-7.
The story of Hollie McFadden is particuarly a harsh one. She was still trying to recover some of her losses in 1871, when she was 70 years old. Her losses totaled $2,085.85 but included everything on her property adjacent to Stones River, including four head of cattle, three horses, 17 hogs and more than 2,000 pounds of salted pork.
The buildings and fences were pulled down as well.
“I was present in General Crittendens Corps as Chief of Scouts at the Battle of Stones River, and know that Crittendens Corps occupied the premises of Mrs H McFadden during said Battle and I know by Genl Crittendens orders the out Buildings consisting of Cedar logs were pulled down and used for fuel and breast work. Also all the fenceing on the premises was used for fuel which were good cedar Rails.
“I know that the place was in good fix when we occupied the place or premises, and whatever effects were about the House or premises were used by our Army and I know the Circumstances and necessities were such that we had to use all available material within reach and needed them,” testified former Union soldier Faver Cason.
“I do not know the exact items used, but the appearance of the claimants premises were that of persons comfortable circumstances. The weather was wet and cold and the necessities of our army great, the troop without shelter, the supplies cut off, and the wounded as well as the soldiers in the ranks needing every thing that would sustain them,” Cason said during the proceedings.
Historically dressed characters will share the stories of Spence, McFadden and others during a daylong setting at the battlefield. The agenda includes:
10 a.m. - Is This God’s Will? - Join soldiers and civilians from Murfreesboro as they describe their experiences leading up to Forrest’s Murfreesboro Raid in July 1862.
11 a.m. - It Could Not Be Well Avoided - Many of the characters from the previous program will share their stories from the fall and winter of 1862.
1 p.m. - The Slaughter Pen - A Federal and Confederate soldier will share their stories from one of the deadliest places on the battlefield. (Includes a musket firing demonstration)
1:30 p.m. - The Business of War - Local businessman John Spence will share his insights on the war’s impact on his town.
2 p.m. - The Line That Wouldn’t Break - Two soldiers will talk about the fighting along the Nashville Pike on Dec. 31, 1862. (Includes a cannon firing demonstration)
2:30 p.m. - Losing Everything - Hollie McFadden will talk about the terrible losses her family suffered during and after the Battle of Stones River.
3 p.m. – Breckinridge’s Charge - Listen to the stories of two soldiers who fought in the final action of the Battle of Stones River. (Includes a cannon firing demonstration)
3:30 p.m. - 1895: A Memorial Visit to Stones River National Cemetery - Join characters from the year 1895 as they visit the cemetery and share the stories of some of the soldiers who are buried there.
These programs are a part of a series of interpretive lectures offered at Stones River National Battlefield throughout the year. The battlefield is located on the Old Nashville Highway.
For more information call 615-893-9501 or visit the park’s Web site at www.nps.gov/stri.