An oft-forgotten part of Stones River National Battlefield is the Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Railroad monument built in 1906.
Workers rehab Stones River Battlefield's historic Artillery Monument. Dating back to 1903, the monument was erected by the Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Railroad.
It stands at the point where 58 Union cannons poured grapeshot and canister into the advancing troops of Confederate Major Gen. John C. Breckinridge as they waded across frigid Stones River on the afternoon of Jan. 2, 1863.
The Artillery Monument is currently undergoing renovation thanks to the National Park Service.
Interestingly, the monument predates that national battlefield. It was actually built by the NC&StL Railroad, whose designer Hunter McDonald selected the Neoclassical image of a 34-foot-tall concrete obelisk to commemorate the battle.
In the early 1900s, the NC&StL Railroad used Civil War tourism as a way of increasing passenger traffic.
Advertising in Confederate Veteran magazine, the railroad listed Stones River among the sites that would be of interest to veterans and their families.
The railroad’s president, John Thomas, was friendly to the members of the United Confederate Veterans and promoted its reunions by offering special rates for participants. As part of its Civil War emphasis, the NC&StL published “Southern Battlefields” in 1890. This book and its successor, “Battlefields in Dixie land,” published in 1917, gave a brief history of the battles with maps noting their proximity to the railroad.
In 1904, the railroad acquired 4.64 acres just outside Murfreesboro that included Redoubt Brannan, a major installation of the earthen work Fortress Rosecrans, which was the largest earthen fortress constructed during the Civil War.
The redoubt was maintained by the railway company as a point of historical interest and was easily visible from the windows of its passenger cars as they moved to Nashville to Murfreesboro.
Redoubt Brannan was interpreted to railway passengers in a company-published brochure as “the remains of the earthwork placed there in Civil War times to guard the bridge. Cannon of the period have been mounted on this work.”
The earthwork was not identified as being Union in origin and no mention was made of Fortress Rosecrans in the train company’s brochures.
During that same period, NC&StL acquired a 1.55-acre site overlooking Stones River. In 1906, the company built the 35-foot-tall obelisk on the property to mark the most memorable event of the two-day battle.
Confederate Veteran magazine described the obelisk as “a monument of granite [sic] nearly forty feet high ... set immediately at the battery point, which may easily be seen by passengers on the train.”
The obelisk was the third major battlefield memorial constructed on the battlefield. The first, Hazen’s Monument, was actually constructed in 1863 by men of the 9th Indiana Veterans Volunteers. The 10-foot-tall and 10-foot-square monument was built from native limestone. The monument is surrounded by the graves of 55 soldiers and is enclosed with a limestone wall.
It is, probably, the oldest Civil War monument in the nation.
The second monument is the 1888 U.S. Regulars Monument. Located at Stones River National Cemetery, the Regulars Monument is a 15-foot sandstone column with classical details such as an egg-and-dart molding and carved floral and laurel motifs and is topped with a 300-pound bronze eagle.
It was built by survivors of the Regular Brigade, Army of the Cumberland, in memory of the 15th, 16th, 18th and 19th U.S. Infantry and Battery H, 5th U.S. Artillery, who were killed or died of wounds received during the Battle of Stones River.
Stones River National Battlefield exists as a result of commemorative efforts by the NC&St.L Railway, the Stones River Battlefield and Park Association and lobbying efforts by the Grand Army of the Republic and UCV. Although Stones River did not become a military park until March 3, 1927, attempts by these groups to create a park and mark important sites influenced the government’s eventual decision to establish a park and acquire land.