Eddie Smotherman (1)

Smotherman

The old General Electric factory next to Stones River National Battlefield, which was recently considered for an O’Reilly Auto Parts distributorship, may instead be preserved as part of the historic park, according to two state commissions.

The American Battlefield Trust is working to buy the GE site, according to a press release issued last week by the Tennessee Historical Commission and Tennessee Wars Commission. The commissions plan to give the American Battlefield Trust more than $1.82 million to buy the 42-acre site on Northwest Broad Street at Thompson Lane.

However, the Tennessee Civil War Sites Preservation Fund grant must be matched dollar-for-dollar, said Patrick McIntyre, executive director of the Tennessee Historical Commission. The American Battlefield Trust is trying to raise private funds for the match, he said.

The American Battlefield Trust said in a statement it was “excited that these critical grants afford us the opportunity to protect more endangered battlefield land throughout Tennessee. However, it is our long-standing policy to not comment on possible land transactions.”

The state commissions are awarding $2.5 million in grants to preserve more than 180 acres of Civil War battlefields in five counties, including Stones River, they said. If the purchase of the O’Reilly/GE property happens, it would be one of the largest acquisitions of land for the park since it was designated as a battlefield in 1960, they said.

O’Reilly bought the GE property in 2017 to build a distribution center, according to previous press reports, but that plan never materialized.

Murfreesboro City Councilman Eddie Smotherman, who is also a Civil War buff, lauded the grant announcement.

“We need to take advantage of every opportunity we get,” Smotherman said of the grant.

The GE site would link the battlefield to the Stones River, he said, which is significant, he said.

One piece of history tied to the GE/O’Reilly site relates to Chaplain John Whitehead of the 15th Indiana Infantry, said Brenda Pennington, superintendent of the Stones River National Park. Whitehead earned the Medal of Honor for caring for wounded soldiers on the property, which saw battle on Dec. 31, 1862 and Jan. 2, 1863, she said.

Other projects included in the grant awards are: $367,836 for 120 acres of the Jackson, or Salem Cemetery, battlefield; $231,737 for 9 acres of the 1863 Wauhatchie battlefield in Chattanooga; $40,000 for 1.5 acres along Lewisburg Pike in Franklin adjacent to the Collins Farm; and $23,260 for 8 acres at Shiloh.

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