Hazen's Monument a rare historic treasure

 

Hazen's Monument, at Stones River Battlefield, marks one of the first formal efforts at honoring Civil War dead.

Hazen's Monument, at Stones River Battlefield, marks one of the first formal efforts at honoring Civil War dead. "The first, real formal attempt at memorialization took place shortly after the battle at Stones River," said Jim Lewis, Stones River National Battlefield ranger. Lewis and Miranda Fraley of the Tennessee State Museum discussed how the battlefield went from burial ground to national cemetery during the recent "The Legacy of Stones River" symposium. Col. William B. Hazen's brigade played a principal role in the fighting at the Round Forest on the first day of the battle. The determined fight ended the advance by the Confederate Army of Tennessee, keeping them from pushing the Union Army of the Cumberland back to Nashville. During the battle, these regiments held their position between the Nashville Pike and the Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad through four Confederate attacks. Hazen and Col. Isaac C. B. Suman, 9th Indiana Volunteers, felt there was a need for a monument to honor the brave soldiers who died. A detail of men from the brigade built the monument (within six months after the battle) and buried 45 soldiers there. In comparison, Gettysburg's cemetery grounds were dedicated on Nov. 19, 1863. "And so they would build Hazen's monument, the oldest intact monument at the battlefield," Lewis said. The soldiers of the brigade took control of the situation and honored the deeds of valor of their fallen compatriots. "The Veterans of Shiloh have left a Deathless Heritage of Fame Upon the Field of Stones River," proclaims the monument which shelters the graves of 45 men from Col. William Hazen's Union brigade. A stacked stone wall that's 4 feet high and 2 feet wide surrounds the small cemetery. Workers repaired the monument in 1985 and discovered nine objects arranged inside possibly forming a time capsule. The Hazen Brigade Monument is unique in this aspect as well. In January 1863 immediately after the battle, the victorious Union army turned its attention to burial of the dead. There were some 3,000 corpses left on the battleground and 16,000 wounded "many of whom would soon expire," he said. Trenches were cut for the dead, and wooden markers were used to mark those soldiers who could be identified. "In previous wars, those trenches would have been a sufficient, but President Lincoln and other Union leaders wanted to memorialize the dead in a way that would please the people at home," Lewis explained. The national cemetery movement was born out of this attitude. Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas, "The Rock of Chickamauga," established the cemetery in 1864 after he was named to replace William S. Rosecrans as commander of the Army of the Cumberland. Capt. John A. Means of the 115th Ohio picked the location and laid out what was to be the final resting place for 6,000 Union soldiers. Men from Mean's regiment did the early work. Union Chaplain William Earnshaw was named the first superintendent of the new national cemetery. Earnshaw and the black troops of the 111th USCT did the hard, horrible work. What resulted was "a space that binds the white Unionists with African American veterans," Lewis said. "The new cemetery was very bound up with the American community. In fact, a black community, appropriately called Cemetery, sprang up near the burial ground. The Memorial Day movement, that followed the war, became associated with the new national cemetery with trains from Nashville bringing throngs of people to the cemetery. A festival-type atmosphere persisted, causing some friction between black and white communities. A controversy already existed because Confederate dead were banned from the burial ground. "The first effort to commemorate the Confederate dead came in 1865 when a women's memorial group was formed in Murfreesboro," said historian Miranda L. Fraley. "Little is known about the memorial group, but they did collect $539 to buy a parcel of land near the Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Railroad and Shelbyville turnpike." Confederate dead were moved from several locations to the new cemetery. By 1888, the Rutherford County Camp of the United Confederate Veterans attempted to relocate the graves to the new Evergreen Cemetery. "At first they didn't realize that the women owned the land where the first cemetery was located, but eventually they are successful," Fraley said. A push to establish a national battlefield park was started in the 1890s by both white Union and Confederate veterans. "The Stones River Battlefield and National Park Association founded in 1896 was the first to have both Union and Confederate veterans as members," Fraley said. A push, in Congress, to acquire 3,000 acres of the battleground didn't succeed. On March 3, 1927, Stones River Battlefield was officially recognized by Congress with Union and Confederate veterans working with the Army Corps of Engineers to complete a lengthy, controversial process that acquired 325 acres under the control of the War Department. Fraley said work began in the fall of 1931. A Confederate veteran, Sam Mitchell, raised the first flag, an American one, at the park. Mitchell remarked upon the occasion "all borderlines of the North and South have been erased," she said. Lewis said the National Park Service assumed control of Stones River in 1933. "Initially the focus of the battlefield didn't change." However, in the 1950s, the National Park Service adopts what's called Mission 66, which stressed improved accessibility, facilities and tours at national battlefields in addition to better contextual interpretation. A new visitor's center was dedicated in 1964 at Stones River. "Changes are still occurring right under our noses. These changes will never end as new generations develop different ways of mourning and honoring the war's dead as well as learning about the Civil War," Leiws said. Stones River Battlefield will remain an important part of the American memory," he said. Mike West can be reached at 869-0803 or at mwest@murfreesboropost.com

© 2007 The Murfreesboro Post

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