The Hazen Brigade Monument at Stones River is the Nation’s Oldest Civil War Memorial
Though most Civil War memorials were created after the war ended, in a few cases the soldiers themselves didn’t wait that long to commemorate the fight and honor those who fell. The Hazen Brigade Monument at Stones River National Battlefield in Murfreesboro, Tennessee is one example of a memorial established while the war was still being fought.
The Battle of Stones River was fought over a three day period from December 31st, 1862 to January 2nd, 1863. On December 31st, Colonel William Hazen’s brigade, consisting of the 110th Illinois, 6th Kentucky, 9th Indiana, and 41st Ohio Infantry Regiments, stood its ground at a location near the strategically important Nashville and Chattanooga railroad tracks called the Round Forest, refusing to retreat while fighting off four Confederate attacks. The portion of the battlefield that was the scene of this intense fighting, which was covered in Confederate dead by the time it was over, was named Hell’s Half Acre by Hazen’s men. Hazen’s brigade itself suffered 409 total casualties, including 45 dead.
After the battle, which was a Union victory, members of the brigade decided to honor those who died and keep their memories alive by constructing a memorial. The men selected a location along their defensive line between the Nashville Pike and the Nashville and Chattanooga railroad tracks. The monument was built of limestone blocks and completed in the spring of 1863. The members of the brigade who were killed at the battle were buried next to it. With its location between the road and railroad, the monument was visible to travelers.
Murfreesboro has grown from a population of about 3900 at the time of the battle to about 120,000 today. The Nashville Pike is now the Old Nashville Highway, and the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad tracks are now a busy line in the CSX Transportation system. The Hazen Monument is now part of Stones River National Battlefield, and it is the oldest Civil War memorial still at its original location.