Preservation group hoping to increase size of Stones River National Battlefield

July 31, 2019, The Daily News Journal, Andrew Wigdor

The American Battlefield Trust is asking for donations from the public to help it purchase 42 acres of Stones River National Battlefield land by the end of 2019 or early 2020. 

The trust hopes to close on the land, which is not a part of the protected battlefield site in Murfreesboro, to preserve it from future development. 

“Stones River is one of the most important battles in the Civil War,” said Thomas Gilmore, the trust’s chief real estate officer. 

Gilmore said that the trust works from a report created by the Civil War Sites Advisory Commission, which was established by public law in the 1990s, to determine the significance of battle sites. The report designates Stones River as a Class A site, meaning it had a “decisive influence on a campaign and a direct impact on the course of the war.” Only 12% of battlefield sites carry the designation.

Fought from Dec. 31, 1862, to Jan. 2, 1863, the Battle of Stones River saw 25,000 casualties and was a major Union victory in the war.

“Stones River has always been a top preservation priority for us,” Gilmore said.

He also said that the 42-acre tract located on Northwest Broad Street between Thompson and Van Cleve lanes is likely the largest piece of the battlefield that can still be preserved. Gilmore said the trust is expecting the purchase to occur by the end of this year or early 2020. 

Majority of cost grant-funded

About $4 million is needed to complete the sale, and the trust is about $170,000 short of its goal.

Gilmore said that the trust eventually hopes to incorporate the land into the state park portion of the battlefield in Murfreesboro, but a concrete plan for that transition is not yet in place. 

Earlier this year, the Tennessee Civil War Sites Preservation Fund awarded the trust a $1.8 million grant to help with the land acquisition.

Gilmore said the purchase of the land will be made possible through the grant from the CWSPF and a $2 million federal grant from the American Battlefield Protection Program. The trust is currently still in the process of securing the federal grant, according to Gilmore. 

According to the trust’s website, the organization has saved 3,516 acres throughout Tennessee, including 26 acres at Stones River.

Land subject to previous development 

For nearly 50 years, a General Electric plant stood on the site. The site closed in November 2006 but housed more than 1,000 workers at its peak, according to DNJ archives. The GE building was demolished in 2014.

The land was later purchased by O’Reilly Auto Parts with plans to build a distribution center, but the company decided not to develop it, Gilmore said. The American Battlefield Trust entered into an agreement with the O’Reilly to purchase it.

Gilmore noted that GE spent millions of dollars on environmental remediation before putting the land on the market. 

“It no longer has the contamination associated with the original General Election plant,” he said.

How you can help

The public can donate to help purchase the acres via mail, phone or online. 

To donate online: Visit the Save 42 Acres at Stones River Battlefield page on the American Battlefield Trust website and click the “Donate now” button. 

To donate by phone: Call 1-888-606-1400.

To donate by mail: Send a check to the American Battlefield Trust at 1140 Professional Court, Hagerstown, Maryland 21740.