Here are highlights from day 3 of my genealogy vacation.
1. US 41 N from Chattanooga to Murfreesboro
This road travels northwesterly across the state of Tennessee beginning near Chattanooga. Especially beautiful was the portion that ran beside the Tennessee River. The river is impounded in places and widens into reservoirs. There are mountains all around, snd the road is canopied in trees in many places.
US 41 is hard to follow, so you’ll need a good road map. We tried to do it with GPS and electronic maps but found it very difficult. All in all, though, it was a beautiful drive. It crossed over the river and closely followed north of I-24.
We spent way too much time dallying on this road, but it was worth it. I also believe that parts of this was the Nashville Pike. I’ll research this later, because if it was then the armies of both sides used this road.
2. The Stones River Battlefield
This battle is more widely known in the South as the Battle of Murfreesboro. We are here because this is where my book’s main character’s husband William H. Andrews was wounded and captured. He fought for the Fourth Florida. They lost their battle flag here.
Especially wonderful at both Stones River and Chickamagua are the national parks’ new system for giving you information at each important stop within the parks. These were large battles and subsequently these parks cover several square miles. There were 81,000 total soldiers who fought at the Battle of Stones River.
To use the new system requires a cell phone. You call a number and touch the number of the stop. A voice then tells you what happened there.
My phone was hooked up to the Bluetooth in our car, and we could listen to it through our speakers. We were the only ones at each stop so we opened the car doors and walked around while the voice explained the occurrences.
There seems to be no map that shows where the combined First, Third and Fourth Florida were located on this battlefield, so Chuck and I took the general tour using the stops to look for hints as to where the Florida units may have fought. William was in the Fourth Florida.
We learned how strategic this fight was to both sides. The two armies fought for two strategic transportation routes, the Nashville Pike, a road from Nashville to Chattanooga, and the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad, both of which crossed in this area.
We never did figure out exactly where the Florida units fought, but following the battle was so interesting, and we have a better understanding of why both sides needed this win.
Ever hear the saying “hell’s half acre”? Well, this is it below. The men who fought here called this ground hell’s half acre because so many men died trying to cross it .
3. Historic downtown Murfreesboro
We know that William and the Fourth Florida camped near here for almost a month before the battle. Florida’s first, third and fourth arrived here on December 3, 1862. They came here early because this was the bread basket of the area, and they needed provisions. We came here because we wanted to learn more about what happened to William while he was here.
It is written that Confederate Murfreesboro had parties and balls for their guests. By the time the battle began there were over 35,000 Rebels camping around the town of approximately 9,000 citizens.
We drove downtown to the courthouse, which was built in 1859 before the war. It is a beautiful building in the center of town with the traffic driving around it in a square pattern, but the traffic flows the square in the same way it flows in my hometown of Monticello, FL. Theirs is a square within a square, while ours is a circle within a square.
William who lived in Monticello just before the war had walked these very same streets looking at this very same courthouse, only then this courthouse was less than ten years old. Now she is more than 150 years old.
Chuck and I stopped on the square and had cocktails at a little restaurant/bar. Then we took a stroll around the courthouse in the early evening. It was a very nice stroll. The weather this week could not be better.
As we walked we noticed kiosks which explained the occupation of the town by the Union forces after the Battle. One of the kiosks explained how all the churches, schools and even some homes became hospitals for the more than 23,000 casualties from the battle.
We know that William was one of those casualties,and the signs confirmed what we had already found in records about his ordeal.
My big question is where did they take him after he was wounded. One sign said that they first took the wounded to the Bradley Academy at the edge of town. After it was filled then they took the men to the churches. After all the churches were filled, they were taken into private homes. I was quickly realizing that I’ll never have any idea where they took him.
Another sign, though, gave us another clue. It said that after the Confederates retreated that the Union forces quickly entered the town and took over. Confederate wounded which could be moved were automatically sent to Nashville. Only the very critical remained and they were moved into buildings easier to guard.
The truly critical were kept there for an extended time, and eventually kept at the easiest place to guard and that was the Bradley Academy. The signs said that enforcement was easiest there because union soldiers camped all around it.
We know William was left behind because of his critical injury. We also know that the injury/injuries must have been bad because he spent time in three more hospitals, remaining in them for the rest of the war. There is a very good possibility that he spent time in the Bradley Academy, if not at first then probably later.
It was a successful day, but there are many more questions now. Where did the Florida units fight at Stones River, where did they take William after he was wounded, how was he wounded, and where on the battlefield was he wounded? The answers will help us fill in more pieces to the puzzle that is William’s life.
We plan to discuss these questions with a Park Ranger tomorrow.