Monday, December 31, 2018

In 10 images: A moving monument, cemetery at Stones River

Part of the inscription on the west face of  the Hazen Brigade monument. 
The Hazen Brigade monument, completed in October 1863, is the oldest Civil War monument still at its
original battlefield location. (Read more on National Park Service site.)

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A  Philadelphia newspaper correspondent was underwhelmed during his 1882 visit to the Hazen Brigade monument and cemetery on the Stones River (Tenn.) battlefield. "Little inspiration could be drawn from the surroundings," he wrote nearly 20 years after the battle, "... because a few dozen unkempt graves, some rough prickly pears and corners overgrown with weeds were the only marked objects near the shaft. And even had I found food for patriotic reflection there, the mood would have vanished a few moments later, as a fresh bulldog of yellow hue chased the tired sight-seer headlong through a cotton field to a waiting buggy in the road."

Thankfully, my 30-minute visit on a rainy Monday morning -- the 156th anniversary of the Western Theatre battle -- was not similarly marred. And unlike the long-ago reporter, I was inspired by the simple Union monument and small cemetery adjacent to a railroad track.

"To the memory of its soldiers who fell at Stone River, Dec. 31st, 1862," reads an inscription on the south face of the monument. "Their faces towards heaven, their feet to the foe."

On New Year's Eve 1862, 1,600 soldiers in Colonel William Hazen's Brigade held off wave after wave of attacks at the "Round Forest," a strip of woods on the extreme left of the Union line. The brigade -- men and boys from the 41st Ohio, 6th Kentucky, 9th Indiana and 110th Illinois -- suffered more than 400 casualties at Stones River. Hazen's soldiers were the only Federal unit to hold its position throughout the battle.

In October 1863, a detail of Federal soldiers completed a monument on ground defended by Hazen's Brigade, near the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad line and Nashville Pike. Made from large blocks of limestone, it was placed amidst the graves of 55 soldiers in the brigade who died from wounds or disease at Stones River.

A train chugs past the Hazen Brigade monument and cemetery on the Stones River (Tenn.) battlefield.
"Killed at Stone River Dec.31st 1862," reads an inscription on the monument.
Three stones atop a marker for an unknown soldier.
Soldiers from the 41st Ohio, 9th Indiana, 110th Illinois and 6th Kentucky are buried in the cemetery.
Fifty-five soldiers from Hazen's Brigade are buried in the small cemetery adjacent to a railroad track.
All four sides of the monument include an inscription honoring Union soldiers.
Grave of 6th Kentucky Private Casper Krebs, who died of disease.
A row of pearl-white graves in Hazen's Brigade Cemetery, which is surrounded by a stone wall.

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-- Philadelphia Times, Aug. 28, 1882
-- In 1985, workers repairing the monument discovered a time capsule inside it. Objects found included horse's teeth, bone fragments, two bullets, three artillery shells and two musket barrels.

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