Historic Concord Church: A Civil War Army Campsite
Updated: Jan 8, 2020
If you are aware of some of Tennessee's history during the Civil War, you might have heard of The Battle of Murfreesboro Stone River. Starting as a surprise attack by the Union on December 31, 1862, this battle turned into one of the bloodiest, killing nearly 22,000 men.
Well before this significant battle took place, the Union had to travel from Nashville to Murfreesboro. And where did they stop and camp for the night....?
THE HISTORIC CONCORD CHURCH
In an interview with Larry Hicklen, a historian of the Civil War and owner of Middle Tennessee Relics (wwww.midtenrelics.com / 3511 Old Nashville Hwy. Murfreesboro, TN 37129), Hicklen recounts the history of the time when the Concord Church was used as a campsite to the army Commander General Alexander McCook on his way to Nolensville to meet the East and West cores. These cores would head down to Murfreesboro, days before the famous Battle of Murfreesboro Stone River. As the thriving 1850's came to a close, Nashville and the prosperous agricultural community in the south of Nashville and Nolensville area witnessed the beginnings of the American Civil War. On December 26, 1862, the Union Army, under the command of General Rosecrans, had planned on wintering in Nashville. General Bragg, Commander of the Confederate army had been in Murfreesboro since November and was planning on staying there through the winter.
In November of 1862, Jefferson F. Davis, president of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War, came to visit the forces in Middle Tennessee. In the larger picture of the Civil War, there was a siege going on in Pittsburg, Mississippi. The Confederates were under a lot of pressure and were in need of reinforcements. President Davis tried to figure out where he could get troops to send relief to the Confederate Forces to break the blockade happening there. When Jefferson. F. Davis visits the troops in Middle Tennessee he found that winter offensives were very rare because of the rainy season. The roads became a mess and it was real hard on the men marching through mud with the wagons and dragging canyons. Large battles were rare in the winter because Armies often stayed put, preparing for the spring and summer months. They found it to be to their advantage to spend time doing things that did not require motion on the muddy roads like resupplying and recuperating the armies.
Bearing that in mind President Jefferson F. Davis takes a huge risk that might have affected the rest of the war. He finds that General Bragg from the Confederate army had approximately 45,000 men in Murfreesboro while General Commander Rosecrans of the Union had 38,000 in Nashville. Because he thinks that the Union would not move during those winter months, President Davis took approximately 7,000 men from General Bragg to send to Pittsburg, Mississippi, leaving both sides with equal forces. To President Davis's surprise, General Rosecrans at Nashville realizes that the forces are now equal, and makes the decision to fight because the Confederates will not be expecting them to do so. On December 26th, the day after Christmas, Rosecrans launched out of Nashville, taking three routes to Murfreesboro.
So here is where the historic Concord Church comes in..
General Thomas Crittenden's core was coming on the main Nashville – Murfreesboro highway. (Old Nashville Hwy) and continued straight down through La Vergne. General George H. Thomas's core came through Brentwood via Del Tomas into Nolensville and General Alexander McCook came with the central core straight down Nolensville Rd to converge in Nolensville. On the way in trying to get to Nolensville, General McCook made his camp at Concord Church with about approximately 8,000 men. It was at this time that Concord Church served as headquarters for General Alexander McCook as well as serving as a hospital.
(History says the Concord Church was also a camp previously and for a longer period where they would just camp there, not prior to any specific campaign)
“When you have 7-8 thousand men, they have been exposed, and so there are going to be sick people,” says Hicklen. It was a hospital for the sick rather than the wounded. Although there was no actual battle action right there, it was very important and strategic for the Army headquarters and the troop movement progressing toward Murfreesboro.
Thomas coming through Brentwood, Crittenden coming through Murfreesboro Rd., and McCook coming straight down Nolensville Rd., were able to intersect in Nolensville. In referring to that specific area in Nolensville, Larry Hicklen reminisces, “In my younger years I used to relic hunt there and dug up all kinds of civil war things there. There were many balls and button and all kinds of relics at the intersection of Concord and Nolensville. That field was just saturated with mini balls and arrowheads. It was always with crops and when they harvest it I could see the relics."
Hicklen also describes that there was a crown on that corner that was a camp for the Indians many years before the1860’s. But at the time of the Civil War, thousands of troops where there occupying the area, as well as at a couple historic homes, and the Annabelle home across the road.
After the battle there were thousands and thousands wounded in the area that needed care by the surrounding churches. Hicklen says that across the highway from the church the union camps where all separated by regiment and each camp had distinctive ammunition.
“You could matchup troops with ammunition” says Hicklen.
As for relics around the historic Concord Church....
Artillery shells have been found in the Mill Creek behind the church. Today you can still find some relics on the right side of the church property towards the direction of the Nashville area.
The Concord Church was a proper campground place because there was water from the Mill Creek. The church and several historic homes in the area were a very important crossroad at the time. The church was a defensible position because the highway went right through and it was easily available. The Church is listed on a lot of the old maps of the period that indicated strategic places that officers could use in troop movements, such as the map shown below.
As for the battle...
The three cores confronted General Wharton’s confederate cavalry at Nolensville. There was a small battle called the battle of Knobs. The confederates became quickly outnumbered and they fell back around the water tank in Nolensville where the big hill is with the lake down in the valley. The Confederates did not attempt to fight at Nolensville and they took up the high ground at Knob gap. Union and Confederate troops resumed their advance towards Murfreesboro where they collided in the Battle of Stone's River on December 31, 1862, leaving over 22,000 killed, wounded, or missing.
Larry Hicklen quotes the following books, which to his knowledge contains these historic accounts of the war records of the years 1860’s:
1. The War of the Rebellion: A compilation of the official records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Prepared under the direction of the Secretary of War, by BVT. Leut Col. Robert N Scott, third U.S. Artillery and Published Pursuant to act of congress approved June 16, 1880. Washington Printing Office 1884. 2. The Army of the Cumberland by Henry M. Cist