Rutherford County Historic Courthouse

The Civil War

In 1858, a new and bigger Courthouse was needed. A committee was formed to supervise the construction of a new Courthouse on the previous site. This structure with the exception of the North and South wings is basically the same Courthouse we have today. The bell and clock tower were added in 1860 prior to the Civil War. Historian Homer Pittard notes that the courthouse cost $50,000 to build. The Courthouse was built on the eve of the Civil War and would occupy a central role in Murfreesboro's Civil War experience. In 1862 Murfreesboro had been captured by the Union army, which then used the Courthouse as an observation tower and signaling post.

Nathan Bedford Forrest with a task force of 1300 men was ordered to capture or remove the Union forces garrisoned there. Many local patriots were to be hung by the Federals the next morning. Forrest approached the Square where the Union army was at post on the two floors of the Courthouse. Forrest’s strategy was for two single lines to be formed on the west and east sides of the Courthouse. The first soldier in each line was given an axe. When a comrade was slain, the axe was passed from man to man until reaching the Courthouse doors. The door was battered down, the building was taken over, and the patriots freed.

The Confederacy was encamped on the lawn of the courthouse from July 1862 until the Stones River Battle ended in January 1863. The Courthouse served as a headquarters for the Union army the rest of the war.

Soldiers camp in the Square in front of the Courthouse

Next: Reconstruction