Battle of Stones River: The Cowan House

2004 Stones River National Battlefield, Historic Resource Study

The Cowan House was a substantial brick structure surrounded by wooden piling or stockade fences with several outbuildings. The 1860 census indicated that the prosperous farm family of Varner D. and Susan B. Cowan occupied this home.

By 1860, most of this couple’s children were adults and adolescents, and it is not known how many of the children were still residing in this house by the
time of the war. The Cowan House was located near the Thompson Lane bridge over the Old Nashville Highway on the New Vision Baptist Church’s

John C. Spence, a Murfreesboro resident during the Civil War, reported that Bragg’s forces burned the Cowan House accidentally while preparing for the battle. He explained that after Bragg selected the ground on which he wished to fight: “Cowan had to leave his premises in consequence of being on the battle field. There being a good many out houses on the premises
and was thought might interfere in getting a fair vision, Genl. Bragg ordered the out houses to be burned out of the way, reserving the family house, it being a large two story brick. Unfortunately, the wind was the wrong way. While burning the others, it took fire and had the same fate.”

The walls of the house, its outbuildings, and fences, however, were crucial features of the battlefield. The Confederates posted two batteries near the house that rained artillery shells onto Colonel William B. Hazen’s troops in the Round Forest.

The Cowan House and surrounding structures proved to be potent obstacles to Confederate troops attempting to assault the Union position in the Round Forest. Brigadier General Daniel S. Donelson’s troops launched the second of three assaults against the Union forces from the vicinity of the Cowan House. After seeing Chalmer’s brigade forced to retreat, his troops charged forward. He explained: “In advancing upon and attacking the enemy under such a fire, my brigade found it impossible to preserve its alignment, because of the burnt house known as Cowan’s and the yard and garden fence and picketing left standing around and about it.” At great cost, Hazen’s brigade held the Round Forest and repelled the Confederates’
charges around the Cowan House.

The Cowan House does not seem to have been rebuilt following the war. New Vision Baptist Church currently owns this site, and this property is
not within the authorized boundary proposed in the 1999 Stones River National Battlefield General Management Plan (GMP).

Thompson Lane obscures the site of the burned Cowan House

Many significant Civil War sites outside of Stones River National Battlefield

Stones River: A look at the first day of battle

Lonely monuments provide history, mystery

Where was the ‘burned Cowan house?’

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