A tributary of the Stones River is named after Uriah Stone, an early explorer and long hunter. For centuries, the Stones River has played an important role in the lives of area inhabitants, first as an important fishing and hunting ground for Native Americans, and later as the safest mode of transportation for early pioneers. In the late 1830s, better roads, and later the railroad, led to a decline in the use of the river for transportation, but it remained an important source of power for grist and saw mills.
The great armies clashed at Stones River on December 31, 1862, fighting for control of Middle Tennessee's railroads and rich farms. The engagement was the first major battle in the Union campaign to split the Confederacy, driving along the line of the railroad from Nashville through Chattanooga to Atlanta. The campaign ended with Sherman's march to the sea and capture of Savannah in December 1864. But in order for the Union's campaign to begin successfully, the Stones River barrier had to be crossed and secured.
After preliminary skirmishes, including action at Harker's Crossing, the Battle of Stones River began at dawn on December 31, 1862.