Murfreesboro is a city in and the county seat of Rutherford County, Tennessee. The population was 108,755 according to the 2010 census, up from 68,816 residents certified during the 2000 census. The city is the center of population of Tennessee and is part of the Nashville metropolitan area, which includes thirteen counties and a population of 1,757,912 (2013). It is Tennessee's fastest growing major city and one of the fastest growing cities in the country. Murfreesboro is also home to Middle Tennessee State University, the largest undergraduate university in the state of Tennessee, with an undergraduate population of 22,299 and 25,188 total students .
In 2006, Murfreesboro was ranked by Money as the 84th best place to live in the United States, out of 745 cities with a population over 50,000.
In 1811, the Tennessee State Legislature established a county seat for Rutherford County. The town was first named "Cannonsburgh" in honor of Tennessee politician Newton Cannon, but was soon renamed "Murfreesboro" for Revolutionary War hero Colonel Hardy Murfree. Author Mary Noailles Murfree was his great-granddaughter.
As Tennessee grew westward, the location of the state capital in Knoxville began to be inconvenient for the many settlers at a distance to the west. In 1818, Murfreesboro was designated as the capital of Tennessee. In 1826, it was replaced by Nashville as the state capital.
On December 31, 1862, the Battle of Stones River, also called the Battle of Murfreesboro, was fought near the city between the Union Army of the Cumberland and the Confederate Army of Tennessee. This was a major engagement of the American Civil War. Between December 31 and January 2, 1863, there were 23,515 casualties. It was the bloodiest battle of the war based on percentage of casualties.
Following the Confederate retreat from the Battle of Perryville in central Kentucky, Confederate forces moved through East Tennessee and turned northwest to defend at Murfreesboro. General Bragg's veteran cavalry was successful in harassing General Rosecrans' troop movements and in capturing and destroying supply trains, but could not completely stop the supplies and reinforcements from reaching Rosecrans. Despite the large number of casualties, the battle was tactically inconclusive. It is considered a Union victory. At the end of the battle, Confederate General Braxton Bragg retreated south to Tullahoma. General Rosecrans did not pursue until he had a secure logistical posture six months later in June 1863. The battle was strategically significant since it provided the Union with the basis for further movement to Chattanooga and Atlanta, which would eventually result in the Union splitting the Eastern and Western theaters by Sherman's March to the Sea. Stones River National Battlefield is a national historical site.
General Rosecrans' movement to the south was dependent on a secure source of provisions. Murfreesboro was destined to become a supply depot for the Union Army. Soon after the battle ended in January 1863, Brigadier General James St. Clair Morton, Chief Engineer of the Army of the Cumberland, was charged with constructing Fortress Rosecrans approximately northwest of the town. The fortifications comprised more than and were the largest built during the war. Immense quantities of supplies were stored and maintained in the fortress. The fortress consisted of eight lunettes, four redoubts and connecting fortifications. Both the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad and the West Fork of the Stones River ran through the fortress. Two roads provided additional transportation capabilities.
The interior of the fortress was a huge logistical resource center including sawmills, warehouses, quartermaster maintenance depots, ammunition magazines, and living quarters for the 2,000 troops who handled the supply operations and defended the fortress. After the fortress was rushed to completion in June, Rosecrans moved south leaving Brigadier General Horatio P. Van Cleve in command. The fortress was never assaulted by Confederate forces, in part, because the Union held the town hostage by keeping cannon aimed at the courthouse. Significant portions of the earthworks still exist and have been incorporated into the battlefield site.
Murfreesboro had begun as a mainly agricultural community, but by 1853 the area was home to several colleges and academies, earning it the nickname "Athens of Tennessee". Despite the trauma of the Civil War, by the early 1900s its growth began to regain momentum, in contrast to large areas of the South.
In 1911, the state created Middle Tennessee State Normal School, a two-year school for training teachers. There was a subsequent merger with the Tennessee College for Women. In 1925 the school was expanded to a four-year institution. During and following World War II, it grew and developed, attaining university status in 1965 as Middle Tennessee State University. MTSU now has the highest undergraduate enrollment in the state, including several hundred international students.
World War II resulted in Murfreesboro diversifying into industry, manufacturing, and education. Since the end of World War II, growth has been steady, giving rise to a stable economy.
Murfreesboro has enjoyed substantial residential and commercial growth, with its population increasing 123.9% between 1990 and 2010, from 44,922 to 100,575. The city has been a destination for many immigrants leaving areas affected by warfare; since 1990 numerous Somalis and Kurds from Iraq have settled here. The city has also become more cosmopolitan by attracting more numerous international students to the universities.