On Valentine’s Day, 1862, Union gunboats engaged the Southern battery at Fort Donelson, on the banks of the Cumberland River. The big guns of the Confederate army pummeled Andrew Foote’s fleet, eventually forcing them to withdraw. The South rejoiced.
The next day, Union reinforcements moved in, and a fierce ground battle forced another Union retreat. Thinking they had won, Confederate commanders mistakenly ordered their troops to retrench. The Union army swept in, retook the battlefield, and demanded Confederate General Simon Buckner’s “unconditional and immediate surrender.”
It was the first major victory for the North in the Civil War.
At Fort Donelson National Battlefield, you can tour the Confederate fort and take a 6-mile, self-guided walking tour of the grounds, including Fort Donelson National Cemetery, where 670 Union soldiers are buried.
Did You Know:
Several earthen forts built by the Confederates near Fort Donelson became stops along the Underground Railroad. An exhibit at Fort Donelson National Battlefield explores the route taken through this area by enslaved people seeking freedom in the North.
According to an assessment by the Center for State of the Parks, the civil war parks of Tennessee face several common challenges. Primary among them are funding shortfalls that limit the Park Service's ability to preserve historic sites and tell the stories of our American heritage.
Also of critical concern at all four parks covered in the report is adjacent development that mars historical and scenic views that are essential to bring the story to life and providing visitors with a memorable experience. Read more about the threats faced by these parks in NPCA's report Tennessee's Civil War National Parks.