• The legendary battle between Confederate guns and US ironclads at Fort Donelson, February 14, 1862.

    Fort Donelson

    National Battlefield Tennessee

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  • The Eagle has Flown!

    The juvenile eagle at Fort Donelson has fledged. The eagles now reside at the Confederate River Batteries, stop #4 on the driving tour. Visitors are encouraged to view and admire, but asked to keep a respectful distance, as this is their home.

Frequently Asked Questions

Breakout Attempt

The Confederate attempt to break out towards Nashville, February 15, 1862.

Andy Thomas/ NPS

Q. Where were the Confederate soldiers buried?
A. The Confederate soldiers were buried somewhere on or near the battlefield.

Q. Why is the burial site for the Confederate dead not marked on the park brochure?
A. There is no surviving record to the exact location of the graves.

Q. Why were the Confederate soldiers not buried in the National Cemetery?
A. In July 1862, Congress passed legislation giving the President of the United States the authority to purchase land for the establishment of cemeteries "for soldiers who shall die in the service of their country". This legislation effectively began the National Cemetery System. It was determined that as the Confederate soldiers were fighting in rebellion, they would not be allowed to be buried in the National Cemetery.


Q. Is the fort still here?
A. Yes, it is tour stop 2 on the park tour map. You will see the remains of most of the fort's earthen wall.


Q. What can I do while at Fort Donelson?

A. We recommend that you start at the visitor center. Here, those learning about the story for the first time can view a brief and powerful film about the Fort Henry/ Fort Donelson campaign and some of the personalities involved. A museum contains a timeline of the campaign and some powerful words and artifacts. You can then embark on an auto tour of the park...there are eleven stops.

Q. Do Rangers offer guided tours of the park?

A. For much of the year, limited staffing unfortunately prohibits us from offering such a service. During the summer months we occassionally staff some of the tour stops and, when possible, offer "caravan tours" of the park.

Q: I may have a relative who fought at Fort Donelson. How can I learn more about him?

A:A good place to start would be the National Park Service's "Soldiers and Sailors" website, which lists all known participants, often accompanied by unit. It can be found here: http://www.nps.gov/civilwar/soldiers-and-sailors-database.htm

Beyond that, it is possible to research individual units. A "formal" list of those Confederates surrendered or killed in action is not known to survive. A project is underway to build a master troop list to assist such requests and preserve the memories and stories of the participants from the Fort Henry/ Fort Donelson campaign.

Q. Are there any trails to explore at Fort Donelson?

A. Yes! There are trails that connect the visitor center area to the river batteries, and trails that connect the Fort to the National Cemetery and the visitor center. Dogs are welcome on paved roads and trails and must be leashed.


(When exploring the trails in the spring, summer and fall, please protect yourself with appropriate insect repellent.)


Q. Are the cannons real?
A. Yes, the cannons are real cannons from the Mexican War and Civil War period. The three guns at the Upper Battery are fiberglass reproductions. Carriages are a mix between early 20th century and modern reproductions.


Q. Were they here during the battle?
A. No, the cannons are the type and caliber that was here.

Q. Where is Fort Henry?
A. Fort Henry was located 12 miles west of Fort Donelson on the east bank of the Tennessee River.

Q. Does Fort Henry have a Visitor Center?
A. No, Fort Henry was located in low ground along the Tennessee River, and flooded during the battle. Kentucky Lake was constructed following TVA projects in the 1930s and 1940s and the fort was completely covered by water with the creation of the lake.

Q. Did Black Troops fight at Fort Donelson?
A. Black men enlisted as soldiers at Fort Donelson in mid-1863; however, they saw no combat action at the fort. Instead, they served as scouts or guards.

Q. Why is the fort named Fort Donelson?
A. The fort is named for Daniel S. Donelson, Brigadier General of the Tennessee State Militia and descendant of Rachel Donelson Jackson, Andrew Jackson's wife.

http://www.battleofperryville.com/donelson_d.jpg

Q. Do you offer reenactments of the Battle of Fort Donelson?

A. The park often hosts encampments highlighting the stories of some of the military units that served here. Encampments can help us understand what life was like for a soldier in this theatre of the war. We treat the remains of Fort Donelson and the battlefield as a very special place. National Park Service policy prohibits reenactments or any type of simulated warfare per se in order to preserve the special lands. You can learn more here. http://www.nps.gov/nero/reenactor/reenactor.pdf

You may also look here for some additional histories of the park, and facets of the Battle of Fort Donelson.

Here is a thorough chronology of the American Civil War, day by day, from 1861 through 1865. We hope you find it useful.

Did You Know?

Grant at Fort Donelson

BG Charles F. Smith, a division commander under BG US Grant during the Battle of Fort Donelson, was Commandant of Cadets during Grants and Buckner’s time at West Point.