*Please note that because of present staffing levels, it might be best to have a selection of possible dates available. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays work best for field trips to the park.
*Reservations are required by contacting the park, by calling (931)232-5706, ext. 103. Walking tours, bus tours, and interpretive talks are available for K-12 grades. No fees are charged for school groups.
*Teachers, bus drivers, and chaperones must meet at the park's visitor center, at 120 Fort Donelson Park Road, Dover, TN. Here all will be provided with information, rules, safety information, and park alerts.
*Because of its size, only one bus can be accommodated at the visitor center at a time. The theater has a seating capacity of 55. Restrooms are located in the basement, accessed by stairs or a chairlift, museum, accessed by stairs or the chairlift, and theater, along with a bookstore.
*Groups can visit the Dover Hotel (Stop #10) and the National Cemetery and explore self guided exhibits. Restrooms (not accessible) are available at the National Cemetery.
*Multiple miles of trails are available...these are not accessible. Please remember appropriate repellants and safety needs.
*There are two picnicking options...a pavilion near the visitor center, which is accessible, and another near the Fort area and the river, which is not fully accessible. Restrooms at the Fort-area are wheelchair accessible.
We want your classroom's visit to the park to be a fun and safe learning experience.
Most programs are designed with grades 4-6 in mind, although all schools and students are always welcome.
Choose an Option, and include at least two dates for your field trip on the Parks as Classroom Reservation Form. Programs can be adapted for K-8 classrooms.
Option #1 (Civil War: Soldiers)
You're in the Army Now
For this program, students will learn what it was like to serve in the Union or Confederate armies and learn basic soldier drills. At the time of the Battle of Fort Donelson, all of the troops serving on both sides were volunteers, doing so to fight for their flag, heritage, and way of life. This program shows the hardships soldiers endured. At the beginning of the War, many enlisted and believed that the War would be short-lived. Many saw romance in the War. By the time 1862 started, many realized that the War would last longer than they thought, and, for many, the romance of the conflict was disappearing.
Option #2 (Civil War-General)
Whether it be a six pounder, 32 pounder, or another piece of artillery, such guns sparked both awe and fear. Students are engaged in a hands-on activity, learning how a typical cannon worked, and the challenges faced with its proper operation. Students learn the importance of teamwork in this exercise.
Option #3 (Civil War: the Consequences)
Visiting the National Cemetery (Ranger or Teacher-Directed Program)
Over 600,000 persons lost their lives in the American Civil War, many from battle, but also many from illness and disease. The Civil War affected almost every family in the United States. At the National Cemetery, students will get a chance to meet, in a special way, some veterans of the American Civil War and subsequent wars. Almost every student today has some type of a relation with a veteran, and recognize the veteran's special place in our hearts.
Today's National Cemetery is on special ground. After the 1862 battle, many African Americans lived on this site and created a home as they transitioned from being slaves to free men and women. Their stories are still inspirations to us nearly 150 years later.
The war meant sacrifice, but also freedom, for millions of enslaved African Americans. Students will learn how freedom-seekers struggled to create a new life in the freedmen's camp surrounding Fort Donelson.
Option #4 (Civil War: Geography)
Living Map (Underground Railroad & Importance of the Rivers)
This program allows students to understand the importance of geography for all 19th century Americans...the civilians, the soldiers, and the freedom seekers. The program also reminds us that knowledge of geography is still important to us today.
From the very beginning of the American Civil War, the importance of rivers, bridges, and mountains and valleys was recognized. Confederates recognized the need to protect the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers, building Forts Henry, Heiman and Donelson, and Union officers, including Ulysses Grant, recognized the need to control those rivers as well.
A pre-visit activity and suggested readings are recommended and available. Please contact the park staff for more information.
Option #5 (Preservation)
Living Map(s) or visiting the Dover Hotel ("Surrender House") (tour stop #10)
What does it mean to preserve history? Why is it important? Students will have the option to explore the historic Dover Hotel, its grounds, and learn a little about 19th century life in Dover. A map program is included in this activity.
Option #6 (Park History & Habitats)
History-Nature Hike (Ranger-led)
Students will have the opportunity to experience short lessons about the battlefield landscape, the Confederate Monument, and the wildlife and plant habitats inside the park.
Option #7 (Wildlife)
Bald Eagle program (in season, January - May)
Almost as famous as Generals Buckner and Grant are two Bald Eagles who live inside what was once Fort Donelson. These eagles still generate a feeling of pride and awe. Although not considered endangered anymore, they are still worthy of an effort to preserve their way of life. Fort Donelson is the home of these eagles and their offspring, and we would like to introduce them to you.
Option 8: A Visit to Fort Heiman
Park staff will escort you to Fort Heiman, in Calloway County, Kentucky. Fort Heiman was an unfinished Confederate fort built in the weeks before the battles of Forts Henry and Donelson in February, 1862. Fort Heiman, on the western bank of the Tennessee River, was intended to help defend the poorly-positioned Fort Henry, on the eastern side of the river.
Present at Fort Heiman are intriguing examples of remaining early Civil War earthworks. At present, research, archaeology and planning are underway at Fort Heiman, and there is little developed yet for public use.
Please note for this option that there is no designated parking area yet, as the site is still in the early stages of development. A small restroom was installed in the summer of 2012. A visitor services kiosk is in the works for summer/ fall, 2013. The road may be difficult for some buses and other vehicles. The County road that leads to the Confederate earthworks is in a state of deterioration. The storms of April, 2011, damaged the landscape. Subsequent growth on the river's edge has impacted and, in many places, blocked a view of the Fort Henry area. Lands owned by TVA have not been cleaned or cleared from these storms.
Option 9: Teacher-led tour
Teachers may also choose to lead group hikes or use the Junior Ranger Program (limit 50 students or less) as an option. Contact a Ranger for more information.
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Did You Know?
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.