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

    Fort Donelson

    National Battlefield Tennessee

Fort Donelson National Cemetery


1893 site plan of Fort Donelson National Cemetery. A larger version can be found here.

Bivouac of the Dead Poem

Poem, Bivouac of the Dead


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”.

The legislation effectively began the national cemetery system. In 1863, the Union Army abandoned the Confederate works and constructed a new fortification on the ground that became the cemetery site. A freedmen's community developed around the new Union fort. Four years later, this same site was selected for the establishment of the Fort Donelson National Cemetery and 670 Union soldiers were reinterred here. These soldiers (which included 512 unknowns) had been buried on the battlefield, in local cemeteries, in hospital cemeteries, and in nearby towns. These totals include five known and nine unknown soldiers from the United States Colored Troops. The high percentage of unknown soldiers can be attributed to the haste in cleaning up the battlefield and the fact that civil war soldiers did not carry government-issued identification.

In 1867, Fort Donelson Cemetery was established as the final resting for Union soldiers and sailors initially buried in the Fort Donelson area.

Today the national cemetery contains both Civil War veterans and veterans who have served the United States since that time.

Many spouses and dependent children are also buried here.


Fort Donelson National Cemetery, circa 1908.

Part of Fort Donelson National Cemetery as it appeared around 1908.


Fort Donelson National Cemetery, February, 2011.


Fort Donelson National Cemetery, February, 2011.

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