Fort Donelson National Battlefield
preserves Fort Donelson
and Fort Heiman
, two sites of the American Civil War
Forts Henry and Donelson Campaign, in which Union
General Ulysses S. Grant
and Admiral Andrew Hull Foote
captured three forts, opened two rivers, and received national recognition for victories in February 1862, the first major Union victories of the war. The main unit of the park, in Dover, Tennessee
, commemorates the Battle of Fort Donelson
. Fort Heiman in nearby Calloway County, Kentucky
, was a Confederate battery in the Battle of Fort Henry
. Fort Donelson hosted one of the most influential battles in American history.
The most vulnerable area in the Confederate
defensive line in the Western Theater was the state of Kentucky. The Tennessee
and Cumberland Rivers
were potential avenues for a Union invasion through the state and into Tennessee and beyond. But since Kentucky had declared itself neutral in the conflict, defensive works could not be built within the state without alienating the local population.
Two engineers detached from the 1st Tennessee Infantry, Adna Anderson and William F. Foster, set to work in earnest on May 10, 1861, to find suitable ground just inside the Tennessee border to simultaneously cover the two rivers. They then focused on surveying possible sites along the Cumberland River, looking at the high ridges and deep hollows near the Kentucky border. In mid-May, on the west bank of the river not far below the town of Dover, Anderson laid out the water battery of Fort Donelson twelve miles (19 km) from the Kentucky line. The new fort was named in honor of Gen. Daniel S. Donelson, who, along with Colonel Bushrod Johnson of the Corps of Engineers, approved of the site. Construction was begun by a large force of men brought from the nearby Cumberland Iron Works.
The site was established as Fort Donelson National Military Park
on March 26
. The national military park
and national cemetery
were transferred from the War Department
to the National Park Service
on August 10
. The park was listed on the National Register of Historic Places
on October 15
. It was redesignated a national battlefield on August 16
. Public Law 108-367 (October 25
) increased the authorized boundary of the national battlefield from 551.69 acres (2.23 km²) to 2,000 acres (8.09 km²). On October 30
, Calloway County transferred the Fort Heiman site to the Park Service. Fort Heiman had been listed on the National Register on December 12
The park preserves much of the original battle site, including the river batteries and the eroded remains of the fort itself, but the area in which the Confederate States Army assaulted on February 15, 1862, is largely in private hands, occupied by residential development. The Cumberland River was dammed in the 1960s and this area is currently referred to as Lake Barkley. It covers an area roughly similar to the original river while at flood stage, as it was during the battle.
Fort Donelson National Cemetery
, at 15.34 acres (62,080 m²), contains 670 Union dead, reinterred in 1867. There are also numerous veterans from later wars. The cemetery is presently unavailable for further burials.
- The National Parks: Index 2001-2003. Washington: U.S. Department of the Interior.
- Gott, Kendall D., Where the South Lost the War: An Analysis of the Fort Henry—Fort Donelson Campaign, February 1862, Stackpole books, 2003, ISBN 0-8117-0049-6.