Saturday, July 18, 2009

Fort Donelson National Battlefield

A few photos from Fort Donelson National Battlefield in Tennessee. I stopped there June 27 on the way north to Michigan. I'm not normally much of a fan of cannonball parks, but I liked Fort Donelson. Admittedly, the setting helps. It's on the Cumberland River in fairly rural location so it's very quiet and peaceful -- minimal noise pollution. The do not feed the eagles sign was a first for me. Don't believe I've ever seen a sign before that suggested they'd learned to panhandle like pigeons and Canada geese.
All the books on sticks in the park are color-coded. The red ones provide information about the Confederates, the Union ones are blue.

Above: Cannon poised to blow bass fishermen on the Cumberland out of the water.
Below: The Visitor Center. It's definitely a Mission 66 structure and has seen better days. It felt rather sad and tired. Park staff told me the park's current General Management Plan calls for construction of a new Visitor Center with groundbreaking set for FY2010.

Below: a wayside providing information about the battle. When Union forces under General Grant took Fort Donelson it changed the course of the war. Once Donelson fell, the Union was able to advance on Nashville and gain control of the railroads.

The only monument I spotted in the park is this one. It's dedicated to the Confederate soldiers from Tennessee.
The park has a couple nice trails through the woods over mixed terrain, including some pretty steep hills, as well as a nice picnic area, so there is more to do than simply admiring the artillery batteries and reading the interpretive signage.

I've also posted a few photos from Fort Donelson National Cemetery on I See Dead People.


  1. Thanks for the pictures!

    I am a civil war reenactor, and I've been places in the east but never that far west for the history.

    It's an odd thing how peaceful and pedestrian such places look today, you'd hardly know what went on there was much worse than a splinter or stubbed toe.

    My grandfather accompanied his uncle, a CW veteran, to Gettysburg for the fiftieth anniversary of the battle. I know, because my grandfather walked it with his uncle, what happened in several of the places that look so serene.

    I spent many of my teen years in Virginia, and my parents, being good southern baptists, made sure I was a Royal Ambassador. We used to go for certain events to a farm located on the battlefield of the Wilderness.
    An uncle of mine had been a CCC boy and had been there in the 1930's as a medic with his whatever they called those groups, and they had a doctor who was a very old man, had, in fact, been in the battle there as a teenager. He couldn't stay, had to leave, it was the ghosts he said.

    This man had told my uncle about some of what transpired (it was a rather gloomy place even in the 1960's, and it was pretty desolate thirty years before that)and my uncle went with him. They stopped at a place where the doctor had said there was a berry patch that had been fought savagely over in spite of what the brass said.

    My uncle told me that this man just stared at the spot then he said,
    "They tore each other to rags for a handful of goddam berries! Berries, for ----'s sake"! and broke down. He left within the week, I was told.

    Is it good we forget these things or not?

  2. Antietam is the one that always gets to me. As of a couple years ago they were still finding bodies in the cornfields. When they established the cemetery they wound up stacking the dead 5 and 6 deep in each grave.

    My preference is that we remember -- when the park interpretation is done right (and most of them are now) it makes it clear war is an exceedingly bloody business.

    One of my favorite Civil War parks is Pea Ridge in northwest Arkansas. It's the only one I've been to that has a reconciliation monument -- it was paid for and erected in 1889 by veterans of the battle, some of whom had fought for the South and some for the North.


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