Middle Tennessee – Fort Donelson

Fort Donelson National Battlefield

1 mile west of Dover, northwest of Nashville. Visitor center entrance on US 79. See park website for specific directions.

This strong Confederate fortification on the bluffs of the Cumberland River was the site of the first major Union victory of the war and the place that introduced the term “unconditional surrender” into the national dialogue. Following an unsuccessful bombardment by Union ironclads and other ships Feb. 14, 1862, Confederates in the fort attempted an infantry attack the next day against Union forces under Gen. U.S. Grant that nearly encircled the place from the land side.

After some early setbacks, Grant counterattacked and demanded the fort’s surrender. His terms: “…an unconditional and immediate surrender.” The fall of Fort Donelson was a disaster for the Confederates, causing the loss of Northern Tennessee including the munitions center and state capital at Nashville.

Park visitor center open 8 am–4:30 pm daily. The Dover Hotel (Surrender House) is open weekend afternoons during the summer. Free.
Tennessee Civil War Trails signs located at the park visitor center:

• Stand of the 11th Illinois

Trails sign describes the attempted Feb 15 Confederate breakout and the stand of the 11th Illinois, which slowed the attack. Casualties took nearly 80 percent of the unit that day.

• Forrest’s Attack

Trails sign describes the successful breakout of Confederate Col. Nathan Bedford Forrest‘s cavalry Feb. 14.


Source: history.com

The following Trails signs are located at the Steward County Visitor Center, 117 Visitor Center Lane, Dover TN 37058.

• Forrest’s Escape

Dead set against the surrender of Fort Donelson in February 1862, Confederate cavalryman Nathan B. Forrest and his command escaped the Union trap giving Southerners a faint success in an otherwise dismal failure.

• Morrison’s Attack

After laying siege to the southern portion of the Confederate defenses at Fort Donelson, Union Gen. John McClernand ordered Col. William Morrison’s brigade forward to attack a heavily defended fort.

Despite three bloody attempts to capture the position Feb 12, 1862, the attempt failed.

• Battle of Dover

Almost a year after the Battle of Fort Donelson, Confederates attacked the small Union garrison here, hoping to disrupt supply traffic on the Cumberland River. The Feb 3, 1863, attack was unsuccessful. The Confederates suffered more than 670 casualties in the fight.