Friday, Feb 24, 2012
Fort Donelson National Battlefield, together with numerous partners and volunteers, commemorated the 150th anniversary of one of the most significant battles of the American Civil War with special events throughout the month of February.
On February 14, 1862, warfare changed forever on the Cumberland River in Tennessee when United States Navy ironclad gunboats engaged with Confederate guns at Fort Donelson. After fierce land fighting the next day and after a near complete breakdown in Confederate leadership, Fort Donelson was surrendered to Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant on February 16, 1862.
Within days, Clarksville, Tennessee, and Nashville would fall into Union hands, and the timeline and dynamics of the war changed. Ulysses Grant quickly went from being somewhat unknown to among the most famous men in America after the battle.
Over the three days from February 4th to February 6th, park staff offered special tours of Confederate Fort Heiman. Often called a “forgotten fort,” Fort Heiman was built by the Confederate States Army in early 1862, partly to help defend the poorly situated Fort Henry on the Tennessee River. Fort Heiman was unfinished at the time of the February, 1862, campaign. Visitors were introduced to this recently acquired site and the unique stories associated with the site.
On Saturday, February 11th, the park hosted the arrival of a group of living history authentic campaigners, who had for several days retraced the steps of Confederates who had retreated from the ill-fated Confederate Fort Henry on the Tennessee River 150 years earlier. Fort Henry fell into Union hands on February 6, 1862. These living history participants experienced weather quite similar to the weather experienced a century and a half ago.
Also on February 11th, the Civil War Trust formally handed over 15 acres of special land associated with the 1862 Battle of Fort Donelson to the park, the first of several parcels the park expects to add to its boundaries over the next few years. That same day, park historian Kendall Gott offered his thoughts on the battle, an event that was recorded for eventual broadcast on C-Span.
The park offered multiple programs to commemorate the events of each day during the battle, attracting visitors from across the country, many of whom have descendants who were part of the battle. On February 16th, the 150th anniversary of the surrender of Fort Donelson was commemorated with a ceremony that featured Ulysses Grant and Confederate General Simon B. Buckner reenactors.
The park considers its sesquicentennial month to have been a tremendous success, but realizes that it would not have been possible without the help of several partners, including the Fort Donelson Civil War Roundtable, Stewart County, Tennessee, the town of Dover, Tennessee, Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area (US Forest Service), the Dover Community Theatre and others, as well as many volunteers who donated thousands of hours of their time and talents.