About Fort Donelson Battlefield
Fort Donelson Battlefield was the site of a fierce and pivotal battle fought from 11 to 16 February 1862 as part of the American Civil War. The two parties involved were the Unionists commanded by the then Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant and the Confederates, led by Brigadier General John B. Floyd.
The Battle of Fort Donelson was preceded by the capture of Fort Henry in western Tennessee by Grant a few days earlier. Viewing this victory as a chance to invade the South, Grant moved his forces towards Fort Donelson on 12 February.
After a number of probing attacks and a naval gunship battle won by the Confederates, the Unionists started gaining momentum, due in large part to the reinforcements amassed by Grant. By 16 February, the Confederates had suffered major losses and Confederate Brigadier General Buckner asked Grant for terms to end the fighting. Grant’s now famous response was “No terms except an unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted.” And thus Buckner surrendered.
The Battle of Fort Donelson marked a significant win for the Unionists, breaking the South and forcing the Confederates to relinquish southern Kentucky as well as much of West and Middle Tennessee. Grant was promoted to the rank of major general and nicknamed “Unconditional Surrender” Grant. His army would later be known as the Army of Tennessee.
Visiting Fort Donelson
Visitors to Fort Donelson Battlefield can learn more about the battle, its participants and its effects though a six mile self-guided tour as well as visiting the Fort Donelson cemetery.
It’s best to start at the Fort Donelson Battlefield visitor centre, which houses a number of exhibits and offers a short introductory film, giving an insight into the battle and a starting off point from which to plan your day.