Fort Donelson National Battlefield


Unconditional surrender of Fort Donelson created jubilation throughout the North and silence in Dixie. It was the North's first major victory of the Civil War, opening the way into the very heart of the Confederacy. Days earlier, Grant's plan to capture Forts Henry and Heiman on the Tennessee River succeeded. Upon taking possession of the forts, the Union army stepped out briskly as Grant focused his sights on Fort Donelson. February 14th, 1862, dawned cold and quiet. Early in the afternoon a furious roar broke the stillness. Foote's Union gunboats arrived at Fort Donelson and began exchanging "iron valentines" with the Confederate heavy artillery. The gunboats suffered such damage that the decks became slippery with blood. The strong artillery bombardment from the Cumberland River bluff crippled the ironclads, forcing them to retreat. At daybreak the following morning, on a snow covered battleground, Southern forces launched a vigorous attack but failed to escape the clutches of Grants army. On February 16th, General Buckner felt compelled to accept Grants ultimatum, "No terms except an unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted." The gate was open for a Union invasion into the Confederate Heartland.

Visitors can view the Fort Donelson National Cemetery.


Seasonality / Weather

Summers are hot and humid with an average high of 86 degrees. Winter temperatures are variable, averaging a low of 33 degrees, but may drop well below freezing with occasional snow and ice.



The park is located in Dover, Tennessee, northwest of Nashville. From Nashville, take I-24W to Clarksville (Exit 4). Take a left on Wilma Rudolph Blvd. Stay on this highway until you reach 101st Airborne Division Pkwy. Take a right at this intersection. This highway will change into Hwy. 374. From Hwy 374, turn right on Hwy. 79 South. Follow signs to Dover (approximately 30 miles). The visitor center is one mile west of the town. From Land Between the Lakes NRA: Take either I-24E or Hwy. 68/80 to the Trace Road. Once you reach Dover, take a left on Hwy. 79 and follow signs to the park.

From Murray or Paducah, KY: Take 641S to Hwy 121. Once you reach Hwy 79 at Paris Landing, take a left. Follow signs to the park (approximately 13 miles).


The area is served by airports in Nashville and Jackson, TN or Paducah, KY. Car rental services are available.