Spanning Kentucky and Tennessee, Fort Donelson National Battlefield marks the site where Grant and his troops created a pathway to Union victory.
The 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.
February 14th, 1862 dawned cold and quiet. Early in the afternoon a furious roar broke the stillness. 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 Grant's army. On February 16th General Buckner felt compelled to accept Grant's ultimatum: no terms except an unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted. The gate was open for a Union invasion into the Confederate Heartland.
In 1867, Fort Donelson Cemetery was established as the final resting place for Union soldiers and sailors initially buried in the Fort Donelson area.