Not the Civil War, that would take until 1865, but my battle to get my Junior Civil War Historian badge is finally complete. We visited our third Civil War Battlefield today – technically, the sixth, but the third one with a Junior Ranger program. My hats off to Susan, the ranger at the Fort Donelson Visitor Center, what a pleasure to talk to. She even signed off on my Junior Ranger book and gave me my patches before I did the work. She was worried that I wouldn’t be back in time since all the centers close now at 4:30. So we picked up all my loot, and started our tour.
Fort Donelson is on the banks of the Cumberland, one of two rivers that parallel coming down from the Ohio, the Tennessee is the other. Together they formed the Land Between the Rivers, what the Tennessee Valley Authority has now made the Land Between the Lakes, but that’s another story (we went there too). In February, 1862, two smaller forts on the Tennessee were taken by the Union with the help of the Ironclads. Boats specially designed for shallow water and then iron plated to try to protect them. The first battles worked so well, they set their sights on Donelson on the Cumberland, steaming back to the Ohio, they took the southern route towards Dover, Tennessee. The Confederates were better prepared, but the Union was able to secure Fort Donelson as well.
Ulysses S. Grant negotiated the surrender of 13,000 Confederate troops from General Buckner at a hotel called the Dover. The Dover still stands today as part of the National Park. This was the place U.S. Grant received the nickname “Unconditional Surrender” because that is what he demanded of the Confederates. Fort Donelson was a major victory for the North, it gave them access to Nashville and the Confederate supply lines. So often war comes down to how well you are provisioned. It would take several more years for the war to come to an end, but the North was finally on their way.
Now I have to confess, I got my Junior Ranger badge and my Junior Civil War Historian, but I haven’t done the book yet. I read it all while we were at the park, but I didn’t write a single thing down. The guilt is bugging me, I’m going to have to go do the book now. I hate getting something for nothing, it’s just now how I’m made. I better get crackin’.