Fort Donelson Cannon Trail
Download a printable version of the: Fort Donelson Cannon Trail Instructions.
Hiking Safety Procedures:
It is a MANDATORY Requirement that each group must have TWO High Visibility Vests (with reflective strips-preferred) Day-Glow Green or Orange in color while hiking on the trail. Your front and rear hiker MUST wear the vest while hiking on the trail. All hikers must be in single file line order while hiking on the trail. All Hikers must hike on the LEFT side on the road facing traffic. If there is very little or no room on the shoulder on the road, hike in the grass next to the shoulder and or a ditch. Review Chapter 8, “Hiking” in the Boy Scout Handbook. Each Scout or youth group should have a minimum of two adults hiking with the group.
Tablet. Plaque and Marker Identifications:
The Historical Tablets are square iron markers with either red or blue border or red or blue raised lettering, silver paint background. Red denotes a Confederate marker, blue denotes a Federal marker.
The Historical Plaques will have photographs, color maps or artist renditions on them.
The Historical Markers are small rectangular square signs.
Campsite Information: Ft. Donelson National Military Park has campground facilities located near the beginning section of the Memorial Trail at Indian Creek. The campsites have potable water, picnic tables, trash receptacles, bench seats, wooden board stage and Lantern stands. Campers are allowed to use the restroom facilities at the National Cemetery. The campsites are reserved by the Park Service on a first come first serve basis. They are open year round except for Thanksgiving Day, December 25 and January 1.
The phone number for the Park Service is: 931-232-5706
Travel to and enter the National Cemetery, drive to the back of the cemetery following the paved driveway. The road will come to an end in the form of a paved turnaround circle. Park the vehicles in this area, positioning your vehicle perpendicular to the outer edge of the paved circle in order to maximize space. The cemetery closes at 5PM and the electric gate will close to prevent incoming traffic, however the gate will open for vehicles trying to exit after 5PM. There are restrooms and a water source next to the main cemetery administrative office building.
Enter the rear on the cemetery through the back iron gate. (Remember you are in a cemetery please be respectful.)Hike south toward the upright cannon which is to the right of the cemetery administrative office building. This 32 Pounder Siege Cannon was placed here in 1867 as a mortuary monument. In 1956 the National Park Service requested that all cannons in the National cemeteries be removed and placed in locations throughout the National Military Parks. This cannon was removed in 1956 along with the plaque and was relocated to the Lower River Battery. In 2014 the Cannon was placed back in the National Cemetery in its original 1867 location and the original plaque was reattached.
- Reading the plaque, out of the 670 Internments in 1867 how many were Unknown?
Continue hiking south toward the Carriage House. Once inside locate the Historical Plaques on the back wall. Locate the Federal Soldier of the 83rd Illinois, David Graham’s drawing of the second Fort Donelson.
- How many cannon were used to fortify the second “Federal” Fort Donelson?
Leaving the Carriage House turn right and follow the pathway to the Historical Plaque titled “Hallowed Ground”. Locate the photo in the lower left hand corner from 1880.
- Using your Cannon Identification Guide, identify both cannons that were used for the gate posts to the cemetery.
Leaving the cemetery follow the entrance drive to Church Street and turn left. REMINDER: All hiking at this point needs to be strictly single file while hiking near and beside public roads. Do not pet or feed any of the residential house’s pet dogs that you may encounter hiking and make certain that the dogs do not follow you or your group to Donelson Pkwy/ HWY 79. Follow Church Street until you reach the Dover City Cemetery at First Christian Church on your left. Locate the “Confederate Mass Grave Monument” near the center. Locate the side “The Battle of Dover” (Remember that you are in a cemetery please be respectful.)
- There were three Federal companies near this cemetery guarding the road to the fort. What was the name of the Federal Companies?
Return to Church Street turning left and continue hiking until you reach Donelson Pkwy/ Hwy 79. Safely cross the street and turn left hiking until you reach Spring Street. Safely cross Spring Street and locate the two cannon on your right.
- Using you Cannon Identification Guide, identify these cannon and the foundry year and determine their length using a measuring tape.
Locate the Historical Plaque behind the cannons titled “Dover Under Fire”. On the plaque it describes a 32 Pounder cannon that helped Federal Col. Abner Harding Infantry repel the Confederate Calvary attack. In the center of the plaque near where it states “You Are Here” it describes something unique about this cannon.
- What was unique about this cannon?
Continue hiking to your right traveling east to Pillow Road, turn right on Pillow Road. Hike to Petty Road. Locate the Historical Plaque “Rice House” on your left.
- What was the name of the creek that Col. Forrest and 700 of his troopers escaped through?
Turn left and hike to the Dover hotel. Locate the Historical Plaque titled “Dover Hotel” in front of the Dover hotel.
- Which Confederate General used the Dover Hotel as his Headquarters during the Battle of Fort Donelson?
Enter the Dover Hotel and locate the three ring binders with laminated pages in the center of the room. Locate “Confederate Soldiers”. Find the written account from Captain Bell Bidwell.
- What was left in the vent which caused the rifled gun to become disabled?
Locate the written account from Captain Reuben Ross.
- How many times did his battery fire at the union Gunboat Carondelet?
Locate the three ring binder: “Union Soldiers”. Locate the written account of Commander Henry Walke of the USS Carondelet.
- What size cannon ball shell struck their anchor?
Locate the Historical Plaque in front of the Dover Hotel: “13,000 Prisoners”.
- How many months later were the Confederate prisoners exchanged for Federal prisoners?
Hike west on Petty Road and locate the Tennessee Historical Marker: “Surrender House” at the corner of Spring Street.
- How many men did Lt. Col. Forrest lose while escaping through the Federal defenses?
Turn left on Spring Street and locate Natcor Drive on your right. Safely cross Spring Street to Natcor Drive. Hike on Natcor Drive until you reach a Historical Tablet at Dover Church of Christ on the right side of the road: “Davidson’s Brigade’.
- During the fighting of February 15th, how many Federal guns did the Brigade capture?
Continue hiking on Natcor Drive toward Main Street. Safely cross Main Street and then turn left safely crossing Natcor Drive. Locate the Historical tablet: “Brown’s Brigade”.
- Which battery manned the guns on the left of Wynn’s Ferry Road?
Locate the Historical Tablet: “Greene’s Battery”.
- How many guns were in the 2nd Division’s Battery?
Continue hiking west on Natcor Drive and locate the Texas monument on your left.
- What year did the State of Texas erect this Monument?
Locate the Historical Tablet: “McCausland’s Brigade”.
- Which battery did the Brigade support on February 13, 1862?
Locate the Historical Tablet: Forrest’s Calvary. Colonel Forrest’s Calvary captured a number of Federal Artillery Pieces during the battle on February 15th.
- From what Federal Troops were the Artillery pieces captured?
Continue hiking west on Natcor Drive. Locate the cannon on your left.
- Using your Cannon Identification Guide, identify the cannon, foundry year and manufacturer.
Continue hiking west on Natcor Drive and locate the Historical Tablet: C.S.A. “Original Position….” The guns from Greene’s Battery were abandoned.
- Which battery came and served the guns?
Continue hiking west on Natcor Drive, you will come to the intersection of Natcor Drive and Cedar Street, Natcor Drive turns left, you will need to safely cross Natcor going straight to Cedar Street and locate the Historical Tablet: “Baldwin’s Brigade”.
- Who was the Colonel of the 26th Mississippi?
Locate the cannon below and to the right of the Historical tablet. This is a Confederate cannon made by Noble Brothers and Co., Rome Georgia.
- Using your Cannon Identification Guide, identify this cannon and type of metal used to cast the cannon.
Continue hiking west on Cedar Street. Locate the Historical Tablet: “Wharton’s Brigade”.
- On the evenings of February 12th and 13th what task was this brigade engaged in?
Continue hiking to the right and locate the Historical Plaque Titled “Confederate Breakout February 15, 1862”.
- On the night of February 14th what prevented the Union/Federal right wing lines from hearing any sounds of the Confederate buildup of men, artillery and horses?
Locate the Historical Tablet near the center: “French’s Battery”.
- How many cannon pieces were in French’s Battery?
Locate the cannon to your left.
- Using your Cannon Identification Chart, Identify this cannon and foundry year.
Read the inscription on the top of the cannon barrel towards the rear of the cannon.
- What is inscribed on the top of the cannon barrel?
Locate the Historical Plaque: “Drake’s Brigade”.
- What position of the ridge did the artillery occupy?
Hike toward your right following the trail down the hill from French’s battery. Locate the Historical Tablet: “Brown’s Brigade”, at the bottom of the hill.
- Which Infantry Unit aided Colonel Forrest in a simultaneous assault on Federal Ransom’s Regiment?
Continue hiking to your right crossing a creek on a foot bridge, continue following the trail up the hill to Maney’s Battery. Once at Maney’s Battery locate a Historical Tablet: “Maney’s Battery”.
- How many cannon pieces were in Maney’s Battery?
Locate the Historical Tablet: “Heiman’s Brigade”.
- How many yards away did Maney’s Battery fire canister and grape shot rounds at Federal Morrison’s Force?
Locate the Historical Tablet: “Morrison’s Brigade”.
- What were the obstacles that Morrison’s Brigade faced while trying to approach the Confederate entrenchments?
Continue Hiking to your right, down the hill. At the bottom of the hill on your right locate the Historical tablet: “Forrest’s Cavalry”.
- Which Federal Battery assisted in breaking up the Confederate Calvary charge led by Major D.C. Kelly?
Safely cross Sandy Road to your left and follow the trail. You will come to a creek- hike across the foot bridge and continue following the trail up to Graves Battery. Once at Grave’s Battery locate the Historical Tablet: “Graves Battery”.
- What was the name of the Federal Battery that was “silenced On February 13th by Graves Battery along with Porters Battery?
Locate the cannon to your right.
- Using your Cannon identification Guide, identify the cannon, foundry year on the trunnion.
Continue hiking to your right until you reach Donelson Pkwy/Hwy 79, turn left, hiking single file on the left shoulder of the road. Continue hiking for approximately 1/10 (one-tenth) of a mile. Look for the main entrance across the road to the Fort Donelson National Military Park. Safely cross Donelson Pkwy/Hwy79 and follow the park road until you locate a cannon on your left. Locate the small Historical marker: “6 Pounder Gun”.
- What was the normal range for this cannon, Identify this cannon and manufacturer.
Across the park paved driveway, in front of the Visitor’s center locate a bronze cannon tube on the ground.
- Identify this cannon, also what is unusual regarding this cannon?
Locate the cannon next to the bronze cannon. Notice the breeching ring or ringknob which indicates that this was a Navy gun. Rope was placed through the breeching ring to aid in maneuvering the cannon on a ship as well as securing it.
- Identify the cannon and foundry year.
Hike inside to the Visitor’s Center and locate the cannon.
- Identify the cannon and the city of manufacture.
Exit the Visitors Center and turn right, continue hiking until you reach the Tennessee United Daughters of the Confederacy monument on your left. Walk up the stairs and locate the cannon behind the monument.
- Identify the cannon and foundry year.
Continue hiking taking the left road from the main park drive. Locate the cannon past the Historical Plaque “Union Camp”.
- Identify the cannon, manufacturer, foundry year and type of bore.
Continue hiking and locate the cannon past the historical Tablet: “Lauman’s Brigade.”
- Identify the cannon, manufacturer and foundry year.
Continue hiking to your right and locate the Historical Tablet: Jackson’s Virginia Battery.
- How many cannon pieces were in this battery?
Turnaround and hike back out the way you entered to the main park drive. Turn left when you reach the main park drive. Continue hiking until you reach a small Historical Marker on your left: “Buckner’s Defense”.
- Who did Buckner pay tribute to for its role in checking the Yankee advance?
Continue hiking up the slope to your left and locate the Historical Tablet: Buckner’s Division.
- Which two artillery batteries supported Buckner’s Division during the Federal attack on February 15, 1862?
Hike back to the main park drive and turn left, hike until you enter the stone entrance into Fort Donelson. Locate the Historical Tablet on your right: “Fort Donelson”.
- What was the artillery armament on the main part of this side of the fort?
Locate the cannon to your left across the road. This is a Confederate Siege cannon tentatively identified as manufactured by Quinby and Robinson of Memphis TN.
- Identify the cannon.
Continue hiking to your right and locate the next cannon.
- Identify the cannon, manufacturer and measure the length of the cannon tube.
Continue hiking to your right and locate the Historical Plaque: “Stankiewicz’s Battery”.
- What type of guns did Captain Stankiewicz have in his battery?
Continue hiking to your right and turn left at the 1st paved drive. On your right hike to the small Historical Marker: Upper River Battery. Hike down the path on your right to the Upper River Battery. Locate the Historical Tablet “The Upper Water Battery.”
- What type of guns were in this battery?
Continue hiking back out the way you entered and hike to the observation deck above the Lower River Battery. On your right locate the Historical Plaque: “Foote’s Gunboat Flotilla”. In the drawing of the Timberclad Gunboat:
- How many cannon were located on the bow, stern, port and starboard?
Exit the observation deck and locate the Historical Tablet “The River Batteries”.
- How many and what type of guns were positioned in the Lower River Battery?
Hike down to the Lower River Battery and locate the first cannon on the right end.
- Identify the cannon, manufacturer and foundry year.
Locate the next cannon to your left. It is believed that this particular cannon served on the USS Congress.
- Identify the cannon and foundry year.
Continue hiking to your left towards the end of the Lower Battery. Locate the cannon on the end. This is a 10 inch rifled cannon from the Tredegar Iron Works in Richmond Virginia.
- What is another name for this type of cannon?
Continue hiking past the cannon on the end and turn right following a trail which goes in front of the Lower River Battery. Locate the small Historical Marker: “U.S. Gunboat St. Louis”.
- How many shots did the St. Louis receive?
Continue hiking to your right and locate the small Historical Marker: “U.S. Gunboat Louisville”.
- Which Confederate cannon fired a solid shot at the Louisville which entered the bow porthole?
Continue hiking to your right and locate the Historical Tablet: “Naval Forces Western Division”.
- On February 14, 1862 how many Federal Armored Boats were disabled by the actions of the Confederate River Batteries?
Continue hiking to your right and locate a small Historical Marker: “U.S. Gunboat Pittsburgh”.
- What actions did the sailors on the Pittsburgh take to keep the gunboat afloat?
Continue hiking to your right and locate the small Historical Marker: “U.S. Gunboat Carondelet”
- What would the Carondelet starboard bow gunner, John Hall, callout when he saw shots coming from the Columbiad gun?
Hike back out the way you came all the way to the Upper River Battery Trail entrance. Continue hiking past the trail to the top of the paved road. Turn left and follow the paved road to the restrooms on your left which has potable water if you need to replenish your water supply. Continue following the trail past the restrooms and down the hill. Follow the trail to the left entering the woods.
When you reach an intersection of a gravel Service Road there will be a sign post on your left with hiking stick figures and a Squirrel tan wildlife plaque, turn left and hike a short distance down the road until you locate the trail on your right. Locate the tan wildlife marker “Herons”
- (A) How many Herons types are listed on the plaque?
Turn right and as you are hiking locate the tan wildlife plaque on your left “Long tailed Weasel”
- (B) What is distinctive about their tail?
Continue hiking approximately 75 yards and locate a tan wildlife plaque on your right “Ground Hog”
- (C) What is the Ground Hogs scientific name?
Continue hiking until you reach the Trail Intersection Sign indicating the Spur Trail and National Cemetery. Turn left and hike approximately 290 yards.
You will come to a foot bridge, cross the bridge and continue following the trail for approximately 375 yards. You will reach a gravel Service Road, turn right hiking past the campgrounds on your left. At the top of the hill locate the Historical Plaque: Freeman’s Camp in front of the National Cemetery.
- In which department of the Federal government did the Federal army employ the recently freed slaves?
Turn left on Cemetery Road and hike back to the rear of the cemetery where your vehicles are located.
Congratulations! You have just completed the Fort Donelson Cannon Trail.
Each participant is eligible to receive the Fort Donelson Cannon Trail Award Clasp that goes on your Fort Donelson Memorial Trail Medal Ribbon.
Please see the order form on the Fort Donelson Trails website.
Make certain that you turn in your completed Credential Card with your award order form.
Six weeks after the Battle of Fort Donelson another battle occurred on the Tennessee River at a place known as Shiloh in April of 1862.
Please visit www.shilohmilitarytrails.org for more information on that Trail Medal program.