Fort Donelson Memorial Trail Instructions

Fort Donelson Memorial Trail

Download a printable version of the: Fort Donelson Memorial 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 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.

Hike toward the east along the back wall of the cemetery toward the back of the residential houses. When you reach the end of the cemetery wall turn to your left and follow the Donelson Trail. At approximately three tenths of a mile you will reach a park bench, standing behind the bench locate the earthwork entrenchment on your left.

1.      Using a compass, in which direction does the trench run?

Continue following the trail when you reach the opening from the woods you will be in the Park Campground. Locate the body of water to your right.

2.      Using a compass, in which direction is the body of water?

Continue following the trail for about 400 yards at which time you will reach a bridge, cross the bridge and at the end of the bridge continue following the trail for approximately 290 yards. You will reach a trail intersection, turn to the right hiking NORTH on the Donelson trail. You have travelled approximately 1.9 miles from where you started at the National Cemetery Approximately 70 yards from the trail intersection/sign locate a small plaque with information regarding a native animal of this area.

3.      What is the scientific name of this animal?

Follow the trail for approximately 345 yards. Locate a small tan marker “Striped Skunk”. From that marker turn left at a bearing of 270 degrees WEST. Part of the trail will widen in the form of a “logging road” for a short distance going up the hill. At approximately 210 yards from the Striped Skunk marker look for the hiking stick figure markers on a post on the right side of the road trail.

4.      What is the name of the animal on the marker?

Turn right approximately 40 degrees NORTH. Follow the Donelson Trail towards the fort.

When the trail enters the earthworks of the fort from the woods follow the trail for approximately 35 yards. From the trail, face the Eagle Nesting sign, take a bearing of 260 degrees WEST.

5.      What type of tree is the nest located in?

Continue following the trail on your right, you will hike past the rest rooms which also has potable water if you need to replenish your supply, continue hiking following the paved road. Go past the picnic area, follow the trail on your right past the wood guard rails. Follow the trail to the Upper Water Battery. You will see three cannons, go to the middle cannon and read the Historical Marker

6.      What did Sergeant Patrick Cook and his crew use to un-jam the cannon ball that was lodged in the Columbiad cannon?

Locate the Historical Plaque “With Admirable Precision”

7.      Which Artillery unit manned the Upper Water Battery and what was the name of their Commander?

Hike up the trail leading to the paved road and the Lower Water Battery. Locate the Historical Marker leading to the Upper Water Battery.

8.      What does the term upper and lower refer to regarding a battery?

Hike to the three Historical Plaques located on the observation deck.

9.      What is the difference between a Timberclad and an Ironclad?

10.  What are the names of the three Union Timberclads that were engaged in battle?

11.  Why did both forces refer to shooting cannon ball and shell at opposing sides as “Exchanging Iron Valentines”?

12.  How many Confederate shells hit the Union Flagship “St. Louis”?

Locate the Historical Tablet “CSA The River Batteries”

13.  What types of cannon were positioned in the Lower Water Battery?

14.  On February 13, 1862 the battery engaged in a gun duel with a Federal gunboat. What was the name of that Federal Gunboat?

Take the stairs down to the Lower River Battery, locate the Historical Marker regarding the reconstructed Powder Magazine.

15.  How many rounds did the magazine hold for the guns of the Lower Water Battery?

Locate the Historical Marker. “See me take a chimney”

16.  What was the name of that Confederate Artilleryman that made that statement?

17.  What was the name of the Federal gunboat that had its’ chimney and flag shot off?

Locate the Historical Marker “Killed by a loose bolt.”

18.  What was the rank and name of the Confederate Commander that was killed?

Hike to your left to the Columbiad cannon at the end of the fortification and read the Historical Marker.

19.  The information on the marker is a description of the damage inflicted upon the Carondelet by the crew of the Columbiad. What is the rank and name of the officer that the quote is taken from?

Hike out of the Lower Water Battery, back to the paved road. Follow the paved road up the hill to the right toward the log cabin. Locate the Historical Plaque “Life at Fort Donelson”

20.  How many huts were built and how many were actually inside the walls of the Fort?

21.  How many acres were inside the walls of the fort?

Hike along the road and locate on the right side a cannon, the carriage and a Historical Plaque.

22.  Who was the Commander of this Battery and how many guns did he have in his Battery?

Continue on the paved road to the two stone pillars which designate the entrance to Fort Donelson. Locate the Historical Plaque and Tablet “Fort Donelson”.

23.  How many months did it take to build Ft. Donelson?

24.  How tall were the walls of the fort and what were was used for obstacles (called abatis) around the fort?

25.  Who was the fort named after?

26.  Which Regiments were garrisoned at Fort Donelson?

Hike back the way you came going back to the location of the Columbiad Cannon of the Lower Water Battery. Locate the Donelson Trail entrance on the left entering the woods and follow it. Twenty feet from the entrance the trail will fork. Take the left fork of the trail.

27.  As you follow the trail list the names of the ten wildlife animals and plants listed on the small tan markers.

Continue following the trail to a paved road “turnaround” area. Follow the paved road to your left. On the right locate the Historical Tablet “CSA, Brigadier General Simon B. Buckner’s Division”.

28.  Which battery occupied this position on the night of February 13, 1862 and took part in the attack against the Federal line?

Locate the Historical Tablet “USA, Brigadier General Charles F. Smith’s Division”

29.  Which regiment led the assault on the Confederate line?

Continue hiking down the paved road locate the Historical Plaque ‘Union Camp” at Battlefield Stop #6.

30.  Which Brigade was given the honor of being the first Union Troops to march into the captured fort?

31.  When the Federal forces marched from Ft Henry to Ft Donelson how many miles did they hike?

32.  What did some of the Federal soldiers leave behind at Ft. Henry?

Continue following the Donelson Trail to the Confederate Monument.

33.  Which organization donated and dedicated the Confederate Monument and what year was the monument dedicated? (locate the small marker)

34.  Finish this quote that is written on the front part of the monument-

“THERE IS NO HOLIER SPOT OF GROUND _________________________________.”

Continue following the Donelson Trail to the Visitor’s Center. At the Visitor center you will need to watch a short 19 minute film on Ft. Donelson. There are rest room and water fountain facilities available. After the movie you will need to tour the museum.

35.  (Right Side of room)How many stars were on the Confederate flag that flew over Ft. Donelson?

36.  (Left Side of room.)Who is Jake Donelson? What regiment and company was he in?

37.  How long was Jake Donelson and his ‘keeper” Sgt. Jerome McCanless held in a Federal prison camp?

38.  (Center of room)What is the maker name and place of manufacture of the cannon located in the museum?

Have your credential card “passport stamped” at the front desk. Locate the two Historical Tablets outside the front entrance of the Visitor’s center.

39.  What were the Federal and Confederate Casualties from the battles at Ft Donelson?

Hike across the park road in front of the Visitor’s Center and locate the Historical Tablet “Porter’s Battery”.

40.  How many guns were in Porter’s Battery and what was the name of their Commander?

Hike to the entrance to the Ft Donelson National Military Park and Highway 79/Donelson Parkway. Turn to your left, hiking on the shoulder of the highway for approximately 1/10 (one-tenth of a mile. Look for the Ft. Donelson National Military Park “Graves Battery” entrance on the right side across the highway. Safely cross the highway to the entrance and follow the park road and locate the Historical Marker and Plaque “Graves Battery”.

41.  What state was Captain Rice Graves and his battery crew from and what were their instructions?

Facing the Historical Plaque follow the sidewalk to your left and locate the foot trail in the woods. Follow the foot path in which you will cross over a creek on a wooden foot bridge. You will come to a paved road (Sandy Rd), cross the road and locate a Historical Tablet “Colonel Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Calvary”

42.  Colonel Forrest ordered a charge against the Federal Line along Indian Creek Road. How many Squadrons charged and what was the name of their Officer?

Continue following the trail to Maney’s Battery. Locate the Historical Tablet Morrison’s Brigade.

43.  How many paces from this line of Confederate trenches did Morrison’s Brigade reach before they were caught in a severe crossfire of cannon and musket ball?

Locate the Historical Tablet of Heiman’s Brigade.

44.  What type of cannon ammunition did Maney’s Battery open up with on Morrison’s Brigade when they were 40 yards from the rifle pits?

Continue following the trail down the hill toward French’s battery. After you cross the creek on the footbridge locate the Historical Tablet “Brown’s Brigade”.

45.  Name the three Tennessee Infantry Regiments in Brown’s Brigade that with the reinforcement of the 14th Mississippi and Col. Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Calvary simultaneously attacked Ransom’s Regiment resulting in the Federal withdrawal.

Continue to follow the trail to French’s Battery. Locate the Historical Tablet.

46.  Which regiments did French’s battery support from February 12 through February 15, 1862?

Locate the Historical Plaque “Breakout February 15. 1862”

47.  By mid-morning a road had been cleared of Federal forces for the breakout plan. What city did this road lead to?

Continue hiking east along Cedar Road until you reach the intersection of Cedar Rd and Natcor Drive. Locate the Historical Tablet regarding William E. Baldwin’s Brigade.

REMINDER: All hiking at this point needs to be strictly single file while hiking near and beside the public roads.

48.  What city did Baldwin’s Brigade march from when they arrived in Dover on February 13, 1862?

Continue hiking east along Cedar Rd which turns into Natcor Drive once you pass the intersection. Locate the Historical Tablet “CSA, Colonel Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Calvary”

49.  Which Federal Commander’s Troops did Forrest’s Calvary attack on February 15, 1862?

Locate the Historical Plaque “Planning to escape”

50.  What was the name of the road that was going to be the escape route?

Locate the Texas Monument.

51.  On February 3, 1863 the Confederates attempted to regain control of this area in what is known as the Battle of Dover TN. What was the Texas unit that set up a roadblock that stopped the Federal reinforcements?

Locate the Historical Tablet “Colonel John C. Brown’s Brigade”

52.  Which units in Brown’s Brigade broke the Federal Line?

Continue hiking east on Natcor Drive toward Spring Street. Do not pet or feed any of the residential houses’ pet dogs that you may encounter hiking on Natcor Drive and make certain that the dogs do not follow your group to Spring Street.

When you reach a 20 MPH School Zone Speed Limit sign located on the right side of the Natcor Drive, you will need to follow a paved road to the left toward Spring Street. 20 feet before you reach Spring Street travel to the left at an angle through the corner of a yard to reach a safer and wider section of the road shoulder on Spring Street. You will need to turn left on the Spring Street road shoulder and travel North West until you reach Petty Street on your right. Safely cross Spring Street over to Petty Street. Read the Tennessee Historical Tablet on the corner of the road. Hike toward the Dover Hotel or “Surrender House” on Petty Street.

At the corner of Petty St. and Pillow Rd locate the Historical Plaque “Rice House”

53.  Who were the three Generals that met to discuss the surrender of the Confederate forces?

Locate the Dover Hotel Plaque in front of the hotel and locate the print out of the written communiques from General Buckner and General Grant.

54.  When General Buckner requested Terms of Surrender to General Grant what was General Grant’s required terms?

55.  What was General Buckner’s description of General Grant’s terms?

Enter the Dover Hotel and watch the short movie.

Locate the Historical Plaque outside, in front and toward the river of the Dover Hotel.

56.  How many Confederate prisoners were transported north to Federal prison camps and which prison camps were most of the Confederate Enlisted Soldiers taken to?

Hike west on Pillow Road and take a left on the sidewalk at Donelson Pkwy/ Hwy 79. Locate the Historical Plaque “Dover Under Fire” on the corner of Spring Street and Donelson Pkwy/Hwy 79 On February 3, 1863 almost a year after the Battle of Ft. Donelson Confederate Calvary forces attacked Union Colonel Harding’s garrison at Dover TN.

57.  How many Federal soldiers were in Colonel Harding’s garrison?

Safely cross Spring Street and continue hiking South on Donelson Pkwy/HWY 79 on the sidewalk.

At the intersection of Church Street and Donelson Pkwy/Hwy 79 turn right on Church Street and hike two blocks until the road turns to your left. Turn left on this road (road is Church St.) Locate the Dover City Cemetery at the First Christian Church on your right. In the cemetery locate the Confederate Mass Grave head stone. (Remember you are in a cemetery please, be respectful.)

58.  What Brigade were the fallen Confederates from and what was the date of the battle.

Travel back to Church Street turning right on the street. The road will come to a fork, stay to the right fork of the road and hike to Cemetery Road. Turn right on Cemetery Rd. Hike to the walkway entrance of the National Cemetery and locate the Historical Plaque “Hallowed Ground”. (Remember you are in a cemetery, please be respectful.) (There are restrooms and a water source located to your left traveling down the walkway.)

59.  How many Federal soldiers and sailors from the Civil War are buried here?

60.  When the cemetery was first built what was used as the walkway entrance gate posts? (Look for the photo from 1880)

Hike to the left and behind the Cemetery Lodge Office and locate the Cannon Mortuary Monument. There are 62 graves on the outer circle ring. These Federal Soldiers were in an infantry unit and they were killed in action during the “Breakout Battle” of February 15, 1862.

61.  What state were they from?

Travel to the left rear of the cemetery toward the back gate past the cannon monument, along the wide grass service pathway. As you travel toward the gate on the wide path locate on the left side grave marker #504, S.J Raymond, Minn. And grave marker #503, David Lightenwater Sgt, Ind.  You will notice there is a grave marker in between #504 and #503.

62.  What is unusual about the second line on the marker?

The reason the second line is written that way is because this is the grave of the amputated arms and legs.


The End of the Ft Donelson Memorial Trail

Congratulations you have finished the Ft. Donelson Memorial Trail and are eligible for the Ft. Donelson Memorial Trail Medal and embroidered patch.

Make certain that you turn in your completed Credential Cards to you group leader and that your leader submits them with the 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 for more information on the Trail Medal program.