NPS Fort Donelson National Battlefield
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  • Stop 11: Fort Donelson National Cemetery

     In 1863, after the Battle of Dover, the Union garrison rebuilt its fortifications. Diary accounts by soldiers of the 83rd Illinois Regiment, stationed here after the Battle of Fort Donelson, indicate how demanding soldiering could be. Besides working on the new fortifications, the garrison protected to Union supply line. Soldiers often commented on the constant threat of attacks by guerilla parties. Sgt. Maj. Thomas J. Baugh wrote in  1863 that the "rebels [had] been trying to blockade the river" again. Pvt. Mitchel Thompson, who was often detailed to repair telegraph lines, described the area as being filled with "rebel bands of thieves and robbers." Many enslaved workers from nearby plantations came into the Union lines for shelter, food, and protection after the 1862 victory. How to deal with  these refugees, still considered property by the slave owners and individual state laws, presented a problem for both the Union army and the Lincoln administration. In 1862 Grant chose to protect the slaves and put them to work for the army. Eventually freedmen camps were set up across Tennessee, and an estimated 300 slaves wintered at Fort Donelson in 1864. The army employed men as laborers and teamsters. Women commonly served as cooks and laundresses. In 1863 the Union army also began recruiting free blacks from Tennessee and Kentucky. Soon after the war, this site was selected for the Fort Donelson National Cemetery, and the remains of 670 Union soldiers were reinterred here. These soldiers had been buried on the battlefield, in local cemeteries, in hospital cemeteries, and in nearby towns. The large number of unknown soldiers-512-can be attributed to haste in cleaning up the battlefield and to the fact that Civil War soldiers did not carry government-issued identification. Today the national cemetery contains both Civil War Veterans and Veterans who have served the United States since that time. Many spouses and dependent children are also buried here.

    To assist in locating men, women, and children who rest in Fort Donelson National Cemetery, you may visit this website, operated by the Veterans' Administration. (This may cause you to leave this application. You will have to select "Ft. Donelson" on the menu.)