Stop 12. Fort Donelson and the African American Experience

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.