NPS Fort Donelson National Battlefield
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  • Stop 4: The Confederate River Batteries

    The rivers were vital arteries that flowed directly through the Confederate heartland. Transportation and supply routes depended heavily on these waterways. Both the upper and lower river batteries were armed with heavy seacoast artillery to defend the Cumberland River, the water approach to major supply bases in Clarksville and Nashville, Tenn. It was here that untested Confederate gunners defeated Flag Officer Andrew Foote's flotilla of ironclad and timberclad gunboats. Using the same tactics that succeeded at Fort Henry, Foote brought his gunboats very close, hoping to shell the batteries into submission. Instead the slow-moving vessels became excellent targets for the Confederate guns, which seriously damaged the gunboats and wounded many sailors. Foote, who was among the wounded, later told a newspaper reporter that he had taken part in numerous engagements with forts and ships "but never was under severe a fire before." The roar of this land-naval battle was heard 35 miles away.