In February 1862, this beautiful spot overlooking the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers was the site of a little known, but pivotal battle in the Civil War. It was the 1st major Northern victory, opening the way to the South leading to Nashville and Brig. General U.S. Grant's rise to promenience. When Union gunboats and ironclads secured the defeat of Fort Henry, Grant marched his troops toward Donelson with the gunboats and ironclads proceeding upriver. Unlike the battle at Fort Henry, the Confederate river batteries inflicted terrible damage on the Union fleet and the fleet retreated. Meanwhile Grant continued marching toward Donelson receiving reinforcements along the way and encircled the Confederate enclave. A fierce battle ensued as the Confederates tried to clear a route out, almost succeeding. And, as happens so often in battle, the tide of battle turned on a crucial mistake. The leading Confederate generals ordered their troops to return to their entrenchments! Grant moved quickly and closed up the escape route. Then, Confederate Generals Floyd and Pillow turned over command of the Fort to Brig. General Simon Bolivar Buckner and fled with 2000 troops. It was up to Buckner to surrender to Grant. Now, Grant and Buckner had been friends and classmates at West Point, graduating the same year. Grant, who was very poor, had always been treated generously by his well-to-do friend Buckner. So, the sting of the loss must have been doubly so when he heard his "friend's" terms of surrender! "No terms except an unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted." Buckner had no choice but to comply. Grant did try to be gracious at the surrender and allowed Buckner to keep his sword and sidearm and offering an "open purse" should Buckner need anything. The "unchivalrous" and "ungenerous" terms still stung and it was not until shortly before Grant's death that these two friends reconciled.
It is a beautiful place - from the batteries overlooking the rivers to the Dover Hotel where the surrender took place! And it was especially beautiful on our visit! Daffodils abloom everywhere; pear trees looked snowy in their white flowers; trees budding and ready to burst into leaf. Best yet, an eagle's aerie in the trees just inside the fort. Did you know eagles live 30-40 years and return to the same nest year after year. This pair of eagles have been nesting in this tree for about 6 years. The area is restricted and you cannot approach the tree, but, if you look really close, you can see Mama or Papa Eagle's head peeking over the nest. They take turns guarding the eaglets and bringing fish from the river.