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HAUNTED BATTLEFIELDS GHOST STORIES AND GHOST PHOTOS

Fort Donelson Battlefield Ghost

 

February 14th, 1862 dawned cold and quiet. Early in the afternoon Foote’s Union gunboats arrived at Fort Donelson and began exchanging “iron valentines” with the Confederate heavy artillery. The gunboats suffered such damage that the decks became slippery with blood. The artillery bombardment from the Cumberland River bluff crippled the ironclads forcing them to retreat. Some say they celebrate to this day, as the cheering of the dead soldiers and their gun shots can still be heard on the battlefield.

Fort Donelson National Battlefield preserves Fort Donelson and Fort Heiman, two sites of the American Civil War Forts Henry and Donelson Campaign, in which Union General Ulysses S. Grant and Admiral Andrew Hull Foote captured three forts, opened two rivers, and received national recognition for victories in February 1862, the first major Union victories of the war. The main unit of the park, in Dover, Tennessee, commemorates the Battle of Fort Donelson.

Confederate soldiers and slaves built this 15-acre earthen fort over a period of seven months, using axes and shovels to make a wall of logs and earth 10 feet high. While a more permanent fort of brick or stone would have been more desirable, earthen walls were much quicker to build. Properly constructed earthworks can provide better protection than brick and stone. The fort's purpose was to protect the Cumberland River batteries from land attack. At the time of the battle, all trees within 200 yards of the fort were felled, clearing fields of fire and observation. The branches of these trees were sharpened and laid around the outside of the fort to form an obstacle called an abatis.

Fort Donelson was named for Tennessee brigadier Daniel S. Donelson, a West Pointer and one-time state attorney general, who participated in the fort's survey.

Unconditional surrender of Fort Donelson created jubilation throughout the North and silence in Dixie. It was the North’s first major victory of the Civil War, opening the way into the very heart of the Confederacy.

"No terms except an unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted."

Ulysses S. Grant, February 16, 1862

The morning of February 14 dawned cold and quiet. Early in the afternoon a furious roar broke the stillness, and the earth began to shake. Andrew H. Foote's Union gunboat fleet, consisting of the ironclads St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Louisville and Corondolet, and the timberclads Conestoga and Tyler, had arrived from Fort Henry via the Tennessee and Ohio Rivers and were exchanging "iron valentines" with the eleven big guns in the Southern water batteries. During this one and one-half hour duel the Confederates wounded Foote and inflicted such extensive damage upon the gunboats that they were forced to retreat. The hills and hollows echoed with cheers from the southern soldiers.

The Confederate generals—John Floyd, Gideon Pillow, Simon Buckner and Bushrod Johnson—also rejoiced; but sober reflection revealed another danger. Grant was receiving reinforcements daily and had extended his right flank almost to Lick Creek to complete the encirclement of the Southerners. If the Confederates did not move quickly, they would be starved into submission. Accordingly, they massed their troops against the Union right, hoping to clear a route to Nashville and safety. The battle on February 15 raged all morning, the Union Army grudgingly retreating step by step. Just as it seemed the way was clear, the Southern troops were ordered to return to their entrenchments—a result of confusion and indecision among the Confederate commanders. Grant immediately launched a vigorous counterattack, retaking most of the lost ground and gaining new positions as well. The way of escape was closed once more.

Floyd and Pillow turned over command of Fort Donelson to Buckner and slipped away to Nashville with about 2,000 men. Others followed cavalryman Col. Nathan Bedford Forrest across swollen Lick Creek. That morning, February 16, Buckner asked Grant for terms. Grant's answer was short and direct: "No terms except an unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted." Buckner surrendered.

Fort Donelson Ghost Photo sent to us from Wes Clements.

Soon after the surrender, civilians and relief agencies rushed to assist the Union Army. The U.S. Sanitary Commission was one of the first to provide food, medical supplies, and hospital ships to transport the wounded. Many civilians came in search of loved ones or to offer support. Although not officially recognized as nurses, women such as Mary Bickerdyke cared for and comforted sick and wounded soldiers.

With the capture of Fort Donelson and its sister fort, Henry, the North had not only won its first great victory, it had also gained a new hero—"Unconditional Surrender" Grant, who was promoted to major general. Subsequent victories at Shiloh, Vicksburg, and Chattanooga would lead to his appointment as lieutenant general and commander of all Union Armies. Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox would send Grant to the White House.

After the fall of Fort Donelson, the South was forced to give up southern Kentucky and much of Middle and West Tennessee. The Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers, and railroads in the area, became vital Federal supply lines. Nashville was developed into a huge supply depot for the Union army in the west. The heartland of the Confederacy was opened, and the Federals would press on until the "Union" became a fact once more.





FORT DONELSON NATIONAL CEMETERY

In July 1862, Congress passed legislation giving the President of the United States the authority to purchase land for the establishment of cemeteries “for soldiers who shall die in the service of their country”.

The legislation effectively began the national cemetery system. In 1863, the Union Army abandoned the Confederate works and constructed a new fortification on the ground that became the cemetery site. A freedmen's community developed around the new Union fort. Four years later, this same site was selected for the establishment of the Fort Donelson National Cemetery and 670 Union soldiers were reinterred here. These soldiers (which included 512 unknowns) had been buried on the battlefield, in local cemeteries, in hospital cemeteries, and in nearby towns. These totals include five known and nine unknown soldiers from the United States Colored Troops. The high percentage of unknown soldiers can be attributed to the haste in cleaning up the battlefield and the fact that civil war soldiers did not carry government-issued identification.

In 1867, Fort Donelson Cemetery was established as the final resting for Union soldiers and sailors initially buried in the Fort Donelson area.

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.

Ghost of the Battlefield

Confederate soldiers were hastily buried on the battlefield after the surrender. The exact location of their graves is unknown. This monument commemorates the Southern soldiers who fought and died at Fort Donelson. The United Daughters of the Confederacy erected the monument in 1933.

Many say they see the dead soldiers walking the grounds at all times of the day. Often it is said many seemed dazed and lost. The smell of ghostly gun powder fills the air at times and the sound of canons eing fired is also reported by many visitors. The first major victory for the Union Army in the Civil War occurred here in February of 1862 under the leadership of Ulysses S. Grant. Fort Donelson (Dover) National Cemetery (1,842 interments; 504 unidentified) adjoins the park.

It has been reported by various people who have had to enter the Cemetery area numerous screams and moans can be heard high energy can be felt and extreme chills even in the middle of summerthroughout the Battlfield itself.

The Surrender House in Dover, Tennessee which is part of Fort Donelson National Battlefield Park is haunted.

Fort Donelson National Battlefield - Cemetery - haunted by the ghost of Civil War infantryman Reuben Hammond, who is buried there. Reuben believes his job is to stand watch and make sure his dead comrades are safe. He's also very lonely and sad because no one talks to him. Gun shots fired throughout the night are said to heard often.



Operating Hours & Seasons

Fort Donelson visitor center is opened daily 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; closed December 25. 552 acres.

Begin your visit at the visitor center. The visitor center, located on Highway 79, is open daily, 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. The information desk is operational all day and the person manning it can provide you with a list of scheduled park events and provide you with a copy of the official Fort Donelson Park and Guide. The visitor center contains a gift shop/book store, staffed by Eastern National, a museum displaying Civil War artifacts and an exhibit on the Underground Railroad. The park’s orientation film Fort Donelson: Gateway to the Confederate Heartland engages visitors with a storyline that draws on the lifelong friendship between Union General Ulysses S. Grant and Confederate General Simon B. Buckner. Emphasis is still placed on the 1862 battles at Forts Henry and Donelson and its military significance. Park visitors also learn a couple of new facts: Confederates actually built three earthen forts, one named Fort Heiman, which was built just across the Tennessee River in Calloway County, Kentucky, and that these forts were eventually used as safe havens by freedom-seeking slaves. All visitor center facilities are accessible.

Park Tour

The tour at Fort Donelson National Battlefield is self-guided. A park brochure explains the six-mile, self-guided tour. Park Rangers are available for questions.

Hiking

The park has 5.7 miles of hiking trails for nature lovers to enjoy. Visitors can pick up a trail guide at the visitor center.


ENTRANCE FEES: NONE

ACTIVITY FEES: NONE


ALSO SEE: THE TOP TEN MOST HAUNTED BATTLEFIELD LIST

Though the battles have long ago ended and the sound of cannons and muskets is but a distant memory, there are some souls who are still waiting for the call to “Retreat” – and for them, it may never come!

Make plans to visit a Haunted Battlefield today!

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