Fort Donelson National Battlefield
Tour Stop 4 (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 battery and the lower river battery were armed with heavy seacoast artillery to defend 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 were successful 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 one of those wounded in the exchange, later told a newspaper reporter that he had taken part in numerous engagements with forts and ships, "but never was under so severe a fire before." The roar of this land-naval battle was heard 35 miles away.


(3-95) Lower Battery. Northwest view toward the approach of the Union gunboat flotilla
Panorama: View from Lower Battery
Panorama c
ourtesy of Don Worth, Webmaster 48th OVVI
(10-08) Control the Rivers and Railroads Courtesy of Richard Edling, Pa


(5-05) Another view of the lower battery
Additional views of the lower battery:
1. May 2005: Courtesy of Brian Risher, MS

2. 2009: Courtesy of Tom Johnston, IL
Courtesy of Brian Risher, MS
(10-08) Foote's Gunboat Flotilla Courtesy of Richard Edling, Pa

(10-08) The River Batteries Courtesy of Richard Edling, Pa

Gunboats attack the water batteries at Fort Donelson  

(2007) Reconstructed Lower Battery magazine
Courtesy of Chris Shelton, Indianapolis, IN

(10-08) Enlarge Lower Batteries
Courtesy of Richard Edling
  (10-08) Enlarge Lower Batteries
Courtesy of Richard Edling
(10-08) Enlarge Lower Batteries
Courtesy of Richard Edling

(10-08) Enlarge Some of the first batteries built to defend the river. Located behind the lower batteries

Interpretive Marker: The four mounds in this section of the water batteries are some of the first structures built to defend the river. The Confederates mounted three 32-pounder cannon here but moved them before the gunboat attack. From this position they could not be effective against ironclads
Courtesy of Richard Edling

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