Sunday, May 5, 2013

Fort Donelson: Life at Fort Donelson

Soldiers and slaves built over 400 log huts as winter quarters for the soldiers garrisoning and working on the fort.  In addition to government rations of flour, fresh and cured meat, sugar, and coffee, every boat brought boxes from home filled with all kinds of things a farm or store could provide.  Off-duty soldiers from the local area hunted and fished in the same locations they had frequented just months before as civilians.  Some time after the surrender, Federals burned the cabins because of a measles outbreak.

SOURCE:  Tour Stop 3, 2010 National Park Service Brochure for Fort Donelson National Battlefield.

We lived luxuriously in comfortable tents and log huts,” one Fort Donelson soldier wrote in the more tranquil days before cold weather set in and the armies clashed.  Besides rations of flour, fresh and cured meats, sugar, and coffee, every boat brought boxes from home filled with things a farm or store could provide, including uniforms and clothing.  The reconstructed log hut represents the approximately 500 huts built for the fort’s garrison by soldiers and slave laborers as living quarters, some 100 of them inside the 15-acre fort.  When winter came, these crude huts with their canvas roofs made from tents and their fireplaces made from stone, stick and mud, warded off the wind, rain and snow, and kept many Confederates from freezing to death.  Most of the thousands of soldiers who arrived shortly before the battle were housed in tents or slept beneath a blanket on the ground, and suffered terribly in the bitter February cold.

No one knows exactly what the cabins at Fort Donelson looked like, but they probably didn’t differ much from those pictured here, built by confederate soldiers at Centreville, Virginia in the winter of 1861-61.

The only known contemporary illustration of the Confederate encampment within Fort Donelson appeared in the March 17 [sic], 1862, issue of Harper’s Weekly.  The view is from the area occupied today by the National Cemetery.

Fort Donelson’s de-fenders wore a wide variety of clothing, as this photograph of captured Fort Donelson soldiers shows.  Few had uniforms, most wore citizens’ clothes.  Many of the officers had the regular gray uniform, while others wore U. S. Army blue.

SOURCE:  New Wayside Exhibit at tour stop 3, Fort Donelson National Battlefield (pictured at left).

Quarters For The Troops

On the hillside before you, inside the fort walls, stood some 100 log huts, part of 400 built in the area to house the confederate garrison.  The activity of hundreds of men probably created acres of mud during winter snows and spring rains.  After the battle Union forces occupied the fort.  They later burned the cabins because of a measles epidemic and abandoned this position in favor of a new fort built where the National Cemetery is today.

SOURCE:  NPS Historical Marker Placed in front of the log hut, Fort Donelson National Battlefield (pictured above and to the right.  This marker has since been removed and replaced with the new wayside exhibit pictured above.)

  • Originally posted: April 1, 2011,12:52 AM.
  • Revised: May 5, 2013, 6:33 PM

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