Within Tennessee’s borders, brother truly fought against brother, and more Civil War battles were waged than in any other state, save Virginia. Today, we can declare victory on land at two of the most significant battlefields in this incredibly significant state.
On February 16, 1862, at Fort Donelson, Ulysses S. Grant demanded (and received) the “unconditional surrender” of a Confederate army of more than 12,000 men. The North erupted in celebration, with newspapers describing scenes of “indescribable excitement” and “intense delight.” It was the first of three occasions on which Grant would capture an entire army. It was also the beginning of a meteoric rise that would take him to Vicksburg, Appomattox and, ultimately, the White House.
Only one Southern unit escaped Grant at Fort Donelson: the cavalry brigade of Nathan Bedford Forrest, who would go on to become a constant thorn in the side of Union forces in the Western Theater. Among his many victories was the Battle of Parker’s Cross Roads, fought on December 31, 1862. Forrest, finding himself outnumbered and threatened in front and rear, ordered his men to “charge ‘em both ways.” Forrest’s daring strategy paid off, saving his force from annihilation and adding to his reputation as one of the most audacious officers of the war.
The events at Fort Donelson and Parker’s Cross Roads are crucial to a full understanding of the Civil War in the Western Theater. Now, thanks to our steadfast supporters, future generations will have the opportunity not only the learn these stories, but to experience these hallowed grounds firsthand.