Donelson on endangered list
Civil War battlefield in Dover at risk of being lost to history
By JIMMY SETTLE
Fort Donelson National Battlefield in nearby Dover is considered one of the nation's most endangered Civil War battlefields.
The annual report, "America's Most Endangered Battlefields," was released this week on Capitol Hill by the Civil War Preservation Trust. It identifies the most threatened Civil War sites in the United States and what can be done to rescue them.
"Our Civil War battlefields are vanishing at an alarming pace," said the group's president, James Lighthizer, during a news conference. "Once lost, these fragile links to America's past can never be replaced or replicated."
The 563-acre Fort Donelson National Battlefield is maintained by the National Park Service. It is the site of the first major Union victory of the Civil War, fought 142 years ago this month.
The fort is at risk primarily from encroachment by housing and from erosion of the earthen fortifications and outer defense lines.
As part of Fort Donelson's preservation efforts, plans are evolving on Capitol Hill and locally to convey the privately owned 250-acre site of Fort Heiman to National Park Service control, bolster public interpretation offerings at Fort Henry in the U.S. Forest Service Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area, and acquire additional historically significant Dover property near the fort.
Richard Hanks, superintendent of Fort Donelson National Battlefield, said Wednesday he hopes recent publicity brings about a major turning point for the park.
"The property in question is coming from willing and desirous sellers only, and I want to be clear about that. We see all of this as an opportunity to set aside more of the core battlefield properties for preservation, and with the history and attractions we have, an additional chance to increase the public's interest in it," Hanks said.
Local officials say these measures could also boost heritage tourism in northern Middle Tennessee and southern Kentucky.
Also making the 10 most-endangered list was the site of the Battle of Franklin, which, like, Fort Donelson, is in the mid-state area.
The "Most Endangered Battlefields" report is composed of two parts: the first section cites the 10 most endangered battlefields in the nation, with a brief description of their history and preservation status; the second lists 15 additional "at-risk" sites that round out the top 25.
Sites mentioned in the report range from the famous to the nearly forgotten. The battlefields were chosen based on geographic location, military significance, and the immediacy of threats.
"With so many battlefields under siege from sprawl, we could easily have selected a hundred," Lighthizer said. "These battlefields are the last tangible reminders of the valor of those who donned the blue and gray. They must be preserved for future generations of Americans."