Fort Donelson National Battlefield, TN….

After we left Diamond Caves RV Park, we headed west.  Our next destination was St. Louis, MO, but on the way we stopped at Hopkinsville, KY, dropped the RV at Walmart, hopped in the van and headed nearly an hour south to visit the Fort Donelson National Battlefield in Tennessee.
When we arrived, we wished that we had gotten going earlier in the morning (thus arriving at the fort earlier).  We arrived just in time to hear the last 2 songs from a group performing Civil War era music in commemoration of Shiloh’s 150th anniversary.  The music was beautiful, especially the bagpipes.  We so wished that we had arrived about an hour earlier to enjoy the whole show.

After the show was over, we were cornered by several rangers.  We have found that most park rangers LOVE their jobs and they love their parks.  When they find kids/families that are truly interested in the park and it’s history, they love to discuss the park we are at and all the different parks, especially the ones that both we have been to and they have worked at.
Ranger Doug stayed and talked with us for quite awhile, and Ranger Tripp talked with the kids about park rules, tickets that she has to give out in the different parks, and being an enforcement ranger.  The boys thought her 4 stacked mags and body armor were pretty cool, and she gave them special badges that are exact replicas of her Ranger badge except that they say ‘Jr. Ranger’ instead of ‘Park Ranger’, and they are smaller; the kids have a fetish for metal badges, and they were pretty excited (and thankful) – Ranger Tripp had them made up special, and Fort Donelson is the only park that has them (so far 😉

There was a small museum that told the story of Fort Donelson…

and the surrounding area…

Then we headed out for a drive around the park…

Our favorite place was the point on the river where the cannons were set up to fire on incoming ships.

The kids worked on there booklets in the sunshine, on the grass…

It was such a beautiful area!   The kids turned in their Jr. Ranger badges, and since this was their 3rd Civil War battlefield, they earned a special Junior Civil War Historian patch besides the cool metal Jr. Ranger badge they earned for the park program.

For the next couple of years, if your Jr. Rangers do the ranger program at 3 participating  Civil War parks, they can earn a special sesquicentennial (150th anniversary) badge.  For the southeast region, the participating parks are:
Andersonville National Historic Site
Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park
Fort Donelson National Battlefield
Fort Pulaski National Monument
Fort Sumter National Monument (includes Fort Moultrie)
Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park
Shiloh National Military Park
Stones River National Battlefield
Vicksburg National Military Park
We did Shiloh and Stones River, and then Fort Donelson was our 3rd C.W. park!  If you have a Jr. Ranger that can’t make it to 3, you can do 2 parks and an online activity and mail in the activity and a special card that you get from the parks.  Be sure to get the card at the first park you do the program at, and have a ranger at each park sign the card when you turn in your J.R. booklets.
I don’t know if there is a program for the northeast region, but I’m sure going to find out 😉
Fort Donelson was such a beautiful park!  The rangers were all so friendly and helpful, there was a great movie about the battle that happened here, and, if you have time, there is a great area to visit, right by the park, Land Between the Lakes recreation area (we didn’t have time).
After we were done at the park (they closed…) we drove back to Hopkinsville and spent the night in the Walmart parking lot.  Next, a day or two in St. Louis biding our time until we can pick up Greg from Basic Training!

Lilla Rose

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