Exchanging Iron Valentines

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February 14, 1862, Flag Officer Andrew Hull Foote’s Union gunboat flotilla rounded the bend and steamed up the Cumberland to exchange iron valentines with water batteries. Ft. Donelson National Battlefield

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Before building Fort Donelson, Confederates built two river batteries along the Cumberland River to defend the water approach to the major supply centers of Clarksville and Nashville. One, the Upper River Battery, is located several hundred feet to your right. The other, reconstructed here, was known as the Lower River Battery. Both were armed with heavy seacoast artillery, manned by inexperienced gunners. This battery contained eight 32-pounder cannon and, on the extreme left, one 10-inch Columbiad.

On February 14, 1862, Flag Officer Andrew Hull Foote’s Union gunboat flotilla rounded the bend in the distance and steamed up the Cumberland to exchange iron valentines with the water batteries. Using the tactics that proved successful at Fort Henry a week earlier, Foote maneuvered his gunboats very close, intending to shell the batteries into submission. The cumbersome vessels, however, moved so slowly that they became excellent targets for the untested Confederate artillerymen and were forced to withdraw.

We awaited with deep anxiety the result of the attack and severe bombardment of the river batteries by our gunboats. Gloom ensued upon the news reaching us of their failure and withdrawal from the contest.

February 14th 1862    

Fort Donelson National Battlefield Site

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