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The mounds of earth you see before you are the remains of Fort Donelson, which originally covered 15 acres. Confederate soldiers and enslaved African Americans built the fort over a period of seven months. The walls, made of logs and earth, stood 10 feet high. Although not as permanent as brick or stone, earthen walls provided better protection against artillery fire. Confederates built the fort to protect the upper and lower batteries along the Cumberland River from land attack. The fort, however, never came under direct land attack. All fighting, except for the ironclad gunboat attacks on the river batteries, took place in the outer defense lines.
Brigadier General Daniel S. Donelson the man for whom the fort was named, participated in the original 1861 survey that selected the sites for both Forts Henry and Donelson.