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Fort Donelson to be enlarged: History professor says expansion will "better demonstrate the extent of the battle"

September 23, 2003

Congress is considering a plan to expand the jurisdiction of Fort Donelson National Battlefield, Dover. The proposed addition of two nearby forts, Fort Heiman and Fort Henry, would bring the total area of Fort Donelson from about 563 acres to more than 2,000.

Betty Joe Wallace, professor of history at Austin Peay, supports the expansion of Fort Donelson.
September 23, 2003

Congress is considering a plan to expand the jurisdiction of Fort Donelson National Battlefield, Dover. The proposed addition of two nearby forts, Fort Heiman and Fort Henry, would bring the total area of Fort Donelson from about 563 acres to more than 2,000.

Betty Joe Wallace, professor of history at Austin Peay, supports the expansion of Fort Donelson.

Wallace, who co-authored “Fort Donelson National Military Battlefield: A Botanical and Historical Perspective” with APSU biology professor Dr. Edward W. Chester, says that both the battlefield and Stewart County would benefit from the enlargement.

“The present area is much too small to allow visitors to imagine the extent of the battle,” she says. “Fort Donelson has been underutilized as a tourist attraction, and the purchase could help draw more attention to the area.

“Also, the importance of the battle is discussed in Civil War materials, and the federal government has done little to take notice of the importance of Fort Donelson.”

Wallace also believes that Stewart County landowners will be “receptive” to selling or donating their privately owned portions of Fort Heiman to the National Park Service for the expansion.

“If the Park Service people are careful of the approach they use with the owners of the land, they can avoid the problems that have plagued TVA [Tennessee Valley Authority],” she says. “Many of the local people have interest in the history of Fort Donelson and see the proposal as a way of preserving that history.”

However, Wallace adds, “The only problem is how it will affect the tax rate. Stewart County has lost land to Fort Campbell, TVA and the Forest Service, and the leaders must concern themselves with space for the growth of population in the county.

“In my opinion, the local reaction is that 220 acres will not be enough land to cause negative reactions.”

Forts Donelson, Heiman and Henry were all captured by then-Brig. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant in February 1862.
Rebecca Mackey