While nowadays it seems a foregone conclusion that the United States capital city is Washington DC, for the first 100 years of the country’s existence it was hardly so defined. The location, ten square miles straddling the Potomac River with portions in both Maryland and Virginia, was established by law in 1790 with the Permanent Seat of Government Act (legislation recently dramatized by the song “The Room Where It Happens” from the musical Hamilton), but this didn’t satisfy all Americans. Over the course of the young country’s first century, the topic of where to locate the capital would come up three more times.
A while back I did a write-up on the Sterling Lake Mines and the Great West Point Chain that the American troops installed across the Hudson during the Revolution. While that chain gets more of the glory and glamour than most others, it was certainly not the only chain stretched across an American river. In a riverside park just north of the small town of Columbus, KY is Columbus-Belmont State Park, home to the remnants of the Confederate Mississippi River Chain.
Nestled on a quiet stretch of the Cumberland River, in a small, quiet town just south of the Tennessee/Kentucky border sits an unassuming two-story building, with a long porch on the south side and a balcony overtop. While it may not look flashy or magnificent, it was here at the Dover Hotel that the Battle of Fort Donelson would end and the legend of Ulysses S. “Unconditional Surrender” Grant would begin. While small in scope when compared to Gettysburg or Shiloh, Fort Donelson was a significant battle that set the tone of the War in the Western Theater for the next two years. Today, Fort Donelson National Battlefield stands as not only an exquisite example of original Civil War earthworks, but also a tribute to those who struggled in an important and often overlooked event in the history of the United States.