Fort Donelson National Battlefield | DOVER HOTEL

Dover Hotel at Fort Donelson National Battlefield

Dover Hotel at Fort Donelson National Battlefield

TOUR STOP 10: DOVER HOTEL

The Dover Hotel is famous for being the location of Confederate General Simon Buckner’s surrender to Union General Ulysses S. Grant on February 16, 1862, ending the fighting at Fort Donelson. It is now open to visitors daily from 9 AM to 4 PM, except when closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Keep in mind that times can always change, so if a stop at the Dover Hotel is important to you, be sure to get the latest schedule on the National Park Service’s official Operating Hours and Seasons web page for Fort Donelson National Battlefield.

The hotel was built between 1851 and 1853. Its location on the Cumberland River was a prime spot for drawing in customers, for it was one of the first buildings people saw when they arrived at Dover by riverboat. In early 1862, it became the headquarters for General Buckner, one of three Confederate generals at Fort Donelson at the time. He was, however, the only general remaining on the 16th.

View of the Cumberland River from the porch of the Dover Hotel, Fort Donelson National Battlefield

View of the Cumberland River from the porch of the Dover Hotel, Fort Donelson National Battlefield

Buckner and generals John Bell Floyd and Gideon Pillow met at the nearby Rice House (no longer standing) around 1:30 AM on the 16th to discuss what to do after the Confederates had failed to break out and escape to Nashville earlier on the 15th. Floyd, who was first in charge, didn’t want to be captured, so he turned command over to Pillow. Pillow didn’t want to be captured either so he turned his command over to Buckner. Both men then snuck away before sunrise. Floyd and two regiments of infantry escaped on a steamship that the Confederates still had access to, and Pillow left by himself in a small boat. General Nathan Bedford Forest was also at Fort Donelson, and he and 700 of his cavalry troops escaped across Lick Creek. Buckner was the only one who agreed to stay. Floyd was relieved of command by Confederate president Jefferson Davis in March, and Pillow’s military career also suffered, though he remained a general for another year before being removed from combat duty and assigned to recruiting.

After the battle, Union troops occupied the Fort Donelson area and used the hotel as a fort hospital. Beyond the war, it changed ownership many times. By the late 1920s the structure was in poor condition and slated to be torn down. However, local citizens wanted to preserve it for historical purposes, and the Fort Donelson House Historical Association was formed. After a restoration project, the building, now called the Fort Donelson House, opened to the public in 1930. It was donated to Fort Donelson National Battlefield in 1959. It is the only original structure standing today where a Civil War surrender took place.

A visit to the Dover Hotel is self guided; there are typically no park Rangers or volunteers on the premises. Only the first floor is open, and it is divided into two sections. One contains exhibits about the Confederate surrender that ended the Battle of Fort Donelson.

Exhibit area inside the Dover Hotel at Fort Donelson National Battlefield

Exhibit area inside the Dover Hotel at Fort Donelson National Battlefield

The other half of the lower floor is decorated as it might have been during the Civil War. Nobody knows for sure what the inside looked like, and not just in regards to the furnishings. The entire interior layout was changed over the years. The furniture now on display is not original to the building. I don’t even think it is authentic antique furniture seeing that the building is left open and there are no Rangers inside for security purposes, but I could be wrong.

Interior of the Dover Hotel at Fort Donelson National Battlefield

Interior of the Dover Hotel at Fort Donelson National Battlefield

Interior of the Dover Hotel at Fort Donelson National Battlefield

Interior of the Dover Hotel at Fort Donelson National Battlefield

The top floor of the hotel originally had eight rooms. Today it is a three bedroom apartment used as housing for National Park Service staff.

The Dover Hotel is no larger than a typical middle-class family house in the United States, so it doesn’t take long to go through it. The furnished room takes up no more of your time than what it takes to snap a photo, and you can read the information on the exhibits in no more than ten minutes. I spent 15 minutes at the house, and I typically spend more time at an attraction than the average person.


Stop 11: National Cemetery | Stop 9: Forge Road | Battlefield Tour Main Page


Back to the Top


With a few exceptions, use of any photograph on the National Park Planner website requires a paid Royalty Free Editorial Use License or Commercial Use License. See the Photo Usage page for details.
Last updated on February 27, 2023
Share this article