I see no one has mentioned one neat option right in your back yard ... Frozen Head State Park. The park is quite mountainous for the area and has miles of hiking trails. It also has a small campground that is suitable only for tents or smaller RVs partly because it is accessed via a one-lane bridge that ties in to the main road at a right angle. Be prepared to boondock as there are no hook-ups but it does have water faucets and a restroom. Best of all there is a trail out of the CG that is an old fire tower access road so nice and wide. Being close to your home it would make a good location to minimize travel time and maximize relax time. Welcome to TN!
Steve and Sally,
First, I hope ya'll have a great time. Two weeks in the west would be great about now. Looks like you'll be going through an area I visited in 2011. You might get some ideas for places to camp or visit from my trip report here. Part 1 (link included in Part 2) includes sites in northeast New Mexico and Part 2 includes sites close to Santa Fe.
Also, I don't believe anyone has mentioned the website www.freecampsites.net.
Have a great trip. I'll be looking forward to your trip report. Based on your past trip reports it'll almost be as good as being there ... almost!
Since you're a day early for April Fool's I'll assume you're serious. Once you do some research you'll understand why some think your question is humorous. We all were newbies once though :W
It's possible you can fit a small pop-up on a Tacoma but it will be very small without many amenities or much storage. Most recommend first determining what truck camper is going to suit your camping style then determine the best truck to carry it. You'll need to consider not only the camper base weight but also the weight of all the options you add, batteries, gear, etc. Don't forget to subtract your weight and the weight of options added to the truck to determine its true carrying capacity. You can find some good information on matching a truck and truck camper on the Truck Camper Magazine's Newbie-Corner.
Water is added to the fresh water tank via a port so adding water with say a five gallon can with a spout would be tedious but possible. Sounds like you'd also be better off with a cassett toilet rather than a fixed toilet as the cassett tank can be removed and dumped into a pit toilet, etc. I'm sure others will chime in with more info for you.
I have the same camper and use AGMs. Thought the same thing when I removed the cover to the area you are using and saw all that empty space. Not only does it shift weight forward but it also moves it from the heavier passenger side to the lighter driver side. I'm better at woodwork and plumbing than I am at electrical though so wasn't sure what to do with the wiring. I'm interested in seeing how you work that part.
Ya got me both hankerin' ta see yer second half 'n' dreadin' it at da same time cuz of da endin' on da fust haff. Ya givin me many a belly laff 'n' a hull bunch a butiful pixers ta admire whilst I's been on dis RV.NET. I hates ta see it cum ta an end but life mooves on. Many tanks ta you an' da wife fer all dat ya've given us.
spacedoutbob - That's going to be a long drive for you "Bob in Calif". There are quite a few to visit here in the East. I've got several more in TN yet to see.
flaxi - Where is that photo from? Quite an imposing building at that cemetery. I think you, weymard, and Camper_Jeff_&_Kelli hit the nail on the head. It's good to keep talking and remembering so you don't end up fighting.
Sleepy - Sorry to hear Janet needed a redo on her shoulder. You two sure are keeping the medical community there hopping lately. Happy to provide you with some distraction :)
Sweet Tater - No, we were only at Shiloh for the day. I'd noticed that one of the displays at Shiloh had a sign saying a cannon had been loaned to a museum at Corinth. We'll have to cross the border one day to take a look.
flaxi & weymard - The Civil War was a dark time in our Country's short history. Some ask why we'd want to preserve reminders of that time but its important to learn from those experiences so it doesn't happen again.
Camper_Jeff_&_Kelli - You're welcome!
After visiting Fort Donelson National Battlefield and dining at the 1850 Log Cabin, we were ready to settle in for the night. While there were a couple state parks in the area, we opted to stay at a small private campground that I had spotted on an earlier trip through the area, Parkers Crossroads RV Park. The folks were very friendly and the CG is an old one they’re fixing up. I was told that when the current owner bought the property the weeds were shoulder high. You may have heard the redneck joke where Bubba mows his yard and finds a car he’d lost. Well, when the property owner mowed the weeds on his new purchase he found a pond he didn’t know he owned. I didn’t get any good photos but you can check them out on their website at Parkers Crossroads RV Park.
The next day we drove south to … no, not there … at least not yet. Our destination was the Shiloh National Military Park just ahead.
As usual we stopped in at the visitor center first.
The Civil War battle at Shiloh was fought in April of 1862, less than two months after the battle at Fort Donelson. The first Union forces on site, 48,000+ men, were led by General Ulysses S. Grant. His goal was to capture the strategic railroad hub at Corinth, Mississippi, 22 miles to the southwest. Grant had traveled by steamboat, running up the Tennessee River (yes, here up-river is down-south) that he’d opened up with his capture of Forts Henry and Heiman. He unloaded on the west bank at Pittsburg Landing and awaited the arrival of General Don C. Buell who was traveling overland from Nashville to meet him.
Meanwhile, Confederate General Albert S. Johnston had retreated from Bowling Green, Kentucky, south to Corinth when Forts Henry, Heiman, and Donelson fell. A third of his men whom he’d sent to help in holding Fort Donelson had been lost when that fort fell. Now, sitting in Corinth and hearing reports of Grant’s approaching force, Johnston chose to go on the offensive. He marched towards Pittsburg Landing with General P. G. T. Beauregard and 44,000+ men.
Today the battlefield is chock full of monuments memorializing the men who participated in the battle, saluting the states from which they came, showing where particular units were at specific times during the 2-day battle, etc.
The auto tour loop starts off where the battle nearly ended. Johnston had snuck up as close to the Union lines as he could then attacked when his scouts were finally discovered. During the first day of vicious battle the Confederates pushed Grant back to the Tennessee River. There the Union troops managed to hold out until darkness fell ending the fighting for the day.
Further along the auto tour we stopped at the “Sunken” Road. During the first day of the battle Union forces staged a stubborn defense along this thoroughfare. The Confederates laid a particularly heavy fire down on a thickly vegetated pocket in the center (far right in this photo). Union survivors later said that the buzz of shot sounded like a nest of angry hornets. Hence the name they gave this area, the Hornets’ Nest.
The “Sunken” Road runs just to the right of the trail and was not sunken at all, at least not in this location.
The soldier on this monument to the troops of Minnesota stands a perpetual watch out from the edge of the woods at the Hornets’ Nest.
Vegetation is still thick along the Sunken Road and was putting on a show of bright colors during our fall visit.
A few hundred feet further on was the site of a Confederate battery that shot across the empty Duncan Field at the Sunken Road. General Daniel Ruggles collected an unprecedented 62 cannons here in a successful attempt to break the Union’s defense of the Hornets’ Nest.
I learned from the sign that the cannons on display here comprise one of the best collections of Civil War field artillery, albeit not ones that were used in the Shiloh battle.
Unlike the sharply rolling terrain at Fort Donelson we found the the terrain here at Shiloh to be relatively flat.
The battle takes it’s name from a small church that stood on the battlefield. Union General William T. Sherman was driven from this location by the Confederates.
The original structure is long gone but this reconstruction stands in its place.
A newer church stands near the old one as the Methodist congregation is still active. The church grounds remain a private inholding within the National Military Park.
These headstones mark the resting place not of Civil War soldiers but of people of the same century who made their homes among these woods and fields. Sadly, this group of stones dating to the late 1800s includes that of several children who died very young, evidence that, long after the bullets and bayonets were gone, life here was far from easy.
Where battlefield soil meets hallowed ground one last grave caught our eye, that of Tennessee politician Ray Blanton. This 44th Governor of Tennessee finished his term amidst a pardon-selling scandal that resulted in his successor being secretly sworn in three days early.
We continued along the Shiloh NMP auto tour route. The Park Service indicates the landscape is much as it was in 1862 except the undergrowth is thicker, partly because livestock are no longer allowed to graze freely as they did during that era.
As at Fort Donelson, the Confederate casualties were buried in unmarked mass graves. The location of just five of these is known today, surely just a small fraction of the 1728 men and boys that died fighting for the doomed Southern cause. In contrast, many of the Union casualties were eventually reburied in a National Cemetery created on the grounds. The Confederates, however, were not considered to be veterans of the United States but were instead thought of as traitors, revolutionaries, or worse and so were not eligible for burial in a National Cemetery.
After Grant was pushed back to the river and night had fallen, Buell finally arrived on the opposite shore. During the rainy night boats shuttled 15,000 men across to Grant’s side of the river and additional fresh men arrived overland. These fresh men were welcome replacements for some of those who had borne the brunt of the day’s fighting. This gave the Union 45,000 sound men to push back against the Confederates. And after a miserable night spent out in the open under a pouring rain, push back they did.
The Confederates kept dry through the night in tents abandoned by their foes but still got little rest as the Union gunboats kept up a steady rain of shells that, while not close enough to be threatening, did create an unrestful din. Colonel Nathan Bedford Forrest’s men who had narrowly escaped capture at Fort Donelson did some scouting during the night and returned to report that the Union army was being reinforced. However, this bit of information was not acted upon. Quite the contrary, most of the Confederate leaders believed Grant might pull back across the river during the night. When the Union soldiers launched a determined counter attack as the sun rose, the Confederates were caught off guard. They were able to hold their ground untill midday but then were pushed back. General Beauregard, who had set up camp at Shiloh Church, tried to hold the line near the Water Oaks Pond but, after several hours of fierce fighting, realized the battle was lost and began to withdraw.
Beauregard was in charge of the Confederates on this second day of battle because during the first day’s battle General Johnston had been shot in the leg and had bled to death. He holds the dubious honor of being the highest ranking officer to be killed in the Civil War. His death is particularly ironic as it was likely a result of friendly fire. He was spared the ignominy of being buried in a mass grave with his troops though. Instead his body was removed from the battlefield, buried in New Orleans, and then later moved to Austin, Texas.
A second pond on the battlefield is rumored to have been turned red by the blood of wounded men and animals that sought to quench their thirst there. While this may be an exaggeration, with 1,754 killed and 8,408 wounded on the Union side and 1,728 killed and 8,012 wounded on the Confederates side, there was plenty of blood spilled during the two days of battle at Shiloh. Add in another 2,885 missing/captured Union soldiers and 959 missing/captured Confederate soldiers and the toll of the battle was 23,746 men, the highest of the Civil War at that time. But, unfortunately, it was just the beginning of the huge loss of over half a million lives that would occur during the war’s five long years of fighting.
Near the Tennessee River lies the remnants of another culture that lived and died here 800 years ago. They were part of a network of mound builders that stretched along 20 miles of the Tennessee River. With the day growing short we left this part of history to be explored another day.
We ended our visit to the Shiloh battlefield alongside the watery highway that is the Tennessee River. Technically this is part of Kentucky Lake but its near the lake’s uppermost limit, lying just a short distance downstream of Pickwick Dam and Lake, and so is probably not much different than it was at the time of the battle.
With daylight waning and our bellies rumbling, we backtracked out the entrance of the Shiloh National Military Park and turned in at the sign we’d seen on our way in.
Despite its name the Catfish Hotel is not a hotel but a restaurant. Supposedly the “hotel” part came about before the place was a restaurant, when friends would come over for a catfish fry and stayed so late that darkness fell. This was back in the early 1800s when travel by night was not as easy as it is today so the guests often opted to stay over until morning.
The restaurant features large windows and tables on two levels to provide a good view of the Tennessee River.
The sun was setting as we finished our meal and walked out along the bank of the river.
A full moon was rising just ahead of an encroaching darkness as we headed for home.
We hope to explore more Civil War sites in Tennessee. Until then, thanks for lookin’ in and come on over to Tennessee for some history and vittles. Meanwhile, you might like to browse through this neat National Park Service site to see if any of your relatives were in the Civil War.
SDcampowneroperator – Yes, I agree that our nation’s historic sites play an important part in educating future generations.
Kohldad – Let me know when you want to go and I’ll join you! I’ll try not to keep you waiting too long for Day 2.
coolmom2 – Hey neighbor! Thanks for letting me know about the eagle’s nest. I’ll look closer at the pine next time. It sounds like you go there quite often. Maybe you can join us if we go back.
Whazoo – Yes, I enjoy both the history of these sites and also the natural beauty. Glad you enjoyed it. And thanks for taking me into the slot canyons on your Excellent Adventure. We don’t have any of those around here.
John H – Glad you enjoyed it. I’d like to tour some in VA sometime. And yes, the National Park Service sure do work miracles sometimes given all the challenges they face in preserving historic sites such as these.
Weymard – You’re welcome! Hope you get a chance to stop in later for Day 2.
Lizbard – Yes, there are often neat places to visit right in our own back yard that we never heard of. I’ll check out that link. I included a link to the Tennessee Crossroads show that does segments on local gems but I notice the link monster has crept back into RV.NET so it may be missed amongst the links that show up that I DIDN’T put in.
Mello Mike – I expect that TN and VA battlefields look similar now and then. I found Fort Donelson easier to understand than some since it was a relatively small site and there were still physical features that help one visualize the “then” while standing in the “now”.
bwc – You’re welcome. I was hesitant to put this forward as a Veteran’s Day tribute as the veterans in this case were fighting each other. I suppose they were both fighting for the America, they just had different visions about what that America should be.
Eugarps – If there was one bright spot about Fort Donelson it was that there was not a huge loss of life in the battle. The Union had 500 men killed, 2108 wounded, and 224 men missing while the Confederates had 257 men killed, 1069 men wounded, and 161 men killed. Although I’m sure that was no comfort for the fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, wives, children, etc. who did lose their loved one.
Bigfoot85 – I’ve always enjoyed learning bits of history. Happy to be able to share some of our local sites.
Bodacious – Talk about historic sites, you’re living in one! Made a short visit there a number of years ago and hope to make it back for a longer visit some day.
TCINTN – Yes, I’ve been to a few of the Civil War sites in Franklin. They have managed to preserve a few bits but unfortunately real estate prices there are an obstacle to preserving more.
Wjkdan – TN does have some nice State Parks. Do come back and enjoy them!
Fort Donelson National Battlefield - Page 1
Shiloh National Military Park - Page 2
Typically we take a week or so off in the fall and head out in the TC. Not so this fall but we did manage to get out on a short weekend trip. Since it was just an overnighter we stayed close to home in middle Tennessee. A fire tower standing tall on a hilltop used to be a common sight but they’re a rarity now.
It was late in the fall but there was still plenty of colorful leaves to be seen on the rolling Tennessee hills.
And what would fall be without a local turkey shoot.
We passed through the Cumberland City Steam Plant, a coal-fired facility that generates electricity for the area.
Further along was the Cross Creeks Wildlife Refuge on the Cumberland River near Dover, a good place to see waterfowl but not on our agenda this trip.
We did make a short stop at a site I’d passed by many times.
The western Highland Rim area of Tennessee, an arc of hilly high ground between Nashville and the Tennessee River, used to be dotted with small iron ore furnaces.
The men working these small furnaces took advantage of pockets of iron ore deposits and fueled them with the plentiful stands of timber cloaking the hills.
The DH spotted some carving high up on one side of the furnace. I suppose the critter to the left is supposed to be a bear.
Long after the small iron ore furnaces faded into history, the timber supply remains to sufficient to keep many small lumber mills going.
Many homes and businesses we passed were decorated for Halloween.
We arrived at our destination for the day, Fort Donelson National Battlefield at Dover, TN. This is one of many Civil War battlefield in Tennessee. In fact, Virginia is the only state where more Civil War battles were fought.
Fort Donelson was not one of the largest Civil War battles but it was significant for several reasons. As noted on this plaque outside the visitor center, the battles at Fort Donelson (to the right) and nearby Forts Henry and Heiman (to the left) were the first major victories of the Union and of a relatively unknown Ulysses S. Grant.
An inset shows the park boundaries at Fort Donelson.
We always like to start our visit at an historic site by viewing the informational film and reading through the visitor center displays. We also had a nice chat with the Ranger on duty who told us the battlefield had commemorated the 150th anniversary of the battle just the past spring.
Before the battles at Forts Henry, Heiman, and Donelson, the Confederate and Union boundary west of the Appalachian Mountains stretched pretty much along the Tennessee-Kentucky border.
We learned that the Union had first captured Forts Henry and Heiman on opposite sides of the Tennessee River on February 6, 1862. They had done so by first bombarding the forts from three ironclad and three timberclad gunboats then attacking by land with 15,000 soldiers led by Brigadier General Grant. There is nothing left of Fort Henry as the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Kentucky Lake inundated the swampy site. Fort Heiman was included in the National Battlefield but I didn’t notice this until too late to visit. We did see a representation of the battle at these two forts in the visitor center though.
When Forts Henry and Heiman fell, nearly all of the 2,500 Confederates, escaped and traveled the short 12 miles distance east to the Cumberland River and Fort Donelson. (The two rivers are so close at this point that they are often referred to as the Twin Rivers.) They had several days to prepare before the Union sailed and marched on this better prepared position. The new ironclad and timberclad gunboats had proven their merit at Forts Henry and Hieman so the Union strategists planned to try the same maneuver at Fort Donelson.
Typical equipment for a Union soldier was standard government issued clothing, gear, and armament.
Typical equipment for a Confederate soldier was more often a hodge-podge of gear locally issued or even self-supplied.
Two relatively obscure officers that would soon be well known were present at these early battles, Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant with the Union army and Colonel Nathan Bedford Forrest with the Confederate army.
It was lunch time when we finished touring the visitor center so we drove down to the picnic area alongside the Cumberland River. We watched several modern “ironclads” glide by on the river while we ate. The river is now as it was back in Civil War days an economical means of shipping bulk goods such as the coal that fires the steam generating plant we’d driven through earlier.
After lunch, we walked over to the earthworks around the main part of Fort Donelson. There a sign proclaimed that another American entity had taken up residence in the fort, a nesting pair of bald eagles. While eagle nests are usually pretty large structures but we never were able to spot it despite viewing the area from several sides.
So we moved on down to the river and the site of the fort’s Upper River Battery. A sign depicted how the battery would have looked around the time of the battle. The battery’s height of 30 feet above the river gave it a good vantage point from which to fire on the Union gunboats. Being one of the first battles in this area, the gunners were rather inexperienced but were praised for exhibiting “admirable precision”.
This red rimmed sign describes Confederate troop movements at the battery during the battle.
And this sign explained the importance of the rivers and railroads in the area, the primary means of moving large volumes of people and supplies. Which is why it was such a blow for the Confederates when they lost Forts Henry and Heiman on the Tennessee River and Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River.
Another sign provided information on the ironclad and timberclad gunboats used in the battle. The former were protected with iron plates several inches thick above the waterline. Sloping sides on the ships were designed by Samuel Pook to deflect incoming missiles but the upper deck and funnels were still vulnerable. Their shape earned them the nickname “Pook Turtles”.
A second gun battery called The Lower Gun Battey was not as high above the river as the Upper Gun Battery but held three times as many guns. Together the two batteries were successful in driving back an attack launched by the Union gunboats on February 14, 1862. It was said that during this battle the Union and Confederates exchanged “iron valentines”.
Just as we were getting ready to leave the river batteries one of the fort’s current residents showed up, a mature bald eagle. He/she was followed shortly thereafter by an immature eagle. The river provides them with a handy fishing hole but fishing takes patience and it was time for us to move on.
We admired the substantial earthworks surrounding the inner part of the fort. I don’t think I’d want to have to race across this trench and up the high earthen bank with Confederate guns blazing down at me.
Long gone are the tiny cabins that were built row upon row within the earthwork encircled hollow to shelter the Confederate soldiers. There were roughly 13,000 Confederates at Fort Donelson.
This sign describes how an outer circle of earthwork two miles long provided the first line of defense against a Union land attack.
Although the Confederate batteries beat back the Union gunboats, Union soldiers held tight surrounding the fort by land. The Confederates knew they didn’t have sufficient supplies to hold out for long so on February 15th they attempted to break out towards Nashville. They were nearly successful but then fell back in confusion due to poor leadership. Grant, displaying the savvy that would make him a highly successful military leader, took advantage of the situation by attacking the Confederate lines to the north.
Luckily for these deer this part of the Confederate line to the north is quiet now.
The Union soldiers captured the northern Confederate entrenchments then settled in for the night. And what a cold night it was as an icy wind blew in with sleet and snow. For the Union soldiers the cold was made worse by the fact that many of them had discarded their heavy winter gear when warm weather during and after the Fort Henry/Heiman battle had led them to believe it didn’t get cold in the South.
Thankfully for us the beautiful fall day on which we toured the battlefield was quite the opposite of that experienced by the shivering troops.
With the Union once again in place surrounding the fort, the Confederates realized they were beaten. Their 13,000 troops were outnumbered by some 21,000 Union soldiers and the only escape path open to them was upstream on the Cumberland River. Two Confederate Brigadier Generals, Gideon Pillow and John Floyd, escaped with a handful of troops on the only boats available. Colonel Nathan Bedford Forrest snuck out through the Union lines with about 700 of his cavalry. Knowing there was no chance of escape for the large number of men that remained, General Simon Buckner chose to surrender with them. Since the Confederates lost this battle, their dead were buried in unidentified trenches but this monument was raised in 1933 as a memorial to these fallen soldiers.
On the edge of the town of Dover is the site of the surrender, the Dover Hotel. Buckner had hoped to arrange for good terms since he and Grant had been friends before the war. Grant however demanded their “unconditional and immediate surrender” thus earning for himself the nickname “Unconditional Surrender” Grant.
The hotel has been beautifully restored with half set up as a display of how it was then and half set up with informational displays. We read how the captured Confederate soldiers were loaded onto ships here and sent as far away as Baltimore. The Union had yet to set up facilities to hold large contingents of prisoners so there was much suffering before they were eventually released in a prisoner exchange.
Our last stop in Dover was at the Fort Donelson National Cemetery. In 1867, 670 Union casualties of the Civil War, mostly unknown, were reburied here from various locations throughout the area. Veterans from later wars and their family members were also buried here before the cemetery was closed.
This circle of stones marks the graves of Union soldiers killed during the Confederates attempt to break out of Fort Donelson.
I found this sign in the cemetery, a stanza from Theodore O’Hara’s poem “The Bivouac of the Dead”, to be particularly poignant.
While the DH has visited the Arlington National Cemetery many times, this was my first visit to a National Cemetery. Walking between the rows of cool white stones, reading the names of the men and women who’d served their country, sometimes making the ultimate sacrifice, was a moving experience.
I left the cemetery with a fresh sense of gratitude to the men and women that protect our wonderful United States of America.
The Civil War was a war like no other our country has fought. People who were friends, neighbors, and even family fought against each other. Yet it’s said it was this seemingly divisive event that cemented the people of our nation together .. north and south, black and white.
All of the walking and thinking had worked up an appetite in us. So before heading for our campsite for the night we stopped in at a restaurant I’d seen featured on the local public television show Tennessee Crossroads.
The restaurant was created when the owners purchased several old log buildings that they relocated to their farm and reconstructed together. They then decorated the building with items located at local garage and estate sales.
And the food was pretty good too! That’s it for now. I’ll follow up in a little while with the second half of our trip.