The Civil War Years


The Civil War Years

In the Lakes Region of Western Kentucky and Western Tennessee


After Fort Sumter, it didn’t take long for the Civil War to come to the Land Between the Lakes Region in Western Tennessee and Western Kentucky. The tragic conflict left its bloody mark on the people, land and history. Join us as we stand where the soldiers stood in an effort to better understand this struggle.

Day 1

2:00 pm – Arrive at Nathan Bedford Forrest State Park and Pilot Knob, the highest point in West Tennessee. Inside the park’s Tennessee River Folklife Interpretive Center and Museum, a brief movie will acquaint you with Nathan Bedford Forrest, one of the South’s most zealous generals. A local interpreter follows up with a discussion about this controversial cavalryman who was revered for his brilliant wartime maneuvers.

3:00 pm – One of Forrest’s greatest feats came near the close of the war in Johnsonville; its former location can be seen from Pilot Knob. Head outside to the deck for a bird’s eye view of the river as our historian explains Forrest’s infamous raid.

4:00 pm – Depart Pilot Knob for the Old 23rd Restaurant at Christopher Manor where owner Lindy Zanaty’s family recipes provide nourishment for the body and strength for the soul in the backwoods of Tennessee.

5:00 pm – Arrive at the Old 23rd Restaurant. Linda will welcome you to the dinner table at her home place, explain the significance of the restaurant’s name and share a tale or two about the war in these parts.

7:00 pm – Get your happy, full tummy on the bus and depart for Paris Landing.

8:00 pm – Arrive at Paris Landing State Park in Buchanan, Tennessee. Take a stroll around the grounds or enjoy a view of the Tennessee River from your balcony. Sleep well; tomorrow’s a busy day.

Day 2

8:00 am – This may be a Civil War Tour, but there will be no hard tack served for breakfast, just delicious Southern fare! The inn’s Riverboat Restaurant offers a full buffet including biscuits and gravy, fresh eggs, sausage, fruit and more. Sit by the window for a commanding view of the Tennessee River, a key supply route in the mid-1800s and in the 21st Century, as well.

9:00 am – Depart for Land Between the Lakes and the 1850s Homeplace.

9:30 am – Arrive at the 1850s Homeplace, a working farm that exemplifies the hardscrabble life of a yeoman farmer and his family. See how they plowed, planted, harvested, made clothing, drew water, grew gardens and prepared for next season.

Ramble around the Homeplace and chat with knowledgeable interpreters dressed in period clothing. They love to explain their day’s work and may even ask you to lend a hand!

10:00 am – Even the most meager existence was tough back in the day, and the war didn’t help. Gather round for a discussion with our Homeplace interpreter and discover how the war affected life between the rivers both during and after the conflict.

10:30 am – Depart for the Elk & Bison Prairie at Land Between the Lakes – this bus friendly, fenced, native prairie is home to the Southeast’s first, re-introduced elk herd in a century and a half. They share their home with a herd of American Bison, our country’s national mammal.

10:50 am – Arrive at the Elk & Bison Prairie where these majestic herds have the run of 750 acres.  Enjoy a step-on guide from Land Between the Lakes who will tell you about these animals, their demise and rebirth in a region they once called home.

10:30 am – Depart for Patti’s Restaurant in the 1880’s Settlement of Grand Rivers, Kentucky. This award-winning eatery is a recipient of Southern Living Magazine’s Reader’s Choice Award for Best Small Town Restaurant in the Southeast. We think you’ll agree with that honor!

11:30 am – Settle in for a luscious lunch served by friendly staff whose Southern hospitality is a way of life. Don’t miss Patti’s signature pies with mile-high meringue. They’re the perfect ending to the perfect meal.

1:30 pm – Depart Patti’s for Fairview, Kentucky and the Jefferson Davis State Historic Site.

2:45 pm – Arrive at the Jefferson Davis State Historic Site and enjoy a video that encompasses Davis’ life, as well as the construction of the monument built in his memory. Afterward, our historian will offer a Q and A on the Confederate president. Don’t miss the ride to top of the 351-foot obelisk, which features a bird’s-eye view of the Kentucky countryside that Davis called home.

3:45 pm – Depart for Casey Jones Distillery in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. Moonshine is in their DNA.

4:45 pm – Arrive at Casey Jones Distillery where owners Peg and A.J. Jones will answer the burning question: What kept Civil War soldiers warm on bitter winter nights? They’ll show you how this “cold weather tonic” was made and even offer you a taste! Check out their gift shop for the “shine lovers” back home.

5:45 pm – Depart for Lake Barkley State Resort Park and their mouthwatering buffet.

6:30 pm – Arrive at Windows on the Water Restaurant, where the only thing better than the view of Lake Barkley is the food. Take special note of the lake, which is part of the Cumberland River. We’ll revisit those Civil War waters further upriver tomorrow.

7:30 pm – Depart for Paris Landing State Park.

8:00 pm – With no light pollution, the night sky of the 1860s was a sight to behold, and it still is. We’ll stop on the Trace and enjoy the brilliant stars that were, no doubt, admired by soldiers on both sides of the conflict. In the words of the poet, “We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.” – Maya Angelou

8:30 pm – Arrive at Paris Landing. Stretch your legs with a walk to the lake or settle in for a good night’s sleep.

Day  3

8:00 am – Enjoy another scrumptious breakfast at Paris Landing. You’re on vacation, have another biscuit.

9:00 am – Depart for Fort Donelson National Battlefield where you’ll be welcomed by Doug Richardson, chief of interpretation and education.

9:30 am – Arrive at the park’s Visitors Center, browse the gift shop and watch a brief movie about this pivotal fort and the ensuing battle.

10:00 am – Depart for the fort.

10:05 – Arrive at the fort for interpretation on the bus. Life inside a military fort was not easy. From the tedious to the dangerous, Richardson explains the day-to-day activities that took place during both the Confederate and Union occupations. Afterwards, guests may depart the bus, tour the fort and ask questions of Richardson. (No seating is available at this location.)

10:25 – Depart for the river battery.

10:30 – Arrive at battery. The battle at Fort Donelson changed the trajectory of the war early by opening two vital supply routes, the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers. As you view the batteries from the comfort of the bus, Richardson will explain the events that unfolded here, as well as their impact on the rest of war.  Additionally, he will describe the importance of the two forts on the Tennessee River, Fort Henry and Fort Donelson. Afterward, guests may depart the bus, tour the batteries and ask questions of Richardson. (No seating is available at this location.) FYI, keep an eye to the sky. A number of bald eagles call Fort Donelson home.

Did you ever wonder where generals work during wartime? Although the building is long gone, Richardson has a few stories about General U.S. Grant’s workplace where he penned his demands for Confederate surrender.

11:30 am – Depart the park. Pass the former location of Grant’s wartime headquarters then head for the Stewart County Visitor Center and a delicious catered lunch.

11:35 am – Arrive at the beautiful Stewart County Visitor Center. Bon appetit!

12:30 pm – Depart for the Dover Hotel overlooking the Cumberland River, where Confederate General Simon Buckner surrendered to General U.S. Grant. Now known as “The Surrender House,” visitors will enjoy a brief movie, which sets the stage for Richardson’s interpretation and Q and A session.

12:35 pm – Arrive at the Dover Hotel where the South’s surrender paved the way for the Union takeover of Nashville, the capital of Tennessee.

1:30 pm – Depart the Dover Hotel for the Fort Donelson National Cemetery, the serene, final resting place of hundreds of Union soldiers and sailors, many of them unknown.

1:35 pm  – Arrive at the National Cemetery. From the bus, Richardson will offer history about the cemetery including the freedmen’s community that surrounded the grounds and the nine U.S. Colored Troops who were laid to rest in this hallowed ground. Afterward, guests may depart the bus, tour the grave sites and ask questions of Richardson. (No seating is available at the cemetery.)

3:00 pm – Depart Fort Donelson for Visitor Center.

3:05 pm – Settle in for a discussion with a local historian about the infamous Jack Hinson, a local planter who began the war in neutrality. However, when his sons were mistaken for Rebels and executed, he began a legendary, one-man war against the Union.

4:00 pm – Depart Dover for Paris Landing State Park. Enjoy the quick trip back to Paris Landing while our step on guide explains how Nathan Bedford Forrest used Paris Landing in his raid on Johnsonville.

4:30 pm – Arrive at Paris Landing. Pick up some goodies in the gift shop, enjoy a cup of coffee in the restaurant or go investigate the two areas that your step on guide discussed. There is interpretive signage by the marina and the lodge.

5:30 pm – Who’s hungry? Meet for another hearty, Southern meal at the Riverboat Restaurant.

6:30 pm – Even warfare has a tender side. Gather in the lower meeting room for “Tunes of the War – Songs and Their Stories.” National banjo champion and popular riverboat performer Dan Knowles offers the sometimes jubilant, sometimes haunting, but always touching songs and tales from the conflict.

7:30 – Feel free to chat with the Congers, head upstairs for a game of cards or stroll outside to ponder life in these backwoods during the tragic and tiresome Civil War.

9:00 pm – Sleep well during your final evening on the banks of the Tennessee River before heading home.

Day 4

8:00 am – Last chance for biscuits and gravy on the Tennessee River. Enjoy your last Riverboat Restaurant breakfast and their mouthwatering recipes.

9:00 am – Depart for Historic Downtown Paris, Tennessee and the historic Paris City Cemetery. En route, a local step on guide will discuss the large obelisk that is dedicated to enslaved workers who were buried in this cemetery. In addition, three Paris citizens with unique ties to the Civil War also will be discussed. They include Gov. James D. Porter, General J.D.C. Atkins and Major Thomas K. Porter, Jr.

9:30 am – Arrive at the Paris City Cemetery where your step on guide will accompany you and answer questions from those who would like to tour this cemetery.

10:00 am – Ride the bus or enjoy a three-block walk to the historic Paris Court Square. Take your pick among a bit of shopping, a tour of the downtown or a discussion on the Battle of Paris with our local historian at Jack’s Java.

11:30 am – Depart downtown for Lee School Academy for the Arts and a catered lunch. Although the present structure was built in 1881, the original structure was built in the late 1840s and saw service during the Civil War.

11:40 am – Arrive at Lee Academy and take a brief tour of this building that was rescued from the wrecking ball by its alumni and the community.

12:00 – We can’t let you leave the South without a taste of a regional favorite, pork bar-be-cue with all the trimmings cooked on a pit just a few blocks away.

1:00 pm – Time to depart for home and your loved ones, but ya’ll come back and see us soon! We’ve enjoyed your visit!


For details and prices contact:

Gary McEntire