We continued down the Ohio River on Wednesday and late in the afternoon we turned left (east) into the Cumberland River. This is a tributary of the Ohio but only about one quarter of the width. We passed through farmland that was being irrigated and growing soy beans. They were being harvested as we passed. I don’t know where these crops are headed as most have traditionally been sold to China but they have now cancelled most of their orders for American soy beans.
We have some interesting people on this boat. One man, Brandon, is a farmer from Texas and he grows cotton. His farm is about 14 square kilometres in size. That’s enough cotton to make a stack of bath towels! Another man runs a trucking business and he transports sand for the use in the oil fields. He trucks enormous tonnages from the sand mines to the railways. Yet another is a graduate of West Point and commanded a significant miultarey unit in Vietnam.
Every now and then n the river, we passed a disused coal terminal. I don’t know whether they were used to transport coal from an old mine or whether they were used to accept coal for a power station or some such. There is an enormous amount of coal carried on these rivers. Each barge carries about 700 tonnes and there are fifteen barges in a set. For all the mania of our ‘Greenies’ back home, there is still a lot of coal used in the world.
Overnight, we passed through a very deep lock where the Cumberland River is dammed to form Lake Barkley. We awoke at dawn to find ourselves on the lake and heading to a little town called Dover. Fortunately, there were no stairs for me to fall down this time and I was actually successful in capturing an image unlike my failed attempt a few months ago in Armidale, NSW.
There was a lot of birdlife on the lake and the best was around the time we were having breakfast and I didn’t have my camera with me. We could see at least six bald eagles and a whole flotilla of white penguins on close-by sandbar. I was successful in capturing some birds further along like this one which I think is a Turkey Vulture.
At Dover, we had an organised tour of the nearby National Park and Fort Donelson. Dover only has a very small population of about 12,000 people. We began with an introductory video at the little City Hall with a personal welcome by the mayor. We have experienced this type of hospitality before in America and this type of welcome seems common in little towns.
Tennessee was one of the Confederate States in the Civil War and a significant battle was fought here. I am learning more about this part of American history and just starting to understand its significance. The Civil War had a greater impact on American society than any other event in the country’s history.
At least 620,000 soldiers lost their lives in the war – two percent of the American population in 1861. If the same percentage of Americans were to be killed in a war fought today, the number of war dead would exceed 6 million. I think that fewer Americans were killed in both of the two World Wars combined than in the Civil War.
Early in the war, the Union forces identified that control of the major rivers would be the key to success in the Western Theatre of the war. After capturing Fort Henry on the Tennessee River on February 6, 1862, Brig. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant advanced 12 miles cross-country to attack Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River. He surrounded the fort with about 25,000 men, and conducted several small attacks to probe the fort’s defences.The Confederate forces consisted of about 16,000 infantry and cavalry. Union Navy gunboats attempted to reduce the fort. And after some days of fighting, the Confederates decided to retreat. Some senior commanders and a few men escaped the fort, turning over command to Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner, a pre-war friend of Grant and West Point Academy colleague. Buckner reluctantly surrendered the remaining garrison unconditionally to his old friend at the Dover Hotel.
The nearby National Cemetery contains the graves of many of those killed, along with veterans from later wars.
Late in the afternoon, we were back on our way for a return trip along the lake towards our next stop at the town of Paducah, Kentucky.