Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Feb. 16, 1862

Feb. 16, 1862: THE BATTLE OF FORT DONELSON – Conclusion - This morning, the Confederate forces at Ft. Donelson surrender to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. During the night, Gen. Floyd issues orders for the army to pack up and be ready to march out in three hours. However, the pickets inform him that the Yankees have re-occupied the trenches and now block the way. Floyd concludes that he is too valuable to surrender; he appropriates the only two steamers available for his brigade of Virginia troops, and casts off and steams upriver to Nashville. Command devolves upon Gen. Pillow, who concludes that he, too, is too valuable to surrender, and he leaves with the steamers. (Col Forrest, who cannot abide cowards and fools, refuses to surrender, and leads his own regiment and part of another, mounted, along the icy shallows of the Cumberland River until they are beyond Federal lines, and thus make good their escape.) Command devolves upon Buckner, who sends a man under a white flag to the Union lines (which were forming up to attack), asking Grant for surrender terms. Grant replies:

No terms except unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted. I propose to move immediately upon your works.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Brigadier-General, Commanding.

Buckner, who had been a close friend of Grant’s at West Point, and even had loaned Grant money during Grant’s hard years, was angry at such unchivalrous terms. However, he meets with Grant and surrenders 14, 623 men, as well as 20,000 muskets, 48 pieces of field artillery, 17 pieces of heavy artillery, and several thousand horses. Union Victory.

Losses:        Killed      Wounded        Missing        Captured

U.S.              507          1,976                208                0

C.S.              327          1,127                    0                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   14,623

As a result, Grant is lauded in the newspapers across the country, who nickname him "Unconditional Surrender Grant" with his initials.

—Mary Boykin Chestnut writes in her diary: "Awful newspapers today. Fort Donelson a drawn battle. You know that means in our mouths that we have lost it. That is nothing. They are being reinforced everywhere. Where are ours to come from, unless they wait and let us grow some."

—Capt. Bolton of the 51st Penn. Inf. records in his journal:
The men have just discovered that the rebels in trying to escape from the island relieved themselves of everything in the shape of firearms &c in trying to make their escape to their boats, and in wading to them.  They threw away in deep water all their arms and the men would go along the beach and grapple up immense bowie knives, pistols and muskets. The knives were terrible looking weapons, and it is supposed that they intended to butcher us if the chance presented. Very many of the knives were sent home by our men.

—David Schenk of North Carolina writes in his journal on this date:
Events crowd rapidly upon us and every moment seems full of history—The enemy are pressing us at every point and the crisis is also hard. Fort Henry on the Tennessee River has fallen and the enemy steamed down to Florence in Alabama destroying the shipping as they went—Fort Donnelson the key to Nashville has been invested and the fight still progresses with terrific slaughter. Genl Pillow has repulsed them thrice and still holds out.
It will soon be known whether we are able to beat back the invader or not—if Fort Donnelson falls, Bowling Green goes with it and Nashville is gone. Yankee gunboats can travel where land forces are locked by mud and rain and these rivers are highways for them to get in our rear—it seems that it is almost impossible to resist these attacks by water.

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