Location: Stewart County, TN
(near Dover, TN)
Dates: February 12-16, 1862
Ulysses S. Grant, Brigadier General
Andrew H. Foote, Flag Officer
John B. Floyd, Brigadier General
Gideon J. Pillow, Brigadier General
Simon Buckner, Brigadier General
In November, 1861, Brigadier General
Ulysses S. Grant, was rumored to be
battling again. Not the rebels, but the type that was in the bottle.
There were numerous reports that Grant, while at Cairo, IL, was guilty of
actions, unbecoming an officer. While these allegations were proven
Grant was desiring action, to restore his name.
Grant's boss, at St. Louis, MO, Major General
Henry W. Halleck, heard the
rumors and was concerned. On January 20, 1862,
permission, and was granted opportunity to travel from Cairo, to St. Louis,
to meet with Halleck. Grant had requested this meeting to review his
plan to attack Forts Henry, and Donelson, in northern Tennessee.
Working with Flag Officer Andrew Foote's fleet of river "iron clads," Grant
was convinced that Fort Henry, on the Tennessee River, and Fort Donelson, on
the Cumberland River, were vulnerable. However, according to
the forts would be reinforced making promptness a necessity. Grant
received a chilly reception from
Halleck. In his memoirs, Grant stated
that, "I returned to Cairo very much crestfallen." It is believed, at
this time, that Halleck was fearful of a general movement of Grant's army,
fearing that it might be unsuccessful. Halleck was vying for expanded
responsibilities and was concerned that Major General
Don Carlos Buell's
successful battle at Mill Springs, KY (also known as Logan's Cross-Roads and
Fishing Creek) was a potential suitor for this expanded command.
However, when Halleck received information, from his boss, Major General
George B. McClellan, that CS General
P.G.T. Beauregard was moving, from the
eastern theater, to potentially link up with
Albert Sidney Johnston's Army
of the Tennessee, Halleck authorized
Grant, and Foote, to move on Fort
On February 6, at 11:00 AM, in a battle fought
almost exclusively by Foote's river boats, Grant received the surrender of
Fort Henry, from CS Brigadier General
Lloyd Tilghman. While the fort
was for the most part, flooded and empty, the fall was viewed as a huge win
for the North, leaving the Tennessee River open to the northern armies, from
its confluence with the Ohio River, upstream to Muscle Shoals in northern
Alabama. After the capture of Fort Henry,
Grant would wire
headquarters informing them that Henry had fallen and that he would be
moving on Fort Donelson on February 8 unless he received specific
instructions to not move.
By the time
Fort Henry, Fort Donelson was well manned and strongly protected.
Manning the fort were 21,000 Confederate troops under the command of CS
John B. Floyd. Brigadier General
Gideon Pillow, a
political appointee, was second in charge and Brigadier General
Buckner was third. It was Grant's hope, that Foote's fleet could
soften the defenses of Fort Donelson, as he had at Fort Henry.
However, Fort Donelson was on high ground and swept a large area, of the
Cumberland River, with much larger guns than were available at Fort Henry.
Fort Donelson was impressive. Consisting of large earthworks,
surrounding 15 acres of troop huts, it sat prominently on a hill.
Surrounding the fort, were two miles of outer defensive works and two large
batteries. On the east, was the Cumberland River, to the north was
Hickman Creek and to the south was Lick Creek. From the west, the
Union forces would have to assault formidable earth works, protected by
felled trees, sharpened and positioned, as abatis. The big siege guns,
in the outer works would prove very effective at repulsing Foote's iron clad
Grant, advanced on Fort Donelson on February 12 -
four days later than expected, due to drenching rains. He had received
token resistance from the troops, under
Tilghman, that were retreating from
Fort Henry, and captured several cannon. Grant ordered US Brigadier
Charles Smith to probe the Confederate right, while US Brigadier
John McClernand was tasked with determining the strength on their
left. Smith and McClernand both determined that the outer works were
too strong to assault, so they circled the outer perimeter, leaving a small
gap on their right. Later, in the evening, Foote's fleet was
positioned north of Fort Donelson and brought another division of troops,
under US Brigadier General
Grant's army would number
Overnight, February 12-13, troops under both
armies would suffer from the elements. Many of
Grant's soldiers, in
the unusually balmy, wet weather, on their march from Fort Henry, scuttled
their heavy blankets. They regretted it this night.
On February 14, Foote's iron clads tested the defenses
of Fort Donelson and were well targeted by the batteries of the fort.
Several of Foote's ships would receive significant damage this day.
Early on February 15,
Grant was consulting with Foote on one of his damaged
gun ships. Brigadier
Gideon Pillow chose this time to hit the Union
right with significant force. While weakening his line elsewhere,
Buckner allowed Pillow the forces necessary to push
McClernand's right flank
Lew Wallace would send reinforcements to McClernand, but
McClernand would be pushed back far enough that the rebels, under
Pillow would have control
of the Forge Road - a potential escape route to Nashville. At this
point, Pillow had a choice: take advantage of his gains, consolidating
forces and pushing further, or evacuate Fort Donelson, using the Forge Road.
Amazingly enough, he did neither. Instead, he pulled back to his
original lines, within the fort.
caught off guard, were demoralized and confused.
Grant, had rode his
horse hard, upon hearing
Pillow's attack and arrived in time to see his
demoralized army. Additionally, by examining the items left by the
Confederate army, he was able to determine they had been considering a
retreat. He immediately ordered his army to press the rebels.
Having weakened his right, to bolster
Pillow's troops, on the left,
C.F. Smith, had success on the Union left. His
division was able to push into the exterior lines and threaten the inner
fort. While the rebels believed
Grant had received significantly more
reinforcements than Wallace's division, they were not in as desperate
straits as they believed.
On the evening of February 15,
the Confederate leadership met and determined that the had no option but
Floyd relinquished his command to
Pillow - and Pillow
immediately relinquished command to
Buckner. Floyd, Pillow and a
little known cavalry commander, Colonel
Nathan Bedford Forrest escaped through
the freezing waters of Lick Creek.
received a note from brigadier
Simon Buckner asking what terms of
capitulation would be offered him. Grant quickly replied, "No terms
except an unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted. I
propose to move immediately upon your works." (Grant would be forever
famous for this reply.) Buckner, an old friend
of Grant's, was incensed. In his reply Buckner could not hide his
disdain for Grant's offer, ".....notwithstanding the brilliant success of
the Confederate arms yesterday, (I am compelled) to accept the ungenerous
and unchivalrous terms which you propose."
receive the surrender of
Buckner's forces, later in the day, at the now
historic, Dover Hotel.
Campaign: Cumberland and
Outcome: Union Victory
Union: 2,832 (killed, wounded or missing/captured)
Confederate: 17,000 (killed, wounded or missing/captured)
The news of the fall of Forts Henry, and Donelson, caused jubilation
through the north. It also caused
Grant's star to rise. Grant,
concerned about his future, while sitting idly by at Cairo, was now being
extolled, by the press, as the hero of Forts Henry and Donelson. Grant
was promptly promoted to Major General, Volunteers, as were the other
brigadier generals at Fort Donelson.
The Confederacy was under a pall of despondency after
news of the capitulation of their forts. With his center broken, CS
A.S. Johnston, determined his positions in Kentucky untenable, and
was forced to pull his lines back and retreat into the inner reaches of
Grant's roller coaster ride would not be over.
Halleck would feel threatened by the "rising star" he helped create.
Grant, not sitting on his laurels, wired Halleck, shortly after the fall of Donelson, that he was determined to push his gains. In his wire to
Halleck, he stated his intentions to move
C.F. Smith's division to
Clarksville and the remainder of his troops to Nashville, to cooperate with
Don Carlos Buell. Unfortunately, this message never reached Halleck
(Grant later claimed a rebel sympathizer was intercepting his communications
to Halleck.). Grant sent C.F. Smith to Clarksville, and went to meet
Buell in Nashville. While gone, Halleck repeatedly wired Grant to
ascertain his troop strengths. Grant was not there to reply.
When Grant did return to Fort Donelson, he had orders, from Halleck, ordering him to return
with his troops to Fort Henry. On March 4, Grant received another
telegram from Halleck, placing Grant's troops under the command of Major
General C.F. Smith. Grant was arrested, and without a command.
By March 13, Grant would be back in charge of his army, and would be fully
exonerated by Halleck. He would also be on the move, chasing General
Johnston's troops into the interior of Tennessee.
The fall of Forts Henry and Donelson, left the deep
south, open to attack, from the great rivers: Cumberland and Tennessee.
Grant would use the Tennessee to launch into his next offensive at a small
church, in southern Tennessee, Shiloh.