Ft Henry and Donelson Capture - History

Ft Henry and Donelson Capture - History

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Capture of Ft Henry and Donelson

In his first successful campaign General Grant captured Ft Henry on February 6th 1862. His forces went on to capture Ft Henry on March 17th 1862


The Confederates did not have enough resources to defend Kentucky. General Johnson the Confederate commander requested reinforcements, but Richmond had none to spare. It did however, send General Beauregard. This however, ironically this seems to have had the opposite of the desired effect. It spurred General Halleck, the Union commander in the West to take action, something he was not quick to do. He sent General Grant and his naval assistant to investigate the western end of General Johnson's line. He discovered that Fort Henry on the Tennessee River was vulnerable. Grant landed his 12,000 men while Commander Foote, the naval commander sent his gunboats to pound fort. Before Grant could surround the fort, Brigadier General Lloyd Tilghman sent most his men from the fort toward Fort Donelson.

The navies bombardment was effective and Tilghman soon surrendered.

With Henry in Union hands Johnson decided that his position was untenable. He sent half of his troops, South out of Tennessee. The other half were sent to reinforce Fort Donelson. Over 16,000 Confederate troops were now in Fort Donelson. The Union attack on Fort Donelson started with an attack by four ironclads. The ironclads however, came too close to the fort and were hit and forced to withdraw. General Grants troops surrounded the Fort. The Confederate commander of the Fort was John Floyd, the second in command was General Gideon Pillow, neither were the Confederates outstanding generals. Their plan of action was to attack the federal lines on the right. The attack succeeded, and the federal line was broken. General Wallace brought reinforcements to hold the line, and Union ironclads resumed there bombardment of the fort. It probably would not have been enough, if it was not for an order given by General Pillow to return to the fort, thus throwing away the gains of the day. By nightfall it was clear that there could be no choice but to surrender. Floyd and Pillow did not wish to be taken prisoners however, so they left the fort in the middle of the night. The commander of the confederate cavalry troops refused to surrender, so he led cavalry troops through the union lines and out of the fort. In the morning the new Confederate commander General Bruckner- who had once lent General Grant money, asked for surrender terms. Grant answered; No terms except unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted. I propose to move immediately upon your works." Bruckner surrendered. The North had a new hero "unconditional surrender Grant" and Tennessee including Nashville were open the Union.

Confederate forces were forced to begin withdrawing from Nashville. The confederates removed as many supplies as they could. On the evening of February 24th, the first Union troops arrived in Nashville. The first confederate capital had fallen.

This illustration from Harpers Weekly from March 17, 1862 is captioned:Position of taylor's and Mcallister's batteries during the battle at fort donelson.—sketched by mr. Alexander simplo

This illustration from Harpers Weekly from March 17, 1862 is captioned:The Attack Of The Second Iowa Regiment On The Rebel Batteries At Fort Donelson.—sketched By Mr. Alexander Simplot

This is a map of the Henry and Donelson Campaign depicting the situation on morning February 14, 1862.

This illustration from Harpers Weekly from March 17, 1862 is captioned:The Gun-boat Attack On The Water Batteries At Fort Donelson.—sketched By Mr. Alexander Simplotfo

This is a map of the Henry and Donelson Campaign depicting the situation at noon February 15th.

Map Situation Night 14-15 February ?This is a map of the Henry and Donelson Campaign depicting the situation on the night of February 14-15 that shows the investment completed.

This is a map of the Henry and Donelson Campaign depicting the situation on February 14, 1862.

Forts Henry and Donelson

Confederate strength in Kentucky and western Tennessee was centered at two fortified positions, one on the Tennessee River (Fort Henry) and the other 20 miles away on the Cumberland River (Fort Donelson). These positions were important for regulating access to the Mississippi River from the east. General Henry W. Halleck was the commander of the army in Missouri and Kentucky, both Border States contested bitterly by the two sides. In February 1862 one of Halleck’s subordinates, Ulysses S. Grant, was delayed in reaching Fort Henry, leaving Commodore Andrew Foote to carry out the attack from a flotilla of gunboats. Most of the Confederate soldiers escaped to nearby Fort Donelson, but Fort Henry was delivered into Union hands. Ten days later, Grant forced the unconditional surrender of Fort Donelson and its 15,000 Confederate soldiers. The initials U.S. in Grant’s name came to mean “unconditional surrender” in the minds of grateful Northerners. The general became a national hero and caught the attention of President Lincoln. The capture of Forts Henry and Donelson offered good news to a Northern public, which was receiving largely bad news from the eastern front. Two major Confederate impediments were now removed, opening the Cumberland and Tennessee rivers. Access to these rivers meant access to the Ohio, which in turn flowed on to the Mississippi.

The Battle

"No terms except an unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted."

Ulysses S. Grant, February 16, 1862

The morning of February 14 dawned cold and quiet. Early in the afternoon a furious roar broke the stillness, and the earth began to shake. Andrew H. Foote's Union gunboat fleet, consisting of the ironclads St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Louisville, and Carondolet, and the timberclads Conestoga and Tyler, had arrived from Fort Henry via the Tennessee and Ohio Rivers and were exchanging "iron valentines" with the eleven big guns in the Southern water batteries. During this one and one-half hour duel the Confederates wounded Foote and inflicted such extensive damage upon the gunboats that they were forced to retreat. The hills and hollows echoed with cheers from the southern soldiers.

The Confederate generals-John Floyd, Gideon Pillow, Simon Buckner and Bushrod Johnson-also rejoiced but sober reflection revealed another danger. Grant was receiving reinforcements daily and had extended his right flank almost to Lick Creek to complete the encirclement of the Southerners. If the Confederates did not move quickly, they would be starved into submission. Accordingly, they massed their troops against the Union right, hoping to clear a route to Nashville and safety. Both Confederate and Union soldiers fought furiously on the morning of February 15 the Union Army grudgingly retreated by the afternoon. Just as it seemed the way was clear, the Southern troops were ordered to return to their entrenchments-a result of confusion and indecision among the Confederate commanders. Grant immediately launched a vigorous counterattack, retaking most of the lost ground and gaining new positions as well. The way of escape was closed once more.

Floyd and Pillow turned over command of Fort Donelson to Buckner and slipped away to Nashville with about 2,000 men. Others followed cavalryman Lt. Colonel Nathan Bedford Forrest across swollen Lick Creek. That morning, February 16, Buckner asked Grant for terms. Grant's answer was short and direct: "No terms except an unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted." Buckner surrendered.

Soon after the surrender, civilians and relief agencies rushed to assist the Union Army. The U.S. Sanitary Commission was one of the first to provide food, medical supplies, and hospital ships to transport the wounded. Many civilians came in search of loved ones or to offer support. Although not officially recognized as nurses, women such as Mary Bickerdyke and Mary Newcomb, cared for and comforted sick and wounded soldiers.

With the capture of Fort Donelson and its sister fort, Henry, the North had not only won its first great victory, it had also gained a new hero--"Unconditional Surrender" Grant, who was promoted to major general. Subsequent victories at Shiloh, Vicksburg, and Chattanooga would lead to his appointment as lieutenant general and commander of all Union Armies. Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox would send Grant to the White House.

After the fall of Fort Donelson, the South was forced to give up southern Kentucky and much of Middle and West Tennessee. The Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers, and railroads in the area, became vital Federal supply lines. Nashville was developed into a huge supply depot for the Union army in the west. The heartland of the Confederacy was opened, and the Federals would press on until the "Union" became a fact once more.

Sketch of the relative position of Fort Henry and Fort Donelson (1862)

Battle of Fort Henry

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Battle of Fort Henry, American Civil War battle along the Tennessee River that helped the Union regain western and middle Tennessee as well as most of Kentucky.

Fort Henry, situated on the Tennessee River, was a linchpin in Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston’s defense lines. Along with Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River, Fort Henry bisected Southern lines and guarded rich mineral deposits and agricultural lands as well as the important city of Nashville, Tennessee. Union General Henry Halleck hoped to regain control of western rivers as a means of piercing Confederate defenses, and in early February 1862 he sent General Ulysses S. Grant and Commodore Andrew Foote on a joint endeavour to capture Forts Henry and Donelson. A Union force of 15,000 men and seven gunboats traveled along the Tennessee to Fort Henry, whose meagre defenses they overcame on February 6. About 2,500 Confederate defenders under General Lloyd Tilghman fought briefly, then retreated 12 miles (19 km) overland to nearby Fort Donelson to prepare a stronger defensive line.

The Union victory was largely the result of a fierce gunboat bombardment, as Grant’s men had arrived too late to see action. The victory cost the North 11 killed and 31 wounded Southern losses totaled 5 killed, 11 wounded, and 78 prisoners of war. The battle’s consequences were greater than its size, however. Navigation on the upper Tennessee fell to the Union, and Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River then stood alone guarding the Confederacy’s western heartland and population centres.

This article was most recently revised and updated by Amy Tikkanen, Corrections Manager.

Ft Henry and Donelson Capture - History

Courtesy of the Fort Donelson 1995 Tour Guide

Bells rang jubilantly throughout the North at the news, but they were silent in Dixie. The cause: the fall of Fort Donelson in February 1862. It was the North's first major victory of the Civil War, opening the way into the very heart of the Confederacy. Just a month before, the Confederates has seemed invincible. A stalemate had existed since the Southern victories at First Manassas and Wilson's Creek in the summer of 1861. Attempts to break the Confederate defense line, which in the west extended from southwest Missouri and the Indian Territory to the Appalachian Mountains, had achieved little success. A reconnaissance in January convinced the Union command that the most vulnerable places in the Confederacy's western line were Forts Henry and Donelson, earthen works guarding the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers.

A joint navy/army attack upon fort Henry had been agreed to by Flag Officer Andrew H. Foote and an obscure brigadier general named Ulysses S. Grant. It was to take place in early February, using the Tennessee River for transport and supply. It would be the first test of Foote's ironclad gunboats.

On February 6, 1862, while Grant's men marched overland from their camp downstream, Foote's gunboats slowly approached Fort Henry and opened a hot fire that quickly convinced Lloyd Tilghman, the Confederate commander, that he could not hold out for long. The plan called for the gunboats to engage the fort until the army could surround it. The bombardment raged for more than an hour, with the ironclads taking heavy blows and suffering many casualties. But the fort was no match for the gunboats. To the army's chagrin, the ironclads pounded the fort into submission before the soldiers, plodding over muddy roads, could reach the vicinity. Less than a hundred of the Confederate garrison surrendered, including Tilghman the rest, almost 2,500 men, escaped to Fort Donelson, Grant's next objective, a dozen miles away on the Cumberland.

At Donelson the Confederates had a far stronger position. Two river batteries, mounting some 12 heavy guns, effectively controlled the Cumberland. An outer defense line, built largely by reinforcements sent in after the fall of Fort Henry, stretched along high ground from Hickman Creek on the right to the little town of Dover. Within the fort Confederate infantry and artillerymen huddled in log cabins against the winter. Aside from a measles epidemic, they lived "quite comfortably," cooking their own meals, fighting snowball battles, working on the fortifications, drilling, and talking about home--until the grim reality of war descended upon them.

It took Grant longer than expected to start his men toward Donelson. Several days passed before Fort Henry was secure and his troops ready. He finally got underway on February 11, and as his soldiers stepped out briskly over the rolling terrain, the weather had turned unseasonable warm. Believing that the temperature was typical of the South in February, many of the soldiers cast aside their heavy winter gear--an act they would soon regret. By February 13 some 15,000 Union troops nearly encircled the outerworks of Fort Donelson. Sporadic clashes broke out that day without either side gaining ground. Nightfall brought bitter weather--lashing sleet and snow that caused great suffering.

The Battle of Fort Donelson

The morning of February 14 dawned cold and quiet. Early in the afternoon the stillness was broken by a furious roar, and the earth began to shake. The Union gunboats were exchanging "iron valentines" with the 11 big guns in the Southern water batteries. During this one and one-half hour duel the Confederate guns in inflicted such extensive damage upon the gunboats that they were forced to retreat. The hills and hollows echoed with cheers from the Southern soldiers.

The Confederate generals--John Floyd, Gideon Pillow, Simon Buckner, and Bushrod Johnson--also rejoiced but sober reflection revealed another danger. Grant was receiving reinforcements daily and had extended his right flank almost to Lick Creek to complete the encirclement of the Southerners. If the Confederates did not move quickly, they would be starved into submission. Accordingly, they massed their troops against the Union right, hoping to clear a route to Nashville and safety. The battle on February 15 raged all morning, the Union army grudgingly retreating step by step. Just as it seemed the way was clear, the Southern troops were ordered to return to their entrenchments--a result of confusion and indecision among the Confederate commanders. Grant immediately launched a vigorous counterattack, retaking most of the lost ground and gaining new positions as well. The way of escape was closed once more.

Floyd and Pillow turned over command of Fort Donelson to Buckner and slipped away to Nashville with about 2,000 men. Others followed cavalryman Col. Nathan Bedford Forrest across swollen Lick Creek. That morning, February 16, Buckner asked Grant for terms, Grand answered, "No terms except an unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted." Buckner surrendered.

With the capture of Fort Donelson and her sister fort, Henry, the North had won its first great victory and gained a new hero--"Unconditional Surrender" Grant. The South was forced to give up southern Kentucky and much of Middle and West Tennessee. The heartland of the Confederacy was open, and the Federals would press on until the "Union" became a fact once more.

Fort Pillow Massacre: Background

In 1861, the Confederates constructed a military installation at the Fort Pillow site and named it for General Gideon Johnson Pillow (1806-78), a Tennessee native. Fort Pillow overlooked the Mississippi River and was an important part of the Confederate river defense system before it was captured by federal forces in the summer of 1862.

Despite the ferocity of the attack, Fort Pillow was of little significance to the Confederate Army, and Nathan Bedford Forrest&aposs troops abandoned it within hours of the massacre.

In March 1864, Confederate Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest (1821-77) launched a cavalry raid in western Tennessee and Kentucky that was aimed at destroying Union supply lines and capturing federal prisoners. In early April, he determined to move on Fort Pillow, located 40 miles north of Memphis. At the time, Fort Pillow was being held by a garrison of around 600 men, approximately half of whom were black soldiers.


The First Battle of Bull Run, on July 21, 1861, was the first major land battle of the war. Until this time, the North was generally confident about its prospects for quickly crushing the rebellion with an easy, direct strike against the Confederate capital at Richmond, Virginia. The embarrassing rout of Brig. Gen. Irvin McDowell's army during the battle made clear the fallacy of this viewpoint. Many Northerners were shocked and realized that the war was going to be much lengthier and bloodier than they had anticipated. It steeled their determination. If Confederates had hoped before this that they could sap Northern willpower and quietly slip away from the Union with a minor military investment, their victory at Bull Run, ironically, destroyed those hopes. [1] Lincoln immediately signed legislation that increased the Union Army by 500,000 men and allowed for their terms of service to last the duration of the war. Congress quickly passed the Confiscation Act of 1861, which declared that if a slave holder used his slaves to support the Confederacy he would forfeit his right to them. While the status of the slaves was unclear at the time (they were held as war contraband until the Emancipation Proclamation), this was the first legislative step toward defining the war as a matter of ending slavery.

By mid-1861, eleven states had seceded, but four more slave-owning "border states" remained in the Union—Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, and Delaware. Kentucky was considered the most at risk the state legislature had declared neutrality in the dispute, which was seen as a moderately pro-Confederate stance. The loss of Kentucky might have been catastrophic because of its control of the strategic Tennessee and Ohio rivers and its position from which the vital state of Ohio could be invaded. Lincoln wrote, "I think to lose Kentucky is nearly the same as to lose the whole game."

On September 3, 1861, Confederate General Leonidas Polk extended his defensive line north from Tennessee when Gideon Pillow occupied Columbus, Kentucky (in response to Ulysses S. Grant's occupation of Belmont, Missouri, directly across the Mississippi River). Polk followed this by moving through the Cumberland Gap and occupying parts of southeastern Kentucky. This violation of state neutrality enraged many of its citizens the state legislature, overriding the veto of the governor, requested assistance from the federal government. Kentucky was never again a safe area of operation for Confederate forces. Ironically, Polk's actions were not directed by the Confederate government. Thus, almost by accident, the Confederacy was placed at an enormous strategic disadvantage. Indeed, the early Union successes in the Western Theater (the locale of all their successful large-scale non-naval initiatives until 1864) can be directly tied to Polk's blunder.

The capture of Forts Henry and Donelson, and the Confederate surrender at the latter, were the first significant Union victories during the war and the start of a mostly successful campaign in the Western Theater. Ulysses S. Grant completed both actions by February 16, 1862, and by doing so, opened the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers as Union supply lines and avenues of invasion to Tennessee, Mississippi, and eventually Georgia. The loss of control of these rivers was a significant strategic defeat for the Confederacy. This was the start of offensive actions by Grant that, with the sole exception of the Battle of Shiloh, would continue for the rest of the war.

Albert Sidney Johnston was considered one of the best generals serving in the Western Theater. By 1862, he commanded all Confederate forces between the Cumberland Gap and Arkansas. Before the battles of Fort Henry and Fort Donelson, Johnston had advocated improving the forts' structures as well as deploying additional troops and arms to more adequately defend them. The Confederate government failed to meet these recommendations. Ulysses S. Grant captured the forts in February 1862 and launched a full-scale invasion of Tennessee. The fall of these forts was inaccurately blamed on Johnston, but he continued to serve.

In March 1862, Johnston organized the Army of Mississippi with P.G.T. Beauregard. He launched his attack at the Battle of Shiloh in April 1862. Johnston's plan was to drive the Union army from its landing point on the Tennessee River into the surrounding swamps. He assigned Beauregard to coordinate the attack. Beauregard disagreed with his strategy and instead planned to drive the enemy back toward the river. He in turn directed reconnaissance at this plan, resulting in the ultimate failure to pinpoint Grant's army. On the first day of battle, Johnston personally led the attack on the enemy. He was a victim of friendly fire, receiving a hit in the knee which severed his popliteal artery. Johnston died within an hour. His death resulted in critical reassignments of his command to less talented generals who failed to repair the virtually doomed Western Theater.

Early in the war, Confederate strategists believed the primary threat to New Orleans would come from the north, and made their defensive preparations accordingly. As forces under Grant made gains in the Western Theater, much of the military equipment and manpower in the city's vicinity was sent up the Mississippi River in an attempt to stem the victorious Union tide. [2] When Flag Officer David Farragut was able to force the Union Navy's West Gulf Blockading Squadron past the Confederacy's only two forts below the city in the Battle of Forts Jackson and St. Philip, New Orleans had no means to oppose capture. Thus the port, by far the largest Confederate city, fell undamaged into Union hands, tightening its grip on the Mississippi River and fulfilling a key element of the Anaconda Plan for the South's defeat. Although the occupation under Maj. Gen. Benjamin Butler was detested, he was astute enough to build a base of political support among the poorer classes and create an extensive intelligence and counterespionage capability, nullifying the threat of insurrection. The Confederacy's loss of its greatest port had significant diplomatic consequences. Confederate agents abroad were generally received more coolly, if at all, after news of the city's capture reached London and Paris.

The Battle of Antietam, fought September 17, 1862, was the bloodiest single day of conflict in American military history. But it also had two strategic consequences. Although considered a tactical draw between the Army of the Potomac and the much smaller Army of Northern Virginia, it marked the end of Robert E. Lee's invasion of the North. One of his goals was to entice the slave-holding state of Maryland to join the Confederacy, or at least recruit soldiers there. He failed in that objective he also failed in marshaling Northern fears and opinions to pressure a settlement to the war. [3]

But more strategically, George B. McClellan's victory was just convincing enough that President Lincoln used it as justification for announcing his Emancipation Proclamation. He had been counseled by his cabinet to keep this action confidential until a Union battlefield victory could be announced, lest it appear to be an act of desperation. Along with its immense effect on American history and race relations, the Emancipation Proclamation effectively prevented the British Empire from recognizing the Confederacy as a legitimate government. The British public had strong anti-slavery beliefs and would not have tolerated joining the pro-slavery side of a fight where slavery was now a prominent issue. [4] This greatly diminished the Confederacy's hopes of surviving a lengthy war against the North's suffocating naval blockade. Support from France was still a possibility, but it never came to pass. Antietam and two other coincident failed actions—Braxton Bragg's invasion of Kentucky (sometimes called the "high-water mark of the Confederacy in the Western Theater" [5] ) and Earl Van Dorn's advance against Corinth, Mississippi—represented the Confederacy's only attempts at coordinated strategic offensives in multiple theaters of war. [6]

After winning the Battle of Chancellorsville, the Army of Northern Virginia lost Lt. Gen. Stonewall Jackson to pneumonia following a friendly fire accident. His death was a blow to the morale of the Confederate army, as he was one of its most popular and successful commanders. Two months later, Robert E. Lee had no general with Jackson's audacity available at the Battle of Gettysburg. Many historians argue that Jackson might have succeeded in seizing key battlefield positions (such as Culp's Hill and Cemetery Hill at the end of day one) that his replacements were unable or unwilling to take. [7] Lee himself shared this belief and is said to have told his subordinate generals on different occasions that they should have acted like Jackson would have. [8]

On July 4, 1863, the most important Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River at Vicksburg, Mississippi, surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant. The previous day, Maj. Gen. George Meade had decisively defeated Robert E. Lee at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. These nearly simultaneous battles are the events most often cited as the ultimate turning points of the entire war. [9]

The loss of Vicksburg split the Confederacy in two, denying it any further movement along or across the Mississippi River and preventing supplies from Texas and Arkansas that might sustain the war effort from passing east. As President Lincoln had stated, "See what a lot of land these fellows hold, of which Vicksburg is the key! The war can never be brought to a close until that key is in our pocket. We can take all the northern ports of the Confederacy and they can defy us from Vicksburg."

Gettysburg was the first major defeat suffered by Lee. The three-day battle witnessed the Union Army of the Potomac decisively repel his second invasion of the North and inflicted serious casualties on his Army of Northern Virginia. In fact, the National Park Service marks the point at which Pickett's Charge collapsed, a copse of trees on Cemetery Ridge, as the high-water mark of the Confederacy. From this point onward, Lee attempted no more strategic offensives. Although two more years of fighting and a new, more aggressive general-in-chief (Grant) were required to fully subdue the rebellion, the eventual end at Appomattox Court House in 1865 seems inevitable in hindsight.

While Gettysburg was seen by military and civilian observers at the time as a great battle, those in the North had little idea that two more bloody years would be required to finish the war. Lincoln was distraught at Meade's failure to intercept Lee's retreat, believing that to have done so would have ended the conflict. [10] Southern morale was seriously affected by the twin setbacks of Gettysburg and Vicksburg, as they perceived that "the coil was tightening around us". [11]

Some economic historians have pointed to the fact that after the defeats at Gettysburg and Vicksburg, the market for Confederate war bonds dropped precipitously. "… European investors gave the Confederacy approximately a 42 percent chance of victory prior to the battle of Gettysburg/Vicksburg. News of the severity of the two rebel defeats led to a sell-off in Confederate bonds. By the end of 1863, the probability of a Southern victory fell to about 15 percent." [12]

Military historian J.F.C. Fuller contended that Grant's defeat of Braxton Bragg's army at Chattanooga, Tennessee was the turning point of the war because it reduced the Confederacy to the Atlantic coast and opened the way for William T. Sherman's Atlanta Campaign and March to the Sea. [14] [15]

Following the victory at Chattanooga, Grant was appointed general-in-chief of all Union armies on March 12, 1864. Leaving Sherman in command of forces in the Western Theater, he moved his headquarters east to Virginia. Previous Union commanders in the critical Eastern Theater had not mounted effective campaigns, or successful pursuits of Confederate forces after gaining rare victories. Grant devised a coordinated strategy that would strike at the Confederacy from multiple directions: against Lee and the Confederate capital, Richmond in the Shenandoah Valley against Johnston and Atlanta against railroad supply lines in western Virginia and against the port of Mobile. In May, Grant launched the Overland Campaign towards Richmond, an attritional campaign that took full advantage of the North's edge in population and resources. Although he suffered a tactical reverse in his first encounter with Lee in the Battle of the Wilderness, Grant pressed forward, putting the Confederates under an unremitting pressure that was maintained until the fall of their capital and the surrender of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia.

Some [ who? ] contend that Sherman's successful siege of Atlanta was the turning point, since the heavily fortified city was the most critical remaining stronghold in the South. [16] The capture of Atlanta, following a tedious and frustrating campaign, lifted the spirits of Unionists and came just in time to build the popular support necessary to re-elect Lincoln, in addition to its military result of crippling transportation in the heart of the Confederacy and nearly destroying the city.

The reelection of Abraham Lincoln in 1864 is beyond the final point at which a positive conclusion for the Confederacy could have been contemplated. [ citation needed ] His opponent, former general George B. McClellan, ran on a Democratic Party platform that favored a negotiated settlement with the Confederacy. Although McClellan disavowed this platform, the South would have likely seen his election as a strategic victory. Thus, Lincoln's success may have further emboldened belief, on both sides, in the notion that the war would eventually end with the Union's original ambition achieved.

The Campaign for Fort Donelson

Grant and Foote were unable to move immediately on Fort Donelson by February 8 as they promised Halleck. High water and impassable roads kept Union soldiers seeking higher ground around Fort Henry for their camps and equipment. Then too, Foote took all of his gunboats except the Carondelet back to Cairo for repairs. During this time, Halleck and his departmental officers rushed reinforcements and supplies upriver to the expedition. Veteran units from Missouri as well as recruits hardly finished with basic training hustled aboard steamboats destined for Fort Henry. Halleck was very concerned about Grant's vulnerability to a Confederate counterattack. He requested Buell to begin advancing down the railroad from Louisville to create a diversion. Meanwhile, Grant remained optimistic. "I intend to keep the ball moving as lively as possible," he wrote his sister on February 9, from "away down in Dixie." Pillow commanded at Fort Donelson, he told her, and "I hope to give him a tug before you receive this."



She had no conception of the amount of labor he had to perform, what with "an army of men all helpless, looking to the commanding officer for every supply." Still, "your plain brother has as yet no reason to feel himself unequal to the task," he added, and "fully believes that he will carry on a successful campaign against our rebel enemy." This was not a boast, Grant concluded, but a presentiment.

Nevertheless, the delay became onerous to all concerned. Grant reconnoitered the countryside around Fort Henry and especially the roads to Dover. He also consulted with his subordinates, Smith, McClernand, and Wallace. The troops were restless, Grant was fidgety, and everyone wanted to move on to capture Fort Donelson. McClernand, who coveted Grant's command, maneuvered so as to be seen as the strategist making quick work of the remaining fort. Under such pressure, Grant issued orders to march via the Ridge and Telegraph Roads on February 12. Now, accompanied by mild weather and quickly drying roads, McClernand and Smith set out with their commands, leaving Wallace and 2,500 men to guard the Fort Henry base. The way to Fort Donelson and Dover lay over steep hills and deep ravines. But an air of gaiety pervaded the march as it seemed like a picture-book war in Dixie. Soldiers jettisoned excess overcoats and blankets. Nowhere did the Confederates seriously attempt to impede their passage.

At this same time, Foote and his gun boats were escorting troop transports carrying reinforcements up the Cumberland. The Carondelet preceded the waterborne column with orders to announce its arrival to Grant by throwing a few shells at Fort Donelson. By the evening of February 12, Grant's land force had moved virtually unopposed to the outskirts of the Confederate position surrounding Dover. Then McClernand's cavalry patrols ran into resistance about a mile from the defenses when troopers under the rugged but as yet unsung Colonel Nathan Bedford Forrest set up a roadblock. Arrival of Union infantry soon forced the gray-clad horsemen back inside the perimeter. Remembering Pillow's ineptitude during the Mexican War, Grant had boasted that he would march to Fort Donelson unopposed. The Tennessee politician-general was absent at that moment, having gone to Cumberland City to argue with Floyd for standing firm at the fort. But he had left Buckner in charge with orders to avoid pitched battle. The Kentuckian did so, and the Union besiegers arrived without much difficulty.



Slowly, Smith and McClernand took positions to carry out Grant's plan. They would surround the fort and wait for Foote and his gunboats to repeat their easy Fort Henry victory. The navy could batter the Confederates into submission. In Grant's view, this would save time and lives. As the army commander and his staff set up headquarters at the widow Crisp's cabin on a slope along the eastern bank of Hickman Creek behind Smith's line, the rattle of musketry cut through the otherwise calm winter evening to announce the first contact between the two armies. The stage was set when the Carondelet briefly announced the navy's presence. Slowly, Smith's soldiers edged up a high ridge closer to the rifle pits held by Buckner's division closest to the fort. McClernand's people began to march toward their right to reach the river above the town. With night descending, however, and lacking complete information on the situation, Grant's army soon settled down to await daylight when they could complete their encirclement of the Confederate force.

That night, the Federals peered across the intervening ravines at the luminous campfires in the Confederates' armed camp beyond the earthworks. The Southerners were backed up against the river with avenues of escape fast disappearing. But they had come here to fight not to run, and down at the river, Lieutenant Colonel Milton Haynes kept his water battery gunners at work if only to boost morale for facing the dreaded Yankee gun boats the next day. On the river itself, two remaining steamboats left to Confederate service shuttled Floyd's Virginians in from Cumberland City amid flaming torches and cheers from the shoreline. When Floyd arrived in person at dawn on Thursday, February 13, he set up headquarters in a picturesque hotel near the upper steamboat landing and assessed the situation.


John Floyd was an antebellum politician from southwest Virginia and the pre-war United States secretary of war now accused of treason for shipping large quantities of ordnance and supplies to Southern arsenals, where they quickly fell to the insurgents in 1861. He was no soldier. True, he was respected in some political circles and his brigade had been bloodied in fighting the previous autumn in the western part of his home state. But now he faced a difficult mission with a mixed force of veterans and recruits—and at a location he considered "illy chosen, out of position, and entirely indefensible by any re-enforcement." He had bowed to Pillow's pressure to defend Volunteer State soil to the death. And Floyd knew that he must hold out until Johnston sent word that the Bowling Green army had safely evacuated the region and cleared Nashville. But his was a race with time and his inspection of the Confederate position at Fort Donelson and Dover that early February morning quickly became merely cursory as the day ripened with crisp sounds of skirmish fire.

Forts Heiman, Henry, and Donelson

On May 7, 1861, the state of Tennessee decided to withdraw from the Union and join the Confederacy. Southern leaders hoped Kentucky would follow Tennessee’s example, giving the South a formidable northern boundary on the Ohio River. Kentucky’s decision not to follow Tennessee out of the Union forced Southern leaders to defend the Tennessee border. Unfortunately for the Confederacy, the Mississippi, Tennessee, and Cumberland Rivers crossed this state border and each river provided opportunity for Union invasion.

Ulysses S. Grant, as photographed by Mathew B. Brady (National Archives)

For the Union to prevail, armies had to be sent into Confederate territory. The Union Army faced the daunting task of occupying and controlling this vast area. In order to accomplish this task, large armies had to be trained, supplied, and moved into the South. Supply lines had to be developed and maintained. The ability to keep this army supplied and reinforced was so critical that victory could not be achieved without the use of rivers and railroads. The Southern strategy of defending its borders to secure their new country required controlling these major transportation routes. In short, controlling the rivers and railroads would be vital for the success of the Union and the Confederacy.

Governor Isham Harris of Tennessee decided to begin work on the defense of his state. He dispatched engineers to select sites for forts on the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers. The engineers were told to select sites north of railroad crossings and south of the Tennessee and Kentucky State line. Fort Donelson was built on the Cumberland River on a high bluff near Dover, Tennessee. A site for the Tennessee River fort was not as easy to locate. After receiving several opinions, Governor Harris decided to build Fort Henry on low ground frequently flooded by the Tennessee River. The poor location on which Fort Henry was built forced Confederate leaders to also occupy and fortify the high ground across the Tennessee River from Fort Henry. This work was named Fort Heiman.

On November 7, 1861, Union General Ulysses S. Grant led a force against the Confederate camp at Belmont, Missouri. The results were inconclusive but it gave Grant a good close view of the Confederate work at Columbus, Kentucky. Grant was also receiving scouting reports that Fort Henry was in a weak position. He began seeking permission from his superior, General Henry Halleck, to attack Fort Henry. General Grant was initially rebuffed, but when the request was reiterated with Flag Officer Andrew H. Foote’s recommendation, Halleck agreed. Grant began ferrying his troops to a spot just north of Fort Henry. By February 6, 1862, General Grant had his force of 15,000 and Foote’s gunboats in place and ready to attack.

The news of the Union build-up close to Fort Henry was reported to Confederate General Lloyd Tilghman, commander of Forts Heiman, Henry, and Donelson. General Tilghman found himself in an ominous situation. Forts Henry and Heiman were garrisoned with only 2,500 men. Fort Henry was already partially flooded, the river was rising, and a vastly superior force, including ironclad gunboats, threatened him. By the time Grant made his move against Forts Heiman and Henry, Tilghman had the Fort Heiman garrison ferried to Fort Henry and had most of both garrisons stationed outside the fort in preparation to move to Fort Donelson. Tilghman retained just enough men at Fort Henry to operate the heavy guns.

Grant divided his army and sent General C.F. Smith’s Division on the west bank to attack Fort Heiman while General John McClernand’s Division moved along the east bank to Fort Henry. The fleet of gunboats, consisting of ironclads Cincinnati, Essex, St. Louis, and Carondelet and timberclads Conestoga, Lexington, and Tyler, made up the third prong of the Union attack. Foote took advantage of the elevated water level, and used a chute around the west side of Panther Island. This allowed the gunboats to get closer to the fort without being fired upon by the Confederate gunners. The gunboats emerged from the chute and lined up in battle formation, keeping their bows turned toward the fort, and they opened a tremendous fire. Fort Henry answered with its eleven heavy guns, but the bow guns of the gunboats had more firepower than the fort could match. This, along with the poor position of Fort Henry, gave Foote’s gunboats the advantage. Foote used that advantage and pressed in close to the fort, silencing seven of the eleven heavy guns. One of the heavy guns inside Fort Henry exploded during the battle, killing most of the crew.

The gunboats did not come away unscathed. The Essex took a round in her boiler, sending scalding steam through the boat. Many sailors jumped overboard to avoid being scalded to death. Many more did not have the chance to jump and were found dead at their posts. The damage sustained by the Cincinnati was extensive enough that repairs could not be made in time to participate in the Fort Donelson battle.

Lieutenant General Simon B. Buckner (Library of Congress)

General Tilghman decided further resistance was futile and ordered a white flag to be raised. The Union Navy had captured the fort while the Army, delayed by swollen streams and muddy roads, was still trying to make its way to the battlefield. The Tennessee River was now open for the Union. Timberclad gunboats steamed all the way to Alabama, damaging bridges and capturing boats, including a partially constructed ironclad. The ironclad gunboats returned to Cairo, Illinois with instructions to hasten repairs before steaming up the Cumberland River to Fort Donelson.

The Confederate command was in dismay. Nobody expressed confidence in any earthen fort holding against the ironclad boats. “Fall back” was the order. The only person to see Grant’s position on the Tennessee River as weak was his commander, Henry Halleck, who began sending him reinforcements. Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston, believing Fort Donelson would fall to the gunboats as Fort Henry had done, felt that his army’s position at Bowling Green, Kentucky was threatened. Johnston’s forces faced Union General Don C. Buell’s army north of Bowling Green. If Grant brought his army up the Cumberland River to Nashville, Tennessee, General Johnston would find himself trapped between the two Union armies. Johnston decided to reinforce Fort Donelson to delay Grant and cover his own retreat from Bowling Green to Nashville. He sent about 12,000 men, including Generals John B. Floyd, Gideon Pillow, Simon B. Buckner, and Bushrod Johnson, from southern Kentucky and northern Tennessee. These men pressed forward to strengthen Fort Donelson. The Confederates mounted heavy guns in the water batteries, built and extended earthworks, and cut trees to open fields of fire. But they made no effort to hamper, harass, or delay General Grant as he prepared to move against Fort Donelson.

Union cavalry was able to scout the area and obtain good information about road conditions between the two forts. Grant accompanied one of the patrols and rode to within sight of Fort Donelson, thus obtaining valuable information about the lay of the land, before he decided to leave Fort Henry and attack Fort Donelson. The weather had been warm and spring-like.

On February 11, 1862, Grant’s Union army began its march across the twelve miles to Fort Donelson. Grant was also able to send several regiments around by water. He left one brigade, under the command of General Lew Wallace, to hold Fort Henry. McClernand’s Division arrived at Fort Donelson on February 12 and began surrounding the fort. McClernand moved to the east side of the work while Smith’s Division moved to occupy heights along the west side of Fort Donelson later that same day.

On February 13, the Union continued to position and surround the fort. Both division commanders ordered attacks against the Confederate works without success. By this time, Fort Donelson had been reinforced, bringing its garrison to 15,000 to 17,000. Grant was facing an army roughly the same size or perhaps slightly larger than his own. He sent word for Wallace at Fort Henry to bring his brigade forward. That night the wind shifted and the temperature began to drop. A heavy rain that soaked both armies was followed by a snowstorm that lasted all night. Morning dawned with two inches of snow on the ground and temperatures well below freezing.

The Union Navy was also moving. The Carondelet, the first ironclad gunboat to arrive, tested Fort Donelson at long range. On February 13, the Carondelet scored a hit and dismounted one of the heavy guns inside the water battery.

The Union regiments Grant had sent around by water arrived below Fort Donelson. Grant organized these regiments into another division under General Lew Wallace and placed them in the center of the Union lines. By February 14, Grant’s army had grown to 27,000 men and Fort Donelson was surrounded on the land side. Only the Cumberland River toward Nashville was still open for possible Confederate reinforcements.

Grant was hoping his ironclad gunboats would be as successful at Fort Donelson as they had been at Fort Henry. If the gunboats could silence the fort or get past the fort, Fort Donelson would be surrounded without hope of reinforcement or supplies. Time would then force the Confederates to surrender. On Valentine’s Day, the ironclad fleet of St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Louisville, and Carondelet with the timberclads Conestoga and Tyler, made ready to attack. The four ironclads moved into battle formation, four abreast with their bows pointed toward the fort to open fire. They would have to run a gauntlet through a narrow channel of one-and-one-half miles to reach Fort Donelson. The Confederates were ready, and opened fire with their two largest cannons, a ten-inch Columbiad and a six-and-one-half-inch rifle. The gunboats continued to close the distance to the fort. Once the boats had pressed to eight hundred yards, they came under the fire of seven thirty-two pounders. Fort Donelson was built on much higher ground than Fort Henry. The closer the gunboats came to the fort, the more the Union gunners had to elevate their gun muzzles while, at the same time, the easier it was for the defending Confederates to shoot down on them. The result was the nearer the boats got, the more the Union aim deteriorated while the Confederate aim improved. The gunboats continued to press to within four hundred yards of the fort. A solid shot entered the pilothouse of the flagship St. Louis killing the pilot, damaging the wheel, and wounding Flag Officer Foote. The St. Louis became difficult to steer and began to fall back. The Louisville began to fall back after receiving several shots and having its tiller cables cut. The Pittsburgh had received two rounds in the bow between wind and water, meaning the rounds went under the armor and penetrated the wooden hull. The Pittsburgh was taking on more water than the pumps could pump out. The bow guns were run back and repair parties went to work to slow the water leaking into the vessel. These measures saved the gunboat from sinking, but it too had to retire. This left the Carondelet alone to face the heavy batteries. Every cannon trained on the single boat and forced it to fall back with the remainder of the fleet. The gunboat attack had failed. The hills and hollows surrounding Fort Donelson echoed with Confederate shouts of victory.

Brigadier General Gideon J. Pillow (Library of Congress)

This news sent shock waves through the Union Army. General Grant began to contemplate siege, but Confederate Generals Floyd, Pillow, and Buckner would not give Grant the chance. Once they got through celebrating the victory against the gunboats, they began to take a long, hard look at their situation. The Confederate forces were spread out evenly around the two-and-one-half miles of outer earthworks. Simon Buckner was in command of the Confederate right while Bushrod Johnson was in command of the Confederate left. Gideon Pillow had been in overall command of the fort until the arrival of John B. Floyd on February 13. The Confederate generals realized that, while they had defeated the gunboats, they were still surrounded by a superior force whose numbers had been growing while their numbers had not. Johnston had sent them to Fort Donelson to delay General Grant and to cover Johnston’s withdrawal from Bowling Green. They had additional instructions to then remove the army from the fort and join General Johnston in Nashville. The Confederate generals agreed the time had come to act. They decided on a plan to break through the Union lines and take their army out to Nashville using two roads on the Confederate left wing. The plan called for Pillow to take command of Johnson’s Division and to mass them on the extreme left of the Confederate lines. Confederate Colonel Adolphus Heiman’s Brigade would hold its position in the Confederate center. Buckner’s Division would move into the gap between Heiman’s Brigade and Pillow’s Division. This would place most of the Confederate army on the left wing and almost nobody on the right wing.

The plan called for Pillow’s Division to launch the attack against the Union right. Once the Union right was turned and being forced back around the earthworks, Buckner’s Division would join the attack. Once the roads were open, the retreat to Nashville could take place. At daybreak on February 15, Pillow’s Division hit the Union right, under General John McClernand, hard. This massed and determined attack began to turn the Union right and forced them back along the roads used to surround Fort Donelson. McClernand realized he was in trouble and sent word to the other division commanders and to Grant requesting help. Grant had not anticipated this type of action from the Confederates. He had left his headquarters before daylight and traveled several miles downstream to inspect the gunboats. The only instructions left to his division commanders was to hold their positions and not to bring on a general engagement. Instead, the Confederate generals had brought the engagement to the Union Army. During Grant’s absence, no one was there to make a decision. McClernand’s rider was told he would find General Grant somewhere downstream. This confusion helped the Confederates, and the Union right continued to give way. Lew Wallace, division commander for the Union center, eventually decided that, if he were going to hold his position, he would have to help McClernand hold the right wing. C.F. Smith, division commander for the Union left, also sent one brigade to help McClernand. By mid-afternoon, McClernand’s Division had been pushed off the battlefield and was trying to reform while Wallace’s Division and the brigade from Smith’s Division had crossed Indian Creek and moved into position to block the Confederate attack. This Union position was well beyond the River and Forge Roads, which meant that those roads were open to the Confederates as escape routes to Nashville.

The Confederate attack seemed to stall and there was a lull on the battlefield. Buckner ordered additional infantry regiments and artillery forward to strengthen his position. He intended to press the attack or hold his position so that the rest of the Confederate Army could escape while his division served as a rear guard. Pillow sent a telegram to Johnston, in Nashville, announcing, “…The day is ours,” and sent orders directing Buckner and all Confederate forces to withdraw inside the earthworks. Buckner questioned the order. He did not see the reason to simply give up all the area they had fought for and won that day. Pillow reiterated his original order and Buckner reluctantly began to comply. General Floyd arrived and asked why Buckner was moving back inside the earthworks. Buckner expressed his disagreement with Pillow’s order and Floyd went to confer with Pillow. Ultimately, the Confederate command decided to pull back inside the earthworks.

While the Confederate generals were arguing and debating about what actions they should be taking, Grant arrived on the battlefield. He found confusion among some of the Union forces men wandering around with empty cartridge boxes while wagons of ammunition stood nearby. Captured Confederate soldiers with knapsacks and bedrolls had caused fear that the Confederates were prepared to fight the Union army back to Fort Henry. Grant realized that the Confederates in Fort Donelson were trying to escape and he began issuing orders to get these regiments back into line and properly equipped with ammunition. He ordered Wallace and McClernand to retake the area lost during the morning attack. He also believed that, for the Confederates to have hit him so hard in one place, they must have weakened their line somewhere else. He rode off to order General Smith to attack the Confederate right wing. As he was riding along, he yelled to the men to rally, not to let the enemy escape, and the men responded well.

Upon receiving orders to attack the works in front of his division, General Smith moved his forces down the ridge and formed for battle at the bottom of the Confederate-occupied hill. He gave his men an inspiring talk, saying that they had volunteered to die and that now was their chance. He placed his hat on his saber and, while mounted on a white horse, led the advance up the hill. There were very few Confederate forces at the top of the hill to greet them and Smith’s Division easily captured the right wing of the earthworks. The Confederates fell back to the next ridge to regroup. Buckner’s Division arrived in time to hold this ridge against the attacking Union soldiers. The Union forces fell back and the lateness of the hour prevented any further attacks. The long, bloody day closed with the Confederates back inside the works on their left and with the works on their right firmly held by the Union army. Through indecision and debate the Confederate generals had missed their opportunity to evacuate, while the decisiveness and leadership of General Grant had preserved the Union position.

During the night of February 15, the Confederate commanders met to decide their next move. There was no improvement in cooperation between these generals. Pillow wanted to leave the sick and wounded behind and force their way out. Buckner believed they had lost the element of surprise and had no options left. The generals received varying reports as to the position of the Union army and how much of the area opened by the Confederates had been reoccupied. They did receive one accurate report that River Road was open, but the mud was knee-deep and the water was up to the saddle skirts. The surgeons believed that men forced to wade the water in the cold February weather would die of exposure. As the long night wore on, surrender seemed to be the best option. John B. Floyd declared that, due to personal reasons, he would not be part of the surrender. He asked General Buckner if Buckner would agree to take command so that he could draw out his personal brigade before the capitulation. Buckner replied that Floyd and his brigade could leave, as long as they did so before General Grant had time to reply to his communication. And so, General Floyd turned over his command (which General Pillow passed) leaving Buckner to accept the command and begin communication with Grant about terms for surrender.

Nathan Bedford Forrest Library of Congress

Colonel Nathan Bedford Forrest, in command of Confederate cavalry, was aware that the generals were contemplating surrender. Forrest had been providing scouting reports to the generals, but had had little, if any, influence on their decisions. When it was confirmed that the Confederate command planned to surrender, Forrest vowed to take the cavalry out even if he saved only one man. Generals Floyd and Pillow were also making plans to leave when an unexpected boat appeared at the landing with 400 reinforcements. Floyd had the boat unloaded and placed a guard around it. He ordered his personal brigade onboard and ferried most of them across the Cumberland River where they marched to Clarksville, Tennessee accompanied by General Pillow. Floyd and the last load of soldiers left Clarksville by water on their way to Nashville.

As the sun rose in the eastern sky on February 16, 1862, both Union and Confederate soldiers were surprised to see white flags flying over the Confederate works. Buckner sent a message to Grant proposing an armistice while terms of surrender could be discussed. U.S. Grant sent back the ultimatum that would make him famous: “No terms except an unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted. I propose to move immediately upon your works.” General Buckner accepted what he named “ungenerous and unchivalrous terms.” Now the Cumberland River was also open to the Union army. The battle count for both sides was 4,332 casualties.

Grant and Buckner met at the Dover Hotel, site of Buckner’s headquarters, to formalize the surrender. During the next few days, approximately 13,500 Confederate prisoners began their trips to prison camp and an uncertain future. Northern newspapers reporting the events dubbed the Union commander, “Unconditional Surrender” Grant. All of the Union generals were promoted to Major Generals and Washington began to take notice of Grant’s abilities. The Confederacy abandoned southern Kentucky and most of middle and west Tennessee. The Union army had control of the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers and occupied Nashville. This provided the Union a base with a river and rail network that allowed a huge influx of the men and materials necessary to conquer the South.

The war would continue three more years. Larger battles would be fought and many more men would lose their lives before the war ended. When Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston was told that Fort Donelson had surrendered, he deemed the loss “disastrous and almost without remedy.” The next three years would prove him right.

Today, Fort Donelson National Battlefield, a unit of the National Park Service, owns approximately twenty percent of the 1862 battlefield. The main work at Fort Henry is under the Kentucky Lake, but much of the outer works remain and is part of Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area, operated by the National Forest Service. The high ground on which Fort Heiman was built saved it from a watery grave, but it is privately owned and is for sale as lake front property.

War of the Rebellion: Serial 007 Page 0145 Chapter XVII. CAPTURE OF FORT HENRY, TENN.

the outworks around it, together with the advanced state of the new works south of Tennessee River, Fort Heiman, together with its line of outworks, of rifle pits, and abatis, was all thoroughly performed, and satisfies my own mind that officers and men could not have fallen short in their duties to have accomplished so much.

The failure of adequate support, doubtless from sufficient cause, cast me upon my own resources, and compelled me to assure responsibilities which may have worked a partial evil. I aimed at the general good, and am the last man to shrink from assuming what is most likely to accomplish such an end.

I would further state that I had connected both Forts Henry and Donelson by a line of telegraph from Cumberland City-total length of line about 35 miles-thus placing me in close relations with Bowling Green and Columbus.


Brigadier-General, C. S. Army.

No. 9. Report of Lieutenant Colonel Milton A. Haynes, C. S. Army, Chief of Tennessee Corps of Artillery.

RICHMOND, VA., March 22, 1862.

SIR: By direction of the honorable Secretary of War I have the honor to submit a report in regard to the defense and surrender of Fort Henry, February 6

On January 15, Major-General Polk, by his order, a copy of which I annex,* commanded me to proceed to Forts Henry and Donelson and take charge of the artillery forces in General Tilghman's division. Having been charged by General Tilghman with certain duties at Fort Donelson, on the night of February 5 I proceeded, attended only by my servant, to Fort Henry, but did not enter the fort until after daylight, not being able to cross the backwaters in the night. I then learned, for the first time, that the enemy had landed about 10,000 or 12,000 men at Bailey's Landing, 3 miles beyond the fort, on the same side of the river, and that ten gunboats and several transports were lying at the same point.

After hastily examining the works with Captain Hayden, of the Engineers, I gave it as my opinion that Fort Henry was untenable, and ought to be forthwith abandoned, first, because it was surrounded by water, then cut off from the support of the infantry, and was on the point of being submerged second, because our whole force, artillery, cavalry, and infantry, amounted to little over 2,000 men, a force wholly inadequate to cope with that of the enemy, even if there had been no extraordinary rise in the river.

About 8 o'clock General Tilghman, who was on my arrival at Fort Heiman [the new but unfinished work on the opposite side of the river], came across to Fort Henry. I had a brief interview with him in regard to the steps to be taken at Fort Donelson, but, it becoming evident that the enemy would attack on that day, further consultation was postponed, and General Tilghman proceeded at once, without consultation with me, to make his disposition for the defense of Fort Henry. He


*Not found.



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