Early 1862 Military Moves in the West: Part 3
Grant was able to follow-up the naval victory at Fort Henry with an attack against Fort Donelson on Feb. 12, 1862. If victory was to be won here, it would be up to Grant’s infantry. By the time he reached Fort Donelson his force had grown to nearly 25,000 men.
Grant had an additional advantage in that the defending Confederate force was led by two political appointees Generals Pillow and Floyd. Neither of them had ever led men in battle. After their performance at Fort Donelson, neither would ever be allowed to do so again.
Fort Donelson had been better positioned and build by Confederate engineers than Fort Henry and it had better armament. Defended by well over 15,000 men, it would be be as easily captured wither. Never-the-less, Grant intended to move against the fort as soon as his troops were in position.
On Feb., 14th, Captain Foote sailed his fleet of ironclads and timberlands vessels withing 350 yards of the fort. Moving on swift water his ships suffered such serious damage from the defender’s guns that he had to withdraw all of his ships. In fact, Foot’s ship, the st. Louis, was hit, too. The ship’s pilot was killed and Foote was fatally wounded.
Meanwhile, Grant’s force began to dig in, surrounding the fort.
Before he could complete these arrangements, however, CSA General Floyd orderd an attack against the weakest part of Grant’s position. This attack was designed to forge an escape route away from Donelson and a path toward Nashville. After what has been described an fierce fighting, the Confederates were successful. But, instead of taking advantage of the opening, thus saving his army, CSA General Pillow ordered a withdrawal to the safety of the defenses of the fort.
Grant then moved quickly to close the opening in his lines and ordered a general attack of his own. As a result, the original lines were re-established. Where-upon, Generals Floyd and Pillow decided to flee. Colonel Nathan Bedford Forrest refused to surrender and escaped instead with his cavalry to Nashville. General Buckner was left to surrender Fort Donelson and with it, an entire Confederate army of over 15,000 men.
When Buckner asked for terms, Grant replied, “No terms except unconditional surrender can be accepted. I propose to move immediately upon your works.”
General Buchner surrended Fort Donelson and with it over 15,000 soldiers. From this point on, Gen Ulysses S. Grant was referred to in the Northern press as ‘Unconditional Surrender Grant’.