The American Civil War, day by day - Page 34 - Politics Forum.org | PoFo

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#15064968
February 6, Thursday

Due to the high water, rain, and bad roads, the Federal troops assaulting Fort Henry do not get under way until late morning. About 11 am Flag Officer Andrew Foote with his four ironclads followed by three wooden gunboats move upstream, firing rapidly into the almost open fort. The defenders gallantly reply, striking the flotilla with fifty-nine shots, a few of them causing damage. The boiler of Essex is pierced and scalds twenty-eight officers and men. Cincinnati is also struck. In the fort a shell explodes near the mouth of a thirty-two-pounder, wrecking the gun and crew. Another gun blows up. Shortly after 2 pm Tilghman lowers his flag and surrenders 12 officers, 66 men, and 16 patients on the hospital boat to Flag Officer Foote. The gunboat attack had been timed to coincide with the arrival of the 15,000 Federal infantry, but the soldiers encountered deep mud and are far behind schedule, still out of sight of the fort when they hear the firing stop. The Confederates have lost 5 killed, 6 wounded, 5 disabled, and 5 missing for a total of 21 casualties, but have saved the main garrison. In Foote’s Federal squadron 11 are dead, 31 injured, and 5 are missing.

In the afternoon Grant wires Halleck, and Halleck wires Washington, the same message: FORT HENRY IS OURS. The meaning is clear: with the fall of Fort Henry, a major impediment to Federal advancement south is removed; an important river highway, bypassing the Mississippi, is opened. But about ten miles away on the Cumberland a much more formidable fortification, Fort Donelson, still stands in the way. Foote immediately takes his ironclads north for repairs and then plans to go around and ascent the Cumberland from the Ohio. The three wooden gunboats proceed on a raid up the Tennessee to Florence, Alabama. Over at Fort Donelson Brigadier General Bushrod R. Johnson succeeds Tilghman in command and calls for reinforcements.

In South Carolina there is a Federal reconnaissance to Wright River.

President Davis spends valuable time writing discontented officers over frictions in command.
#15065239
February 7, Friday

General Grant makes a personal reconnaissance of Fort Donelson on the Cumberland near Dover, Tennessee, and his force establishes itself near captured Fort Henry. However, the capture of Fort Henry, resounding victory though it is, has put the Federal army in a dangerously exposed position—Grant cannot expect to hold his prize long if he doesn’t take Fort Donelson. Back in St. Louis, Major General Halleck understands the threat. Even as he reinforces Grant for an advance, he sends him entrenching tools and tells him to improve his position to use as a base. But Grant will sidestep the order; Fort Henry is still flooded, and anyway, he is going to Donelson. But not right away, Halleck is sending 10,000 more men and Grant wants to wait for them to arrive. Even more important, Flag Officer Andrew Foote needs several days to go down the Tennessee River, pause at Cairo for repairs, and then take his fleet up the Cumberland to Fort Donelson.

Confederate General A.S. Johnston, realizing his Kentucky line has been wrecked, hurries troops into Donelson. General Gideon Pillow from Clarksville, Tennessee, and General John B. Floyd from Russellville, Kentucky, are ordered to Donelson. At Bowling Green, Kentucky, Johnston, Beauregard, and William Joseph Hardee meet to discuss the extremely serious situation. Johnson knows that his magnificent bluff, which has kept some Federal commanders in a state of nervous prostration for five months, has at last been called. In spite of the time he has bought the Confederacy has failed to muster the men and weapons to defend Tennessee. At this point, Johnston has about 45,000 troops in total. He is opposed by better-armed forces of at least twice that number, including Grant’s small advance army, Halleck’s men in Missouri, and Buell’s army in Kentucky. The last alone is larger than Johnston’s entire force. With the Federals in Fort Henry, Johnston’s position at Bowling Green and Polk’s fortified position at Columbus are separated and can be taken by Grant from the flank and rear. Johnston has decided his only recourse is to abandon Bowling Green, Columbus, and Fort Donelson and move south to positions below the Tennessee River in Alabama. Since he has been holding Bowling Green to defend Nashville, the withdrawal means abandoning that important center of commerce and industry. General Beauregard, sent to the West as Johnston’s second-in-command after quarreling with President Davis over the conduct of the War, is so dismayed to learn of their weak position that he’s ready to go back to Virginia. But Johnston talks him into staying and explains his retreat plan. Beauregard suggests massing the entire army at Fort Donelson, smashing Grant, then wheeling to deal with the huge Federal army in Kentucky. But Johnston fears that if the plan fails the Confederate cause in the West will be in a shambles. The retreat will go on as planned.

The populace North and South soon hear the news of the momentous, or tragic, breakthrough.

At Pamlico Sound behind Hatteras Inlet, North Carolina, the sun has come out and General Burnside’s ships make their way to Roanoke Island. In the front of the fleet, gunboats form their battle line to begin a bombardment of Fort Bartow, the southernmost of the strongpoints on the west side of the island. In the western channel seven of the eight tiny Confederate gunboats make a menacing show from behind a barrier of sunken pilings, though Flag Officer Lynch has decided not to attack—he will conserve what little strength he has by trying to lure the Federal ships into the obstructions in the channel, hopefully reducing their maneuverability and giving the “mosquito fleet” a chance to make itself felt. If the Federals actually get through the obstructions, Forts Blanchard and Huger on Roanoke’s west coast and the beached barge Fort Forrest on the mainland can catch them in a crossfire. At about 11:30 am, the Federal gunboats open fire on Fort Bartow, just south of the sunken pilings.

While the US Navy keeps the defenders busy, the US Army lands a small party of soldiers and a topographical engineer at Ashby’s Harbor, two miles south of Fort Bartow, to check if the “most valuable information as to the nature of the shore of the island” provided to General Burnside by a recently escaped slave is accurate. Though fired upon as they are leaving, the scouting party reports that conditions are favorable for a landing. At about 3 pm large longboats full of soldiers and pulled by steamers, twenty to a ship, approach the island until the ships veer off, the towlines are cut, and the oarsmen row swiftly to the beachhead. It is the first large amphibious landing of the War, and a signal success. In less than an hour 4,000 men have waded ashore, and by midnight 10,000 Union soldiers are on the beach at Ashby’s Harbor, making temporary camp in a chilling rain and preparing for the next day’s fighting.

During all this, Goldsborough’s gunboats continue to pound Fort Bartow. The “mosquito fleet” twice ventures out from behind the sunken pilings, trying to draw the enemy ships north toward the guns of Forts Huger, Blanchard, and Forrest, to no avail. The Federals refuse to take the bait, though they do respond with fire of their own. The CSS Forrest is hit and retires from the fight, and Commander Thomas Hunter is forced to ground the CSS Curlew lest she sink—on the mainland coast, right in front of Fort Forrest, blocking the aim of the fort’s guns.

Meanwhile, to the north, Federals reoccupy Romney, western Virginia, as Confederates pull back toward Winchester, Virginia.

There is a small expedition and skirmish at Flint Hill and Hunter’s Mill, Virginia.

Federal batteries shell Harper’s Ferry briefly.

In Mew Mexico Territory, Confederate Brigadier General Sibley leads his brigade out of Fort Thorn up the Rio Grande to attack Fort Craig. His mounted column now totals 2,515 effectives—many of those he led west across Texas have already been lost to disease—and include 15 artillery pieces. Accompanying the troops are a long supply train and a herd of beef cattle. Silbey has already sent one of Colonel Baylor’s companies of about 100 men, led by Captain Sherod Hunter, riding eastward to occupy Tucson and keep watch for Union troops that might threaten them from California. Lieutenant Colonel Canby is waiting at Fort Craig with 3,810 men. Only 900 of them are Regulars, an assortment of infantry companies along with some cavalry. The rest are New Mexico volunteers, including Kit Carson’s regiment, a company of New Mexican scouts, some state militia, and a company of Colorado volunteers who have rushed to New Mexico in response to Canby’s appeal for assistance. It’s a mixed bag of troops, some of doubtful reliability, but the fort provides a strong position on the west bank of the Rio Grande. (Kit Carson, the famous explorer and guide, had enlisted at the beginning of the war, and by the summer of 1861 was a newly-commissioned lieutenant colonel.)

In the White House in Washington Willie Lincoln, youngest son of the President, lies critically ill.
#15065535
February 8, Saturday

Federal General Burnside, having succeeded in landing three brigades on Roanoke Island, leaves the implementation of his plan in the hands of the brigades’ commanders—Brigadier Generals John Parke, John Foster, and Jesse Reno, men that Burnside has called “three of my most trusted friends”—while he remains in his headquarters on the island. The brigades are to advance on the Confederates (currently commanded by Colonel H.M. Shaw, General Wise having fallen ill), with Foster attacking first along the causeway and Parke and Reno following through the swamp on either side to outflank the enemy. But the men on the flanks will have no easy task, struggling through brambles and knee-deep mud.

Come morning Foster’s column moves up the causeway, to be met by a hail of small-arms and artillery fire. The Federals creep forward painfully, a litter of wounded and dead in their wake, but it soon becomes clear that their frontal attack won’t carry the works and Foster orders two regiments to march off through the swamps on the right and try to turn the Confederates’ left flank. About 11:30 one of those regiments, having sustained heavy casualties and exhausted its ammunition, is ordered to fall back and is replaced by another. When the new regiment has advanced through heavy fire to within a quarter mile of the Confederate breastworks, Foster orders the 9th New York Zouaves to launch the charge. While this has been happening, on the Federal left Reno’s men have been slogging through the swamp to get to the Confederate breastworks, “through a thicket that you would think it was impossible for a man to pass through[,]” all while under fire from the Confederate redoubt. When the redoubt finally comes into view Reno gives the order to charge and the defenders, seeing themselves outmanned, break and run, leaving behind their dead and wounded and three artillery pieces. On the causeway the Zouaves, not realizing the enemy has already broken and fled, makes their own charge, cascading over the Confederate breastworks only to find no one to fight. Nevertheless, they will stubbornly claim that it was their own charge that put the Rebels to flight.

The breaking of the line across the causeway has shattered any hopes the Confederates had of holding Roanoke Island. The defenders on the northern tip of the island are trapped, and within hours most of them, something over 2,000 men, surrender, including reinforcements that have arrived too late for the fight and garrisons of batteries along the shore. Some manage to escape in small boats to the mainland or to Nags Head on the Outer Banks. One of those left behind, mortally wounded, is General Wise’s son, Captain O. Jennings Wise. Casualties are 23 killed and 62 wounded for the Confederates and 37 killed, 214 wounded, and 13 missing for the Federals. There are also moderate casualties among the naval forces involved. Thirty guns fall into Federal hands.

While a relatively small engagement from the standpoint of forces and casualties, Roanoke Island has considerable importance. Control of Pamlico Sound gives the Federals a first-rate base on the Atlantic coast for operations against North Carolina. At the Confederate capital the seriousness of the defeat is deeply felt; a back door to Richmond has been opened and a vital Southern state dangerously threatened. The Confederate government, newspapers, and citizenry see Roanoke Island in a much truer light than later historians, who will dismiss it as a minor operation. Also, it comes at a time when word of the fall of Fort Henry is spreading over the land and the obvious threat to Fort Donelson is developing. Depression in the Confederacy feeds on constant bad news. The Congress at Richmond will launch an investigation and fasten the blame on two men: General Huger, who denied Wise the reinforcements he needed, and Secretary of War Judah Benjamin, who had no reinforcements to send. Huger, after another lackluster performance on the Peninsula, will be relieved of his command and transferred to the West. Benjamin will be forced to resign his post, but will immediately assume the position of Secretary of State at the insistence of President Davis.

There is a skirmish at the mouth of the Blue Stone River, western Virginia; a small affair at Bolivar, Missouri; and martial law is declared throughout Kansas.

General McClellan has sat as long as he can on the order from Secretary of War Stanton, on behalf of the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War, to arrest the Union field commander at the Battle of Ball’s Bluff, Brigadier General Charles Stone. But now he reluctantly orders his provost marshal to take Stone into custody and at midnight Stone is arrested by a detachment of Army troops. No charges are filed, and when Lincoln learns of it he will wince at the order, saying that he is glad he “knew nothing of it until it was done.”

President Lincoln worries about his son, who is ill with typhoid. He asks McClellan if he has any further news from the West; what has happened to canal boats sent up to Harper’s Ferry to bridge the Potomac? What about his contemplated movement?
#15065785
February 9, Sunday

In the West at Fort Donelson, Tennessee, Johnston has two reasonable alternatives. Following Beauregard’s suggestion during the war council on the 7th, he can mass his troops at Donelson to outnumber and defeat Grant’s army. Or he can leave a small sacrifice garrison to hold the fort until he withdraws the bulk of his army. Inexplicably, he chooses neither and instead has left the 5,000 men in Donelson and gradually committed 12,000 more, totaling 37 percent of his force. To compound his error, he places the troops under the command of a clumsy triumvirate of brigadiers. The most experienced of the three is the third in authority, Simon Bolivar Buckner, who quit the Army in 1855 to manage his wife’s estate in Louisville and returned to fight for the Confederacy as commander of the force that seized Bowling Green. The second in authority is John B. Floyd, the former Governor of Virginia and Secretary of War under Buchanan, who served in western Virginia just long enough to demonstrate his incompetence with stunning clarity. The first in authority is Gideon J. Pillow, a self-important lawyer and politician from Tennessee who is the only Confederate commander that Grant will hold in open contempt.

The three generals preside over construction to strengthen the fort’s defenses against land assault. The defense line is a semicircle of earthworks enclosing both the fort and the town; its southern end curves back almost to the river, and its unfinished northern section is protected by deep swamps along a flooded creek. The river approach is protected by two formidable batteries set high on a bluff. General Pillow likes the fort’s chances better than Johnston does. He telegraphs, I WILL NEVER SURRENDER THE POSITION AND WITH GOD’S HELP I MEAN TO MAINTAIN IT.

At Roanoke Island, North Carolina, there are cleanup operations by the victorious Federals, including easily dealing with the six remaining vessels of the “mosquito fleet” on the 10th in spite of their having taken refuge under the guns of Fort Cobb. Hours later the fleet that dealt with the “mosquito fleet” reaches Elizabeth City, where Commander Rowan finds a crowd of jubilant Blacks and a number of burning buildings, put to the torch by White inhabitants before they fled.

A light skirmish occurs at Marshfield, Missouri.

Confederate Congressman Alexander R. Boteler has met with General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, to communicate Secretary of War Judah P. Benjamin’s terms of reconciliation over the Secretary’s (and the President’s, though this isn’t widely known) interference in the disposition of his troops. Whatever the terms are, Jackson finally acquiesced and has written to Virginia Governor Letcher authorizing him to withdraw the resignation. However, on the same day that he agrees to remain at his post, Jackson formally charged General Loring with neglect of duty and with conduct “subversive of good order and military discipline.” But President Davis and Secretary of War Benjamin have refused to permit Loring to be brought before a court martial board. Instead, he is now removed from his post and in a few days will be promoted to Major General and named to command the Department of Southwestern Virginia.

In Washington the War Department orders the imprisonment of Malcolm Ives, a correspondent of the New York Herald, on spying charges.

Brigadier General Charles P. Stone is also arrested in Washington and sent to Fort Lafayette in New York Harbor without specific charges. He had been the Federal commander at the ill-fated Battle of Ball’s Bluff in the fall of 1861, and allegedly has consorted with the enemy. He will never be brought to trial or even charged, and will be released August 16, 1862. The Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War, Secretary of War Stanton, General McClellan, and President Lincoln will be blamed for what will come to be generally believed to have been an unjust act. The case is a cause célèbre in the press of the day.
#15066091
February 10, Monday

To the north of Pamlico Sound the remainder of the Confederate “Mosquito” fleet is destroyed when Federals fight a successful engagement at Elizabeth City, North Carolina, the head of an important waterway to Virginia. Soon Burnside and his men will have firm control of the coastal area and turn their attention to New Berne.

On the coast in South Carolina there is a skirmish at Barnwell’s Island.

In the West the three Union wooden gunboats that had moved up the Tennessee to Florence, Alabama, after Fort Henry’s fall return. Grant’s build-up against Fort Donelson is nearing completion.

In Missouri Union General Samuel R. Curtis preempts Major General Van Dorn’s plans to reinforce General Sterling Price to retake Missouri for the Confederacy by marching out of Lebanon, Missouri, with 12,000 men and 50 guns to drive Price out of his camps in the southeast corner of the state. Outnumbered and outgunned, Price will beat a hasty retreat toward the Arkansas border. Van Dorn will prepare to meet the Federals head on by calling on the governors of the states in his Trans-Mississippi District to rush reinforcements and ordering Brigadier General Ben McCulloch, in Arkansas, to assemble his troops. Among those troops McCulloch summons Brigadier General Albert Pike, an Arkansas landowner who has little military experience but who knows Amerinds and their languages, and his pro-Confederate Amerind force of 1,000 Cherokee along with 200 Texas cavalrymen. This is actually a violation of the treaties that Pike negotiated with those of the tribes in Indian Territory that have sided with the Confederacy, which obligate them to fight only inside the borders of their own territory. But in spite of the fact that they aren’t obligated to answer McCulloch’s call, Pike and his Cherokee do so. But Pike is not happy about it.
#15066275
February 11, Tuesday

General John A. McClernand’s Federals lead the advance from Fort Henry across toward Fort Donelson as Grant’s army begins its march. Foote’s Federal gunboats are moving from the Tennessee to the Ohio at Paducah and thence up the Cumberland. For the Confederates, Brigadier General Simon Bolivar Buckner arrives at Fort Donelson as more troops come in.

Confederates begin evacuating Bowling Green, Kentucky, leaving only Columbus on the now useless Kentucky line.

In South Carolina Edisto Island is occupied by Federals, and there are three days of activity at Aransas Pass, Texas.
#15066546
February 12, Wednesday

General Grant and 15,000 Federal troops make the 12-mile march from Fort Henry to Fort Donelson and begin to set up lines across the front of the fort. The weather is mild, and the lighthearted Illinois and Iowa men, deciding that spring has come, discard their blankets and overcoats along the roads. By evening Grant’s army is ranged in a semicircle on hills near the fort and town of Dover, awaiting the help of the gunboat attack. Confederates can still bring in men from across the river to the east, but a mild form of siege has begun.

Federal naval forces capture Edenton, North Carolina, as they expand their operations from Roanoke Island.

There is skirmishing at Moorefield, western Virginia, and Springfield, Missouri, where Confederates pull farther southwest.
#15066909
February 13, Thursday

In the morning Grant moves to complete the investment of Fort Donelson, placing the division of General Smith, his old idol, on the left and sending out to the right Brigadier General John A. McClernand, an energetic but inexperienced political appointee from Illinois. Although McClernand’s division is stretched thin, it doesn’t reach the river on the right, leaving the Confederates an escape route. Grant is anxious to close the gap. He is expecting to put the reinforcements Halleck has sent in the center, moving McClernand’s division farther to the right to close the exit. Since the reinforcements haven’t arrived, Grant summons Brigadier General Lew Wallace from Fort Henry with 2,000 men—practically all the rest of Grant’s army.

The gunboat Carondelet arrives ahead of Flag Officer Foote’s gunboat flotilla and trades shots with the fort. General McClernand sends three regiments on an unauthorized attack against bothersome Confederate guns on a fortified hill. The assault is beaten back with heavy casualties. Some of the wounded are burned to death when cannon fire ignites leaves and grass.

Late in the afternoon the wind shifts to the north and a cold drizzle begins. At dark the drizzle turns to sleet. The temperature falls to 10 degrees F (-12 degrees C). Men who had abandoned coats and blankets now are in agony. There are no tents. For food there is only hardtack, and without fires there is no coffee. Men wounded in General McClernand’s assault that escaped burning now freeze to death. For many soldiers on both sides this will be the worst night of the War.

John B. Floyd arrives with more troops and takes over Confederate command from Pillow.

At Bowling Green, Kentucky, being evacuated by the Confederates, fire destroys a number of buildings.

Over at Fort Heiman on the Tennessee there is a brief skirmish. Out in Missouri Springfield is once more occupied by Federal troops. In North Carolina a Federal expedition leaves North River for the Albemarle Canal.

Meeting in Wheeling, the West Virginia Constitutional Convention adopts a provision that no slave or free person of color should come into the state for permanent residence.
#15067157
February 14, Friday

This morning Flag Officer Andrew Foote’s gunboat flotilla and twelve Army transports with 10,000 troops from Halleck arrive and tie up three miles below Fort Donelson. General Wallace and the troops from Fort Henry also arrive, and most of the men are formed into a third division under Wallace. Grant asks Foote to attack the fort immediately, and Foote reluctantly agrees; he has only the meager reconnaissance from the Carondelet’s exchange of shots with Fort Donelson the previous day.

Foote spends the morning getting the boats ready, piling their upper decks with chains, lumber, and bags of coal to protect them from plunging fire. It is 3 pm before four ironclads and two wooden gunboats come up the river in battle line. Grant’s expectations that the Federal squadron would be able to repeat Fort Henry are dashed, for after heavy bombardment and serious damage, the gunboats are forced to withdraw downstream to the north. Flag Officer Foote is wounded and his ironclads St. Louis and Louisville drift away helpless, their steering mechanism shot away. Two others are badly struck and the wooden vessels cannot face the well-posted fire of the Confederate fort on the bluff, which suffers little damage. Foote’s mistake was to close to nearly point-blank range where, his guns having to fire at maximum elevation, their arcing trajectories tended to overshoot their targets. Since his heavier guns had longer range than the Confederates’, he could have probably shattered the waterside batteries while staying beyond the reach of most enemy cannon. But he had triumphed at Fort Henry by the same tactic of driving in close. Now the cold weather continues as two discouraged armies still face each other at nightfall.

The resounding victory over the Union gunboats does little to lighten the gloom that has settled on Donelson’s three brigadier generals. They have already decided that the fort is a trap that will cost them their army if they don’t get out. They are relieved to note that Johnston has completed his retreat to Nashville, since this frees them of their rearguard assignment. Since they were planning a breakout when the gunboats attacked, they go right on planning it despite their unexpected victory. They plan to shatter Grant’s line with a sudden hammer blow and break out to the south toward a road that leads to Nashville.

The rearguard of General Hardee’s remnants finally leaves the Kentucky town of Bowling Green and Federals soon march in.

The War Department places Grant in command of the District of West Tennessee, and William Tecumseh Sherman is given the District of Cairo.

In other fighting there is skirmishing near Cumberland Gap, Kentucky; at Crane Creek, Missouri; and at Bloomery, western Virginia.

In Washington and Richmond news from the West is anxiously awaited. Meanwhile, Lincoln grants amnesty to all political prisoners who will take an oath not to aid the rebellion.
#15067371
February 15, Saturday

Another winter storm spreads misery overnight through both armies at Fort Donelson, and a howling wind covers the noise the Confederates make moving into position to attack. They are ready when dawn breaks in a clear sky, showing ground covered with fresh snow and tree limbs sheathed in ice. Grant rises before dawn to visit Flag Officer Foote at his anchorage below Donelson. He issues orders to his division commanders to hold their positions and do nothing to bring on an engagement—an obvious warning against a repetition of McClernand’s unauthorized attack the previous day. Without designating a second-in-command, he sets out with a single orderly over roads that had been muddy and are now frozen hard and slick. The pair pass the men of the 20th Ohio, on the march toward Donelson, and minutes later the Ohioans hear firing begin in the distance.

General Pillow’s Confederates have attacked, their main blow landing on McClernand’s extreme right, near the river, where the troops are thinnest. Though the Federals have no warning, they aren’t caught completely by surprise—the men were too cold to sleep, so at first light they were kindling fires. When their pickets were driven into the camp they formed a battle line and their first crashing volley momentarily threw back Pillow’s men. But the Confederates quickly resume the attack, and in the dense woods and rough ground formal lines soon dissolve into countless individual fights. It’s 9 o’clock before Pillow regains enough control to form an organized line, and soon afterward McClernand’s troops are retreating, driven off by dismounted cavalrymen commanded by Nathan Bedford Forrest. McClernand sends a desperate message to Lew Wallace, whose division is next to his in Grant’s battle line, asking for support. Wallace sends to Grant’s headquarters asking for permission to move, but Grant is still away and no one at headquarters has—or is willing to take—the authority to change his orders. Even as Wallace learns this another messenger from Pillow reports that the right is falling back on the center, with ammunition low. Wallace releases one of his brigades on his own authority to McClernand, just as a third messenger reports that McClernand’s troops are in full retreat.

A Federal disaster is in the making by the time Grant finishes his talk with Foote. Grant is rowed ashore from Foote’s flagship and finds an aide waiting for him. He listens to the bad news then sets out at a gallop over seven miles of icy road. Upon reaching Wallace and McClernand, he learns that the enemy troops have come out with three days’ rations in their haversacks, and reasons that soldiers don’t carry rations when they charge unless they intend to keep on going. He also reasons that the Confederates were able to hit so hard on his right because they have pulled troops from his left, where General Smith’s division stands untouched. He orders Wallace and McClernand to advance and retake the lost ground, then spreads the word himself, galloping down the line with his aide, shouting, “Fill your cartridges, quick, and get into line; the enemy is trying to escape and he must not be permitted to do so.” This, Grant will later say, “acted like a charm. The men only wanted someone to give them a command.” He then sends a hasty message to Foote asking for a gunboat demonstration against the fort and rides off to Smith’s position on his left and orders him to attack Fort Donelson.

What has started as a Confederate breakout is now very close to a Confederate triumph. The Federal line is pushed back at right angles to its original position and the Confederates, though tired and battered, have the momentum for victory. On that momentum they might smash Grant’s army, or they can still carry out the original plan and escape. They do neither. General Pillow, having opened the escape hatch, unaccountably orders the troops back into the fort to regroup. The more professional General Buckner protests, but General Floyd eventually agrees with Pillow. In the midst of the argument General Smith’s advance begins against the Confederate right. Smith’s division hammers into the single regiment left to hold the earthworks and pushes them out, and repeated Confederates attempts to retake the earthworks fail. Union artillery is placed to command the rest of the Confederate entrenchments, and on the Federal right they retake most of the ground lost in the morning. In the battle lines that night “Mother” Mary Ann Bickerdyke administers to the wounded, self-appointed but with the blessings of all.

General Albert Sidney Johnston arrives personally in Nashville ahead of Hardee’s forces.

From Cairo a Federal expedition moves down the Tennessee to Eastport, Mississippi, February 15-22; there is a skirmish near Flat Creek, Missouri; and action at Venus Point, Georgia.

In St. Louis Brigadier General John M. Schofield assumes command of the District of St. Louis.
#15067398
Doug64 wrote:February 15, SaturdayMcClernand sends a desperate message to Lew Wallace, whose division is next to his in Grant’s battle line, asking for support.

The author of the famous historical novel Ben Hur, I presume?

What has started as a Confederate breakout is now very close to a Confederate triumph. The Federal line is pushed back at right angles to its original position and the Confederates, though tired and battered, have the momentum for victory. On that momentum they might smash Grant’s army, or they can still carry out the original plan and escape. They do neither. General Pillow, having opened the escape hatch, unaccountably orders the troops back into the fort to regroup. The more professional General Buckner protests, but General Floyd eventually agrees with Pillow.

This is extraordinary. The competence and calm professionalism of Grant in this crisis contrasts tellingly with the idiocy of most of the Confederate commanders. What on Earth possessed Pillow to do this? There is no understanding the thought processes of the incompetent. They seem determined to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. :roll:

In the midst of the argument General Smith’s advance begins against the Confederate right. Smith’s division hammers into the single regiment left to hold the earthworks and pushes them out, and repeated Confederates attempts to retake the earthworks fail. Union artillery is placed to command the rest of the Confederate entrenchments, and on the Federal right they retake most of the ground lost in the morning.

Competence meets incompetence, and competence wins. :lol:
#15067462
Potemkin wrote:The author of the famous historical novel Ben Hur, I presume?

Just so.

The competence and calm professionalism of Grant in this crisis ...

Certainly Grant kept his eye on the ball better than Pillow, but he made his own mistake as well--not leaving anyone else in overall command while he was away. That was almost disastrous.

What on Earth possessed Pillow to do this?

There's a good reason why modern historians describe that decision as "inexplicable." Grant's reputation as the greatest of the Union's generals is well-earned, but he was also blessed in the quality of the generals that opposed him. One could argue that a major reason the South lost was because the Union had Grant and Sherman while the Confederacy only had Lee.
#15067483
Doug64 wrote:Certainly Grant kept his eye on the ball better than Pillow, but he made his own mistake as well--not leaving anyone else in overall command while he was away. That was almost disastrous.

Good point, but Grant recovered well from his mistake, whereas Pillow... didn't. Lol.

There's a good reason why modern historians describe that decision as "inexplicable." Grant's reputation as the greatest of the Union's generals is well-earned, but he was also blessed in the quality of the generals that opposed him. One could argue that a major reason the South lost was because the Union had Grant and Sherman while the Confederacy only had Lee.

Another good point. The South seems to have appointed and promoted generals based on family background and connections rather than skill or even basic intelligence. This aristocratic amateurism might have worked back in the 18th century, but was disastrous when facing an industrial society whose generals were promoted on merit.
#15067499
Potemkin wrote:Good point, but Grant recovered well from his mistake, whereas Pillow... didn't. Lol.

Grant has one problem he probably never really overcomes, the tendency to be concerned about what he was going to do to the enemy and not worry about what the enemy would do to him. Most of the time that isn't a concern, he has the larger army and is the aggressor, but occasionally it bites him on the ass.

Another good point. The South seems to have appointed and promoted generals based on family background and connections rather than skill or even basic intelligence. This aristocratic amateurism might have worked back in the 18th century, but was disastrous when facing an industrial society whose generals were promoted on merit.

That isn't quite fair. While certainly there were some general officers in the South promoted because of and protected by political connections, that was actually more of a problem for the North. Lincoln was the one trying to keep a disparate population's support for a war of conquest, and one of the tools available for that was military appointments. There's a story of one politician Lincoln promoted to general of volunteers because of his clearly German name--Lincoln was so happy about that name he apparently repeated it to himself occasionally throughout the day, chuckling all the while.

Also, there's the other aspect of the different population sizes. Not only did the North's larger population mean it had more soldiers, it also meant it had more men with the qualities needed for higher command--and the war gave those men on both sides the opportunity to demonstrate their qualities and advance in rank to fill empty positions even as it killed them, but thank to their numbers more for the North than the South. That was actually one of the problems that Lee faced as the war went on, at one point in 1864 he was essentially acting as a corp commander as well as commander of the army and once he missed a beautiful opportunity to do real damage to the Army of the Potomac because he fell ill and couldn't deal with it himself and didn't have anyone available that he trusted to do the job in his place.
#15067576
February 16, Sunday

In the night hours the three Confederate brigadiers commanding at Fort Donelson gather at Dover Inn to compare notes. Floyd and Pillow are still elated over their early success; they have wired General Johnston at Nashville that they have won a great victory. The more professional Buckner, on the other hand, considers the army’s position desperate. Angrily he tells Pillow and Floyd that they should have marched out as planned while the way was open. Floyd retorts that the plan has always been to wait for nightfall and then march out unobserved, and he is ready to start now. But now reports come in that Federal campfires are burning again in their original positions. The breakout has failed, and Pillows and Floyd agree with Buckner that their men lack the strength for another battle.

Around one o’clock the generals summon Nathan Bedford Forrest, who is amazed that they are discussing surrendering the army. He says that the Federals haven’t occupied their extreme right by the river, and he believes the way is still open. He sends two scouts to examine the ground, and they return shaking with cold to report seeing no Federal troops, though the fires are burning. Forrest insists that the wind—or wounded men on both sides—have stirred the fires. Let them fight their way out, he will guarantee to cover their rear and hold off any Federal cavalry attacks. His men have found a little-used river road that is definitely open. In one place the road is under three feet of cold floodwater for about 100 yards. But the generals refuse—Floyd’s medical director says that troops wouldn’t survive such a wade. (Neither side understands this early in the War how much men can endure.) So all three brigadiers vote to surrender the army, but not all of themselves. Pillow believes that his capture would be a Confederate disaster. And Floyd fears the Federals will try him on old charges that as United States Secretary of War he had made fraudulent deals and had treasonously shifted Federals arms to Southern arsenals, where they could be seized by secessionists. So Pillow and Floyd give command of the army to Buckner, and he asks for pen, ink and paper, and sends for a bugler.

Forrest, disgusted by the three generals, leaves and assembles his own officers to tell them that he’s leaving or will die trying, and anyone wanting to accompany him is welcome. His entire regiment goes with him down the river road, many of the horsemen carrying a foot soldier behind them.

Buckner’s men are outraged to see a messenger leaving under a white flag, obviously with a surrender offer. They try to stop him, but he persists. One hour later Grant reads Buckner’s proposal to discuss business terms. He has personal reasons for agreeing to talk, Buckner is an old friend who had loaned him money in New York when he had returned broke from California after resigning his commission in 1854. But instead Grant dashes off the message that will make him famous:

    Sir:

    Yours of this date, proposing armistice and appointment of commissioners to settle terms of capitulation, is just received. No terms except unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted. I propose to move immediately upon your works.

    I am, sir, very respectively, your obedient servant,

    U. S. Grant.

When Buckner opens Grant’s answer, Pillow and Floyd have slipped away by boat. Forrest has gone with his cavalry; he lost not a man crossing that water. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of infantrymen have escaped as well. Even if Buckner had wanted to respond to Grant’s brusque message by resuming the fight, it is too late in spite of the four hundred reinforcements that arrive by boat at daybreak. He replies stiffly that he has no choice but to accept Grant’s “ungenerous and unchivalrous terms.” He is worried whether a captured West Pointer will be treated as a traitor or simply as a prisoner of war, but when Grant reaches Dover Inn he quickly sets his old friend’s mind at rest. They fall to chatting, and the question rises of General Pillow’s grasp of the martial arts. When Buckner says Pillow fled because he thought Grant would rather get hold of him more than any other man in the Confederacy, Grant responds that, “If I had got him, I’d let him go again. He will do us more good commanding you fellows.” Later Grant takes Buckner aside and offers the use of his purse as the defeated Confederate goes into captivity.

No one will ever know precisely how many Confederates surrender this day—estimates will run from 5,000 to 15,000, but it is probably somewhere around 12,000. Confederate casualties are up to 1,500. For the Federals, Grant has some 27,000 men plus the gunboats, and has lost 500 killed, 2,108 wounded, and 224 missing for 2,832. The fall of Forts Henry and Donelson is a catastrophe for the South. The whole state of Tennessee is wide open, Kentucky is lost, and two important rivers in Federal hands. In Nashville General Johnston recognizes the extent of the disaster, telling Governor Harris to get the state records out of the city. The governor is gone this same day, even as Hardee’s Confederate troops retreating from Bolwing Green arrive. The capital of Tennessee is in terror at the thought of the approaching Yankees. The victory will receive the acclaim it deserves in the North and the despair it deserves in the South.

Brigadier General Sibley and his 2,515 Confederate troops arrive at Fort Craig, New Mexico Territory. Sibley lines up the troops and advances on the fort, but Lieutenant Colonel Canby refuses to be drawn into battle, preferring to remain at the fort and await attack. Sibley decides the fort is too strong to attack straight on and calls off the attack.

On the Cumberland, the gunboat St. Louis destroys the Tennessee ironworks.

Over in Arkansas there is short action at Pott’s Hill on Sugar Creek.
#15067697
Doug64 wrote:February 16, Sunday

In the night hours the three Confederate brigadiers commanding at Fort Donelson gather at Dover Inn to compare notes. Floyd and Pillow are still elated over their early success; they have wired General Johnston at Nashville that they have won a great victory.

They would have only one chance to break out, and they had thrown it away just as they were on the verge of success. And they think this is a great victory? :eh:

The more professional Buckner, on the other hand, considers the army’s position desperate. Angrily he tells Pillow and Floyd that they should have marched out as planned while the way was open. Floyd retorts that the plan has always been to wait for nightfall and then march out unobserved, and he is ready to start now. But now reports come in that Federal campfires are burning again in their original positions. The breakout has failed, and Pillows and Floyd agree with Buckner that their men lack the strength for another battle.

So much for "regrouping". :roll:

Around one o’clock the generals summon Nathan Bedford Forrest, who is amazed that they are discussing surrendering the army.

Not surprising, considering that they had reported having achieved a "great victory" just a few hours before and nothing else had happened in the interim. Lol.

He says that the Federals haven’t occupied their extreme right by the river, and he believes the way is still open. He sends two scouts to examine the ground, and they return shaking with cold to report seeing no Federal troops, though the fires are burning. Forrest insists that the wind—or wounded men on both sides—have stirred the fires. Let them fight their way out, he will guarantee to cover their rear and hold off any Federal cavalry attacks. His men have found a little-used river road that is definitely open. In one place the road is under three feet of cold floodwater for about 100 yards. But the generals refuse—Floyd’s medical director says that troops wouldn’t survive such a wade. (Neither side understands this early in the War how much men can endure.) So all three brigadiers vote to surrender the army, but not all of themselves. Pillow believes that his capture would be a Confederate disaster. And Floyd fears the Federals will try him on old charges that as United States Secretary of War he had made fraudulent deals and had treasonously shifted Federals arms to Southern arsenals, where they could be seized by secessionists. So Pillow and Floyd give command of the army to Buckner, and he asks for pen, ink and paper, and sends for a bugler.

Astounding. Just astounding. First they are giddy with excitement at their "great victory" (which was actually a self-inflicted defeat), and now they are so despondent that they are willing to surrender without considering any other options. Were they feeling hormonal that day or something? :eh:

And wading through 100 yards of waist-deep floodwater isn't going to kill anyone, no matter how cold it is. :roll:

Oh, and...
So all three brigadiers vote to surrender the army, but not all of themselves. Pillow believes that his capture would be a Confederate disaster.

:lol:

Forrest, disgusted by the three generals, leaves and assembles his own officers to tell them that he’s leaving or will die trying, and anyone wanting to accompany him is welcome. His entire regiment goes with him down the river road, many of the horsemen carrying a foot soldier behind them.

Buckner’s men are outraged to see a messenger leaving under a white flag, obviously with a surrender offer. They try to stop him, but he persists.

Lions led by donkeys.

One hour later Grant reads Buckner’s proposal to discuss business terms. He has personal reasons for agreeing to talk, Buckner is an old friend who had loaned him money in New York when he had returned broke from California after resigning his commission in 1854. But instead Grant dashes off the message that will make him famous:

    Sir:

    Yours of this date, proposing armistice and appointment of commissioners to settle terms of capitulation, is just received. No terms except unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted. I propose to move immediately upon your works.

    I am, sir, very respectively, your obedient servant,

    U. S. Grant.

This is interesting. It is probably this spirit which will lead to the United States' demand for unconditional surrender from both Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan in WWII. Did this tradition begin with Grant?

They fall to chatting, and the question rises of General Pillow’s grasp of the martial arts. When Buckner says Pillow fled because he thought Grant would rather get hold of him more than any other man in the Confederacy, Grant responds that, “If I had got him, I’d let him go again. He will do us more good commanding you fellows.”

:lol:

No one will ever know precisely how many Confederates surrender this day—estimates will run from 5,000 to 15,000, but it is probably somewhere around 12,000. Confederate casualties are up to 1,500. For the Federals, Grant has some 27,000 men plus the gunboats, and has lost 500 killed, 2,108 wounded, and 224 missing for 2,832. The fall of Forts Henry and Donelson is a catastrophe for the South. The whole state of Tennessee is wide open, Kentucky is lost, and two important rivers in Federal hands. In Nashville General Johnston recognizes the extent of the disaster, telling Governor Harris to get the state records out of the city. The governor is gone this same day, even as Hardee’s Confederate troops retreating from Bolwing Green arrive. The capital of Tennessee is in terror at the thought of the approaching Yankees. The victory will receive the acclaim it deserves in the North and the despair it deserves in the South.

Never have so many lost so much by such bumbling idiocy from so few.... :roll:
#15067744
Potemkin wrote:They would have only one chance to break out, and they had thrown it away just as they were on the verge of success. And they think this is a great victory? :eh:

Georges Clemenceau once commented that war is too important to leave to soldiers. Battles, on the other hand ... :*(

And wading through 100 yards of waist-deep floodwater isn't going to kill anyone, no matter how cold it is. :roll:

If you follow up that wade with a cold night's march in wet clothes, it can indeed kill. The question is how cold the night, and they're still working out just how much men can take. Though some officers (like "Stonewall" Jackson during last January's campaign, and Forrest now) are willing to push the limits rather more than others.

Lions led by donkeys.

A fair description.

This is interesting. It is probably this spirit which will lead to the United States' demand for unconditional surrender from both Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan in WWII. Did this tradition begin with Grant?

I have no idea.
#15067754
Doug64 wrote:If you follow up that wade with a cold night's march in wet clothes, it can indeed kill. The question is how cold the night, and they're still working out just how much men can take. Though some officers (like "Stonewall" Jackson during last January's campaign, and Forrest now) are willing to push the limits rather more than others.

War, by its nature, pushes human beings to their limits, and sometimes beyond. The side which wins is usually the side which pushes itself to those limits (and sometimes beyond). The men in that fort were clearly up for it, and it was their one remaining chance to break out, and so much depended on success, that it was worth the attempt. Stonewall Jackson and Forrest had the right idea, which is why those commanders became legends and guys like Pillow or Floyd... didn't. Lol.
#15067798
February 17, Monday

News of the fall of Fort Donelson is sensational, to both the USA and CSA. The North has a new hero in “Unconditional Surrender” Grant, while the South has wounds to lick and much to worry about. Generals Floyd and Pillow, refugees from their command at Donelson, come into Nashville, to be followed tomorrow by Forrest and his cavalry. Attempts are made to bring order to the Tennessee capital, but the citizenry is alarmed, many leaving as best they can.

Confederate General Price, retreating from Missouri in the face of Brigadier General Curtis’s advance, joins with Brigadier General McCulloch’s camp at Cross Hollow, Arkansas. The combined armies will continue the withdrawal together. Determined to leave nothing for the pursuing Yankees, some of the troops will loot and burn buildings as they travel through Fayetteville. The town has many Union sympathizers. There will be many more of them after the Confederates leave. The two generals will end their retreat at Cove Creek, in the depths of Arkansas’ rugged Boston Mountains. General Curtis, his supply line now stretching more than 200 miles to his base at Rolla, Missouri and forced to leave men behind along that line to guard it, will halt at McCulloch’s abandoned camp at Cross Hollow and ask for reinforcements. But there are none to spare, and when he is ordered to go no farther he will disperse his divisions to strategic points and wait.

Fighting continues at Sugar Creek, Arkansas.

At the Gosport Navy Yard, Virginia, CSS Virginia, built from the hulk of the USS Merrimac burned by Union soldiers when they abandoned the Yard the previous April, is finally commissioned. The dream of Confederate Navy Secretary Stephen R. Mallory to build ironclads has produced its first ship: steam-powered; with a casement framed with 20-inch pine timbers planked with four inches of oak and plated with two layers of sheet iron two inches thick each; the casement housing 10 big guns; and equipped with a massive 1,500-pound cast-iron prow for ramming enemy ships. The Confederates are well aware that the Monitor is a-building and did their best to hasten the completion of their ship, but were frustrated by delays at the Tredegar foundry. One design problem cannot be solved—the wooden frigate was built with a deep draft, 22 feet, for stability in high-seas duty and now the ironclad steamship draws the same 22 feet of water ... and the central channel of the Elizabeth Channel is only 24 feet deep, and Hampton Roads, blockaded by Union warships, is seamed with tricky shoals. Still, the Confederacy has its ironclad, now it just needs a crew. This will prove difficult; the required thirty men needed for the officers are relatively easy to round up, but the 300 sailors are harder to come by since the small size of the Confederate Navy has forced many Southern seamen that want to serve to join the Army instead, or work aboard blockade runners. The Army will need to be persuaded to release some sailors.

In Washington Grant is promoted to Major General of Volunteers.

In Richmond the Provisional Congress of the Confederate States adjourns.
#15068034
February 18, Tuesday

In Richmond the First Congress of the Confederate States of America opens. Heretofore, the old, unicameral secession convention has been the Provisional Congress, but the elections of the fall have established a formal two-house legislature.

There is skirmishing at Independence, Missouri; Bentonville, Arkansas; and Mount Vernon, Missouri; while a Federal expedition operates around Winton, North Carolina.

President Lincoln proclaims that the people should celebrate Washington’s Birthday.
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