Today is a significant day in American history. 150 years ago today, US Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant received the surrender of CSA Brigadier General Simon B. Buckner’s Confederate garrison at Fort Donelson, Tennessee. This was one of several significant turning points in the Civil War and would thrust the little known Grant into the national spotlight. With the capture of forts Henry (February 6) and Donelson, the Cumberland and Tennessee rivers were open to Union gunboats and the incursions that would soon follow. While the Battle of Fort Henry was largely won by the U.S. Navy, Fort Donelson would require both the naval and land forces to work in concert with each other. The casualties were high on both sides:
Union Casualties = 2,700 (507 killed, 1,876 wounded, 208 missing/captured)
Confederate Casualties = 13,800 (327 killed, 1,126 wounded, 12,392 missing/captured)
The Federal killed and wounded was significantly higher than the Confederate numbers because they were required to attack prepared fortifications – most of which were uphill. Federal gunboats were also seriously damaged, with many sailors killed and wounded, by the heavy sea based artillery crowning the river side of the fort.
As mentioned earlier, Grant, earned notoriety, north and south, after the battle. Early on the morning of February 16, Buckner would send Grant a letter seeking an armistice in hostilities while a surrender was negotiated. Ironically enough, Grant and Buckner were old friends from their days in the Regular Army. Grant wasted no time sending his reply, “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.” While Buckner considered Grant’s demands ungracious, he was forced to meet Grant at the Dover Hotel where he would formally surrender his forces. Grant would go on to capture two more armies during the Civil War – the only general on either side to do so.
For more information on the battles of forts Henry and Donelson, check out the following articles I have previously published:
You can also view my photo essays on the Battle of Fort Donelson by clicking HERE.