Tag Archives: Albert Sidney Johnston

Post-Vicksburg: Davis Deals with Crisis

August 9, 1863 – Confederate President Jefferson Davis tried to regroup after the disastrous loss of the Mississippi River.

Lt Gen John C. Pemberton | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

Following the devastating surrenders of Vicksburg and Port Hudson, the southern press generally concluded that Lieutenant General John C. Pemberton, who had surrendered Vicksburg, was the most to blame. Davis disagreed, noting that General Joseph E. Johnston, commanding all Confederates in the Western Theater, had urged Pemberton to abandon Vicksburg, and when Pemberton got trapped there, Johnston did little to try rescuing him.

A letter circulated among southern newspapers from Johnston’s medical director, Dr. D.W. Yandell, in which Yandell (apparently writing to a fellow doctor) praised Johnston while condemning Pemberton and Davis for lacking decisiveness and wisdom. When Davis read this “article/letter,” he resentfully forwarded a copy to Johnston with a message of his own:

“It is needless to say that you are not considered capable of giving countenance to such efforts at laudation of yourself and detraction of others, and the paper is sent to you with the confidence that you will take the proper action in the premises.”

A few days later, Pemberton, now awaiting a prisoner exchange at Gainesville, Alabama, submitted his official report on the Vicksburg campaign. In it, he sought to “disprove many charges made against me through ignorance or malice.” However, “I fully acknowledge the correctness of the principle, that in military affairs, ‘Success is the test of merit.’”

That quote came from General Albert Sidney Johnston when he was assembling Confederate forces for a counterattack after the fall of Fort Donelson in 1862. Johnston, a close friend of Davis’s who was killed at the Battle of Shiloh, said, “The test of merit in my profession with the people is success. It is a hard rule, but I think it right.”

Confederate President Jefferson Davis | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

Davis responded on the 9th. He tried easing Pemberton’s resentment by noting that in the eyes of the press, success was not necessarily the test of merit; for press favorites, the test was simply doing “what they are expected to do.” Such favorites were “sheltered when they fail by a transfer of the blame.” Those whom the press disliked often had their success “denied or treated as a necessary result.”

“The test of success,” Davis wrote, “though far from just, is one which may be accepted in preference to the popular delusion so readily created by unscrupulous men who resort to the newspapers to desseminate falsehood and forestall the public judgement.”

To Davis, both Pemberton and General Robert E. Lee had recently received harsh press criticism due more to opinion than fact. He stated, “General Lee and yourself have seemed to me example of the second class, and my confidence has not been diminished because letter-writers have not sent forth your praise on the wings of the press.”

Davis assured Pemberton that he was “no stranger to the misrepresentation of that which malignity is capable, nor to the generation of such feelings by the conscientious discharge of duty.” He knew firsthand “how slowly the messenger of truth follows that of slander.”

However, southerners continued railing against Pemberton, with some speculating that his Pennsylvania roots may have played a role in his surrender. Davis received a letter from an army chaplain expressing the sentiments of many troops in the western armies “that every disaster that has befallen us in the West has grown out of the fact that weak and inefficient men have been kept in power,” including Pemberton. The chaplain asked, “I beseech of you to relieve us of these drones and pigmies.”

Pemberton remained disqualified from service until paroled in October. He did not take up active field operations again.

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), p. 646-47; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 397

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The Battle of Shiloh: Day One

April 6, 1862 – The most terrible battle of the war to date began as the Confederate Army of Mississippi swarmed upon unsuspecting Federals in southwestern Tennessee.

The Confederates, exhausted and hungry after days of marching in cold rain and mud, were finally poised to make their long-awaited attack on the Federal Army of the Tennessee. The Federal supply base was at Pittsburg Landing on the Tennessee River, with the Federal camps strung out across several miles to the west between Owl and Lick creeks. The camps farthest from the landing were near a log cabin called Shiloh Church. No defensive works protected the camps.

General A.S. Johnston | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

General A.S. Johnston | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

General Albert Sidney Johnston, commanding the Confederate army, announced to his staff before dawn, “Tonight we will water our horses in the Tennessee River.” Johnston rode to the front to direct combat operations while his second in command, General P.G.T. Beauregard, stayed behind the lines to direct men and armaments as needed.

Johnston’s plan was to peel the Federal left, or east, flank away from the Tennessee River and pin the army into the cul-de-sac formed by the Owl and Lick creeks, cutting them off from their supply base and forcing them to surrender. However, like nearly everything else that occurred on April 6, this would not go according to plan.

Federal pickets encountered the advance elements of the Confederate army around 5:30 a.m. and quickly fell back to their main units. Most Federal commanders, including Brigadier General William T. Sherman at Shiloh, remained unaware that a major attack was coming. When panicked officers reported that Confederates were massing in their front, Sherman rode out to see for himself. Sherman saw nothing ahead, but then an officer yelled, “General, look to your right!” A wall of Confederates emerged from the woods and fired a deadly volley. Sherman hollered, “My God! We are attacked!”

Major General William J. Hardee’s Confederate corps made up the first attack wave. The unprepared Federals either hurried to try putting up some sort of defense or fled the field in terror. Considering that four of every five soldiers on both sides had never seen combat before, some Confederates fled as well. A soldier of the 15th Illinois Volunteer Infantry wrote:

“… The camp was alarmed Sunday morning just as the streaks of red began to tinge the eastern sky, by the rapid firing of the pickets, who soon came in with the report that the enemy was marching on us in overwhelming numbers and were even now in sight, as a shower of bullets which fell around too plainly indicated. There was no time to give orders then. It was life or death. The enemy was in camp before it had to arouse and form a line. Some were shot in their sleep, never knowing what hurt them. Terrible and complete was the surprise…”

The three westernmost Federal divisions under Sherman, John A. McClernand, and Benjamin M. Prentiss were hit first. The commanders tried rallying the men, with some running away and some throwing up makeshift defenses. As Hardee’s Confederates surged forward, they continuously penetrated the defenses and pushed the Federals northeast, or toward the Tennessee. This undermined Johnston’s plan of pushing them northwest, or away from the river.

General Ulysses S. Grant | Image Credit: Flickr.com

General Ulysses S. Grant | Image Credit: Flickr.com

The Federal army commander, Major General Ulysses S. Grant, was at his Savannah, Tennessee, headquarters, nine miles downriver from Pittsburg Landing. He had waited for Major General Don Carlos Buell’s Army of the Ohio to join with his. Grant knew that one of Buell’s divisions under Brigadier General William “Bull” Nelson had already arrived at Savannah, but he did not yet know that Buell had arrived as well. When Grant heard the firing, he quickly directed Nelson to load his men on transports for Pittsburg to join the fight. He also wrote to Buell asking him to hurry the rest of his army to the front.

Grant rushed to Crump’s Landing, midway between Savannah and Pittsburg, where one of his divisions under Brigadier General Lew Wallace was stationed. Grant ordered Wallace to bring his division to the fight as well. Grant then steamed upriver to Pittsburg, where hundreds of terrified Federals had sought refuge under the bluffs along the riverbank after fleeing the field. Grant guessed by the ferocity of the Confederate attacks that they numbered at least 100,000 men.

The Confederates swept through the abandoned Federal camps, stopping to loot tents and knapsacks. They discarded thousands of dollars in “worthless” greenbacks. As Hardee’s assault began losing momentum around 8 a.m., the second Confederate wave under Major General Braxton Bragg arrived on the scene. The lack of combat experience on both sides and the dense undergrowth turned the battle into several isolated fights at various points and in all directions.

Johnston, at the front with Confederates about to assault the Federal left, sent a message to Beauregard in the rear, “We are sweeping the field, and I think we shall press them to the river.” Johnston seemingly abandoned his own plan to tear the enemy away from the river. Beauregard, apparently also disregarding Johnston’s initial plan, directed troops to go where the firing was heaviest, which was initially on the Federal right. This effectively drove the Federals toward the river, where Buell’s reinforcements would soon arrive.

Around 9 a.m., Prentiss’s Federals repelled a furious attack by 500 Confederates under Colonel John S. Marmaduke along what became known as the Sunken Road. Heavy fighting also occurred near a pond that was later called Bloody Pond. Soon after, the Federal divisions under Brigadier Generals W.H.L. Wallace (no relation to Lew Wallace) and Stephen A. Hurlbut arrived on either side of Prentiss. This helped stabilize the Federal line.

By 10:30, Prentiss, Wallace, and Hurlbut had established a strong defensive position in an area of dense brush. The Confederates rolled up the Federal right, commanded by Sherman and McClernand, but they could not penetrate this defense comprising the Federal center and left. The ferocity of combat in this sector of the battlefield prompted soldiers to call it the “Hornet’s Nest.” Grant, directing operations on horseback, recognized the importance of the Hornet’s Nest and ordered Prentiss to hold the position at all costs.

The Hornet's Nest | Image Credit: Wikispaces .org

The Hornet’s Nest | Image Credit: Wikispaces .org

Meanwhile, Johnston directed attacks in a peach orchard in the front and left of the “Hornet’s Nest.” When Confederates from Major General John C. Breckinridge’s corps hesitated to attack, he joined with Johnston and Tennessee Governor Isham Harris to personally rally the men. The men, star-struck at seeing a former U.S. vice president, the army commander, and the state governor together, soon answered the call and charged.

Johnston personally led several charges that helped drive the Federals out of the orchard. Riding back to the main line around 2:30 p.m., Johnston reeled in the saddle and aides helped him to the ground. He had been shot, but nobody could find the wound until after he bled to death; a bullet had nicked an artery in the back of Johnston’s leg. A tourniquet could have saved him. Johnston became the highest ranking officer in either army to be killed in combat in the war. His aides tried hiding his death to avoid demoralizing the troops.

Gen P.G.T. Beauregard | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

Gen P.G.T. Beauregard | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

Beauregard took command from faraway Shiloh Church. He turned his attention to the Hornet’s Nest, where the Federals had withstood 11 Confederate charges. Beauregard directed Brigadier General Daniel Ruggles to train 62 cannon on the position.

By this time, the Federals to the left and right of the Hornet’s Nest had fallen back toward Pittsburg Landing, leaving the defenders isolated. W.H.L. Wallace had also been mortally wounded by a shell fragment to the head. Virtually surrounded and with no hope of reinforcement, Prentiss finally surrendered at 5:30. He had held for nearly seven hours, giving Grant precious time to form a strong, compact defensive perimeter around the landing.

Many Confederates stopped fighting after capturing Hornet’s Nest, believing the battle was won. The commanders knew better and directed them to renew their advance in the hopes of destroying Grant’s army before Buell could arrive. But after days of hard marching and a day of horrifying combat, the troops were breaking down from exhaustion.

Grant continued strengthening his defenses with the addition of Nelson’s division and many deserters who came out from under the bluffs to rejoin their comrades. Lew Wallace’s men had also finally arrived from Crump’s Landing, seven miles away. Wallace’s “lost division” had taken a wrong road and arrived too late to take part in the day’s fighting. In addition, heavy Federal siege guns were posted, and the gunboats U.S.S. Lexington and Tyler lobbed shells over the bluffs from the river.

Bragg directed a Confederate assault that was easily repulsed. Finally, Beauregard ordered a suspension of hostilities until morning. He telegraphed President Jefferson Davis that night: “After a severe battle of 10 hours, thanks be to the Almighty, (we) gained a complete victory, driving the enemy from every position.”

This was true. In addition, the Confederates had taken about 3,000 prisoners and 30 battle flags, along with many Federal encampments and supplies. Beauregard expressed confidence that a renewed attack the next morning would finish Grant off before retiring that night in Sherman’s bed.

Beauregard did not expect Buell to reinforce Grant because he had received an erroneous report from Colonel Benjamin H. Helm in northern Alabama that Buell’s army was advancing toward Helm and would not be joining with Grant at Pittsburg. Although Beauregard later asserted that Helm’s message had no influence on his strategy, he went to bed that night apparently unconcerned that Buell might be on his way.

That night, Prentiss was a guest of the Confederate high command as a prisoner of war. Prentiss acknowledged, “You have whipped our best troops today.” But when Bragg predicted that the Confederates would wrap up the victory the next day, Prentiss said, “You gentlemen have had your way today, but it will be very different tomorrow. You’ll see. Buell will effect a junction with Grant tonight and we’ll turn the tables on you in the morning.”

Heavy storms raged through the night. Troops on both sides tried sleeping through them and the sporadic cannon fire from the Federals trying to keep the exhausted Confederates awake. Neither side had developed a system for tending to the dead or wounded, so they lay in the field overnight. Hogs feasted on some of the corpses.

The Federal gunboats played a key role in demoralizing the Confederates that evening. Grant reported that “much is due to the presence of the gunboats Tyler and Lexington.” Beauregard wrote that as a result of the naval bombardment, “on the following morning the troops under my command were not in condition to cope with an equal force… (aided) by such an auxiliary as the enemy’s gunboats.”

Some Federal officers advised Grant to retreat after taking such a horrible pounding from the Confederates all day. Grant said, “Retreat? No. I propose to attack at daylight and whip them.” That night, Sherman found his friend Grant huddled under a tree in the rain and said, “Well Grant, we’ve had the devil’s own day, haven’t we?” Grant said, “Yes, yes. Lick ‘em tomorrow.”

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References

Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 71-72; Catton, Bruce, The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War (New York: American Heritage Publishing Co., 1960), p. 126-27; CivilWarDailyGazette.com (6 Apr 1862); Cochran, Michael T., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 647, 799; Crocker III, H.W., The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Civil War (Washington: Regnery Publishing, 2008), p. 43-45; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 150-53; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 345; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 132-34; Grant, Ulysses S., Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant (New York: Da Capo Press, 1982 [original 1885, republication of 1952 edition]), p. 173-81; Linedecker, Clifford L. (ed.), The Civil War A to Z (Ballantine Books, 2002), p. 232; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 194-95; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 411-12; McPherson, James M., War on the Waters: The Union and Confederate Navies, 1861-1865 (Littlefield History of the Civil War Era, The University of North Carolina Press, Kindle Edition), p. 82; Nevin, David, The Road to Shiloh: Early Battles in the West (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 112-13, 116, 120-22, 138, 144, 147-48; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 304-05; Stanchak, John E., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 356-57, 370, 600-01, 799-800; Sword, Wiley, Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 399; Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 113-20; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 684-85

Prelude to Battle in Tennessee

March 25, 1862 – Federals advanced deep into western Tennessee this month as Confederates gathered in northern Mississippi to counterattack.

By this month, the Confederate defensive line across Kentucky had been shattered by the loss of Forts Henry and Donelson, along with Nashville. Confederates on the eastern part of the line, primarily at Bowling Green, Kentucky, fell back to Murfreesboro in middle Tennessee. Those at Columbus, Kentucky, to the west withdrew to New Madrid and Island No. 10 on the Mississippi, along with other points in western Tennessee and northern Mississippi.

Gen P.G.T. Beauregard | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

Gen P.G.T. Beauregard | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

General P.G.T. Beauregard commanded the Confederate Army of the Mississippi in the western sector. When Federal forces captured New Madrid, Beauregard began concentrating his remaining forces at Corinth, Mississippi, where the Mobile & Ohio and Memphis & Charleston railroads intersected. At Beauregard’s request, General Braxton Bragg led 10,000 Confederates from Pensacola and Mobile to join the force gathering at Corinth. Also joining was 5,000 men under General Daniel Ruggles from New Orleans, leaving that important city nearly defenseless.

As Beauregard tried collecting manpower, he faced three armies advancing on three sides: Major General John Pope’s Army of the Mississippi in Missouri (left), Major General Ulysses S. Grant’s Army of the Tennessee in western Tennessee (front), and Major General Don Carlos Buell’s Army of the Ohio at Nashville (right).

Grant’s advance was preceded by two Federal timber-clad gunboats, U.S.S. Lexington and Tyler, reconnoitering up the Tennessee River all the way to the Tennessee-Mississippi line. The vessels exchanged fire with Confederate batteries at Pittsburg Landing, and then sailors (with sharpshooter support) came ashore to drive the Confederates off. Flag Officer Andrew H. Foote, commanding the Federal squadron, praised the commanders for securing the area and then added:

“But I must give a general order that no commander will land men to make an attack on shore. Our gunboats are to be used as forts, and as they have no more men than necessary to man the guns, and as the Army must do the shore work, and as the enemy want nothing better than to entice our men on shore and overpower them with superior numbers, the commanders must not operate on shore, but confine themselves to their vessels.”

Flag Officer Andrew H. Foote | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

Flag Officer Andrew H. Foote | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

The Federals also captured the C.S.S. Eastport, a gunboat under construction that was larger and faster than any in Foote’s squadron. Foote wrote:

“I have applied to the Secretary of the Navy to have the rebel gunboat, Eastport, lately captured in the Tennessee River, fitted up as a gunboat… She can be fitted out for about $20,000, and in three weeks. We want such a fast and powerful boat. Do telegraph about her, as we now have carpenters and cargo ahead on her and she is just what we want. I should run about in her and save time and do good service. Our other ironclad boats are too slow. The Eastport was a steamer on the river, and she, being a good boat, would please the West. No reply yet from the Secretary and time is precious.”

Advance elements of Grant’s army, temporarily commanded by General Charles F. Smith, reached Savannah, Tennessee, on March 5. The rest of what became known as the Army of the Tennessee arrived nine days later, ferried by 80 transports and a gunboat escort. Smith directed recently arrived Brigadier General William T. Sherman to continue up the Tennessee to reconnoiter the area of Eastport, Mississippi.

Along the way, Sherman secured Pittsburg Landing as a staging area for an advance on Corinth and received permission from Smith to land his division there. The rest of the army soon followed. Sherman’s Federals reconnoitered from Pittsburg Landing to Monterey, Tennessee, about halfway to Corinth.

During this time, Major General Henry W. Halleck was promoted to command not only the forces under Pope and Grant, but Buell as well. Halleck ordered Buell to move from Nashville to Savannah and join forces with the Federal troops assembling there. Buell opted to advance overland rather than by water to protect the Memphis & Charleston Railroad and cover the Federal forces sent to occupy northern Alabama.

General A.S. Johnston | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

General A.S. Johnston | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

Meanwhile, General Albert Sidney Johnston, commanding Confederate Department No. 2 (the Western Theater), was stationed with the former Army of Central Kentucky at Murfreesboro. At Beauregard’s urging, Johnston began moving west to join forces with those gathering at Corinth.

Passing through Columbia just before Buell’s Federals arrived, Johnston’s Confederates burned the bridges spanning the Duck River. Rather than build temporary pontoon bridges to hurry his men across, Buell directed engineers to build new permanent ones. Buell notified Halleck on the 18th that the work would take three or four days. At that time, Buell’s army was about 85 miles away from the Federals at Savannah and Pittsburg Landing.

The delay gave Johnston more time to consolidate. To bolster his manpower, he peremptorily ordered Major General Earl Van Dorn, commanding the Confederate Army of the West in Arkansas, to move east by “the best and most expeditious route” to Corinth.

Van Dorn, who had recently lost the Battle of Pea Ridge, had been moving north when he received this directive. Beauregard tried sending transports from New Orleans to take Van Dorn’s men east, but Louisiana Governor Thomas Moore would not release the boats for army use due to a political dispute he was having with President Jefferson Davis.

Johnston entered Corinth with his rear guard on the 24th, where he assimilated the Army of Central Kentucky into the new Army of Mississippi (referred to by Beauregard as the Army of the Mississippi). Johnston was overall commander, with Beauregard second-in-command. Beauregard declined Johnston’s offer to head the army while Johnston maintained administrative command. President Davis wrote his close friend Johnston:

“My confidence in you has never wavered, and I hope the public will soon give me credit for judgment, rather than continue to arraign me for obstinacy… You have done wonderfully well… If you can meet the division of the enemy moving from the Tennessee before it can make a junction with that advancing from Nashville, the future will be brighter…”

When Grant resumed command over Smith, he set up headquarters at a Savannah mansion. His army consisted of two divisions on the east bank of the Tennessee at Savannah, two division nine miles upriver (or south) on the west bank at Pittsburg Landing, and one on the west bank at Crump’s Landing, between Savannah and Pittsburg. His army totaled 27,000 men, with reinforcements arriving from St. Louis that Grant formed into another division.

Grant knew about the Confederates gathering at Corinth, but Sherman reported that they could number no more than 20,000. Grant sent two messengers to try finding Buell, whose 37,000 men were expected to join him at some point, though there seemed to be no hurry. Buell’s insistence on building proper bridges delayed him over two weeks. Added to the problem was the Duck River being swollen due to rain and melting snow.

When Buell finally relented and allowed his army to cross on pontoon bridges, the Duck had receded enough to allow a crossing without any bridges at all. Buell’s lead division under Brigadier General William “Bull” Nelson crossed first and headed for Savannah on the 28th. The rest of Buell’s army followed the next day.

By that time, Johnston had reorganized the new Army of Mississippi. The 1st Grand Division under Leonidas Polk was re-designated the I Corps. The new army also included the II Corps under Braxton Bragg, the III Corps under William J. Hardee (really just three brigades), and the Reserve Corps under George B. Crittenden.

Bragg served double-duty as corps commander and army chief of staff. Crittenden, already under fire for his embarrassing defeat at Mill Springs, was soon relieved for alleged drunkenness on duty. Despite Crittenden’s shortcomings, his removal deprived the army of an experienced military leader. He was replaced by former U.S. Vice President John C. Breckinridge.

Most of Johnston’s officers and men had never experienced combat before, and many were equipped with obsolete or non-functioning weapons. Nevertheless, the 40,000 Confederates assembling at Corinth were being organized to destroy Grant’s army concentrating around Pittsburg Landing, about 22 miles north, before Buell’s army crossing the Duck River could come to its aid.

Grant remained stationary and awaited Buell’s arrival. Unconcerned about the Confederates, he did not order the men to build any defensive works.

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References

Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 71-72; CivilWarDailyGazette.com (multiple dates); Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 12851, 12910, 12927, 12947; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 135, 137, 143-44, 147; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 292, 320; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 116-17, 124, 127, 129; Grant, Ulysses S., Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant (New York: Da Capo Press, 1982 [original 1885, republication of 1952 edition]), p. 168-71; Harrison, Lowell H., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 123; Hattaway, Herman, Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 171, 500; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 177-79, 185-86, 189-90; Rutherford, Phillip R., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 168, 169; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 684-85

The Fall of Nashville

February 24, 1862 – Federal forces invaded Tennessee and seized the first Confederate state capital of the war.

The Federal capture of Fort Donelson opened an invasion route into Tennessee, making Nashville the next logical target. However, two Federal military departments operated in the area, and each seemed reluctant to cooperate with the other.

Gen Don Carlos Buell | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

Gen Don Carlos Buell | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

Brigadier General Don Carlos Buell, commanding the Department of the Ohio, had jurisdiction over eastern Tennessee. Buell had vacillated when asked to support Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant’s attack on Fort Donelson, but now that the path to Nashville was opened, Buell hurried to advance on the Tennessee capital.

Major General Henry W. Halleck, commanding the Department of Missouri from St. Louis, had control over western Tennessee. Halleck argued that if Buell moved toward Nashville, the Confederates could reverse their withdrawal by coming up the Cumberland River, defeating Grant at Fort Donelson, and isolating Buell deep in hostile territory.

Halleck, who had complained about the lack of coordination between the departments, had another idea in mind in a message to General-in-Chief George B. McClellan: “Make Buell, Grant, and (John) Pope (in Missouri) major-generals of volunteers, and give me command in the West. I ask this in return for Forts Henry and Donelson.” McClellan took no action at this time.

For the Confederates, the Fort Donelson defeat compelled General Albert Sidney Johnston, commanding the Western Theater, to pull his Army of Central Kentucky out of Bowling Green, Kentucky, and move it southward into Tennessee. Johnston wrote to Secretary of War Judah P. Benjamin:

“I have ordered the army to encamp to-night midway between Nashville and Murfreesboro. My purpose is to place the force in such a position that the enemy can not concentrate his superior strength against the command, and to enable me to assemble as rapidly as possible such other troops in addition as it may be in my power to collect… I entertain hope that this disposition will enable me to hold the enemy for the present in check, and, when my forces are sufficiently increased, to drive him back.”

Johnston, who once held a defensive line across Kentucky from the Alleghenies to the Mississippi River, now had a fragile line of Confederates concentrated mostly at Cumberland Gap in the east, Murfreesboro-Nashville in the center, and Columbus, Kentucky, in the west.

Nathan Bedford Forrest | Image Credit: Flickr.com

Nathan Bedford Forrest | Image Credit: Flickr.com

Meanwhile, news of Buell’s impending advance spread panic throughout Nashville, as residents tried seizing the goods in the Public Square warehouse earmarked for the Confederate government. Colonel Nathan Bedford Forrest, whose cavalry troopers had escaped Fort Donelson and were now stationed in Nashville, tried restoring order by appealing to the people’s patriotism. When that failed, his men rode through the mobs and cleared the streets with their sabers.

Forrest’s troopers then seized the warehouse and held the residents off with a firehose. The men took weapons and ammunition, 600 boxes of military uniforms, 250,000 pounds of bacon, and hundreds of wagons filled with flour and other provisions. Forrest shipped ordnance being developed in the Nashville foundry to Atlanta and destroyed the Nashville works. In addition, employees of T.M. Brennan & Company, which had been converted from manufacturing steam engines and farm machines to artillery, escaped with a valuable machine used to make rifled cannon.

Buell’s Federals began advancing along the railroad from Bowling Green on the 22nd. Advance elements and Federal gunboats approached Nashville the next day, sparking hysteria. Massive traffic jams prevented much of the food in storage from being hauled off. Therefore, tons of stores, including 30,000 pounds of bacon and ham, were burned.

Many residents joined Forrest’s cavalry headed southeast to Murfreesboro, where Johnston reorganized his Army of Central Kentucky into three divisions. Major Generals William J. Hardee and George B. Crittenden each led a division, while Brigadier General Gideon Pillow, one of the Fort Donelson escapees, led the third. Brigadier General John C. Breckinridge’s command and the cavalry units of Forrest and Colonel John A. Wharton remained unattached.

Brig Gen William "Bull" Nelson | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

Brig Gen William “Bull” Nelson | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

Bands playing “Yankee Doodle” signaled the arrival of Buell’s lead division across the Cumberland River from Nashville on the 24th. The bridge had been destroyed, along with any boats the troops could have used to cross the river. Buell awaited transports as well as the rest of his 9,000 men to arrive at the riverbank. Meanwhile, a 7,000-man division led by Brigadier General William Nelson approached Nashville aboard river transports, protected by the gunboat U.S.S. Cairo.

The next morning, Buell observed Nelson’s Federals entering the deserted city from their transports. Nelson met with Buell across the Cumberland and left Colonel Jacob Ammen to receive the city’s surrender from the mayor. Nashville fell without resistance, becoming the first Confederate capital to fall in the war. Grant’s victory at Fort Donelson had enabled Buell to capture this important city.

Buell soon began ferrying his men across the Cumberland to reinforce Nelson in case Confederate troops tried taking the city back. The Federals quickly occupied the state capitol and various other public buildings, chopping down trees for firewood. They also forced city officials to swear allegiance to the Union. A defiant woman cheered for Jefferson Davis as Buell rode down High Street, prompting him to report, “The mass of people appear to look upon us as invaders.” Federals seized the woman’s home and used it as a hospital.

In losing Nashville, the Confederacy lost one of its finest bases of weapons manufacturing. Professed Unionists among the citizenry led the Federals to massive stockpiles of supplies and munitions that the Confederates had left behind. Many of these supplies were to be sent to Confederates in Virginia.

The loss of the important industrial center of Nashville devastated southern morale. It also isolated Confederates in western Kentucky and Tennessee, compelling them to eventually fall back southward. The city became a vital base of Federal operations for the rest of the war.

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com (multiple dates); Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 12707; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 130, 132-34; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 113-15; Grant, Ulysses S., Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant (New York: Da Capo Press, 1982 [original 1885, republication of 1952 edition]), p. 166; Harrison, Lowell H., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 123; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 174-76; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 402; Nevin, David, The Road to Shiloh: Early Battles in the West (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 98-99; Street, Jr., James, The Struggle for Tennessee: Tupelo to Stones River (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 68, 89

The Fall of Fort Donelson

February 16, 1862 – Federals scored their greatest victory of the war up to this time, generating a new northern military hero.

Late on the 15th, the Confederate commanders surrounded in Fort Donelson had agreed to surrender their force. As the two ranking generals, John B. Floyd and Gideon Pillow, escaped across the Cumberland River, Brigadier General Simon B. Buckner sent a message to the Federal commander, his old friend Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant:

“Sir: In consideration of all the circumstances governing the present situation of affairs at this station, I propose to the Commanding Officer of the Federal forces the appointment of Commissioners to agree upon the terms of capitulation of the forces and fort under my command, and in that view suggest an armistice until 12 o’clock to-day.”

Federal General U.S. Grant | Image Credit: Wikispaces.org

Federal General U.S. Grant | Image Credit: Wikispaces.org

Grant shared Buckner’s message with Brigadier General Charles F. Smith, a division commander in Grant’s army and a senior officer whom Grant admired. Smith advised, “No terms with traitors, by God!” Grant directed his men to prepare for an attack as he sent a messenger to Buckner with his reply:

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

This response shocked Buckner, considering his relationship with Grant before the war; he had even loaned Grant money when he fell on hard times. Compared to the liberal terms that General P.G.T. Beauregard had offered to Major Robert Anderson at Fort Sumter, Buckner considered this insulting. But having no choice in the matter, he responded:

“Sir: The distribution of the forces under my command, incident to an unexpected change of commanders, and the overwhelming force under your command, compel me, notwithstanding the brilliant success of the Confederate arms yesterday, to accept the ungenerous and unchivalrous terms which you propose.”

Grant and Buckner met to discuss the surrender, where they soon rekindled their pre-war friendship. Grant ordered rations distributed to the Confederates and allowed their burial details to enter Federal lines to inter their dead comrades. After the terms were settled, Grant offered to repay Buckner’s old loan to him; Buckner politely declined.

Toward the day’s end, Grant dispatched Brigadier General Lew Wallace’s division to return to Fort Henry and guard against any possible Confederate attack from Columbus, Kentucky. Grant then directed his remaining troops to occupy Fort Donelson. The troops ignored orders against looting and pillaging.

Fort Donelson was a tremendous victory that included the largest capture in American history: 12 to 15,000 Confederate troops, 20,000 stands of arms, 48 cannon, 17 heavy guns, around 4,000 draft animals, and vast amounts of supplies and provisions. The Federals had sustained 2,691 casualties (507 killed, 1,976 wounded, and 208 missing) in the operations in and around Fort Donelson, while the Confederates lost an estimated 1,454 (327 killed and 1,127 wounded) in addition to the prisoners taken. Colonel Nathan Bedford Forrest’s 700 Confederate cavalry were not part of the surrender; they had slipped through the Federal lines during the night and escaped by crossing an icy swamp too deep for infantry.

The dual victories at Forts Henry and Donelson permanently destroyed the Confederates’ defensive line across Kentucky by punching a hole between Confederate forces at Bowling Green and Columbus, and opening Tennessee for a Federal invasion. The wins also gave the Federals control of the important Tennessee and Cumberland rivers. The gunboat fleet soon continued up the Cumberland to Dover, where it destroyed the important Tennessee Iron Works before continuing on toward Clarksville.

With Nashville and the Deep South now vulnerable to Federal advances, General Albert Sidney Johnston, commanding the Confederate Western Theater, withdrew the Army of Central Kentucky from Bowling Green to Murfreesboro. This meant that it was only a matter of time before the Confederates at Columbus would have to fall back as well.

Confederate officials quickly began looking for someone to blame for the devastating loss. Some blamed Navy Secretary Stephen R. Mallory for failing to develop a naval squadron that could match the Federal gunboats. However, while Fort Henry had been won by the navy, Fort Donelson was won by Grant and his army. Grant’s victory, along with his unequivocal message, made him an instant hero throughout the northern states, as some newspapermen quipped that the “U.S.” in his name now stood for “Unconditional Surrender.”

Mass celebrations swept the northern states when news first arrived on the 17th that Fort Donelson had fallen. An editorial in the Chicago Tribune noted that the city “reeled mad with joy.” A Cincinnati correspondent reported, “Everybody was shaking hands with everybody else, and bewhiskered men embraced each other as if they were lovers.” Some pundits even began predicting that these victories would soon end the war.

At Washington, officials planned to hold a grand celebration to commemorate the victories alongside George Washington’s Birthday. At St. Louis, the Union Merchants Exchange closed temporarily as speculators sang patriotic songs and cheered Major General Henry W. Halleck at his headquarters.

President Lincoln quickly promoted Grant to major general of volunteers. In signing the commission, Lincoln explained that while he could not adequately judge the fighting ability of eastern men, the fighting spirit of Grant and other fellow Illinoisans proved that “if the Southerners think that man for man they are better than our… western men generally, they will discover themselves in a grievous mistake.”

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References

Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 70-71; CivilWarDailyGazette.com (16 Feb 1862); Cochran, Michael T., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 694-95; Delaney, Norman C., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 272-73 | 280-81; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 129-30; Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 7055; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 211-14, 315; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 111; Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 417-18; Grant, Ulysses S., Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant (New York: Da Capo Press, 1982 [original 1885, republication of 1952 edition]), p. 158-59; Linedecker, Clifford L. (ed.), The Civil War A to Z (Ballantine Books, 2002), p. 106-07; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 171-72; Longacre, Edward G., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 735; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 401-02; Nevin, David, The Road to Shiloh: Early Battles in the West (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 95-97; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 251; Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 98, 267

The Fort Donelson Campaign

February 7, 1862 – Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant began planning to follow the victory at Fort Henry by capturing a much stronger Confederate fort.

Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

When Federal naval personnel took Fort Henry on the Tennessee River, a New York Tribune correspondent wrapped up his coverage and stopped at Grant’s headquarters to bid farewell before returning east. Grant said, “You had better wait a day or two… I am going over to capture Fort Donelson tomorrow.”

Grant, his staff, and a cavalry escort reconnoitered Fort Donelson on the 7th. The fort was 12 miles east of Henry on the Cumberland River, near the town of Dover and the Kentucky border. The Confederate garrison at Donelson was much larger than that at Henry, with about 15,000 troops and more heavy artillery. The fort was larger than Henry, with an outer defensive perimeter of 100 acres, and two lines of entrenchments. It was also positioned atop a bluff, where 13 guns commanded the naval approaches, and surrounded by hills, making land assaults difficult.

Brigadier General Bushrod R. Johnson arrived at Donelson and replaced Brigadier General Lloyd Tilghman in command. Three days later, Brigadier General Gideon Pillow arrived from Clarksville to take over for Johnson. Pillow announced that he had faith in “the courage and fidelity of the brave officers and men under his command.” He urged them to “drive back the ruthless invaders from our soil and again raise the Confederate flag over Fort Henry… Our battle cry, ‘Liberty or death.’” Despite this rhetoric and Donelson’s strength, Grant, who had known Pillow before the war, did not expect him to put up much of a fight.

Grant may have been ready to advance on Fort Donelson, but Flag Officer Andrew H. Foote’s gunboat flotilla was not. Foote had sent his damaged vessels back to Cairo, Illinois, for quick repairs before they could return to action. The ground forces began moving out of Fort Henry on the 11th, the same day that Foote began his advance to the Cumberland. He notified Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles:

“I leave Cairo again to-night with the Louisville, Pittsburg, and St. Louis for the Cumberland River to cooperate with the army in the attack on Ft. Donelson… I shall do all in my power to render the gunboats effective in the fight, although they are not properly manned… If we could wait ten days, and I had men, I would go with eight mortar boats and six armored boats and conquer.”

Grant’s superior, Major General Henry W. Halleck, instructed Grant to fortify Fort Henry for occupation troops, especially on the land side. However, Grant received this dispatch, as well as many others, too late to stop him from moving against Fort Donelson. The communication gap between Halleck and Grant would play a significant role in future operations.

Meanwhile, Confederate Generals John B. Floyd and Simon B. Buckner at Clarksville began sending Confederates from that town to bolster the Fort Donelson defenses. However, Floyd and Buckner agreed to only send a minimum number of troops so they could focus their true strength at Cumberland City, 15 miles upriver from the fort. This would protect the line to Nashville and enable the Confederates to harass the Federal lines between Forts Henry and Donelson.

Buckner met with Pillow at Donelson to explain this strategy. However, Pillow refused to go along with it because it sounded too much like how Fort Henry was lost. Buckner later recounted that Pillow and Floyd believed that a Federal 12-mile march from Henry to Donelson was “impracticable.” While the Confederate generals debated, Grant’s troops were heading toward them.

Grant now had three divisions, one more than he had at Henry. His two divisions under Brigadier Generals Charles F. Smith and John A. McClernand, totaling about 15,000 men, moved out on the 11th. McClernand’s Federals marched along both the Telegraph and Ridge roads leading to Fort Donelson. Smith’s division moved along the Telegraph road. The third division, under Brigadier General Lew Wallace (future author of Ben-Hur), stayed behind to garrison Fort Henry.

By the night of February 12, Grant’s men had completed the “impracticable” march, no doubt aided by unusually warm weather. The Federals, stalled for several hours by Confederate cavalry under Colonel Nathan Bedford Forrest, finally drove the troopers off and formed a semicircle among the hills around Fort Donelson and Dover. Grant established headquarters in the kitchen of a farmhouse and awaited gunboat support from the Cumberland.

Meanwhile, Pillow had left Donelson to discuss strategy with Floyd at Clarksville. Before he could get there, Pillow heard the sound of cannon at the fort and hurried back. The Federals’ arrival meant that Buckner’s plan to fortify Cumberland City would have to be abandoned in favor of making a stand at Donelson. This was just what Pillow had wanted in the first place. Pillow telegraphed both Floyd and General Albert Sidney Johnston, commanding the Western Theater:

“We shall have a battle in the morning, I think certainly, and an attack by gun-boats. The enemy are all around my position and within distance to close in with me in ten minutes’ march. One gun-boat came today and fired fifteen or twenty shells and retired. We gave no reply. I have sent up to Cumberland City for Baldwin’s two regiments. Feel sanguine of victory, though I am not fully ready. I have done all that it was possible to do, and think I will drive back the enemy.”

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com (multiple dates); Delaney, Norman C., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 280-81; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 125, 127; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 194-95; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 106-09; Grant, Ulysses S., Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant (New York: Da Capo Press, 1982 [original 1885, republication of 1952 edition]), p. 150-52, 166-67; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 167-70; Nevin, David, The Road to Shiloh: Early Battles in the West (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 81; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 246

The Fall of Fort Henry

February 6, 1862 – Federals captured a key point on the Tennessee River that opened a path to invade Tennessee.

Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant | Image Credit: Flickr.com

Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant | Image Credit: Flickr.com

On the 5th, Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant’s 17,000 Federal troops began landing at Camp Halleck, about three miles north (or downstream) from Fort Henry on the Tennessee River. Brigadier General Lloyd Tilghman, commanding just 3,400 Confederates inside the fort, wired his superior, General Albert Sidney Johnston: “If you can reinforce strongly and quickly we have a glorious chance to overwhelm the enemy.” However, no reinforcements would be coming, and the Federal force was much stronger than Tilghman had anticipated.

At a council of war that evening, Tilghman announced to his officers that Fort Henry could not be held. As such, part of the garrison would stay in the fort to stall the Federal advance while the bulk of Tilghman’s force would escape to Fort Donelson, a stronger work 12 miles east on the Cumberland River.

Grant resolved to attack Fort Henry at 11 a.m. on the 6th, even though his entire force had not yet landed. Grant wanted to hurry the action because he had received a report (later proved wrong) that the Confederates were rushing to reinforce the fort.

Meanwhile Grant’s superior, Major General Henry W. Halleck, asked Brigadier General Don Carlos Buell to send some Federals from the Department of the Ohio against Bowling Green, Kentucky. This would create a diversion to ensure that Fort Henry would not be reinforced. However, Buell responded that it would take over a week to conduct such an operation. Ultimately, Buell’s help would not be needed, as Tilghman’s call for Confederates from both Bowling Green and Columbus went unanswered.

The Federal movement began that evening, as a brigade from Brigadier General Charles F. Smith’s division captured Fort Heiman, across the Tennessee from Fort Henry. The Confederates had abandoned this fort, which was never completed, and crossed the river to Henry. Meanwhile, Brigadier General John A. McClernand’s division was to march up the east side of the Tennessee, but heavy rain had turned the roads to mud. This not only hampered the Federal march, but it also partly flooded Fort Henry, thus demoralizing the Confederate defenders.

Flag Officer Andrew H. Foote | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

Flag Officer Andrew H. Foote | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

The next morning, Flag Officer Andrew H. Foote’s Federal gunboat fleet advanced with the four ironclads leading and the three timber-clads behind. Foote’s flagship Cincinnati, along with the Carondelet, Essex, and St. Louis, began firing on Fort Henry from within 600 yards around 11 a.m. Meanwhile, the Federal troops struggled in the mud to take up positions along the Confederate escape routes.

Tilghman directed Battery B of the 1st Tennessee Heavy Artillery to maintain an “honorable” defense using just 11 obsolete guns, while he led most of his men to Fort Donelson. Tilghman asked his artillerists to delay the Federals for an hour, but they did much better than that, holding off the fleet for several hours while scoring 59 hits. The Cincinnati sustained 32 hits that disabled two guns and damaged her stacks and after-cabin. A Confederate round exploded a boiler on the Essex, scalding 28 men (some to death) and putting her out of action.

Despite some Confederate success, the Federal firepower slowly took its toll. The gunboats finally found their range and began disabling the enemy cannon. When Tilghman returned from Fort Donelson, he saw that ammunition was running low and the Federal fleet was now within 300 yards. He manned one of the artillery crews himself, but just before 2 p.m., he conceded defeat and ordered the white flag raised. Tilghman said that “it is vain to fight longer; our gunners are disabled; our guns dismounted; we can’t hold out five minutes longer.”

The Federals on the gunboats cheered when they saw the Confederate flag replaced by a white flag. The Cincinnati lowered a launch, on which Federal naval officers rowed into Fort Henry’s flooded sally port and onto the parade grounds. They ferried Tilghman back to the flagship, where he and Foote agreed on an unconditional surrender of the fort’s remaining defenders.

Tilghman sustained 21 casualties (five killed, 11 wounded, and five missing), and surrendered 94 (12 officers, 66 men, and 16 patients). Foote’s naval crews lost 47 (11 killed, 31 wounded, and five missing). Grant’s troops arrived around 3 p.m., too late to play any role in the fort’s surrender. They also could not block the escape routes as hoped, with only a pursuing Federal cavalry detachment capturing some stragglers and cannon.

Meanwhile, the Federal timber-clads continued up the Tennessee as far as Muscle Shoals, Alabama. They destroyed a bridge linking the Confederates between Bowling Green and Columbus, and placed themselves directly between A.S. Johnston’s two main armies. This, along with the fall of Fort Henry, permanently broke Johnston’s fragile Confederate line across Kentucky. He noted:

“The capture of that Fort by the enemy gives them the control of the navigation of the Tennessee River, and their gunboats are now ascending the river to Florence (Alabama)… Should Ft. Donelson be taken it will open the route to the enemy to Nashville, giving them the means of breaking the bridges and destroying the ferryboats on the river as far as navigable.”

This was the first significant Federal victory on the western rivers, and it boosted the morale of northerners starving for any kind of victory. Capturing Fort Henry and opening the Tennessee gave the Federals options to attack Columbus from the rear, capture Fort Donelson and open the path to Nashville, or attack Bowling Green in concert with Buell’s Army of the Ohio.

The same day that Fort Henry fell, Grant had already decided his next move. He wired Halleck at St. Louis: “Fort Henry is ours… the gunboats silenced the batteries before the investment was completed. I shall take and destroy Fort Donelson on the 8th and return to Fort Henry.”

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References

Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 68-70; CivilWarDailyGazette.com (multiple dates); Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 12526; Delaney, Norman C., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 272-73, 280-81; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 121-22; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 188-91; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 105-07; Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 417; Grant, Ulysses S., Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant (New York: Da Capo Press, 1982 [original 1885, republication of 1952 edition]), p. 148-49; Harrison, Lowell H., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 274; Hattaway, Herman, Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 756; Linedecker, Clifford L. (ed.), The Civil War A to Z (Ballantine Books, 2002), p. 107-08; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 166-67; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 396-97; McPherson, James M., War on the Waters: The Union and Confederate Navies, 1861-1865 (Littlefield History of the Civil War Era, The University of North Carolina Press, Kindle Edition, 2012), p. 74-76; Nevin, David, The Road to Shiloh: Early Battles in the West (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 64-67; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 244; Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 95