Fort Donelson … February 1862

I note that people paid a lot of attention to the 150th anniversary of the battle of First Manassas (First Bull Run) last July, but we haven’t heard much about other battles, including Wilson’s Creek, Belmont, and Mill Springs … perhaps because they were found in the West.

Take a close look at the above picture.  You may recall that the painter, Paul Philippoteaux, also executed the famed Gettysburg Cyclometer.

So, as we approach the 150th anniversary of the battle of Fort Donelson, here are a few videos on the battle.

Here’s a visitor’s video recorded in 2008:

A view of the national cemetery from the same person:

A twist on the usual Lego portrayal …

And here’s another image of Grant at Donelson, from the famed Kurz and Allison series; for fans of the series, I direct you here.

Note that Fort Henry is often overlooked.  This should make you feel better:

12 thoughts on “Fort Donelson … February 1862

  1. James F. Epperson February 4, 2012 / 6:58 am

    I first visited Donelson in mid-February, 1985. Too bad TVA flooded Ft. Henry. I have the first painting hanging in my living room.

  2. Lyle Smith February 4, 2012 / 8:08 am

    It’s amazing the Confederates at Ft. Henry and Ft. Donelson had no idea Grant was coming to get them so soon. Good job Grant.

  3. Mark Pethke February 4, 2012 / 8:15 am

    To be fair, the TVA was just following in the tradition of the fort’s original engineers. 🙂

  4. Mark Pethke February 4, 2012 / 8:19 am

    The lack of notice for these battles is, I suppose, not too surprising, for I suspect among the general public only Civil War buffs recognize them as battles. Now if Shiloh goes unremarked . . .

  5. John Foskett February 4, 2012 / 9:51 am

    The current issue of B&G has a nice article by the Park historian on Henry and Donelson. Part of the problem is almost certainly, as you point out, where these fights happened, as well as the geographic location of the Park and the fact that one of the sites (Henry) has long been underwater (as James points out). There’s also the perception that Donelson just wasn’t much of a battle – although for that stage of the War it was and it had a surfeit of “interesting” personalities involved. You’d think it would get more treatment just by virtue of what “Unconditional Surrender” did for Grant, similar to what “There stands Jackson…” did for Stonewall at FBR.

    • Noma February 6, 2012 / 8:54 am

      I suspect that it’s a problem of demographics. In general, I would expect battles featuring noted Confederate generals will get more extensive coverage than those whose most famous generals were on the Union side.

      We will hear about Shiloh, and Gettysburg, but I don’t think we’ll hear much about Vicksburg. Who is this Pemberton guy anyway?

      Chatanooga’s the mystery. We’ll see if anyone wants to talk about the heroic Braxton Bragg.

      • Carl Schenker February 6, 2012 / 11:06 am

        Noma —

        What causes you to say this — that coverage skews toward the Confederate side?

        I may labor under a false impression, but I would say that Sherman and Atlanta/March to the Sea may be more firmly embedded in the popular mind than anything else military about the war, due to “Gone with the Wind,” etc. I was astounded during the last Olympics when one of the commentators said the women’s beach volleyball team was going through its opponents like “Sherman through Georgia.” Yet not many could say who opposed Sherman.


  6. Noma February 4, 2012 / 11:01 pm

    “No terms except immediate and unconditional surrender can be accepted. I propose to move immediately on your works”

    Buckner grumbled at these “unchivalrous terms,” but yielded, and when he met Grant withing the defenses he said, with a bow and a smile:

    “General, as they say in Mexico, this house and all it contains is yours.”

    A moment later Grant said: “I thought Pillow was in command.”

    “He was, ” replied Buckner.
    “Where is he now?”
    “Why did he go?”
    “Well, he thought you’d rather get hold of him than any other man in the Southern Confederacy.”
    “Oh,” said Grant, quickly, with a smile, “if I’d got him I’d let him go again. He would do us more good commanding you fellows!”

    — Hamlin Garland
    Ulysses S. Grant: His Life and Character

  7. Bob Huddleston February 7, 2012 / 9:11 pm

    At the Post Office today I noticed the two Civil War stamps for 2012 to be issued in April: Antietam — a good choice — and New Orleans — New Orleans? Especially in April, why not Shiloh?

    • Noma February 9, 2012 / 4:52 pm

      Good question!

  8. Noma February 16, 2012 / 12:18 pm

    Seems like Grant’s victory at Fort Donelson is definitely not going to be a big news item. It’s hard for us to believe how big it was 150 years ago. We thought it would be a short war, only 3 months, and now — almost a year later — it’s still going on, and the Union is being hammered, engagement after engagement, and then finally:

    “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 our works.”

    15,000 soldiers captured — more than at any engagement in the Revolutionary war.

    Though forgotten in February 2012, it was a giant event in February 1862:


    Illinois felt especial pride. Grant came from Illinois and so did most of his soldiers, and the stte felt that Donelson was somehow an Illinois achievement. But in other places where state pride was less compelling there was equal jubulation.

    In Cincinnati a reporter observed: “Everybody was shaking hands with everybody else, and bewhiskered men embraced each other as if they were lovers.” Business was suspended, fireworks were brought out, and “the misty atmosphere was rosy with the burning of Bengal lights and bonfires at many crossings.”

    In Washington, officers at McClellan’s headquarters crowded around the General in Chief when a telegram from General Cullum, Halleck’s chief of staff, announced the victory; and McClellan enjoyed a half hour of glory while his staff congratulated him “on the brilliant results of his arrangement of the plan of the campaign.” McClellan then set off in the rain to take the news to the Wart Department.

    In the Capitol building Senator Grimes of Iowa read Cullum’s dispatch aloud on the Senate floor, and when the Senators ignored their own rule against applause and broke into cheers, Vice-President Hannibal Hamlin, presiding, condoned the outburst: “The chair rules that the Senate is neither applauding nor cheering a Senator.” Guns boomed in salute all day long, and in the camps of the Army of the Potomac young men in unfaded blue uniforms who had never yet faced the enemy in battle tossed their caps and yelled until they were hoarse.

    — Bruce Catton “Grant Moves South”

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