Chronological History of the American Civil War
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throughout the day and into the night. The Union also attacks nearby Fort Heiman. Parts of Bowling Green, Kentucky burn as the Confederates evacuate. The West Virginia Constitutional Convention at Wheeling adopts a provision that 'no slave or free person of color should come into the state for permanent residence.' Friday, February 14, 1862 : General Grant and Flag Officer Foote (U.S.) continue to assault Fort Donelson. Foote orders his gunboats into battle despite the danger posed by the higher fort guns. Foote's flagship, the U.S.S. St. Louis is hit 59 times, loses her steerage, and starts to drift downriver. Foote's injury during the battle will later force him to give up command of the flotilla. The gunboat attack is broken off for now. Disappointed that the gunboats did not bring easy victory, Grant gathers his forces for further attacks. In Washington D.C., Lincoln approves the release of political prisoners who will take an oath of allegiance to the United States. Union forces take Bowling Green, Kentucky. A meeting of Confederate commanders ends with the decision that General Gideon Pillow's forces should attack the Federal right flank to the south of Fort Donelson. Saturday, February 15, 1862 : One hour before daybreak, the Confederates in Fort Donelson attempted their breakout. They had surprise on their side and attacked on just one front. This would be the first time Union soldiers in the “West” heard that famous “Rebel Yell,” (the Rebel Yell was meant to scare or shock the enemy) but after initial success had to face Union troops sent to reinforce that front. Confederate Commander, Nathan Bedford Forrest leads his cavalry out of Fort Donelson, through a freezing swamp, to safety. His is the only organized escape from the fort. By nightfall, all the Confederate troops had been driven back to their original positions. Generals Floyd and Pillow leave the fort and command with General Buckner. General Simon Bolivar Buckner (CSA) who, they reasoned, having been a pre-war friend of General U.S. Grant, would get the men better terms with a surrender. They were wrong. Sunday, February 16, 1862 : Fighting at Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River in Tennessee had continued the day before and all through the night. The original commander, General Floyd, (CSA) had no stomach for presiding over a defeat, so he turned command of the fort over to General Pillow, (CSA) who had come in earlier with reinforcements. Pillow likewise saw no career advancement possibilities here, so he promptly resigned the honor to General Simon Bolivar Buckner, and Floyd and Pillow climbed into a rowboat and skedaddled. Overnight, seeing a distasteful situation developing, General Nathan Bedford Forrest (CSA) and his cavalrymen had quietly gathered their horses and simply burst through the Union lines to fight another day. Negotiate the surrender of the fort appeared the only way out now, and it was left up to General Buckner (CSA) to do it. It seems earlier in 1854, General Grant (U.S.) had lost a command in California, partly because of a drinking problem, and a then friend and U.S. Army officer Simon Bolivar Buckner had loaned Grant money to get home after his resignation. But, Grant showed he had no mercy towards men who had rebelled against the Union. His reply was one of the most famous quotes to come out of the war. "No terms except an unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted." Thus giving Grant his nickname of "Unconditional Surrender." The casualties at Fort Donelson were heavy primarily because of the large Confederate surrender. Union losses were 2,691 (507 killed, 1,976 wounded, 208 captured/missing), Confederate 13,846 (327 killed, 1,127 wounded, 12,392 captured/missing). This victory opens up the state of Tennessee for Union advancement. Union forces will quickly breach Southern defenses and open a corridor to Nashville. Monday, February 17, 1862 : Generals Floyd and Pillow, the two Confederate commanders of Fort Donelson, Tennessee, who had abandoned their 12,000 men there to capture by General U.S. Grant, arrived in Nashville to face the music. Amazingly enough neither Floyd nor Pillow were ever court- martial for their dereliction of duty. The other general who abandoned the fort to its fate, Nathan Bedford Forrest, at least brought his entire cavalry force through Union lines to safety. They would arrive in Nashville tomorrow.
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