Fort Donelson Battle Hero

Fort Donelson

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Early in the war, the Union realized control of the major rivers would be the key to success in the Western Theater. After capturing Fort Henry on the Tennessee River on February 6, 1862, Brig. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant advanced 12 miles cross-country to invest Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River. By February 13th, Grant had surrounded the fort with about 25,000 men, and had conducted several small attacks to probe the fort's defenses. Inside and around the fort, Confederate commander Brig. Gen. John B. Floyd led a garrison of three divisions of about 16,000 infantry and cavalry. Union Navy gunboats attempted to reduce the fort on February 14th but were beaten back by heavier Confederate artillery from the fort. On the morning of the 15th, the Confederates launched a surprise attack on the right flank of Grant's lines outside the fort.  Grant counterattacked in the afternoon, and despite some success, Floyd ordered his men to fall back inside the fort.  The next day, Floyd and some other senior commanders and a few men escaped the fort, turning over command to Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner, a pre-war friend of Grant. Later that day, Buckner reluctantly surrendered the remaining garrison unconditionally to his old friend. The capture of Fort Donelson was a major victory for Grant and a catastrophe for the South. It helped  ensure that Kentucky would stay in the Union and opened up Tennessee for Union advances up the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers. Grant received a promotion to major general for his victory and attained stature in the Western Theater, earning the nom de guerre “Unconditional Surrender.”

Battle Facts

Result

Union Victory
COMMANDERS
Forces Engaged
40,702

Union

24,531

Confederate

16,171
Total Estimated Casualties
16,537

Union

2,691
507
killed
1,976
wounded
208
missing & captured

Confederate

13,846
327
killed
1,127
wounded
12,392
missing & captured