Friday, February 20, 2009

Surrender & Escape

On the night of February 15th the Confederate high command faced a dilemma. They came to the conclusion that the escape route was no longer open (Forrest would scout it and determine that prompt action would still allow many men to escape but the high command was no longer listening to reason at that point). General John B. Floyd decided they must surrender but that he could not do it as he might end up facing a court due to his questionable practices as Secretary of War under Buchanan. He turned the command over to General Gideon Pillow. Pillow was also worried about surrendering so he turned the command over to General Simon Bolivar Buckner.

Buckner was an Old Army veteran and would do his duty no matter how difficult the particulars of it. The next morning Buckner wrote his old friend Grant a note asking what surrender terms he might get. Grant was with CF Smith at that moment, the two quickly hashed it out and Grant sent back his now famous reply, "No terms except unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted. I propose to move immediately upon your works." Buckner had no choice but to surrender and his response was, "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."

Before this exchange of notes Floyd and Pillow worked hard to get as many men out of the fort as they could, mostly using arriving river boats to get their men out of there. Forrest also famously pulled his troops out, as well as about a 1000 other men who took the initiative to go along.

Grant was now a rising star in the Union. He would become a household name and people would say that US Grant stood for Unconditional Surrender Grant, not Ulysses S. Grant (actually born Hiram Ulysses Grant).

Up the Cumberland River is Nashville. The fall of Fort Donelson doomed Nashville and it would be abandoned by the Confederates in about two weeks.

A state historical marker for Forrest's escape.


Slamdunk said...

Thanks for the reminder about the surrender story. It seems that Grant and Forrest's stars began glowing brightly after this engagement.

Chris Evans said...

An interesting bit of trivia is Simon Buckner's son was a World War II general who was killed at the Battle of Okinawa. Here is the link to a little article and picture of him:,_Jr.
You hear quite alot about the MacArthurs but not as much about the Buckners.

Nathan Bedford Forrest's great-grandson also died in during World War II:
I just wanted to pass along these fascinating reminders of the continuation of American history. Men whose father and great-grandfather fought against the United States ended up dying for the United States less than a 100 years later.
Thanks for the posts on Fort Donelson,
Chris Evans

Andrea Christman said...

I really enjoy reading your blog. I have two Civil War ancestors and you make the Civil War battlefield come to life! I have nominated you for the Kreativ Blog award. See my post Enjoy!!!