Page images
PDF
EPUB

respect, he thought, than Floyd. “There are no two men,” he declared, “in the Confederacy the Yankees would rather capture than themselves.” He therefore hastily passed the command to Buckner. These two worthies then took posse: sion of two steamboats, and with a small brigade of troops stole away from their comrades. Col. Forest with a regiment of cavalry made his way out by the river road.

Buckner, whose soldierly instincts did not permit him to avoid the fate reserved for his troops, called for a bugler, and wrote a note to Grant for an armistice and a commission to arrange terms of surrender. This was sent out under a flag of truce.

Before retiring for the night, Grant's orders had been passed out for an early attack. He therefore replied to him in the language which was soon to be on the lips of every friend of the Union cause, and which has ever been associated with his name. “No terms other than an unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted.

I propose to move immediately upon your works.”

This bristling answer brought a hasty reply: “The disposition of 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 rode directly to Buckner's headquarters, where the terms of “ unconditional surrender" were construed so as to allow the officers to retain their side arms and the men their personal baggage. Alluding to Grant's inferior force at the beginning of the attack Buckner said: “Had I been in command you would not have reached Ft. Donelson so easily." Grant's reply was: “ If you had been in command I would have waited for reinforcements and marched from Ft. Henry in greater strength; but I knew that Pillow would not come

out of his works to fight, though I thought he would fight behind them."

The fruits of this splendid strategy and incomparable persistency on the part of General Grant was 14,623 prisoners, 17 heavy guns, 48 field-pieces, 20,000 stand of small arms, 3000 horses and a large quantity of military stores.

As an instance of the favorable impression Grant made on his foes, when a few days afterward Buckner, with his brigade, was on board of a steamer bound for the North, he asked Grant to come aboard and look at them. The prisoners crowded around their captor. Buckner addressed them to the effect that General Grant had behaved kindly toward his foes, and that if ever the fortune of war turned they should show him and his men equal magnanimity.

On the last day of the fight Grant had twenty-seven thousand men ready for battle. He had but eight batteries of light artillery, a less number than the guns he captured. His losses were two thousand and forty-one in killed, wounded and missing The Confederate loss, other than prisoners, was estimated at two thousand five hundred killed and wounded.

On this memorable 16th of February, 1862, the very conservative Halleck telegraphed Grant “not to be too rash," and then followed other word about precautions as to gunboats, etc. He wrote no congratulations to the victor, but three days afterward (Feb. 19th) sent word to Washington, congratulating Smith for “his bravery, which turned the tide and carried the enemy's outworks. Make him a major-general. You can't get a better one. Honor him for this victory and the whole country will applaud.” In contrast with this let Smith himself speak. General Buckner congratulated him on the morning of the surrender for his gallant charge. The brave old officer said: “ Yes, it was well done considering the smallness of the force that did it. No congratulations are due me. I simply obeyed orders.”

Halleck's nomination of Smith was fatal to a deserving soldier. The Secretary of War had a better appreciation of the situation. Grant was recommended for a major-generalcy of volunteers, and Lincoln nominated him the same day. The Senate confirmed the nomination instantly, and a whole country did applaud. The next day, February 20th, Secretary Stanton wrote to the country as follows:

“We may well rejoice at the recent victories, for they teach us that battles are to be won now and by us, in the same and only manner that they were won by any people or in any age since the days of Joshua—by boldly pursuing and striking the foe. What under the blessing of Providence I conceive to be the true organization of victory and military organization to end this war, was declared in a few words by General Grant's message to General Buckner: 'I propose to move immediately on your works.''

Says Badeau : “The consequences of the capture of Donelson were greatly superior to any good fortune which had at that time befallen the national arms, and were hardly surpassed in a purely military point of view by the results of any operation of the war. The great Confederate line had been penetrated at the centre, its extremities were both turned, while the region behind was uncovered. The whole of Kentucky and Tennessee at once fell into the possession of the National forces: the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers were opened to national vessels for hundreds of miles; Nashville, the capital of Tennessee, and a place of immense strategic importance, fell; Bowling Green had become untenable as soon as Donelson was attacked, and was abandoned on Feb. 14th, while Columbus on the Mississippi was evacuated early in March, thus leaving that river free from the Confederate flag from St. Louis to Arkansas.

“ The country was unacquainted with military science at this time; and as city after city fell, and stronghold after

stronghold was abandoned—all legitimate consequences of the fall of Donelson-the national amazement and gratification knew no bounds. The effect on the spirit of the people was indeed quite equal to the purely military results. This was the first success of any importance since the beginning of the war.

An inferior force had marched boldly up to a strongly fortified post, and for three days besieged an army larger than itself; then after being reinforced it had not only defeated the enemy in the open field, converting what had been nearly a disaster into brilliant victory, but compelled the unconditional surrender of one of the largest garrisons ever captured in war. These were considerations which naturally enough elated and cheered the country, and absolutely inspired the army, depressed before by long delays and defeats on many fields. The gratitude felt toward Grant was commensurate with the success. He stepped at once into a national fame.”

The silent man's fame was on every tongue. “U. S.” had far more significance than the “Uncle Sam " of the West Point class-room. It was woven into songs, into platform speeches, into street hurrahs and army cheers, as “United States " and "Unconditional Surrender.” In a day Grant had become the hero of a war, and the occupant of a high and glorious place in the affections of his countrymen. People by the million hailed with joy the man and the movement which after so many weary months had given a victory so overwhelming and important that it became the harbinger of ultimate triumph for the republic. It was a victory of such dimensions as to attract world-wide consideration; and it settled in the American mind the fact that a new man was on the stage, and a new era had begun. Flags waved from every house; hymns were chanted in every church; guns boomed from decks and fortifications; press united with pulpit to swell the chorus. The furore of jubilation was never equalled

[ocr errors]

in the memory of living men. Grant paid glowing tribute to all his officers and soldiers. His address contained the words: “The men who fought that battle will live in the memory of a grateful peopl

[graphic][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »