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SHILOH-BEFORE AND AFTER.
HE fall of Donelson told heavily on the fortunes of the Confederacy.
Said Forrest, a Southern General : “Grant landed with a petty force of fifteen thousand men in the very centre of a force of nearly forty-five thousand, having interior lines for concentration and command, by railway at that, and was able to take two heavy fortifications in detail, and place hors de combat nearly fifteen thousand of the enemy.”
Donelson had an equal effect on foreign feeling and in shaping diplomacy abroad. Europe was compelled to forbear from wholesale depreciation of the Northern campaign, and to study the consequences of so significant a victory. Inspiring Union sentiment with unbounded cheer, staggering the enemy in council and camp, furnishing the speech of the common people with new terms that became vernacular and further earnests of victory, men began to ask, “ Has the appointed deliverer come?” The reaction of public sentiment was notable, and the emergency of long discouragement was met. Ft. Henry and Ft. Donelson Grant's guiding principle was: “Having assumed the offensive, to maintain it at all hazards." "To take every precaution possible for full support of all under command." Begin the fighting,” and “ Never to scare.”
Donelson was full of risk. To boldly undertake an assault on a strong natural fortification that was aided by great military preparation, with less troops than were inside for defence, was in violation of all example and advice in war. If a mis
take, it was a glorious one. And again, if a mistake, then, as Turenne
says, “when a man has committed no mistakes in war he could only have been engaged in it a short time." The more of such blunders the better.
General Scott had said: “I don't understand this war. I never knew a war of this magnitude that did not throw to the surface some great general. We have had splendid fighting, but no damage has been done. Both armies have drawn off in good order at the close of a conflict, ready to begin the next day. Such fighting must be interminable. Somebody must be destroyed. The enemy must be spoiled, his means of warfare taken from him. I must make an exception in favor of that young man out West, He seems to know the art of damaging the enemy and crippling him."
The confederate General Johnston, realizing when it was too late that the South had received a fatal blow through his policy of dispersion, set about to concentrate his broken and scattered forces. He collected at Murfreesboro an army of possibly twenty thousand men, his object being to co-operate with Beauregard in defending the Mississippi Valley and the railroad system of the Southwest. This required the establishment and maintenance of a new defensive line, of which Island No. 10 and 'Murfreesboro at first, and Corinth and Chattanooga afterward, became the principal points.
If the reader will now take a map and see how far this line was south of the splendid line stretching from Columbus, on the Mississippi, to Bowling Green, Ky., which the capture of Ft. Donelson broke, he will get an idea of the wonderful extent of territory which that fort protected and which was lost by its fall.
Before the fall of Donelson (Feb. 16th) Grant was assigned to the new military district of West Tennessee, and BrigadierGeneral William T. Sherman succeeded him in the command of the District of Cairo. Their first official intercourse oc
curred during the siege of Donelson, when Sherman forwarded troops and supplies to Grant with extraordinary dispatch. Though Grant's senior, he wrote : "I will do everything in my power to hurry forward your reinforcements and supplies. And if I could be of service myself, would gladly come, without making any question of rank with you or General Smith." After the fall of Ft. Donelson, Sherman congratulated Grant on his success, and Grant replied: "I feel under many obligations to you for the kind terms of your letter, and hope that should an opportunity occur, you will earn for yourself that promotion which you are kind enough to say belongs to me. I care nothing for promotion so long as our arms are successful, and no political appointments are made." Thus began a friendship between these two great men which ever after grew warmer and assured that co-operation in great military enterprises which eventuated in the most brilliant and pronounced successes of the war.
Coincident with the fall of Donelson was that favorable movement in North Carolina by General Burnside, which resulted in the taking of Roanoke Island and the permanent lodgment of the national forces in the soil of that State. And beyond the Mississippi the tide of military affairs took a decided turn. The Confederate General Price had virtually held Missouri. On February 18th, General Curtis drove him into Arkansas. “The army of the SouthWest is doing its duty nobly. The flag of the Union is floating in Arkansas,” were Halleck's words to the Secretary of War.