February, 1862: Battle of Fort Donelson Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Early in February, 1862, Union general Ulysses S. Grant began a campaign along the Tennessee River to open the western portion of the state. On February 6, sixteen transports and gunboats carried 15,000 of Grant’s troops in a combined attack on Fort Henry, forcing its surrender.

Early in February, 1862, Union general Ulysses S. Grant began a campaign along the Tennessee River to open the western portion of the state. On February 6, sixteen transports and gunboats carried 15,000 of Grant’s troops in a combined attack on Fort Henry, forcing its surrender.

The next day, Grant marched his army toward Fort Donelson, a distance of twelve miles. On February 14, an assault on the fort by Grant’s troops was repulsed. Grant and Flag Officer Andrew Foote spent the next two days surrounding the fort, which was commanded by General John Floyd, who was assisted by General Gideon Pillow and General Simon Buckner. Despite a partial breakout led by Nathan Bedford Forrest, most of the Confederate forces were trapped. On February 16, Grant sent a message to General Buckner, demanding “unconditional and immediate surrender,” earning the nickname “Unconditional Surrender (U.S.) Grant.” Buckner accepted the terms.

Union casualties in the campaign totaled approximately 2,300, and Confederate losses totaled more than 1,400. The capture of Forts Henry and Donelson represented the first victories for forces under the command of General Grant. The victory ensured that Kentucky would remain in the union.

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