Skip to content

1862 February 19: “Glorious Victory” at Fort Donelson

February 20, 2012

The Prescott Journal seems to be ahead of The Hudson North Star in how fast it is getting the news out.  In its February 19, 1862, issue The Hudson North Star just has the news of Fort Henry (February 6), while The Prescott Journal  has the very recent news on the Union victory at Fort Donelson (February 11-16).

G L O R I O U S   VI C T O R Y!


CHICAGO, Feb. 17.

[Special to Times.]—FT. DONELSON, FEB. 16.—Fort Donelson surrendered at daylight this morning unconditionally.  We have Generals Buckner [Simon B. Buckner], Johnson, Bushrod [sic]1, and 15,000 prisoners, and also 3,000 horses.  Pillow [Gideon J. Pillow] and Floyd [John B. Floyd] with their brigades, ran away on steamers without letting General Buckner know their intentions.2

General Smith [Charles F. Smith] led the charge on the lower end of the works and was first inside of the fortifications.

The Fort Henry runaways were bagged here.  Prisoners are loading steamers for Cairo.  Our loss is heavy, probably 400 killed and 800 wounded.2

We lost a large per centage [sic] of officers, among them Lieut. Colonels Erwin of  the 20th Illinois, White of the 31st, Smith of the 48th.  Cols John A. Logan, Lawler and Sansom are wounded.3

Maj. Post,4 of the 8th Illinois, with 200 privates, are prisoners, and have gone to Nashville, being captured the night before the surrender.

The enemy’s loss is heavy, but not so large as ours, as they fought behind entrenchments.

We should have taken them by storm on Saturday, if our ammunition had not given out in the night.

McClerland’s [John A. McClernand] division, Oglesby’s, Wallace’s, and McArthur’s brigades, suffered terribly.5  They were composed of the 8th, 9th, 11th, 18th, 20th, 29th, 30th, 31st, 45th, 48th, 49th Illinois.

Gen. Wallace [Lewis Wallace], with the 11th Indiana, 8th Missouri, and some Ohio regiments participated in the fight.

Lew Wallace's Charge at the Battle of Fort Donelson, from "The Soldier in Our Civil War"6


Taylor’s, Willard’s, Schwartz’s, McAlister’s, and Dresser’s batteries were also engaged from the commencement.

 The enemy turned our right for half an hour, but our lost ground was more than regained.

Our forces on the right were ready all night.  They recommenced the attack on Sunday morning, and were met on their approach by a white flag.  Buckner having sent early in the morning a dispatch to Gen. Grant, surrendering the works of the Fort, extending some five miles on the outside.

The rebels lost 48 field pieces, 17 heavy guns, 20,000 stand of arms, besides a large quantity of commissary stores.  They are completely demoralized, and have no confidence in their leaders, as they charge Pillow and Floyd with deserting them.

Our troops from the moment of the investment of the Fort on Wednesday, lay on their arms night and day, one-half the time without provisions, and all the time without tents, a portion of the time in heavy rain and snow.

1.  Bushrod Rust Johnson (1817-1880) was a teacher before the War and co-chancellor of the University of Nashville after the War. He was one of a handful of Confederate generals who were born and raised in the North. When the War started, he became a colonel of engineers in the Tennessee Militia and then in the Confederate States Army. He was instrumental in the building of Fort Donelson. Two days after the surrender of the Fort, Johnson was able to walk unimpeded through the porous Union  Army lines.
2.  Floyd, who feared prosecution for treason if he should be captured, turned command of the army over to Pillow, who had similar concerns and immediately passed command to Buckner. Pillow escaped in the night in a small boat across the Cumberland River; Floyd likewise escaped, taking two regiments of his Virginia command with him before Buckner could surrender to Grant.
3.  William Erwin (1821-1862), lieutenant colonel of the 20th Illinois Infantry, was killed February 15, 1862, in the Battle of Fort Donelson.
     John H. White (1821-1862), lieutenant colonel of the 31st Illinois Infantry, was killed February 14, 1862, in the Battle of Fort Donelson. 
     John Eugene Smith (1816-1897) was colonel of the 45th Illinois (Isham N. Haynie was colonel of the 48th).  He led his regiment at the battles of Fort Henry, Fort Donelson, and Shiloh. He will be promoted to brigadier general of U.S. Volunteers in November 1862, and will be brevetted major general in January 1865.  After the War, he will stay in the regular army, where he will be a colonel of the 27th U.S. Infantry.
     John Alexander Logan (1826-1886), colonel of the 31st Illinois, helped organize the unit. He was pro-Southern before the outbreak of the war, but deciding that the “Union must prevail”, he joined the Northern cause. He was wounded at Fort Donelson. Soon after Fort Donelson he was promoted to brigadier general, and in 1863 will be promoted to major general. After the War, he will be a U.S. Representative from Illinois (1867-71), U.S. Senator from Illinois (1871-77 and again 1879-1886), and in the 1884 election he will be a candidate for the U.S. vice-presidency. 
     Michael Kelly Lawler (1814-1882), colonel of the 18th Illinois, had served as a captain in the Mexican War. In May 1861 he recruited the 18th Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment, and was appointed as its first colonel. He was wounded at the Battle of Fort Donelson, and in November 1862 he became a brigadier general. In the omnibus promotions at the end of the Civil War, Lawler will receive a promotion for distinguished service to major general in the Union army.
     “Sansom” is no doubt Thomas Edwin Greenfield Ransom (1834-1864), lieutenant colonel of the 11th Illinois Infantry. As the Civil War began, Ransom raised a body of soldiers that became Company E of the 11th Illinois Infantry. He was elected its captain, then was commissioned major of the regiment, lieutenant colonel, and on February 15, 1862, became the colonel.  In November of that same year he was commissioned a brigadier general. He died from dysentery in 1864, and was breveted a major general after his death. The community of Ransom, in Illinois, is named for him. There is an official Georgia Historical Society marker for him, and he has his own Facebook page.
4.  John P. Post, at this time major of the 8th Illinois Infantry, will eventually become the regiment’s colonel, but will resign in September 1863.
5.  When the Confederates made their breakout attempt at Fort Donelson, McArthur’s and Oglesby’s neighboring brigades suffered heavily.
      Richard James Oglesby (1824-1899) had served in the Mexican War. At the start of the Civil War, Oglesby became colonel of the 8th Illinois Infantry. He was soon given command of the 1st Brigade (1st Division, District of Cairo, Department of the Missouri), serving under the command of General Grant. He commanded his brigade at the battles of Fort Henry and Fort Donelson, and soon after was promoted to brigadier general. After the War, he will be elected governor of Illinois three times.
     William Hervey Lamme Wallace (1821-1862) considered by General Grant to be one of the Union’s greatest generals. He started the Civil War as a private in the 11th Illinois Infantry and then became its colonel. He rose up the ranks and commanded a brigade of General McClernand’s division of Grant’s Army of the Tennessee at the Battle of Fort Donelson. During the battle, much of McClernand’s division had been driven back with heavy losses and Wallace’s coolness under fire was especially noted. For his service at Fort Donelson Colonel Wallace was appointed a brigadier general of volunteers. In April 1862, Wallace will be mortally wounded at the Battle of Shiloh. Wallace also has a Facebook page.
      John McArthur (1826-1906) was one of the ablest Union commanders in the Western Theater. At the outbreak of the Civil War, McArthur was appointed colonel of an Illinois volunteer regiment. Shortly after, he was elevated to command the 1st Brigade in Brigadier General Charles F. Smith’s division. Following Fort Donelson McArthur was promoted to brigadier general and will lead the 2nd Brigade, 2nd Division of the Army of the Tennessee at the Battle of Shiloh. 
6.  The Soldier in Our Civil War: A Pictorial History of the Conflict, 1861-1865, Illustrating the Valor of the Soldier as Displayed on the Battle-field: From Sketches drawn by Forbes, Waud, Taylor, Beard, Becker, Lovie, Schell, Crane, Davis and Numerous Other Eye-Witnesses to the Strife, edited by Paul F. Mottelay and T. Campbell-Copland; with an introduction by Robert B. Beathl, New York: Stanley Bradley Pub. Co., 1893; available in the UWRF University Archives and Area Research Center (E 468.7 .M68 1893).
7.  Ezra Taylor (1819- ), captain of Battery B, 1st Illinois Light Artillery, will be promoted to major.
      Charles M. Willard, captain of Battery A, 1st Illinois Light Artillery, will be promoted to major.
      Adolph Schwartz (1829-1872), captain of Company E, 2nd Illinois Light Artillery.
      Edward McAllister, captain of Battery D, 1st Illinois Light Artillery, will resign in 1862.
      Jasper M. Dresser, captain of Battery D, 2nd Illinois Light Artillery.



No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: