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Fort Donelson

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  • Dick Weeks
    Some time back we were discussing whether or not the entire command at Fort Donelson could have escaped the same way Forrest did. After doing some research on
    Message 1 of 64 , Jan 13, 2009
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      Some time back we were discussing whether or not the entire command at Fort Donelson could have escaped the same way Forrest did.  After doing some research on this subject I reached the conclusion, at least in my own mind, that while some would have made it, the odds against infantry making that trek the same as Forrest were very long. 
       
      Anyway, while doing this research, it seems the more I read, the more interesting it became.  Not only for how the surrender was made, but the fallout that occurred in Richmond as a result of that surrender.  I think we all know how the surrender came about.  That is Floyd, being first in charge, declined to effect the surrender himself so he turned the command over to Pillow who also did not want to make the surrender, and he turned it over to Buckner.  As it evolved, Buckner made the surrender while Floyd and Pillow, with about 2500 men, escaped on boats.  This is as far as I had ever researched Fort Donelson so it did not occur to me that there might be more to the story but there was.  It seems that both Floyd and Pillow were relieved of their commands until hearings could be held.  Both got new commands later and  Floyd seemed to take the news about being relieved a lot better that Pillow did.  There was a lot of message traffic between Pillow and the Confederate War Department as Pillow was trying to get his version of what happened out.  Pillow even went so far as to threaten resignation but when they called his bluff on that and accepted it he quickly backed out of that position.  Because I found this dust up so interesting I thought maybe some of you might enjoy reading about it.  I updated my website to include the correspondence between Pillow and Richmond and also put the "Extracts from report of the special committee on the recent military disasters at Forts Henry and Donelson and the evacuation of Nashville" as they appear in the Official Records.  You will find the links to them on the Fort Donelson section of my website.
       
       
      In closing I would like to share with you what Ralph Selph Henry said about Fort Donelson in his book on Forrest "First With the Most".
       
      ". . .Fort Donelson is a study in command.  On one side there was a single commander, not of high technical competence at that stage of his career, but of a singularly simple, direct and tenacious mind.   On the other side there was nothing but a perpetually divided council of war.  Given anything like the equality of forces, under such conditions of command, there could have little doubt of the result--and Grant had something like twice the force of the Confederates.
              The Union commander's uncompromising firmness in near-defeat as well as in final victory, plus the happy accident of the erroneous listing of his initials at West Point, were to bring him fame as "Unconditional Surrender Grant, and to carry him on to the highest command and honors.  On the Confederate side, too, there emerged a soldier of an equally single mind and tenacious will, a soldier touched with genius--Forrest, who was for fighting and would surrender neither himself nor his men. . . ."
       
      I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
      Dick (a.k.a. Shotgun)
      http://www.civilwarhome.com
    • Dick Weeks
      Some time back we were discussing whether or not the entire command at Fort Donelson could have escaped the same way Forrest did. After doing some research on
      Message 64 of 64 , Jan 13, 2009
      • 0 Attachment
        Some time back we were discussing whether or not the entire command at Fort Donelson could have escaped the same way Forrest did.  After doing some research on this subject I reached the conclusion, at least in my own mind, that while some would have made it, the odds against infantry making that trek the same as Forrest were very long. 
         
        Anyway, while doing this research, it seems the more I read, the more interesting it became.  Not only for how the surrender was made, but the fallout that occurred in Richmond as a result of that surrender.  I think we all know how the surrender came about.  That is Floyd, being first in charge, declined to effect the surrender himself so he turned the command over to Pillow who also did not want to make the surrender, and he turned it over to Buckner.  As it evolved, Buckner made the surrender while Floyd and Pillow, with about 2500 men, escaped on boats.  This is as far as I had ever researched Fort Donelson so it did not occur to me that there might be more to the story but there was.  It seems that both Floyd and Pillow were relieved of their commands until hearings could be held.  Both got new commands later and  Floyd seemed to take the news about being relieved a lot better that Pillow did.  There was a lot of message traffic between Pillow and the Confederate War Department as Pillow was trying to get his version of what happened out.  Pillow even went so far as to threaten resignation but when they called his bluff on that and accepted it he quickly backed out of that position.  Because I found this dust up so interesting I thought maybe some of you might enjoy reading about it.  I updated my website to include the correspondence between Pillow and Richmond and also put the "Extracts from report of the special committee on the recent military disasters at Forts Henry and Donelson and the evacuation of Nashville" as they appear in the Official Records.  You will find the links to them on the Fort Donelson section of my website.
         
         
        In closing I would like to share with you what Ralph Selph Henry said about Fort Donelson in his book on Forrest "First With the Most".
         
        ". . .Fort Donelson is a study in command.  On one side there was a single commander, not of high technical competence at that stage of his career, but of a singularly simple, direct and tenacious mind.   On the other side there was nothing but a perpetually divided council of war.  Given anything like the equality of forces, under such conditions of command, there could have little doubt of the result--and Grant had something like twice the force of the Confederates.
                The Union commander's uncompromising firmness in near-defeat as well as in final victory, plus the happy accident of the erroneous listing of his initials at West Point, were to bring him fame as "Unconditional Surrender Grant, and to carry him on to the highest command and honors.  On the Confederate side, too, there emerged a soldier of an equally single mind and tenacious will, a soldier touched with genius--Forrest, who was for fighting and would surrender neither himself nor his men. . . ."
         
        I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
        Dick (a.k.a. Shotgun)
        http://www.civilwarhome.com
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