Capture of Fort Donelson


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, March 1, 1862

We are making our extensive collection of original Civil War Harper's Weekly newspapers available to you online. This collection allows in depth research and analysis of key issues of the Civil War. We are hopeful you find this material useful.

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Fort Donelson

Battle of Fort Donelson

Capture of Fort Donelson

Capture of Fort Donelson

Rebel Pirates

Rebel Pirates

Savannah River

Gunboats on the Savannah River

Albemarle and Pamlico Map

Map of Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds

Roanoke Island

Battle of Roanoke Island


Flag Officer Goldsborough

Ft. Henry

Capture of Fort Henry

Roanoke Island

Roanoke Island Battle

Foster and Porter

Captain Porter and General Foster

Somerset and Green River

Somerset and Green River

Uncle Sam

Uncle Sam Cartoon



[MARCH 1, 1862.



WE illustrate on the preceding page a thrilling scene in the attack upon Fort Donelson, which took place on 14th, 15th, and 16th ult., the fort surrendering to General Grant on the morning of 16th. The victory was complete, resulting, as it did, in the capture of 15,000 rebel troops, an immense amount of war material, and the persons of Generals A. S. Johnston and Buckner. General Floyd sneaked off with his brigade of five thousand men on Saturday night. A special dispatch from Fort Donelson says:

The forces were about equal in numbers, but the rebels had all the advantage of position, being well fortified on two immense hills, with their fort near the river on a lower piece of ground. From the foot of their intrenchments rifle pits and abattis extended up the river behind the town of Dover. Their fortifications on the side back from the river were at least four miles in length. The water battery, in the centre of the fortifications, where it came down to the river, mounted nine heavy guns.

The rebels were sure of success. In any other cause, and against less brave troops, they could easily have held the position against a hundred thousand men.

At daylight Saturday the enemy opened on the Eighteenth Illinois, when Colonel Oglesby's brigade was soon engaged, and was soon followed by Wallace's and M'Arthur's brigades, the latter acting under General McClernand, as the position of the troops had been changed during the night, and General Grant had been called away during the night to the gun-boats. The movements of all the troops except those attached to General M'Clernand's division were made without any thing except general orders. At a suggestion from General M'Clernand, General Wallace sent up four regiments to support his division, who were nearly out of ammunition.

From the commencement till near ten o'clock the fighting was terrific. The troops on the right were disposed as follows: M'Arthur's brigade, composed of the Ninth, Twelfth, Forty-first, Seventeenth, and Nineteenth Illinois regiments; next, General Oglesby's brigade, consisting of the Eighth, Thirteenth, Twenty-ninth, Thirtieth, and Thirty-first Illinois regiments; Schwartz's and Dresser's batteries; next was General Wallace's brigade of the Eleventh, Twentieth, Forty-fifth, and Forty-eighth Illinois regiments. These three brigades composed General M'Clernand's division, and bore the brunt of the battle.

It was found that the enemy was concentrating his main force to turn our right, which was done by our men getting out of ammunition, and in the confusion of getting up reinforcements retreating about half a mile. As soon as the division, which had stood its ground manfully for three hours, retired, the enemy occupied the field, when General Grant ordered General Smith to move forward his division and storm the enemy's works on our left.

This order was obeyed with great alacrity, and soon the cheers of our daring soldiery were heard, and the old flag displayed from within the enemy's inrenchments.

General Grant then sent word to General M'Clernand and General Wallace that General Smith was within the enemy's intrenchments, ordering their forces to move forward and renew the attack on the right. One of General Wallace's brigades-the Eleventh Indiana, Eighth Missouri, and some Ohio regiments—were rapidly thrown into position, and company A, of the Chicago Light Artillery, was planted in the road, and as the rebels, supposing we were in retreat, came yelling out of their works into the road, the Chicago boys poured a hail—storm of grape and canister into their ranks, slaughtering dozens of them.

Simultaneously with this the infantry commenced firing at will, and the rebels went pell-mell back into their works, our men advancing and taking possession of the ground lost, and a hill besides. Fresh troops, who had not been in the action, were then thrown forward, and as the shades of night drew on were in a strong position to participate in a simultaneous attack to be made on Sunday morning.

Some of our best officers and men have gone to their long home. Hardly a man that went over the field after the battle but discovered some comrade who had fallen. We lost three lieutenant-colonels, and at least one-quarter of all the other officers were wounded or killed.

During Saturday night a contraction of all our lines was made for a simultaneous assault from every point, and orders were given by General Grant to take the enemy at the point of the bayonet. Every man was at his post, the Fifty-seventh Illinois on the extreme right.

At daylight the advance was made, and when the full light of day broke forth white flags were hung in many places on the enemy's works.

An officer at a convenient point was informed that they had stacked their arms and surrendered early in the morning.

The following correspondence passed between the commanders :



SIR,—In consideration of all the circumstances governing the present situation of affairs at this station, I propose to the commanding officer of the Federal forces the appointment of commissioners to argue upon terms of capitulation of the forces at this post under my command; in that view I suggest an armistice until twelve o'clock to-day.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant, S. B. BUCKNER, Brigadier-General, C. S. A.

To Brigadier-General U. S. Grant, commanding United States forces near Fort Donelson.



FORT DONELSON, February 16, 1862.

To General S. B. Buckner:

SIR,—Yours of this date, proposing an armistice and the appointment of commissioners to settle on the terms of capitulation, is just received.

No terms, except unconditional and immediate surrender, can be accepted.

I propose to move immediately on your works.

I am very respectfully, your obedient servant,

U. S. GRANT, Brigadier-General Commanding.


February 16, 1862. Brigadier-General U. S. Grant, U. S. A.

SIR,—The distribution of the 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, to accept the ungenerous and unchivalrous terms which you propose. I am, Sir, your servant,

S. B. BUCKNER, Brigadier-General C. S. A

Our force was soon in the enemy's camp, when the rebel officers gave up their swords.

Immediately on the receipt of the news of the capture of Fort Donelson by the Secretary of War, he sent the name of General Grant to the President for promotion to a Major-Generalship.


ON page 141 we give a couple of illustrations of the progress of the war in Kentucky. One of them, from the pencil of our artist, Mr. H. Mosier, represents GENERAL MITCHELL'S DIVISION CROSSING GREEN RIVER ON 10TH OCTOBER. The strategic movements of General Buell had already rendered the rebel stronghold at Bowling Green untenable, and General Mitchell has by this time occupied it. General Mitchell is the well-known astronomer; a soldier by education, his heart and soul are in the war, and he will do his duty.

Our other illustration represents the CAMP OF

THE FOURTH KENTUCKY REGIMENT ON THE CUMBERLAND, lately occupied by the 17th Tennessee under the late General Zollicoffer. Mr. Oscar D. Kress, who sends us the sketch, writes: "I send you a sketch of a portion of Zollicoffer's camp, recently occupied by the 17th Tennessee Regiment (rebel), now held by the 4th Kentucky (Union), commanded by Colonel Speed S. Fry, who killed Zollicoffer at the recent battle. We took possession of this camp on the 20th, the day after the battle, the rebels flying during the night, leaving every thing behind them."



THE capture of Fort Donelson, with 15,000 men, including both the Generals Buckner and Bushrod Johnston, is probably the culminating point in the struggle between the United States Government and the malcontents. At the hour we write General Buell, with 80,000 men, is pressing upon the Cumberland River; while General Grant, with 50,000, and Flag-officer Foote, with his gun-boat and mortar fleet, are ascending the same stream from the bend at Dover. Rumor states that the remnant of the garrison of Fort Donelson, with part of the Bowling Green army, have taken refuge at Clarksville, and seem disposed to make a stand there. If they do, they will inevitably share the fate of the army which has just surrendered. The events of the past week have rendered its indisputable masters of the Cumberland and Tennessee rivers, of Nashville and all Northern Tennessee, and of the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad. Wherever we meet the enemy we shall be three to one, and by far superior to them in equipments, commissariat, clothing, transportation, and arms.

The fate of Columbus, Memphis, and consequently New Orleans, is now sealed. It is hardly probable that the right reverend rebel Leonidas Polk will wait to be caught in the trap he has built for himself at Columbus. If he does, we shall by-and-by take him and all his force without firing a gun. If he evacuates his present post, the rebels themselves admit that they can not defend any other point on the Mississippi. One Union army of enormous strength will advance on Memphis from Nashville, while another Union army under Halleck's generals will drive Price before them through Arkansas, and both will meet on the Mississippi in time to co-operate with Flag-officer Foote's gun-boat and mortar-fleet. Unless some unforeseen accident occurs the whole Mississippi will be ours, from the Gulf to Cairo, by 15th March.

Meanwhile, Burnside is cutting off the retreat of the Virginia army through North Carolina, and making ready to take Norfolk. When he was at the mouth of the Roanoke the people of Weldon fled from their houses. Norfolk should be in our possession as soon as Memphis.

Simultaneously, Dupont and Sherman are moving against Savannah, and Commodore Porter's fleet is on the way to Mobile and New Orleans.

Against such a combination of forces working together on such a plan, how long can the rebellion last?


THE latest foreign canard about this country is to the effect that the Confederate envoys have offered to purchase the recognition of the Southern Confederacy by granting to Europe absolute free trade for fifty years, and by decreeing the emancipation of every negro born at the South after the recognition. British journals gravely discuss the proposal, and many of them declare that it should be accepted. Some of our more malignant foes expatiate upon the liberality of the proposed scheme of emancipation, and pronounce the rebels in advance of the Government of the United States on the subject of slavery.

We hazard nothing, however, in asserting that no such proposal has been or will be made. No Southern man at the present day believes that emancipation is desirable or possible at any future time. Every leader of the rebellion has placed himself on record in favor of the perpetual slavery of the negro race, as their natural and normal condition, and as the only condition upon which the white race can live side by side with the black. In the emphatic language of Vice-President Alexander H. Stephens, the revolution of 1776 established the right and the capacity of white men to govern themselves; the revolution of 1861 is to establish, for all future time, the inequality of the white and black races, and the inalienable right of the former to the service of the latter. Slavery is, in a word, the cause, end, and aim of the present rebellion. It was begun to prevent the restriction of slavery within its present limits. It is carried on to secure, protect, and extend slavery. If it had been successful, it would have consolidated slavery and postponed emancipation for many generations. To believe that any Southern envoys have proposed to surrender slavery for any consideration whatever is to suppose them guilty of unnecessarily giving up the only thing they

are fighting for, and yielding gratuitously the whole point at issue.

Thirty years ago there were consistent and conscientious emancipationists at the South. Charles J. Faulkner, of Virginia, the rebel leader, was one of them. But in those days cotton was an insignificant article of produce, and male adult negroes were not worth over $300 in Virginia. Slaveholding was unprofitable. Since then the extension of cotton culture, and a foreign demand for slave produce, which has risen to the enormous figure of $225,000,000 per annum, have completely crushed out the old sentiment of good Southern men on the subject of slavery. Commerce has commanded the aid of religion and morals, and it is now deemed both impious and disreputable in good Southern society to question the propriety of slaveholding. If the culture of cotton were abandoned, or its consumption checked, the old sentiments of Washington and Jefferson would revive at the South, and schemes of emancipation would be mooted. But so long as cotton is the staple product of the South, and the world is clothed with it, no Southern man of any mark will venture to contemplate the abolition of slavery, and Southern clergymen and statesmen will expend their best efforts in bolstering up the institution with texts from the Bible and moral apophthegms. The Southern envoys are much more likely to propose to Europe to establish a monarchical Government over their Confederacy, with a European Prince at its head, than to admit the possibility of extinguishing slavery at any future period.

That Messrs. Yancey, Rost, Mann, Mason, and Slidell may have talked about free trade is quite likely. But, after all, what have they to offer in this connection? When the Constitution of the United States was formed it was supposed that the public revenue would be derived from direct taxation, and the slaveholders were allowed votes for three-fifths of their slaves, on condition of paying taxes in proportion. In the course of a few years it was discovered that a well-contrived tariff of duties on foreign imports would, with the proceeds of the sale of the public lands, provide revenue enough; and the idea of direct taxation was abandoned—not to be revived till now. The Government under which the Southern States have prospered so wonderfully during the past sixty years has been almost entirely supported by duties on imports levied at three Northern ports—New York, Philadelphia, and Boston. The South may be said never to have paid any taxes at all.

If, as an independent power, the rebels propose to dispense with customs duties on imports, how are they to raise revenue? They have already tried one plan—an export duty on cotton. Foreigners will tell them that this is worse than the Morrill Tariff. It is literally making foreigners support their government. As to direct taxes, they have never paid any yet, and when a direct tax on slaves was hinted at in the South Carolina Convention, the member who made the suggestion was silenced on the spot. In Alabama, about a year ago, a war tax was imposed by the Legislature, but it was found impossible to collect it. It would seem that foreigners, before committing themselves to the recognition of the Southern Confederacy, would require some guarantee that its citizens would pay direct taxes to support their Government. Without such a guarantee, a promise to admit foreign goods free of duty for fifty or any other term of years would be likely to be more honored in the breach than the observance. What guarantee could the rebels offer?

We have never believed that foreigners would interfere in our contest if we performed our part with vigor and determination. The British aristocracy would like to see this country divided and ruined, because we are a rival to England, and because the ruin of this republic would delay the progress of democracy in England for many years. The class of people who are represented by the London Times, the Morning Post, and the London Herald were evidently disappointed at the pacific solution of the Mason-Slidell affair. But there is a limit to the capacity of these malignant enemies of the Union; and so long as France continues to be guided by the grand principles of right and honor which have always marked her foreign policy, that limit lies this side of war. It is not in the power of the Southern envoys to offer any temptation to Europe which can overcome the principles of France, or the fears and the necessities of England.  



ONE of the stories of the dark day at Bull Run is, that when McDowell came in sight of the enemy's batteries, and saw that bloody work was at hand, he rose in his saddle inquiringly and asked earnestly, "Where is Burnside?" as if instinctively turning toward the man whom he knew to be a skilled soldier.

That day Burnside, with the Rhode Island line, the New York 71st, and the other troops of his command, gave brave account of themselves. The months pass, and the whole country, not a single General, asks earnestly "Where is Burnside?" And from the roar of appalling wintry surges, from the thick smoke of sharp battle, from the heart of

the enemy's country and the rear of his position, comes the quiet voice of the leader, "Here, where I meant to be!"

The men he leads are men in earnest. They went to fight and to conquer. They knew that the terrible chance of battle was for every one of them. But they knew also that they were but the vanguard; that all were soldiers in this war whether they had marched or were only waiting—that victory must be snatched from all odds and from discomfiture itself—and the knowledge cleared the eyes that were fixed upon success, and strengthened the hands that have hewn out the great victory of Roanoke.

And now if you ask again "Where is Burnside?" the answer rings from the lips of millions of grateful countrymen, "Fast in our hearts forever!"  


BUT while the South wind brings us the welcome music from Virginia, the West wind is not less eloquent. The gallant capture of Fort Henry by Foote's brave little boats that "moved to within six hundred yards of the batteries"—the blaze of victory that paled the stern resistance—the pressing forward of Phelps and his men up the Tennessee into Alabama.—the welcome of the old flag along the shore, as if summer had come again: the summer of hope and security into those hearts winter-bound with doubt—the enlistments of men —the offers of more—all this is glad tidings. That gun-boat Canestoga pushing into the heart of the rebel section seems like a firm ray of dawn piercing the night.

Before these words are read there must be news from Fort Donelson; from Price, perhaps, and from how many more! If there shall be a great battle at Bowling Green, or at any point, and the Western rebel army be signally defeated, the Confederates can hardly help feeling the shock to the very heart of their treason. They must begin to withdraw from Manassas-for why should they then remain? Richmond will be directly threatened. The defeat in the West will clear the rebels from the border States; the movements upon the sea-board will clear Virginia; the active rebellion will be shut up in the Gulf States, and the interfering hand of Europe will be stayed. Then Victory must be organized. Then we shall have to look practically at the question, How can peace be made permanent?

Meanwhile the nation is beginning to feel its strength, as it has long known its purpose. Conscious strength is itself an inspiration. The army of the nation will be more invincible after every victory. It is alive and glowing along the whole line. Pamlico Sound replies to the Tennessee:

"And Jura answers from her misty shroud,

Back to the joyous Alps that call to her aloud

—Thus much was written before this Tuesday the 18th of February—when the glad tidings came pouring in from the West. Let it stand. While the busy fingers of the printers were picking up the type which were to tell of our hopes and anticipations, the telegraph was clicking off the news that they had been more than realized: In Kentucky, Bowling Green abandoned; in Missouri, Price in full retreat, with our forces in hot pursuit; in Tennessee, Fort Donelson surrendered. What a dispatch might not Grant have sent to Washington: "We have met the enemy, and they are ours. Four Generals, a score of Colonels, Majors and Captains by the hundred, fifteen thousand men prisoners!" And now, as we write, we hear the shouts of the newsboys announcing the capture of Savannah. We close the paragraph not knowing whether the report is true, but our readers will know before these words meet their eyes.


THE reports of and about the results of the labor of the Investigating Committee in Congress, and the speeches of Mr. Dawes and Mr. Van Wyck, will hardly fail to show the most sanguine man that our patriotism has not entirely purged the nation of the deepest selfishness and the most threatening corruption. Party hacks, whether orators or newspapers, will of course turn the facts to party account. They will endeavor to make it appear that the corruption in the management of contracts belongs peculiarly to the administration of the party that is in power. And the endeavor will be partially successful when it is shown that all those who have profited by the corruption belong to that party—but not before.

These revelations do not indicate a partisan but a national evil. The difficulty did not begin with the war, but the war made it conspicuous by so greatly increasing opportunity. The close observer of our national life for the last twenty years must have asked himself constantly the question whether our mental and moral education kept counteracting pace with the inevitable demoralization of great prosperity. A commercial nation is always in danger of losing its liberties, because it is willing to sell them for peace and high profits. Virtue is in the old story and in universal experience the companion of poverty; and the saints come out of the cottages, not the palaces.

The most dangerous symptom in our condition now, as for many years past, is the want of a high moral tone. For the moment a nation which is ruled by its own will loses faith in principles it is precisely in the condition of a man who does the same thing. The Rule of Three and the law of gravity are whimsical compared with the spiritual laws. Consequently, whenever that nation, whether from ignorance of their value arising from long familiarity, or from that sodden spiritual stupidity which springs from incessant devotion to personal advantage, actually disbelieves in the fundamental laws; and, for the ostensible reason that men and parties are equally knavish, but from the real reason that they exclusively regard their immediate individual interest, connives at injustice. in the laws and at moral sophistication, that nation is as certainly ruined as a liar and a swindler who is at the same time a coward. (Next Page)




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