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Part Forty Five

This week in the war: 

    Sunday, February 16, 1862: Fighting at Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River in Tennessee had continued the day before and all though the night.  The original commander, General Floyd (CSA), had no stomach for presiding over a defeat, so he turned command over to General Pillow who had come in reinforcement.  Pillow likewise saw no career advancement possibilities here, so he promptly resigned the honor to Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner, and Floyd and Pillow climbed into a rowboat and skedaddled.  Overnight, seeing a distasteful situation developing, General Nathan Bedford Forrest and his cavalrymen had quietly gathered their horses and simply burst through the Union lines to fight another day.  Surrender appeared the only way out and it was left up to General Buckner to do it.  It seems earlier in 1854, Grant had lost a command in California, partly because of a drinking problem, and a then friend and  U.S. Army officer Simon Bolivar Buckner had loaned Grant money to get home after his resignation.  But Grant showed he had no mercy towards men who had rebelled against the Union.  His reply was one of the most famous quotes to come out of the war.  "No terms except an unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted."  Thus giving Grant his nickname of "Unconditional Surrender." 

     The casualties at Fort Donelson were heavy primarily because of the large Confederate surrender.  Union losses were 2,691 (507 killed, 1,976 wounded, 208 captured/missing), Confederate 13,846 (327 killed, 1,127 wounded, 12,392 captured/missing). This victory opens up the state of Tennessee for Union advancement.  Union forces will quickly breach Southern defenses and open a corridor to Nashville.

     Monday, February 17, 1862: Generals Floyd and Pillow, the two Confederate commanders of Ft. Donelson, TN, who had abandoned their 12,000 men there to capture by Gen. U.S. Grant, arrived in Nashville to face the music.  Amazingly enough neither Floyd nor Pillow were ever court-martial for their dereliction of duty.  The other general who abandoned the fort to its fate, Nathan Bedford Forrest, at least brought his entire cavalry force through Union lines to safety. They would arrive in Nashville tomorrow.

     Tuesday, February 18, 1862: There was much celebration in Washington DC when news reached the capital of the surrender of Fort Donelson. The First Congress of the Confederate States of America met in Richmond.

     Wednesday, February 19, 1862: Clarksville is occupied by Union forces. Governor Isham Harris moves the Tennessee Confederate State capital to Memphis.

    Thursday, February 20, 1862: William Wallace Lincoln, known as “Willie”(pictured) and 12 years of age, died today at the White House, of typhoid fever, which had first attacked him on Feb. 7.  The health of the President’s son, interestingly enough, had parallels with that of many men in the armed services of North and South.  In March of 1861, the boy had come down with measles; the same disease wreaked havoc on armies in the first year of the war.  Even Robert E. Lee noted that the ailment was “mild in childhood but devastating in manhood,” and many died.   Willie seemed to recover well from that attack, but typhoid was a disease of polluted water, and in Washington D.C. there was hardly any other kind to be had.  The Lincolns were devastated, but they were not the only ones in mourning for a son; the casualty lists from the Battle of Fort Donelson were printed in the newspapers today.

     Friday, February 21, 1862: The Battle of Fort Craig in New Mexico was fought. This saw a Confederate victory against a larger Union force. The Confederates captured six artillery guns from the Unionists.  Estimated Casualties: 389 total (US 202; CS 187.)

     Saturday, February 22,1862: Jefferson Davis was inaugurated as the first and only President of the Confederate States of America.