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held tenaciously the lines of the siege, climbed CHAP. XI. without flinching through the tangled abatis, and advanced into the deadly fire from the rifle-pits with a purpose and a devotion never excelled by soldiers of any nation or epoch.
Flag-officer Foote, with six gunboats, arrived on the evening of the 13th; also six regiments sent by water. Fort Henry had been reduced by the gunboats alone, and it was resolved first to try the effect of these new and powerful fighting machines upon the works of Donelson. Accordingly on Friday, February 14, the assault was begun by an attack from the six gunboats. As before, the situation of the fort enabled the four ironclads to advance up-stream towards the batteries, the engines holding them steadily against the swift current, presenting their heavily plated bows as a target for the enemy. The attack had lasted an hour and a half. The ironclads were within four hundred yards of the rebel embankments, the heavy armor was successfully resisting the shot and shell from the fort, the fire of the enemy was slackening, indicating that the waterbatteries were becoming untenable, when two of the gunboats were suddenly disabled and drifted out of the fight, one having her wheel carried away, and the other her tiller-ropes damaged. These accidents, due to the weakness and exposure of the pilot-houses, compelled a cessation of the river attack and a withdrawal of the gunboats for repairs, and gave the beleaguered garrison corresponding exultation and confidence. Flag-officer Foote had been wounded in the attack, and deeming it necessary to take his disabled vessels tem
CHAP. XI. porarily back to Cairo, he requested Grant to visit
him for consultation. Grant therefore went on
board one of the gunboats before dawn on the Feb., 1862. morning of the 15th, and it was arranged between
the commanders that he should perfect his lines and hold the fort in siege until Foote could return from Cairo to assist in renewing the attack.
During all this time there had been a fluctuation of fear and hope in the garrison-from the repulse of McClernand's assault on the 13th, the prompt investment of the fort, the gunboat attack and its repulse. There was want of harmony between Floyd, Pillow, and Buckner, the three commanders within the fort. Prior to the gunboat attack a bold sortie was resolved upon, which project was, however, abandoned through the orders or noncompliance of Pillow. That night the second council of war determined to make a serious effort to extricate the garrison. At six o'clock on the morning of the 15th the divisions of Pillow and Buckner moved out to attack McClernand's division, and if possible open an avenue of retreat by the road running southward from Dover to Charlotte. The Confederates made their attack not only with spirit but with superior numbers. Driving back McClernand's right, they were by eleven o'clock in the forenoon in complete possession of the Charlotte road. Buckner, who simultaneously attacked McClernand's left, did not fare so well. He was repulsed, and compelled to retire to the intrenchments from which he had issued. At this critical point Grant returned from his visit to Foote. What he found and what he did is stated with brevity in the message he hastily sent back :
Grant to Foote,
Feb. 15, 1862. W.R.
“If all the gunboats that can will immediately CHAP. XI. make their appearance to the enemy it may secure us a victory. Otherwise all may be defeated. A terrible conflict ensued in my absence, which has demoralized a portion of my command, and I think the
enemy is much more so. If the gunboats do not show themselves, it will reassure the enemy and still further demoralize our troops. I must order a charge, to save appearances. I do not expect the gunboats to go into action, but to make appearance and throw a few shells at long range.” Yol YSL.,
In execution of the design here announced, Grant sent an order to General C. F. Smith, commanding the second division, who held the extreme left of the investing line, to storm the intrenchments in front of him. His men had as yet had no severe fighting, and now went forward enthusiastically, carrying an important outwork with impetuous gallantry. Learning of his success, Grant in turn ordered forward the entire remainder of his force under Brigadier-General Lew. Wallace and General McClernand. This order was executed during the afternoon, and by nightfall the whole of the ground lost by the enemy's morning attack was fully regained. There is a conflict of testimony about the object of the attack of the enemy. Buckner says it was to effect the immediate escape of the garrison; Pillow says he had no such understanding, and that neither he nor any one else made preparation for departure. The opportunity, therefore, which his division had during the forenoon to retire by the open road to Charlotte was not improved. By evening the chance was gone, for the Federals had once more closed that avenue of escape.
During the night of the 15th, the Confederate Feb., 1862. commanders met in council to decide what they
should do. Buckner, the junior, very emphatically gave the others to understand that the situation of the garrison was desperate, and that it would require but an hour or two of assault on the next morning to capture his portion of the defenses. Such a contingency left them no practical alternative. Floyd and Pillow had exaggerated ideas of the personal danger they would be in from the Government if they permitted themselves to become prisoners, and made known their great solicitude to get away. An agreement was therefore reached, through which Floyd, the senior general, first turned over his command to Pillow; then Pillow, the second in command, in the same way relinquished his authority to Buckner, the junior general. This formality completed, Pillow hastily crossed the river and went to Clarksville with his staff, while Floyd, taking advantage of the arrival of a rebel steamer, boarded it, with his personal followers, during the night, and abandoned the fort and its garrison.
As usual, the active correspondents of Western newspapers were with the expedition, and through their telegrams something of the varying fortunes of the Kentucky campaign and the Donelson siege had become known to the country, while President Lincoln at Washington gleaned still further details from the scattering official reports which came to the War Department through army channels. The new events again aroused his most intense solicitude, and prompted him to send the following suggestion by telegraph to Halleck:
You have Fort Donelson safe, unless Grant shall be CEAP. XI. overwhelmed from outside; to prevent which latter will, I think, require all the vigilance, energy, and skill of yourself and Buell, acting in full coöperation. Columbus will not get at Grant, but the force from Bowling Green will. They hold the railroad from Bowling Green to within a few miles of Fort Donelson, with the bridge at Clarksville undisturbed. It is unsafe to rely that they will not dare to expose Nashville to Buell. A small part of their force can retire slowly towards Nashville, breaking up the railroad as they go, and keep Buell out of that city twenty days. Meantime Nashville will be abundantly defended by forces from all South and perhaps from here at Manassas. Could not a cavalry force from General Thomas on the Upper Cumberland dash across, almost unresisted, and cut the railroad at or near Knoxville, Tennessee? In the midst of a bombardment at Fort Donelson, why could not a gunboat run up and destroy Lincoln to the bridge at Clarksville? Our success or failure at Fort Donelson is vastly important, and I beg you to put your 1862. W. R.
Vol. VII., soul in the effort. I send a copy of this to Buell.
Before this telegram reached its destination, the siege of Donelson was terminated. On Sunday morning, the 16th of February, when the troops composing the Federal line of investment were preparing for a final assault, a note came from Buckner to Grant, proposing an armistice to arrange terms of capitulation. The language of Grant's reply served to crown the fame of his achievement : “Yours of this date, proposing armistice and appointment of commissioners to settle terms of capitulation, is just received. No terms except unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted. propose to move immediately upon 1862. w.'R.
His resolute phrase gained him a prouder title than was ever bestowed by knightly accolade. Thereafter, the army and the country,