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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Battle of Fort Donelson – Bombardment


Early on the morning of February 14th, a council of war was held by the Confederate command. It was agreed that Fort Donelson was untenable, and that they must attempt to escape the fort. General Pillow was assigned to lead the breakout. As he was preparing to advance, one of his aides was killed by a sharpshooter. Pillow was very unnerved by this. Even though all the troops were gathered and ready to attack, he canceled the breakout because he believed that the Federals knew of the attempt.
Fort Donelson River Battery today
Later in the day the rest of the Union army and navy arrived. Grant convinced Foote to attack at once, even though he had not reconnoitered. Foote agreed, and putting his gunboats in line began to fire on the Confederate position. The Southerns held their fire until the gunboats arrived within 400 yards, and then opened on them. Unlike at Fort Henry where the defensive artillery had little effect, the plunging fire from Fort Donelson was very effective. Foote wounded was in the foot, and the St. Louis, his flagship floated helplessly downstream. The Louisville was disabled and the Pittsburg began to sink. Out of 500 rounds fired by the Confederates, 169 scored hits, a very high number. Eight sailors were killed and 44 wounded. The Confederates had no casualties.
Ironclads firing on Donelson
Foote and Grant had been deceived by the ease of their victory at Fort Henry. The fleet had been severally damaged, and it seemed impossible that they would be able to subdue the fort. But the Confederates were still surrounded by a strong army. If the fort would fall, it would through a siege from Grant's army.

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