Monday, February 13, 2012

Fort Donelson Invested

After capturing Fort Henry on February 9, Grant and his superiors moved the army and fleet to attempt to capture Fort Donelson, a few miles away on the Cumberland River. Johnson, Confederate commander in the west, decided to reinforce Fort Donelson with 12,000 more men. He appointed Brigadier General Floyd to the command of the place. Floyd was the senior Confederate brigadier General. He was Secretary of War during secession, and it was believed in the North that he had attempted to help the South in the position, although that was probably not the case. Fort Donelson controled was a very important position, and if captured it would open up the Cumberland river to be used to ferry Union troops to invade deeper into the South.
Fort Donelson was located in a much better position than Fort Henry. It was 100 feet above the river, allowing for the guns to fire down on passing ships. On the land side there were three miles of trenches on a ridge, supported by artillery. The fort's garrison was 17,000 men to resist the Union force of 25,000. The Confederates had a force of cavalry under Nathan Bedford Forrest. He would show himself to be one of the greatest cavalry generals in the Civil War.
On February 12 Grant marched his troops the five miles from Fort Henry to Fort Donelson. The gunboats came up as well, and fired a few shells to test the defenses of the fort. Although Grant ordered there to be no attacks on the Southern trenches, his orders were disobeyed. Several attacks were ordered by subordinates, and were repulsed by the Confederates. On the night of February 13th it turned cold, and three inches of snow fell. The soldiers on both sides were miserable, being under enemy fire and not being able to light fires to warm themselves.


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