« ZurückWeiter »
Within the fort a strange scene was enacting. Floyd called a council of war. The midnight conclave were to decide whether they should surrender, or renew the battle in the morning. Smith, at the south-west angle of the fort, could take other intrenchments in reverse. Buckner, opposite Smith's division, said he could not withstand any attack half an hour. It was evident they must surrender; but now Floyd declared that he would not do this.
History delights to tell us of the wounded Cambrone at Waterloo, who shouted, in defeat, “ The Guard dies, but never surrenders !” “I can desert, but not surrender!” would have been the more appropriate exclamation of Floyd. This was a becoming episode in Floyd's history. He had been Secretary of War under James Buchanan, and had been guilty of a “financial irregularity,” by which the government had lost nearly nine hundred thousand dollars, — an operation
, for which, in England, he would have been furnished with a passage to Botany Bay at government expense ; but, that Gov. Floyd might rival the citizens of that celebrated colony, he united treason to theft, and now added to these desertion to the flag he had chosen and the soldiers who had fought by his side.
Gen. Pillow followed his example ; both declaring that “personal reasons controlled them;” meaning, probably, the fear that they would be hung if they fell into the hands of the United States. Floyd turned his command over to Pillow, and Pillow to Gen. Buckner, who, like a soldier, had determined to share the fate of his men. He immediately sent a note in diplomatic style to Grant, suggesting an armistice. With
out waiting an answer, Floyd and Pillow stole out in the dark, hoping to get on board a boat, unknown to the soldiers; but the men had rumors of what their commanders were doing, and now crowded to the landing, where they greeted them with hisses and curses loud and deep.*
A while after, with the first streak of daylight, as Grant was preparing to attack, a white flag was seen flying from the ramparts of Fort Donelson; and Grant received the following letter under a flag of truce :
HEADQUARTERS, Fort DONELSON, Feb. 18, 1862. 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 agree upon terms of capitulation of the forces I hold under my command; and, in that view, suggest an armistice until twelve o'clock to-day.
S. B. BUCKNER, Brig.-Gen. C. S. A. To Brig.-Gen. GRANT, commanding U. S. Forces, Fort Donelson.
But Grant had learned during the night the true state of affairs, and instantly replied as follows:
HEADQUARTERS, ARMY IN THE FIELD,
CAMP NEAR DONELSON, Feb. 14, 1862. To Gen. S. B. BUCKNER, Confederate Army,
Yours of this date, proposing an armistice, and appointment of commissioners to settle terms of capitulation, is just received. No
* “Such was the want of all order and discipline by this time on shore, that a wild rush was made at the boat, which the captain said would swamp her unless he pushed off immediately. This was done; and about sunrise, the boat on which I was — the other having gone — left the shore. By this precise mode I effected my escape; and, after leaving the wharf, the department will be pleased to hear that I encountered no dangers whatever from the enemy.” — Floyd's Report.
terms other than an unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted. I propose to move immediately upon your works. I am, sir, very respectfully your obedient servant,
U. S. GRANT, Brig.-Gen. U. S. A. commanding.
Gen. Buckner accepted these terms in the following reply :
HEADQUARTERS, DOVER, TENN., Feb. 15, 1862. To Brig.-Gen. U. S. GRANT, U. S. A.
SIR, — The distribution of 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 yesterday, to accept the ungenerous and unchivalrous terms which you propose.
I am, sir, your very obedient servant,
S. B. BUCKNER, Brig.-Gen. C. S. A.
The results of this victory were sixty-five guns, seventeen thousand six hundred small-arms, nearly fifteen thousand soldiers, with horses, mules, and army supplies. Our loss was about two thousand men.
After the surrender, up went the stars and stripes, greeted by tumultuous cheers; and the sun shone bright and warm as if to illumine the victory.
As the different divisions marched into the works, their regimental banners from different States, the music, the loud huzzas, the proud steps of the victorious soldiers, made one of the grand historic pictures of the
Gen. Grant made his headquarters upon a boat which happened to have the significant name of “ New Uncle Sam ;” and it was in the cabin of this steamer that the formal surrender was made.
The interview between Grant and Buckner was social. They had been classmates at West Point. Grant stated that he had no desire to humiliate the prisoners ; that the officers might retain their sidearms, but horses and public property must be given up. Gen. Buckner acknowledged that it had been the intention of those in command to cut their way out; but they were defeated by Grant's movements.
When the transports were about to leave for the North with the rebel prisoners, Gen. Buckner asked Gen. Grant to visit his men, and, as they crowded around, told them that their victor had treated them with magnanimity and kindness.
After a while, at a signal from Com. Foote, the boat with Gen. Grant and staff on board, followed by the gunboat “ Flotilla,” steamed up past the fort to Dover, all the guns firing the national salute.
Gen. Grant issued the following congratulatory order to his troops:
HEADQUARTERS, DISTRICT OF WEST TENNESSEE,
Fort DONELSON, Feb. 14, 1862. The general commanding takes great pleasure in congratulating the troops of this command for the triumph over rebellion, gained by their valor, on the 13th, 14th, and 15th instant.
For four successive nights, without shelter, during the most inclement weather known in this latitude, they faced an enemy in large force, in a position chosen by himself. Though strongly fortified by nature, all the additional safeguards suggested by science were added. Without a murmur this was borne; prepared at all times to receive an attack, and with continuous skirmishing by day, resulting, ultimately, in forcing the enemy to surrender without conditions.
The victory achieved is not only great in the effect it will have in breaking down rebellion, but has secured the greatest number of prisoners of war ever taken in any battle on this continent.
Fort Donelson will hereafter be marked in capitals on the map of our united country; and the men who fought the battle will live in the memory of a grateful people.
U.S. GRANT, Brig.-Gen. commanding.
Many interesting and amusing scenes occurred. It was here, on one of the transports laden with prisoners, that probably the first slaveholders' objection to reconstruction was made. A tall, raw-boned, redhaired, blustering Mississippi captain had found that the hands on board the boat would not take his secesh paper for whiskey or food. When he could not control himself any longer, he rushed up to a Northern man, a stranger, who was conversing near him, and said, “Look here: this is a d—d pretty business. They talk of reconstructing the Union, and begin by rejecting our money; and I can get nothing to eat."* It was evident to his mind that reconstruction must stop.
Buckner, on meeting Smith, congratulated him on his splendid charge. “ Yes,” said the old soldier, “ it was well done, considering how small a force I had. But no congratulations are due to me: I simply obeyed orders.”
On the arrival of the news at Washington, Grant was immediately nominated as a major-general, and confirmed by the Senate the same day; his commission being dated on the 16th, the day of the surrender of Fort Donelson.
Mr. Stanton, Secretary of War, published a letter, in which he spoke of the victory in the following
* C. C. Coffin.